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File 147136850648.jpg - (196.65KB, 1309x1825, __hieda_no_akyuu_touhou_drawn_by_ishimu__88ec708b8.jpg)
All things not lewd go here! Rules at >>/gensokyo/14305
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no more fun
Reimu Hakurei stepped outdoors one chilly autumn night and discovered, to her dismay, that the moon was gone.

“Huh,” she said.

She had gone outdoors with the full expectation of seeing the moon, and not seeing it was more disappointing than she'd imagined. Not that she'd gone outdoors to see the moon, particularly. Rather, she'd been escaping from a party. Suika had organized this one, being 1) an oni and also 1) very good at it, and the end result was a band of youkai in her shrine (only half of which she had ever beaten up personally) with a number that had ballooned in the last twenty minutes from “small kaboodle” to “mild calamity.” It was the sort of happenstance that usually led to an incident or the destruction of her shrine, again, or both.

Instead, the moon was missing.

“It's a sign,” Reimu decided, and broke up the party due to incident-related reasons. Then she broke Kaguya's nose.

“It wasn't us,” said Kaguya, but nasally, because her nose was broken.

“You've done this before,” said Reimu.

“We hid the moon before,” said Kaguya. “This is different.”

“But still similar,” said Reimu.

“Then we definitely didn't do it,” said Kaguya. “You can't do the same incident twice. It's tacky.”

It was tacky. A rabbit offered more tea, but the teapot had been broken in the fight, and there was a cat licking up the puddle, which was strange because Kaguya didn't have a cat. It had come in from the Bamboo Forest, slinking in and then through with the confidence of being a cat, and now that it had found a comfortable place for itself it was set on becoming friends, except with Kaguya, whom it scratched. Kaguya only had nine fingers, but Reimu was sure it was a coincidence, or a consequence of the fight, which was almost the same thing.

“Rather than being hidden, the moon is gone,” said Eirin very dramatically, and with a new teapot.

“Oh,” said Reimu.

“Oh,” said Marisa, later, when Reimu had carefully beaten up the opposition. It was a precise affair. There were lists and formalities, and different patterns for bullets. Marisa had a black eye, which was a symbol and not a coincidence. “Maybe someone stole it.” (She was right.)

“That can't be right,” said Reimu. “Why would you steal the moon?”

“I'd use it as a nightlight,” said Marisa. In fact, the moon was being used as a nightlight! It was amazing. The man who'd stolen it wasn't even from Gensokyo, but that wasn't very important. What was important was that Marisa was certifiably insane, and Reimu couldn't believe her. Eirin had filled out the certificate herself, because she had gone to university, even if the university was on the moon, which was missing. She had even run off a copy for Alice, who wasn't very important, either. Alice had taken her copy, hightailed it for her cottage in the forest, and alerted her dolls.

“Someday, I'll show this to Marisa,” Alice said, to her dolls, then and also now, before Reimu beat her up, too. “I'll say, 'Marisa, I can't trust you. You're insane.'”

The dolls never answered back. They had had epiphanies ever since the first beat-up, first separately and then altogether, and had consequentially decided to go on strike until all of this nonsense was done with. Unfortunately, they were in Gensokyo. It was no good. The best they could hope for was the nonsense becoming banal, which was a moral, and also itself banal because morals were all the rage, recently. It had happened slowly, then all of a sudden, like that story about wheat doubling on a chessboard, but nobody played chess in Gensokyo so the simile was lost. They played shogi, instead, or go.

Reimu played neither. “I need to find out who's responsible,” she said to the dolls, and then didn't, because it was too tough. It was also impossible, which was the real killer.

“It can't be helped,” said Marisa.

“I suppose Gensokyo doesn't really need the moon,” said Yukari.

“Help,” said the Lunarians, but that wasn't important at all.

First, Suika organized a party, bigger this time, and as the youkai began to formalize their ruckus Reimu stood on the shrine steps looked up at the empty sky. It was a clear autumn night in Gensokyo and she had learned something, but things were finally beginning to wind down.

She pushed up her sleeves and headed back for the shrine. She had forgotten to beat up the other half.
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Lunatics BTFO
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Get rekt moonbitches
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can i just say i found this hilarious
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In times of old, the night watch in the village would regularly beat on a drum to announce the time. The loud, steady pounding of wood on skin was such a commonplace sound that it was almost comforting to the sleepy humans in their shelters. The night watch's glory days proved short-lived, and their duties became much quieter as they drew away from the unfinished walls. Though their drums fell silent, the vibrations lingered for the villagers, who came to grieve the loss. Raiko could feel their nostalgia hanging in the air despite the decades that had passed.

That vibe -- that lament that lived on in the faces of everyone of a certain age, as she saw it -- had attracted Raiko to the village. Tools being ever sensitive about their purpose, she couldn't control her own need to feel the rhythm of life and crept closer than she'd ever come before, into the sea of noise, a blurred mass that was as lively as it was monochromatic.

Now it was nighttime. Over what was looking to be her third beer, Raiko marvelled at the sense of life despite it being dark out. She'd never ventured close enough to hear the swell of noise that rose from the village at night, but now she could hear it loud and clear. Particularly in the little side street, on which sat the stand where Raiko, one of three patrons, now was perched, the conversation going on between humans was a mingling of all tones at once: the highs of the most animated exchanges between friends as distinct as the lows of the lone sobbers, not to mention everything else in between. All the while, she sat off to the side, taking it in as it all happened.

"I know it's the corner and all, but I can't help askin' since it'd put us elbow-to-elbow, y'know. So, you mind?" drawled a woman's voice. Raiko looked up and saw a walking sunrise of a woman wearing a distinctly outside-style cap. It took her a second to realise that the 'flaps' she saw on the sides were actually ears. This woman was a rabbit youkai. "Er, no pressure. I just like the corner seats," the rabbit added with a chuckle.

Raiko shook her head, recovering from her daze quickly. "Ah, go ahead."

"Much obliged."

The rabbit pulled out the seat around the corner from Raiko and plopped herself in it sideways. Not seconds passed before the gruff old man behind the counter set down a mug of beer and, curiously, a skewer of what looked like browned dango in front of her. When she'd sat down, all that Raiko got was a small dish of greens and grated daikon. The rabbit noticed Raiko's stares, flashing a grin and holding up the skewer.

"Curious? They were my idea." She turned to the barkeep. "Isn't that right, old guy?"


Grabbing a pair of chopsticks, she slid one of the balls off the blackened skewer, rolled it in the small dish that came with the skewer, and carried it to her mouth. The floppy ears on the sides of her head twitched slightly. A squeal of joy sounded from her mouth as she chewed. "Still got it, my man! Still got it!"

The old barkeep nodded and grunted before turning back to his cutting board. That had been his answer to almost everything until the rabbit had shown up.

"But what are they?" Raiko asked, leaning in to try and discern anything about what the rabbit was munching on.

"Oh, right, sorry. Kinda forgot myself there. Been a little peckish for a while, so my head's..." Catching herself, the rabbit cleared her throat and held up the skewer, pointing to the balls. "I dunno if you've ever heard of gohei-mochi, but it's like gohei-mochi. Heaps of rice packed onto sticks, coated in sauce, and grilled til they're browned all good. 'cept mine are a wee bit different. Y'see--"

"There's ground fish in 'em," the barkeep rasped over the rabbit.

The rabbit popped up from her seat, waving the skewer at the barkeep over the counter. Not that it was a particularly threatening gesture. "Pops, spoiler alert!"

"No need to make it long. Just tell the lady."

"Fiiiiiiine," she groaned, sinking back onto the stool, looking annoyed. Raiko couldn't help laughing a little. Any of the rabbits she'd ever encountered seemed too shy to say much, but this one was as lively as anyone else around. Chewing another gohei-mochi and having a sip of beer brought her back to high spirits in no time. "So, like pops over there said, they've got ground fish packed in with the rice. Sauce's miso, sugar, and walnuts."

Walnuts. Raiko had heard of them somewhere but couldn't recall what they were even supposed to be. Pondering it over, she took a sip from her beer only to find it was empty. She was about to order another when the rabbit got the barkeep's attention first.

"Another round for me -- and the lady there."

Raiko shook her head. "That's nice of you, but you don't have to. I can pay."

Hearing that, the rabbit burst out laughing. The barkeep and the other patrons took a moment to side-eye her before turning their attentions back elsewhere. Raiko felt her cheeks flush subtly. Did she just say something weird again? The last time anyone had laughed that hard was at one of the shrine's banquets.

The rabbit wiped her eyes, grabbing her fresh beer from the bartop. "Sorry, I just... It was kinda funny. You drink alone a lot, then?"

"You don't?" Raiko answered. The barkeep slid her another beer too, which she accepted with a curt nod.

"Nah, can't convince any of the others. They're workaholics, so my leisure time's my own, y'see." She was about to take a sip when she looked up. "Aw, shoot! Can't believe how rude I'm being right now. Name's Ringo, by the way. Just Ringo. I'm a rabbit from out in the bamboo."

Mid-quaff, Raiko had to stop and set her beer down, extending a hand casually. "Horikawa Raiko. A tsukumogami from... outside Gensokyo somewhere."

"No kidding?" Ringo grinned while shaking Raiko's hand, her larger front teeth poking out from her lips. "Don't tell me you're the one Reimu tussled with up in the clouds a couple of years back."

Raiko sat up quickly, prompting another laugh from Ringo. Few people even seemed to talk about that fight whenever she was around the shrine maiden, so she figured it wasn't something anyone knew about. If anything, fewer people knowing about incidents like that was best. So many of the youkai hanging around the shrine had some kind of history that kept them in trouble. That sort of trouble was something she wasn't fond of repeating.

"Yeah," Raiko admitted quietly, "I guess that's me. I got a beating worse than any of my time outside. That's why I haven't been around much since." She took a long sip from her beer and shovelled more greens into her mouth.

Ringo's smile slipped from her face slowly. Tracing a circle on the counter, she sat back on her stool. "Um, not that there's anything wrong with that. Y'know, you listen to a few conversations, hear some gossip. It's a pretty normal thing here. Small world and all. Lotsa stories like that."

Minutes passed while Raiko focused more on the greens than anything else. It wasn't that she was particularly bothered by what Ringo had brought up. Sure, getting trounced by Reimu wasn't fun, but she had gone a little wild with things -- which was pretty strange for her now that she thought about it. Something was said about a mallet or something when she talked to Reimu afterwards.

Come to think of it, Raiko noted, the rabbit sitting next to her talked like she knew Reimu. Not to mention she brought up barstool gossip. That meant she'd probably heard more than what had come up in those brief conversations at the banquets.

Raiko turned to Ringo suddenly. "Say, what else do you know?"

"Lotta things," she answered, perking up. Leaning back in, she pitched her cap low and lowered her voice. "I'm an information officer."

Raiko blinked. Ringo laughed again, patting Raiko on the shoulder heartily.

"Sorry, can't resist doing that. To answer your question, though, that whole little incident with the tsukumogami's pretty old hat around here. I bet you saw the floating, upside-down castle. There was this tiny little thing who was using an old hammer. Had some weird juju going with it. It ended up creating a bunch of tsukumogami, basically. Plus, it made a lotta youkai go cuckoo for a bit."

It was true that Raiko had felt another sort of magic after coming in. That seemed to have been what woke up the other two, and they were a bit gung-ho at the time. She'd wrote it off as the overconfidence of newborns at the time. Thinking back, though, the idea of toppling society to make a place for tsukumogami sounded crazy. Maybe that other magic had put weird ideas in her head. She leaned on the bar, taking a long swig from her beer.

There was the clink of a plate being set down on the bar in front of her. The barkeep had pushed over a platter covered in a colourful assortment of sliced fish, still attached to the bone. The light, transluscent flesh did look appetising. Raiko thought about reaching for it but stopped herself.

Raiko pointed to herself. "For me?"

The barkeep nodded yes, leaning his head in Ringo's direction. Ringo was grinning so hard that her mochi-like cheeks were almost covering up her eyes. She picked up her chopsticks, clacking them loudly.

"Whaddya say? Pops here is pretty good on a knife when it comes to fish."

Raiko stared at the platter for a moment, then slid it between her and Ringo. Picking up a thin slice of the light-coloured fish with her chopsticks, she popped it in her mouth. The taste was incomparable to the dried ones Benben bought for breakfast. The sound of the river roared through her mouth. Even the barkeep was smiling now.

"I think she likes it," Ringo said and dug into the fish herself.

The awkwardness of the previous bit of conversation forgotten, Raiko leaned over to Raiko. "So, you know a lot about the food here too, then?"

"More than I know about the drinks!"

The conversation was pretty free-flowing and cheerful from there. Ringo was apparently a regular enough patron that she had ordered the standard offerings at least once, to say nothing of the specials. Food, it seemed, was her greatest pleasure, and it showed in how gleefully she attacked every plate, ordering another to replace it soon after. How she managed to afford such heavy indulgence was beyond Raiko. Still, she was kind enough to share if not completely eager. Whichever dish she ordered would be followed by a rapid-fire explanation of its flavour, how it was prepared, and where the ingredients came from. It was a bit much for Raiko to follow, so she merely ate and nodded along as the rabbit chattered away.

However, Ringo asserted, being at the bar wasn't just about good food and drink. To her, it was also a part of work. Asking about that work netted very few concrete answers and a lot of forced laughs, but the gist that Raiko got was that whoever Ringo worked for was asking her to find out things on a regular basis. Wherever drinks flowed plentifully, there was loose talk to go along with it. Men's lips being loosened by good drink was the source of equally good gossip, much of which was at least believable if not true -- or so said Ringo. It was a simple idea, but Raiko thought it was probably best to leave the eavesdropping and rumour-mongering to someone like Ringo. That was, after all, why she was the information officer here. Or maybe it was the ears.

Soon enough, the food and drink had both run out. Keeping track of how many beers she'd downed had become difficult after about beer number six. All Raiko knew by now was that she felt warm, fuzzy, and full. A giggly Ringo leaned against her, the telltale flush of booze spread all over her face. Raiko was about to say something about the bill when she remembered something.

"Hey, Ringo," she said, her words sounding lackadaisical and off-beat even to her, "I usually meet Yatserhashi an' Benben to jam at night. Y'wanna come listen?"

Ringo rocked back-and-forth for a moment, thinking. "Sounds cool," she concluded with a loud giggle, followed by a hiccup.

"What sounds 'cool'?" came a voice right behind them.

Hearing the voice, Ringo nearly fell out of her seat but was caught by a pair of arms and pulled to her feet. It was another rabbit, this one with blue hair done up in a pair of twisty ponytails that made her look kind of cute, by Raiko's reckoning, and ears that stood upright. Unlike Ringo, though, she didn't look apt to smile or joke about anything.

"Heeeeeey, Seiran, what's up?" Ringo drawled.

The blue-haired rabbit glanced in Raiko's direction before scowling at Ringo. "I've been signalling you for the past two hours! You went off without even telling Reisen, didn't you? If she finds out--"

Ringo held up a hand, cutting off Seiran. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. Nobody trusts us to do right. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a bite to eat, now, does it? Heck, you oughta join us. My new friend here, Raiko. She's got a music thing going on." She leaned her head over towards Raiko. "What was it again?"

"Uh, drums," Raiko sputtered.

"Yeah, drums. That was it."

"It really doesn't matter to you or me, because we're both heading back to Eientei right this minute," Seiran said coolly.


With that, Seiran dragged Ringo off, screeching at her all the while about not doing this or that, something about duty, and other things that Raiko didn't catch. With the two rabbits suddenly gone, everything was suddenly a little darker and a little quieter. Some of the surrounding bars had taken their lanterns down and shut up for the night. Most of the raucous conversation had wound down, and people were shuffling out for the night, some of them curling up right in the street. As fun as it'd turned out, it looked like the night was over here. Assuring her that everything was on Ringo's tab, the barkeep waved goodbye to Raiko.

The flight back to the meeting spot with the tsukumogami pair offered Raiko a good view of the stars and the moon, looming large up in the sky. There was something about rabbits and the moon that she couldn't recall at the moment. Tugging off her jacket, she flew with her arms wide, enjoying the cool night air. By the time she'd passed the darkest bits of the forest and found the break, she'd had a little time to sober up.

"Where have you been?" Yatsuhashi called as Raiko touched down. The 'sisters' had been in the middle of their own piece when she arrived.

Raiko laughed. "Just off at the village."

The younger tsukumogami's eyes went wide, and she leaned up curiously. "Doing what?"

"Drinking," Benben answered, wrinkling her nose much like Seiran did when she looked at Ringo.

"Aw, you caught me," Raiko jibed.

That night's session started with a stream of complaints from Benben about Raiko's sense of urgency and lack thereof. After that, they quickly launched into their usual routine: Raiko starting with the rhythm, Yatsuhashi providing the background, and Benben twanging away on top. Even though it didn't start on the best of notes, Raiko's playing felt a lot freer to her. She wasn't as stuck to the beat, allowing herself to get as loud and loose as she wanted to be.

Lying there in the aftermath of a jam well done, Raiko thought to herself that she wanted to go back to the village again sometime. If she could convince the sisters to come with, all the better. Though maybe she was better off going alone. Maybe Ringo was better off left as her best kept secret. It'd be nice to talk to her drum-to-rabbit again.

She'd forgotten to ask about walnuts.
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Faith, that is something of crucial to the existence of almost anything of supernatural origin, even god themselves is not an exception. In fact, god is even more reliant on faith than other being.

But faith is disappearing. Or rather, it changed. Human no longer afraid of the darkness, no longer respect the god of the land, no longer live by the will of nature, some even become so strong they can fight against the youkai. Youkai, spirit, ghost, even god is affected by this and become weaker and weaker.

At that time, an idea was proposed. To create a place where they can live on, a fantasy paradise where the human's belief won't disappeared.

"Are you sure about this?"

You ask the fellow god in front of you. There may already be no choice other than this but since this is his last chance to change his mind, you want him to reconsider.

"What are you saying at this point? Get your ass moving, I've already make up my mind."

The fellow god replied, not even a hint of fear on his face.

Ahead of us, the youkai sage Yakumo Yukari and the Dragon God himself is waiting.

The Hakurei Barrier, the last hope for all fantasy creature. But its creation is an almost impossible task. Even with the Dragon God and the youkai sage's help, to make a whole region become a fantasy land that can exist for years to come is not possible. That no different from creating a whole new world.

That where they need my friend, the Hakurei's god, a god that very good at barrier. He can help the youkai sage create the barrier while the Dragon God create the fantasy land. But to maintain the barrier and anchor the land to reality, he must act as that anchor. In other word, he must become the barrier himself.

Yet my friend still agree, with a smile on his face.

"No problem, being able to slack off forever without anyone bothering you sound like a good deal to me."

And with that, the plan started.

Word are spread, of a fantasy paradise where youkai can live on. Human that meant to be the source of faith are gathered (some volunteered, some already live there and some were brought there).

It took the Dragon God a whole month to create the land, a perfect copy of the real world. His only shame is that he could not make the sea. All that left is to create the barrier.

On the altar, my friend sit in the middle, fully garbed in his divine robe. The Hakurei miko stand in front of the altar, longing look at her patron god for the last time. You can almost see the tear in her eyes.

"Don't cry, my child. I will still be here, I'm not going anywhere. Your duty after this will be as the protector of this land that I help created. Don't cry, don't hate, don't resent. Treat all being as equal, with love. That is your duty now. Goodbye, my child."

The miko just stood there crying. No tear is coming out, no sob can be heard but she is crying. And she smile at him.

"Yes, Kami-sama!"

And the ceremony started.

A great rainbow-colored barrier spread out from the shrine, encompassing the entire land. The youkai sage stand beside the miko, maintaining control of the barrier's creation.

My friend body's start to glow stronger and stronger as the barrier spread. And as the barrier completely encircled the land, his body disappear completely.

He has been forgotten.

In order to maintain the barrier of faith, he must become the barrier itself, and as he must anchor the land to reality, he is both inside and outside of the barrier. And since he is a god, so as not to be influent by the outside people's faith, he even abandoned his own name.

Even me can't remember what his name was.

Thus Gensokyo is created.

And that is the story of my friend, the Hakurei's god.
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Really nice. It's good to see authors playing around with the recent touhoes.

That said, I was expecting Raiko to start playing the drums in the village at night. Y'know, for old times' sake
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I'm fresh out of rhymes
Shrine of old and little gold; you've no one to make you do as you're told. Defender of peace and perhaps a thief; you sometimes kick in youkai teeth. But that's tomorrow, it's only dawn; you just noticed your shine is gone.

Woman of black and man of white; sadly, you are not the last to put up a fight. Wordlessly do you battle; surely you needn't prattle. As your twin suns set, you silently ask yourself, "Who is this girl that I've only just met?"

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; you have seven — it's the truth. Hidden within crackling lightning, who you truly are, some might say is frightening. Five eyes gone, two on the run; you never expected her descendant to be such fun!

Star on cheek, wand in hand; you will shortly be roughly ground into the sand. For now you flutter, happy and free, unknown to a shrine maiden on a killing spree. As she leaves, you're left in the dirt; you should have known better than to wear your unlucky skirt.

The fight is long, this girl is strong; bards would tell tales via song. The final blow struck, you feel quite stuck. Fallen from grace, you curse your luck. Little attention do you receive. You are not so great in need, or so the author may believe.

The black-white orb opens; within, a fairy. Things are likely about to get quite hairy. "Give me money, a cake, a hot meal, tell me the truth of the Universe and destroy the Earth!" Her words fill you with irritated mirth.

Shine of old and little gold; you've no one to make you do as you're told. Defender of peace and perhaps a thief; you commonly kick in youkai teeth. But that's tomorrow, it's only dawn; you just noticed your shine is gone.

You feel a sense of déjà vu. You decide to just roll with it, not letting it worry you.

Woman of black and man of white; sadly, you are not the first to put up a fight. Wordlessly do you battle, sure you needn't prattle. As your twin suns set, you silently ask yourself a second time yet, "Who is this girl that I've only just met?"

Following a different path, you enter hell and need a bath. You're sweating like a pig, though nothing is seen. You've nothing to hide; you color none green.

Ghost of knife and little life, perhaps this ghost shall cause her strife. She strikes you down, making her frown. She shouldn't have done that, for now you're staring at her like a cheshire cat.

Hell's moon, seen too soon; no chance to kill her, nor be made swoon. You chase her well, half way through hell, only to fall as if you fell down a well. You watch her trudge on, fading light dimming; soon you too will be gone, for you find you were sunk and are not swimming.

Bloody horn and hate unending. This girl is in need of a date with your sword, ending in rending. You set about your bloody task, chasing her down, slash after slash. Weapons clash, then she makes a mad dash. You fall, wondering what happened, as you burn to ash.

Home again, you sigh; you felt like you would die. You look to the wreckage of the shrine, finding it hale, whole and fine. The orb in your hand opens as you boggle. The creature within makes you goggle. Giant brimming with joy, you soon find him destroying all you own, ohh boy!

The creature beaten, you sigh quite softly. It wouldn't stop, and nearly offed ye. The day is won, and yet still you haven't eaten. That weird creature at least is beaten. You go to bed, not even burying the dead.

It's quite the trauma, being all too red.

Another day, the shrine is again destroyed. This is getting ridiculous; you feel quite annoyed. That ghost is at fault, and you want to kill her. You do, however, instead consider to bill her. You sigh and curse, settling for vowing to steal enough to refill your purse.

Girl of tanks; you also design creatures. Bakebake are another specialty; you quite like their features. Tongues flap about, they look quite adorable. The things that the shrine maiden did to them were quite horrible.

You like to fling curses, even kanji will do. You like to fling curses, though why does nobody remember you? You aren't Noriko, that's not right! The shrinemaiden just passed you without a fight...

You're growing annoyed at this girl's assumption. Just how did you arrive at this junction? Sure, you may be a tad manly to some. You even grew out your hair to avoid this, so perhaps the girl is just dumb. Still, you must secure the Hakurei treasure. Power is what you need; you will not use it for pleasure. Sadly, you fail, and she dumped you as well. You cry out in anger, "What the hell!"

We are but creations, though only one knows whose. We aren't all that sure why, though; there are no clues. The most reasonable guess has no chest. Guessing who is the true test. Sadly, we were passed over instead for Sigma. Truly, that girl is an enigma.

Five stones of magic; we hardly are the most tragic. No interesting backstory; turrets we are. Gateguards is an overstatement, for we may hardly bar. One by one we explode, destroyed. Our existence was far too short; we leave you, annoyed. However, the final of us is able to resist. That which powers us all delivers a plot twist.

None will remember your name; neither Matenshi nor Mokutou is correct. She is hardly to blame, though perhaps indirect. Short was your existence, forgotten by many. To most you are worth merely a penny. Attacking from behind, this girl is an assassin. Her attacks give her an unfair win. You are not Sariel, though you wish you were. At least people will remember her.

One of the few properly remembered, you sure like to grin. Cocksure, you charge in as you fight in the din. You defend your Master, though she hardly has a need. "Train me," you asked; you were even forced to plead. You soon will forget her, forced by a drunk. Still, at least everyone will think you a hunk. Magic of stars and love and fire. Your true element will be water, your magic will never tire. Your attacks unrelenting, her situation is dire. Soon enough, you will become a habitual liar. ...And, far sooner, a blonde, too. As to the why, you haven't a clue.

You are responsible; your goal is unclear. All they know is vague at best, and your minions are queer. Still, you do have a need. However, what are you plans, or even your creed? Whatever they are, you will take it from the girl with no small amount of greed. This girl will be the last of Hakurei seed.

Girl of tanks; strongest of them all. Now it is time you instead play hardball. Your greatest creation is on the scene. Is it biological, or is it machine? Facing such a thing will be a mighty task. Where was I hiding it, might you ask? That's unimportant; just know it, too, is adorable. Wow, the way she exploded was just as horrible...

You look at yourself, wondering why you aren't dead. You feel your body, and doubly so your head. Hands unstained; you're only half red. You look to your foe, its great eye looking to you. There is only one thing left to do; an eye for an eye, and you have two.

Home again, home again, back to the shrine. There will be no after incident feasts; nobody will come to dine. That is another day, and you're too young for wine. Today, none will raise a stein.

You sigh again; what is it now? The low rumbling is annoyi- holy cow! It looks like it can fly, as it has more than one wing. Just what the heck is that thing? It's like a machine, though far more large... This is an incident, and so you charge. You won a wish to make life easy. But why does staying near the maid make you feel at best queasy...?

You are but a robot maid, sent home with a young girl as a prize. When she saw you, there was confusion in her eyes. Your mistress has a plan to get you back involving venting your fuel. You'll make the girl sick; you are not to be her tool.

Cocky grin, you eye the sign. This'll definitely attract the shrine. Mima looks pleased, though you have plans of your own. For now, you play it up like you're throwing a much wanted bone. You won a wish for ultimate power. An ICBM, sentient and dower. Honestly, you hardly can hide it; as it is, you just want to ride it.

M1X2 ICBM or Mimi to those that care. None will use you; they wouldn't ever dare. And yet she gave you to a little girl. A thought as unwise as giving you a whirl. Now she rides you everywhere. ...Are those poofy underwear...?

Sometimes, your apprentice worries you. Her power grows at a startling rate; soon enough, she will be the stronger of the two. Still, an odd feeling of pride fills you with glee. When was it you stopped thinking of only 'me'? You sigh, watching her make obviously nefarious plots. They are all behind your back; you wish you could read thoughts. Regardless, you managed to win a wish. Seems you still are stronger, and you've an idea for a cold dish. You need to bolster your ability to fight; geosynchronous orbit of the moon, upgrading your ability at night.

Letting blood, flinging poo; these are things you have forgotten we once used to do. Memories of old, faded and quiet. Why is it that you have yet to die yet? Magic of red, bubbly and sweet. Those that fueled it sadly are now beneath our feet. You remain, yet have paid your fees. "Isn't that right, Sokrates?"

You question your human, youkai now or not. You need to fix her, as she hasn't much remaining thought. Little can you do, and sadly that's that. Ruler of man; you're just a cat. Your human won a wish for a shop at the shrine. Honestly, with her visitor number, it will hardly help you dine.

You are the ghost of one of many maids. Tricks and pranks are something you have in spades. Bleeding walls, horse heads in beds. The inhabitants of the mansion were once feeling like their shirts were only in shades of reds. You have won, and this wish will do. A new home — a shrine — this girl screams only for you.

You've no relation to Rika; her last name isn't the same. Unlike you, she treats life like a game. If she were your sister, you imagine it likely she would have been disowned. For if those creations of hers ever get free of her control, all would be boned. No, she is not your sister, and to call her as such won't do. Heartache is what claiming as such gives you. You wish for the obvious, wanting to match her knowledge. You wish for outsider information on the level of college. With this, perhaps you can convince the others. Even if you hardly share the same mothers.

Few remember the only police officer ever shown. To most, they would even consider you unknown. Owner of many trinkets, what could you even want? The others do nothing but jeer and taunt. Are you a princess; you'll never tell. With a madcap wish you send the shrinemaiden straight to a jail cell.

Some say alternate realities are strange, indeed. You've found yourself with a great need. No, not you, but also you as well. You've found out that winning leads you deep into a place rank with technological smell.

Some say alternate realities are but a dream. However, you've stumbled upon another Chiyuri it may seem. You wish to test her on her, but ohh well. She's taught you enough that you three return in your technological shell.

Presenting your finding to the academy isn't easy. Quite frankly, you feel a bit queasy. You feel you present your finding of magic and spell quite well. However, they decide to not recognize them and instead expel.

You go back from whence you came. Not your world, nor the very same. Chiyuri, Chiyuri and you return, though it's a tough sell. That was your last time ever seeing that technological hell.

Close minded fools the lot; they wouldn't pay your findings even a single thought. They saw you as dangerous, they thought you insane. Your ideals were anything but inane and plain. They heard the name and tossed it aside. What use is a world where they won't even look over your joy and pride?

You have a weapon capable of destroying them all. Who are they to have such gall? And so, from Gensoukyou you plot. "Just how do I destroy this world without thought..."

Your shrine — your home — is under attack! Do these youkai think you but a light snack? Skills lightly rusted, but still no skulls go unbusted. How long have you foughten? You realize but from one direct the youkai have been broughten. As the shrine burns, you vow that you will teach the cause the lesson not one learns.

You see Reddie heading towards the mountain. Charms aplenty, she's a veritable fountain. The maiden is pissed, their necks does she twist, and through it all, not one shot has done anything but missed. You fly after, but circle around. You'd rather not have to make her run aground. You've an idea where she's headed, and know it soon will be leaded. And so you fly off towards the lake that will make you both extremely redded.

You laugh like you've a mustache to twirl. One again, it's that little girl! This generation of bakebake is sadly lacking. Still, you've many more than before that can be attacking. You've taken up botany, and you managed to breed a plant that can see. With this in mind, you did what the most sane would do. You grew a flower and it grew and grew and grew! Now you've monster plenty more than you need. But hey, that's what you do; it's practically a creed.

Water. Daughter? Fodder. Gnawed her. Snuggles. Tuggles. Warm. Swarm! Tears; cries. "We're's... dies..."

Orange is your name; you've got equal power. Reality fades away as you attempt to avenge the flower. Still, you couldn't just sit idly by; you just watched a tearful goodbye. But sadly, you too die.

The world warps, you show your hand. A bloody lake is your favored land. As a vampire, others have preposterous expectations of you. Truly, you honestly think they should get a clue. The girl before you causes you to put on a brave face. The gore coating her is far from out of place. Clothes all too red on far too little white. It's quite obvious she just got done with quite the fight. Even so, you can't allow her in. Mistress Yuuka would, as she is right now, never win. Sadly, before this girl, you're made of tin.

Mirror mirror on the wall, whose will be the greatest fall? Mirror of dark and batty purple. The shrine maiden is about to see if she can give you a purple nurple. In your off time you reflect the unaltered truth with glee. For now, you attempt to flee.

Once, long long ago, your scythe saw more use than your hat's bow. Heads would roll, dreads would toll. You were a reaper, your blade causing many a weeper. But those were the days, and back then, you had many gais. But they are no more; now you merely watch mansion and door. Not often do they see use; none can pass such a thick layer of bodily juice. Yet, before you stands a small girl. You lift your scythe and give it a twirl. Her stride is confident, her disposition threatening; by her saturation, it seems there has been quite a sanguine wettening. You ready the floor, polished to a sheen. This girl will be defeated by the power of clean!

Man, this is such a sweet gig. Caretake a mansion, said the vampiric twig. Doesn't even know your name, the stupid dame. The fact it will never be spoken is truly such a shame. Rengeteki is the most they will say. But sadly, most will still forget you within a day. For now, you burst into fairy parts; the girl silently questions why it now smells of fairy farts. "HAHA, I'M BACK, YOU LITTLE TARTS!" Once more you battle, exhilarated. It doesn't take long for you to be once more annihilated.

Now it's your turn to be in her way! Someday, people will make you spam her with "da ze!". But for now, she continues to question why you're no longer a red. Ehh, doesn't matter; you're here to make her bed. Battered and bruised, spirit broken. The Hakurei Maiden ain't in the mood for this, so you get a rightful chokin'.

Yuuka Kazami, the ever sleeping beast standing tall. Yuuka Kazami, she wonders why you can turn into a glowing ball. She woke you from your unending dream; you now plan to rip her seam from seam. By the end, you will have her head. ...Although, you'll honestly settle for going back to bed.

Battered and bruised, you fled. You neither went to bed, nor are you dead. You got dressed in red and so back you head. Awake and fresh, your night clothes you shed. Facing her down, it's now round two. This girl fears you not; she hasn't a clue. You fire and fire and shower her with a giggle. You intend to leave her to convulse and wiggle. To waste away, unable to stand. To slowly die for trespassing on your Flower Land.

Home again, home again, you drop on your bed. The lawn is strewn with slaughter and matches your red. You soon are snoring, and you far too soon awaken. The sky is empty and rainbow; you feel a little shaken.

None can harm you; all you do is be. Before long, all you do is flee. Certain conditions met, you leave a prize. It will save her, should the need arise.

You welcome the girl to her own mind. It's quite violent, so you're left in an equal bind. You're not a maid, you're your sister's sister. She dresses you up; you can hardly resist her. It's embarrassing, but what can you do? You're just a demon of dreams going pew pew pew.

You watch with amusement as the girl tears your sister apart. You question why on Earth she smells like fairy fart. How many she has killed just today? Why, the number is high enough most would shout, "No way!" For every death, one less dream. You will trap her here, and there will be no cake or ice cream. This is her penance, tearing your sister to bits. That'll show them both to stop behaving like twits.

Eventually you grow bored of watching your sister being stripped. Now it is time; the girl's body instead will be ripped. You make her dive left and roll right. This will likely be her greatest fight. You do not notice it, but still you begin to tire. Your fans dub this, "Gengetsu's Raep Time," when you truly unleash your ire. You just about threw the kitchen sink and spare tire.

You awaken from what feels like a terrible dream. ...Why do you so want ice cream...? Grumbling, you look around. Hey, for once the shrine hasn't run aground. Seems you've got burying to do. If you don't, who would donate to you?

Another day, another shrine. This is getting old; why can you never have anything to call "mine"? Sighing, you get to work. Seems you need to beat up another jerk.

Cackling, you're back in the saddle. Your surrogate daughter/apprentice you had to paddle. Chasing after the shrine maiden; that won't do. Chasing after the shrine maiden without you?!

You rub your rear, your poor butt. Mima was all tut tut tut. How were you to know you wrecked the house of her friend? Jeez, she really pounded your rear end.

Eyes of ruby, hair like grass. You have a feeling that today you shall kick those that show you sass. You've somehow ended up having to smack a lass. It's time you head to Makai; let's kick the gas. What, were you expecting the word "ass"? How crass!

You're just a doll; demon is a term far too mean. Where is mommy, why is this lady's hair so green? Owie, your arm; owie, your leg! Why is she telling you to beg...? Mommy, where are you...? It's getting so dark, and quiet, too...

Gatekeepers are surprisingly weak? You'll disprove that; you're hardly meek. Four against one is hardly fair. But you'll fight them all, if it means they get out of your hair! You stand triumphant over a mountain of foes! You lie dreaming, your rear under toes.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, yours was truly the greatest fall. Life was short, you are now sealed. From you, all paint was peeled. Now you're an ugly shade too bright; none of you any longer feels quite right. You reflected truth; how can you help the sight? You have gone inert, you've run out of might. You have no freedom for you to wait; this land has destruction as a date.

This is the day you've awaited for far too long. It practically makes you want to burst into song. To the the human world you now go; you've spent hours picking out your hat and bow. Dressing was an equally difficult task. Who are these people; is it such a crime to ask? Now they are beating your life within an inch. Every blow makes you flinch. You try to apologize, but that was apparently a great crime. It seems you never met your friends on time.

Awesome, you've landed another gig! ...Hey, wait, is that the red-white twig?! Damn it all, you only just got comfy with your new rear. Here she comes; she's starting to near! Wait, is that your last boss?! Ohh god, the memories; you declare this a loss.

How lovely, visitors from the Eastern place. How odd, the purple one seems to be looking out into space. You begin to greet them pleasantly, only to be blasted as you try. You now smell and look crispety crunchy; some might call it an Alice fry. It seems today wasn't meant to be. As you drift off, you wish you had some tea.

You feel lighter than you; this makes you feel quite blue. W͡as ҉w̴hat yo͢u did s̡u̡c̷h ҉a̶ ͢cr̴ime?͟ Wa͘ņtí̶͡n̷͞g̀͢͡ ̨͢t͝͏̷o̧̡ go̸ t̀o̸ ̨͠t̷͟͏he ͠hu̢̕m͘á҉n͠ ̴̷́w̷o̸r̨ĺ͜d̴̛ ̧t̷̴o͜͟ ͜͝s̷̴̀p͜en̕͜d͏ ̨҉ś̵o҉̨m͢e҉ ̷͝t̷̢i͠m̨e̴͠? F̡͟o̡̧r͜ ̡e͜v́er̶ ̛͘͟s̴͞o͏̡ l̴o̵̡n̨͡g̶ ̸̢y̴̕͢o͢͡u ̸͠l͠͝o̷ò̧́k̶ed fǫ͏r̸wa͢͞r̛d ̷̢͝t̸͘҉o ̛t͡h͜͜͟e̡ ̶̷d́͟͡ay̸.̴̵͞ ͏͟Y҉ǫ͜ù̷̡ ̵b̸ro͠ųg͡h͜͝t̶ ̶̢à̢ ͏͢p̕u̕͞r͝͏se͡͝;̸̶͠ ̷̢͟y̧o͟u̴͠ ̷ẁ̧̧ę̴̧r͜ȩ͘ ̢҉g̶̸͡ói͘ng̴͠ ͏͡t̀ǫ͝ ̶̀͡ȩ̢͡n͜j̀o̡͠y ̡y͝ou͟͏̡r̷͡ ̛ş͝t̢̢̡a̶y̢. T̡͢͡é̸͢a҉̸r̶̷ś̴̕͠ ̸̢́҉u̷̶͜͡n̶̸̢e̷͜͟͢n̛͢ḑ͏̶̕҉i͏̷ń̀͘g̷̕͟,̷̢̢̢́ ̸̕y̵͝ò̸̸̵ú̴ ͏̡̧́c̵͡͡r̀͞ý͡,̵̵̢́͟ "FOR WHAT YOU'VE DONE, I'LL MAKE YOU PAY!" Your tears of hate would make your mother sigh. But you̢ ̕d͝o͢n't ca͞re ̴—̶ ̵you ͠ca͡n't ca͟re — ̧n͟ów̨ D̷̴̰̃̈́ͮͨͪͨ͌̀͢I̸͈̝͍͙̯̰̹̽̓̊̐̚E̲̻̤͖̰͕̙̻̰̔͒ͤ͒!̙̰̖̾̎̊̑ͭͅ

You watch the smoldering-eyed mockery of a friend get snuffed like before. You want to show these bitches how to get down on a pyro dance floor. You scream as you make them dance about. The green one looks only mildly annoyed as you fire gout after gout. She sidesteps everything, then aims her parasol at you. You at first are confused, but that won't do. You fire off again, intent to turn her to a crispy goo-

A small smile on your lips, you shove your sister out of the way. "Looks like I'll be your guardian angel today." You get washed away like snow by the tide. You wanted to run, but you've still got your sisterly pride. Yuki stares on, not sure what to do. She really doesn't want to join you. Her knees are shaking, she stares at the source. Sadly, she dies too, of course.

Ayana or Izumi; make up your damned mind! Your sister's name isn't Rengeteki, they'll find. What is it, you ask? Sadly, saying is a convoluted task. Here comes her murders, not that you know. Thankfully you're both fairies, or your top you would blow. Instead, you struggle to stand toe to toe.

You're not the first maid, nor are you the last. They will find that their run might soon end fast. You're master of neither knife, time or broom. You, however, are quite skilled at clearing a room. You do not mean cleaning, no, that is just a ruse. You are quite skilled with the sword, so now they must choose: whose head are they willing to lose?

You awake from your rest, feeling not quite your best; you have an odd pain in your chest. A thousand young quiet, a thousand more screaming, you refuse to believe; you must be dreaming. You head down the halls, coated particularly red, passing by your children, unburied and dead. Tears brimming, head swimming, you unmake your home, eyes dimming. Your children are dead, no, they've been killed. You look to the culprits, making the blood of young girls chilled. You clench your fists, trying not to cry. All you find yourself able to say is why. What did they do, so terrible to be killed? Your anger is slowly being distilled.

You sweep an arm and make a demand. You tell them to leave your home and get out of your land. The green ones refuse, cocksure grins as with all they have met. Your wings deploy, a seraphim set. You stare them down, and you match their bet. It seems to be you shall return the blood that they let. You do not posture, you do not grin. There is no day to save, no battle to win. Your children are all dead; every last one. Your voice is thunder, you erase the sun. They dodged, and it seems they have begun to run. They fire on you aplenty, you chase them all down. They all have committed sins enough that they should drown. Water nearly engulfs them and the town. You fire again, your lips set in a frown. There is now a hole all the way through your land. It's a small price to pay; their hides are ones that need to be tanned. You take all they throw like their full force is but grains of sand.

You scream and cry, "Why won't you die?!" You want revenge now, you want to make them, too, say goodbye. To take all they've ever made and destroy it all. You want to show them what it's like to be the owner of the ball. You'll take it home with you when you're losing. You fire again upon the one of your choosing. Your home is burning, but who will care? All you want now is them to get out of your hair. Your white wings are corrupted and cracked. These girls — these monsters — need to be smacked. Thick gobs of red drip; you're feeling faint. Your body is warping from this taint. You want it all gone, you want them all to die. You miss your children; you never got to say goodbye.

You begin to shine and shimmer. You will erase their hope till there's not even a glimmer. You'll do anything to see them fail. You frantically erase with every arm flail. You're huffing and puffing; you're losing steam. This is a nightmare; an unending dream.

You eventually collapse to your knees as you cry. They didn't deserve this; they didn't deserve to die. Only now do you realize quite what destruction you've sewn. Is the destruction of your world something a mother should condone? As you scream, the void around you shakes. Their attacks upon you still are but snowflakes. Reality rips and you stop playing fair.

Not one is left in your hair.

You awaken to yourself in a whole other land. You vaguely remember a last stand. You're shaking, you're sweating, you're looking about in worry. This place looks like a picture book; like a kid's bedtime story. You're reluctant to question where your allies are after everything they did. After witnessing all that, you no longer feel like a kid. You sigh and trudge on. You just want to be gone.

You feel like a horror, but smile none the less. You're alive again, or so you guess. You're trapped in a card like a fish in a tank. Stuck along with one of your murderers to spank. She dives and she hops, only to graze yet another bullet. You can enjoy this; you have no punch, but you won't pull it.

Mother, where are you? Are you dead, too? The land was full of so many dead. The land was killed by the woman in red. You've your own world now, you have to avenge all that fell. You're the owner of what they will call hell. You grasped and you pulled, you tugged and you dragged. Soon enough, there will be nothing left to be bagged. You sit upon a throne of your own. And with this girl, you will pick a bone. She did not cause this, but she did condone. That is all you need to set such a heavy tone.

The battle begins; one chapter remains. You fire off hell, the others already ripped from the planes. Your mother destroyed it all. Surely, that they are alive, that mean even she can fall. The battle is quite dire; how many shots did you fire? You'll say a ton-ish, though far more still must you punish. You summon your book. You have a look. You speak a word and by all you are heard. On deaf ears do your words fall. You know she will come when you call. This is your wonderland; you personal place. This girl will soon die, and so you give chase.

The battle is bullets unending. Not one will you not be sending. Had they a value, this would be your college fund. You have nothing left to do; the Shrine Maiden must be gunned. A terrible r͞ip̢pl̨e̷, a ri͜p͘͢͜p̧͡i̕͘͡n̕g͘ of air. Reality s̶̛͜ḩ́͢͞r͜͝e̛͜͜͠d̴̸̶́s͏̶̧̧ like it's made of strands of hair. You hear your mother's soft crying. You rush towards her, though you feel like you're dying. All around you, the art begins to press u̝̱͠n̰̯̺ͯ͌͑̂d͉͎̯̮̦̙ͬ͊ͯͨo̠ͅ. Soon, all that's left is you. Gone is the maiden, gone is the book. Gone is all, even your look. As you grow and as you change, you find you feel quite strange. Your signal goes dark; you're out of range.

You are at home, toying with dolls. Friends you are with the black-white and the girl with yin-yang balls. Yuuka isn't unpleasant, unoften need she kill. Most would even call her quite chill. Who is Mima; you know not why one might ask it. Long, long ago, she never left her casket.
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my ideas suck
"They added a shitpost category?" Hatate asked, peering at the board.

"Yep!" Aya replied. "Now all the jokers out there can do their thing and be recognised for it!"

"I hope this drives the right kind of behaviour..." Hatate said, frowning skeptically.

Aya waved her hand dismissively. "Don't worry, the guy running the contest knows what he's doing."

"If you say so... who is this 'Clear Sights', anyway?" Hatate asked.

"Well, with a name like that, it can only be Momiji, right?"

"What kind of logic is that? Momiji hates writing. And besides, I haven't seen her in months."

"Well, there you go! She's probably secluded herself in the mountains to hone her skills!"

"...there are so many things wrong with that, I'm not even going to start," Hatate groaned. She wandered away from the board and flopped down on the bench beside Aya.

"Shitpost or not, I have no idea what to write," she whined.

"Marisa gets high on shrooms and wakes up in bed with Eirin," Aya promptly suggested.

"What? No."

"Okay, then, Marisa gets drunk, steals a cursed dildo from Patchouli, uses it to have sex with Eirin, and when they sober up they discover they're stuck together until they both reach orgasm simultaneously!"

"Where are you getting these stupid ideas!?" Hatate screeched, "and why are you so obsessed with Marisa and Eirin!?"

"Because nobody's done it before!" Aya declared.

"Ugh, seriously... any ideas that don't involve sex?"

Aya pondered that question for a moment. "A story about a zucchini that wants to be eaten by a kappa."

Hatate glared at her.

"...what?" Aya asked.

"Well, for a start, it has to be a Touhou story," Hatate replied tiredly.

"There are kappa in Touhou, right?" Aya asked.

"...yes, but... never mind. Anything else?"

"Hmm... a guinea pig falls into Gensoukyou and ends up living at Eientei."

"A youkai guinea pig?" Hatate asked, absently chewing the back of her pencil. "I wonder what they would be like..."

"No, no, a normal guinea pig," Aya insisted.

Hatate facepalmed, pencil narrowly avoiding going up her nose. "Who would even read that!?"

"I would! It would be so cuuute!"

"Gaaaaaah, I'm wasting my time here," Hatate growled, rolling to her feet.

"You can say that again," A third voice said.

Both tengu looked up. In the doorway stood a vaguely familiar woman, looking obviously pissed about appearing in someone else's shitty short story.

"...Macha? What are you doing here?" Hatate asked.

"You tell me," Macha replied. "You're the author avatar, after all."

Hatate blinked in confusion. "I what?"

Macha rolled her eyes. "Don't play dumb. You're out of ideas, so you're writing whatever pops into your head first, which is you moping about being out of ideas. And now you're stealing other people's ideas, and crappy OCs, in an attempt to make yourself look better. It's not working."

"...why the hell would I write about myself moping? Nobody would read that!" Hatate retorted.

"My point exactly," Macha replied. "Honestly, you'd have more luck getting rip-roaring drunk and posting on your phone. Works for Gallus."

"Who?" Hatate asked, still confused.

"Never mind," Macha said, and sighed. "Look, why don't you try going somewhere else? A change of scenery might do your imagination some good."

Hatate glanced at their featureless white surroundings. "You have a point there."

And so, seven minutes later, Hatate sat on the shore of Misty Lake, notebook in hand, pencil poised above it, imagination primed and ready to produce the greatest Touhou short ever written.

...for all of two seconds, before her shoulders slumped, and she flopped onto her back with yet another groan.

"This is a waste of time. I should just give up on this stupid contest, and get back to my running story... oh Hina, how long has it been since I updated!?"

A shadow fell over her face. She looked up. A fairy in Scarlet Devil maid uniform stood above her, face upside-down from Hatate's perspective.

The fairy tilted her head to one side. "Are you alive?" she asked, in a too-high voice.

"...I think so?" Hatate replied.

"That's good. Dead people are really mean." The fairy took something white and puffy from the paper bag she was holding, and popped it in her mouth. Then she tipped the bag toward Hatate.

"Would you like a marshmallow?"

"...I guess so?" Hatate said. She reached into the bag, somewhat awkwardly given her position, and took a marshmallow. She held it to her nose and sniffed it. It smelled sweet.

She took a bite.

"Hey, this is really good," Hatate said.

"You like it? That means you must be a good person! Only good people can enjoy marshmallows after all!" The fairy replied enthusiastically. Then her face fell. "You don't look happy though. People who like marshmallows should be happy! Why aren't you happy, Miss?"

"I'm trying to write a story, but I don't know what to write about."

"Oooh, a story? I know! You should write about a great big marshmallow man! He strides into town, taller than the buildings, and then goes pop, covering everyone in marshmallow!"

Note to self: never mention Ghostbusters within earshot of Scarlet Devil Mansion, Hatate scribbled in her notebook.

"That's, uh, a great idea, but it's for a competition, and there are rules..."

The fairy's face fell. "Oh. That sounds like a really mean contest."

"Yeah, it kind of is. There's a time limit, and stuff."

The fairy floated into the air. "Well, if you get bored of that, come and visit the mansion! We can eat marshmallows together!"

"Sure! That sounds fun!" Hatate replied, putting on her best fake smile.

To her great relief, the fairy flew off.

Hatate continued to lie there, unmoving, for some time. She watched the ice fairy fleeing from the gatekeeper, laughing about her ill-gotten gains from the mansion pantry. She saw the spring fairy spreading her seasonal message of joy, six months out of season. And she saw the vampire mistress and her elegant head maid depart on their way to compete in the time-honored sport of miko-bothering.

Eventually, she sat up. She picked up her notebook and pencil and began to write, and write, and write. A tale began to aimlessly meander across the pages. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

"Watcha doin'?"

"Gwah!" Hatate explained, twisting around. A familiar blue-haired fairy was peering over her shoulder.

Cirno grinned. "Gotta be interestin' if ya didn't hear me yellin'."

"You were yelling?" Hatate asked.

"Yeah! I called your name a buncha times, but ya didn't answer."

"Ugh, sorry... I was finally making some progress, so I was trying to make the most of it."

"Progress? You're workin' on something?"

"Not really. Just a stupid story for a stupid contest that I shouldn't be -"

"Lemme see!" Cirno said, yanking the notebook out of Hatate's hands.

Hatate lunged after her book. "Hey! Give that back!"

"Gimme a sec, I gotta read it first!" Cirno said, somehow managing to keep the larger, stronger tengu at bay without running away.

"Hey... this is pretty good!"

"No it isn't," Hatate whined, giving up.

"'Course it is, it's got me in it!" Cirno flipped to the next page.

"My English is terrible! I can't even get my grammar right!"

"C'mon, nobody's gonna notice that with this plot! How long have you been workin' on this?"

"About..." Hatate glanced up at the sky "...two and a half hours?"

"You wrote nine hundred an' thirty-three words in two an' a half hours?" Cirno asked, looking impressed.

"You counted them?" Hatate asked, looking even more impressed.

"'Course I did! I'm good with numbers! I'm also pretty good at history, so lemme give ya a couple tips..."

And so a fairy and a tengu sat by a lake and wrote a story. Whether it would be finished on time remains to be seen. It wasn't.
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This was a bad idea.

Sanae had come to realize this, perhaps an hour and a half too late. It seemed like it would be fun and silly back when she first came up with it, but now that she's here she'd come to regret many things.

Chief among them being to ask Reimu to bring whatever friends she wished to this. Okay, Marisa wasn't a surprise in the slightest. The two were nearly inseparable at times, and Sanae honestly expected her. Alice Margatroid was a bit of a surprise, but apparently she was a good friend of Marisa's. The way they traded quips with each other certainly suggested a such.

Kokoro came out of left field, though. As far as Sanae was aware, she just performed at the Hakurei Shrine every now and again. Did Reimu just pick her up after a show, or are the two genuinely friendly with each other?

It didn't really matter now, Sanae figured. Right now, she was sitting opposite to four very eccentric people, behind a cardboard screen, and a few books open in front of her.

Because Dungeons and Dragons is a game the people of Gensokyo would appreciate, right?

Of course, Sanae wasn't stupid. She knew that nobody present would be able to make an entire character from scratch (although Alice might be able to prove her wrong on that), and she prepared some pre-made characters for them.

To absolutely nobody's surprise, Reimu took the Fighter. Nobody objected to this; it seemed as if it was the most natural thing in the world to them. The fact that Reimu wasn't a hundred percent convinced of this game may have influenced her. Marisa took the Rogue, again, to nobody's surprise, but also to Alice's protests. She wanted to play the Rogue, but as it turned out her entire reason was simply to keep Marisa from playing it herself. Sanae ruled in Marisa's favor.

Shockingly, another argument broke over who would play the Ranger, this time between Alice and Kokoro. Alice had simply liked the versatility of the class. Kokoro, as everyone would soon find out, was just a really big roleplayer. Sanae gave the character to Alice, if only to appease her after giving Marisa the Rogue.

Fortunately, Kokoro was perfectly fine with the Cleric.

And so the game finally began, and a few things became apparent to Sanae. Reimu was largely apathetic, and a bit confused about the mechanics of the game, questioning them at every turn. She eventually started to learn, much to Sanae's relief. Marisa, in true Marisa fashion, dove straight into the game and picked it up very quickly. She had also grasped the balance between roleplaying and roll-playing very well, and played as though she were a veteran of the game. Alice also picked the game up rather quickly, though unlike Marisa she dove a bit too far into the rules and skipped the roleplaying part. She'd needed to be prodded by Marisa to actually stay in-character.

And then Kokoro was the exact opposite. In fact, as far as Sanae was aware, she never once looked at her character sheet. Reimu had to take it upon herself to interpret Kokoro's actions into actual gameplay. At least it helped her learn the rules.

Sanae decided to start small with her "campaign": a small village was being terrorized by a group of goblin bandits, and the "heroes" had taken it upon themselves to rid them of this menace. Reimu had a rocky start with the game, though once she realized that she had the Cleave feat, it practically became the only thing she'd use. Marisa quickly caught on to flanking for sneak attack bonuses, and teamed up with Reimu for this purpose. Alice was content to play ranged artillery with her shortbow.

Kokoro's wild declarations and acting was mostly translated into smacking people with a mace.

Eventually, Alice's tracking skills brought them to the bandits' lair: a small cave hidden a short ways into a forest. Alice was quite proud of herself.

Thus, the current predicament the players currently find themselves in:

"The cave mouth sits before you, covered by a crude wooden door. The door is attached to a thick wooden frame that's been set into the sides of the cave mouth."

"Well, what are we waiting around for?" Reimu began, "They're barely defended, so let's press the attack!"

Alice was quick to interject, "Wait, Reimu. Isn't this a bit suspicious? There's no attempt to hide or obviously defend themselves here. There must be a trap of some sort."

"These goblins are just small fry, right? Then they can't have put that much thought into this!"

"Indeed!" It was astonishing how emotive Kokoro could be with a monotone voice. "These foul miscreants are naught but thieves and vandals, lowlifes, the lot of them! We must not tarry, lest they bring terror to more innocents!"

Sanae couldn't help but rub her temple, "So are you opening the door or not, then?"

"Yes, I'm opening the door!"

"And I shall be at your back, Reimu!"

"Okay," Sanae picked up a pair of dice and rolled them behind her screen. They came up 13 and 6. "Alright, as you open the door, a barrage of darts are fired at you from the wooden frame."

"Wait, what!?"

Sanae picked up another die and rolled it. "Kokoro, standing behind Reimu, has enough time to step back and avoid harm. Reimu, however, takes... 3 damage from the darts."

Marisa was howling with laughter, while Alice slowly shook her head. "I told you it wouldn't be that simple. They are bandits. They know full well to protect themselves from anyone seeking to bring them to justice."

"And bring them to justice we shall! This cowardly display will not deter us from our crusade!"

"Kokoro, you're a cleric, not a paladin." Sanae was certain this was the eighth time she had to remind her.

As Reimu noted down the damage, Marisa managed to calm herself enough to speak, "Hey, can I just check out that dart trap real quick?"

"Sure. As the trap has already sprung, a Search check is not needed. Attached to the door is a small hook, with a bit of string looped around it. The string leads into the frame, and triggers the dart trap when pulled. Disarming the trap is simple if you're aware of the presence of the hook."

"Alright, noted. Let's head in!"

"You all enter the cave," Sanae began, as Reimu continued grousing over the trap, "The walls of the cave are roughly-hewn, and the floor is covered in a thick layer of dirt. Torches are placed along the walls every few feet, giving consistent lighting throughout. It is not long, however, before the tunnel forks: one path continues straight ahead, while the second branches off to the right."

"I'd like to try and Track the goblins here."

"What's the point in that?" Marisa looked to her fellow witch, "We're already in their base; we know they're here. We're gonna find them eventually."

"Ah, but that does not mean that they are active in all areas of their lair," Alice replied coolly, "Taking the wrong path can lead us away from the majority of them, and give them an opening to escape."

"Okay, make your Survival check, Alice." Sanae foresaw potential tracking attempts within the goblins' lair, and had prepared accordingly. Alice's roll came up 16, putting her plenty over the DC with her skill bonuses. "Alright, you can tell that the path to the right is actually a fair bit more traveled than the path straight ahead."

"Simple enough," It was impossible for Alice to be any more smug, Sanae thought. "Let us take the path well-traveled, and bring an end to these goblins." Which is why Sanae was about to enjoy what happens next.

"You're heading down the right path, then?"

"Is that not obvious?"

"Alright." Sanae picked up a die and rolled it. Alice's smirk vanished off her face the instant she heard the clacking. "You walk straight into an ankle-high razor wire. Five damage."


"Five damage."

Marisa's howling laughter returned, with full force. Even Reimu couldn't help but crack a smile. Karma's a sweet thing to witness.

"Margatroid! Fret not, friend, for I shall-"

"I am perfectly fine, Kokoro. I can just... drink a potion of healing, no need to waste your efforts on careless me..." Alice remarked as she started noting down the change in health and inventory.

"Haha... alright, I'm gonna cut that wire before anyone else cuts themselves on it," Marisa announced as her laughter died down. "What do I have to roll for that?"

"The trap is simple enough that you can Take Ten and skip the roll."

"It's a length of wire," Reimu began, shooting a look at Alice, "How hard can it be to not cut yourself on it?"

"Alright, settle down, you two. Let's get back on track." Sanae quickly restored order. "You slowly make your way through the tunnel, wary of more traps hidden around you."

"Ya damn straight we are," Marisa grinned.

"...Who wants to make a Listen check?"

"I shall!"

Marisa and Alice both looked at each other. Sanae inwardly groaned.

"I believe I am best-suited for this task, Marisa."

"Which of us walked straight into the razor wire, again?"

"A bout of clumsiness on my part, I shall admit-"

"Oooh, actually admitting you messed up? That's big of ya, Alice."

"-But my hearing is more than adequate to make up for that."

"And which of us is the dashing rogue, best meant for sneaking around?"

"I fail to see how that has any relevance to the current-"

"Hold, fair allies, for a I believe I hear a worrying noise deeper into this cavern!"

Alice and Marisa both froze for a moment. They snapped out of their stupor as they heard Reimu rolling a die on Kokoro's behalf.

"...Seventeen?" Reimu asked after looking over Kokoro's sheet.

"...You're forgetting her Wisdom bonus as well. Twenty," Sanae corrected her, "Which is enough. Kokoro can hear the chatter of goblins further ahead. The tunnel turns to the left ahead of you, and there is a stronger glow of firelight coming from around the corner."

"Prepare thyselves, friends, for we have reached the den of evil itself!"

"Finally," Reimu muttered, "Let's get in and beat them down, already."

"Hold on, Reimu," Reimu groaned as Alice interrupted her again. "We don't know how many goblins there are, nor do we know if there are any more traps lying in wait for us." Reimu groaned louder in response. "You recall what happened as we were entering this cave."

"And you remember what happened at the fork!"

"Marisa, please."

"Ahahaha! Alright, I'm gonna sneak up and scope things out for us."

"Remain vigilant, Marisa! Who knows what dangers lie just beyond that corner!"

"Yeah yeah, sure. So what am I rolling here?"

"That would be a Hide check, I believe." Sanae picked up some dice, prepared to roll against Marisa.

"Right. Oh, also I wanna make sure there aren't any traps as well, given our track record."

"That'll also be a Search check. Roll that, first."

"Alrighty!" Marisa picked up her die and practically threw it back down to the table. The number 19 pointed straight up, prompting an impressed whistle from Marisa.

"Okay. As you approach the corner, you actually become aware of some light, metal cans hanging on a string. Coming into contact with them would create a large amount of noise, alerting the goblins to your presence."

Marisa leaned back, arms crossed, with a huge grin plastered on her face.

"Yes, yes, you're incredible," Alice remarked dryly.

"Okay, now make your Hide check."

"Oh right, that." Marisa picked up her die and threw it again.

"I take it a two is bad?"

"One of the goblins spots Marisa skulking around the corner, and quickly alerts the others. There are five in total. Roll for initiative."


It has been a long night, but it was finally over. Sanae closed her books, as everyone stood up from their seats, finally stretching their legs after so long.

"Well, that was... fun." Sanae remarked, a bit halfheartedly.

"Yeah, it was!" Marisa, however, was still enthusiastic, "I'd like to play again sometime!"

"Y-You do?"

"The system is rather complicated," Alice began, "But still intuitive and engaging. I wouldn't mind returning a continuing this another time."

"Ah... really?"

"I didn't really get it at first, but," Reimu scratched her head as she sorted her thoughts, "I kinda did start enjoying it after a while, I guess."


Sanae looked over at Kokoro. The menreiki returned her gaze... and then gave Sanae a deep bow, "I must thank you, Dungeon Master, for offering me such an exhilarating experience. I would be delighted to play again some time in the future."

"I-I see... Well, I guess we can try and schedule another session? When everyone's available?"

"Sure! You know where to find me!"

"You can schedule with me through Marisa, if you can't make it to my cottage."

"I'm always at my shrine, if you need me."

"Reimu can point you in my direction, if desired."

"Alright... well, thanks for coming, everyone. I need to start cleaning up."

Goodbyes were exchanged as everyone vacated the Moriya shrine. Everyone except Sanae. Once she was all alone, she sat back down in her seat, behind the Dungeon Master's screen. After a moment, she slumped forward, burying her face in her arms on the table.

"Gods... help me."

Someone tapped Sanae on the shoulder.

She looked up and found a youthful face staring at her, one framed by blond hair and a goofy hat. The girl held up a large bag of chips, and a jar of chunky, red salsa.

"You'll need these for your next session."

"Lady Suwako, please!"
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wow holy shit I put the title in the wrong field. whoops
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Glorious. I want more.
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I liked the literal interpretation of "Gods help me" heh. Andz of course, D&D in G is something I'd read for sure.

It helped after the mild feels of the rhyme tale. Alice ;..;

Also, in that other story, Macha was the THP character or the Farseer? Either way, nice blast from the past!
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The sun had just begun to sink from the skies above the Human Village, so named for it was the sole of its kind in the Land of Illusion. Within the quaint wooden palisade that embraced it a grand festival now proceeded apace, the streets lined with stalls, paper lanterns, and above all else, throngs of people, most human, but many less so.

Upon a stage in pride of place two priestesses danced their tribute to the gods, their patrons seated at the sidelines, three and three. The faithful and the fascinated alike crowded close to observe the ancient tradition, though truth be told many merely awaited the more contemporary performers that were yet to come. Few among the audience heeded its meaning.

One of those few, a girl clad in red and white, rested her chin on her knuckles and sighed as she watched her fellow shrine maidens carry out their duties. For her the dance was uninteresting, differing only in minutae from that which she had herself practiced time and again. The dancers she knew, but not well enough for her to fancy them friends, and the goddesses they served were not hers, who did not walk so blatantly among men.

And so it was that when at last the ceremony came to an end, and the blue-white and brown-white took their bows, she turned her attention elsewhere.

She looked up - always it was up - at the faces of the crowd as they parted ever courteous before her, challenging one and all to meet her gaze, but there were none among them who would look her in the eye. Even when she found it in herself to purchase a treat, with money she was ever loathe to spend, the eyes of the stallholder remained averted.

By the time her toffee apple was finished she could bear it no more. She turned on her heel and set her stride for the village's east gate. People she did not mind, but people she had not found, and it was only as she left the hubub of the festival, with all its people, that she began to relax.


The girl pulled up short at the sound of her name - distastefully abbreviated, but still her name - being called by someone behind her, and turned to look.

If one word had to be chosen to describe the two women that now approached her, it would be "breathtaking". The one in the fore was garbed in a dress of purest white and blue that sang of the sky and clouds, untouchable by the earthly filth that beset her on all sides. Her hair, green as the first shoots of spring, was gathered tightly into an unruly ponytail, save for the mischeivous fringe that danced above her like-coloured eyes. From her ears there hung tiny ornaments of jewel-like glass fashioned in the childish likeness of frogs, and upon her wrist she wore a bracelet in the shape of a snake. Even her high laced boots glimmered as though trimmed with gold leaf.

The other was more humbly clad, but all the more beautiful for it. Her hair shone like a field of wheat before the harvest, even in the soft light of the lanterns, and in it rested a great leaf, as though freshly fallen upon her head, held fast by force unseen. Her dress was a blaze of autumn hues, its hem ragged, her feet bare, and her tread light as a breeze, seeming more to dance above the ground than let the least burden fall upon it.

"Lady Sanae, Lady Shizuha," the red-white girl said, bowing to each in turn with unfeigned reverence.

"And just where do you think you're going?" the one called Shizuha replied, her tone light and her voice lighter as she skipped ahead and twirled full-circle about the young miko.

"Home," the girl answered plainly, "to the shrine."

"But the party's only just started!" protested Sanae, a mother's concern etched into her too-young face.

"It's been a long day, and I have nothing else to do here," the girl continued, unmoved.

"You seem to be forgetting about the feast," Shizuha said, playfully poking her in the cheek.

"I'm sure the food will all be eaten, even if I'm not there."

"Are we really that boring?" Sanae asked, frown deepening.

"No," the red-white replied, and sighed once more. "It's everyone else."

"What? The festival?" Shizuha asked.

"No, the people. The humans. I don't belong here, Lady Sanae; they won't even look at me. Nobody wants to look at a monster."

Amy's great leathery wings fluttered uncomfortably as she looked at the ground. What she saw, however, was a haze of white.

"You're not a monster, Amy," Sanae said as she hugged Amy, her greater height pressing the smaller girl's face firmly into her bosom. "You know that."

"Mmph!" came the reply, prompting Sanae to release her. "I know that! They don't! They don't even look!"

"Then why are you crying?"

"I'm not crying!"

"So why is your face all red?"

"I... take after my parents, in certain respects... never mind!" Amy spluttered.

Shizuha snickered to herself; Sanae had genuinely not caught on.

"Anyway! I'm going home! It's past my bed time!" Amy declared, and turned away in a huff.

"Oh no you don't!" Shizuha trilled, as she snagged Amy's wrist and swept her off toward the festival like a leaf on the wind.

Back into the crowds the two goddesses flew with Amy in tow, the sea of people parting to make way for their passage, even at a trot. The faces that turned their way were filled with awe and admiration rather than politely masked unease. Two faces in particular, however, brought their merry charge to a halt.

"Koko! Shion! You made it after all!" Sanae exclaimed.

"We sure did!" the one called Koko replied with equal cheer. She was taller than Amy, and older, though in truth not by much. She wore a blouse of the most vivid green and a skirt of equally dazzling blue, each richly embroidered with exquisite patterns of rose flowers and decorated with frills of silk, black as the simple mary janes adorning her feet. Her bowl-cut hair was an unusual blend of delicate white and dayglow green, and a real rose, though blue, stood out starkly where it was pinned at an elegant angle.

By far her most striking feature, however, was the tangle of fleshy cords the wound around her body, and held aloft before her breast a great eye, as keen and full of life as the eyes in her head.

"Hi Koko," Amy said, still sour but glad of the interruption.

"Amelia!" Koko returned gaily, waving with her free hand.

"Hello, Miss Hakurei-Scarlet," the girl at Koko's side greeted, bowing gingerly. She looked as if the slightest breeze might make her might crumble into dust, held upright only by the sure arm of her companion. She was dressed in the yukata and geta that were the tradition for girls of the Village, with the former bearing a pattern that faded from sky blue at the top to copper at the base. Her straight black hair fell in a waist-length curtain down her back, and was cut so low over her forehead as to almost obscure her eyes.

"Just Amelia is fine, Shion," Amelia reminded her gently. "Should you be out of your chair?"

"Doctor Yagokoro said... it would be good for me, to go about on my own feet... as much as I can bear," Shion replied, with an effort, a delicate smile gracing her lips.

"And what better motivation than a festival!" Koko asserted with her infective enthusiasm, before nuzzling her cheek against Shion's in an open display of affection that made the smaller girl's pale face glow pink with embarassment.

"Ohohohohohoho!" a great voice boomed. Everyone looked up, and what a way up: behind the young couple, manning the stall they stood in queue for, towered a giant of a man, half again at least the height of any other in the street. He was dressed to the nines in a dazzlingly white suit, complete with monocle, top hat and, perched incongruously atop all else as if to further reinforce his dizzying stature, a chef's hat. An apron and a broad grin completed his eclectic ensemble.

"It warms this old man's heart to see two such lovely young flowers wrapped in the sweet embrace of looooooove!" the gentlemanly giant rumbled, voice boisterous yet refined, like gravel made of gold. "What will it be tonight, my little chickadees?"

"Two tacos, please!" Koko politely requested, not fazed in the least.

"Coming riiiiiight up!"

Shion, however, was considerably more affected, if that was even possible when she had been pale and shaking as though ready to faint to begin with.

"Are you all right?" Koko asked, holding her even closer than before.

"I... ah... um..." Shion dithered.

"He's a lot to take in all at once, isn't he?" Amelia asked.

"Y-yes," Shion agreed.

"No need to be shy, my fragile flower! You got nothing to fear from me, for I am merely a humble messenger of looooooove! And tacos." So saying, the chef held out two freshly-made tacos. "Here, eat up, put some meat on those bones and a rose in those cheeks! And you -" he ruffled Koko's hair "- take good care of her! The power of looooooove will have her running around with you in no time!"

Amelia rolled her eyes, Shizuha chuckled, and Sanae just beamed.

"Will do!" Koko replied, holding Shion tightly as they slowly continued on their way.

"Can I interest you fine ladies in a taco or three as well?" the genial giant asked the goddesses and Amelia next.

"Better not spoil our appetites for the feast," Shizuha replied.

"Thanks for the offer though!" Sanae added.

"You know where to find me if you change your mind!"

The goddesses herded Amelia onward once more, now in a more subdued fashion. It was well that their pace had slackened, too, for the further they walked the thicker the crowds became. Yet still everyone they came upon made way as best they could. The attention given the two goddesses lifted the burden of awkward non-acknowledgement from their not-quite-willing company, and so Amelia let her own eyes wander.

Much of what they passed was common stalls: food, masks, toys and tests of skill were all on offer. The sights, sounds and smells of so many money-grubbing merchants clamouring for attention were an affront to Amelia's senses, which were more acute than most, and so she shut them out as best she could. But every now and then there was something else, a street performance perhaps; music, dance of sleight of hand - or indeed actual magic, rare as it was.

"Roll up, roll up! Come young, come old! Feast your eyes as tales of wonder unfold!" a well-practiced spiel promised before the opening of what looked to be a puppet show. Nobody seemed to mind that the speaker was an animated toaster, a minature top hat balanced precariously atop his shiny chrome body. It was hardly the oddest sight to be seen that night.

At last they came to their destination, a raised platform cordoned from the masses, with a clear view of the main stage. Here many persons of import gathered at a low table: there was the Maiden of Miare; the Yakumo and her husband sat hand in hand; representatives of Myourenji and Senkai made awkward smalltalk; the Mikami beckoned Shizuha rejoin their ranks; the Moriya goddesses - less Sanae - and their attendant laughed at some private joke; Kaguya-hime and her minders waited in dignified silence; the sisters Komeiji applauded the latest act; the Village Guardian teased her sour, red-garbed lady friend; and finally the ladies Hakurei-Scarlet smiled as their daughter approached.

"We were beginning to think you weren't coming," Amelia's mother said. To a stranger's eyes she and her daughter would have looked like sisters, even twins; for as a creature of the night, Remilia Hakurei-Scarlet's body was untouched by the passage of years. Her mind, however, was not, and her eyes, red as blood with pupils like a fox, seared all she regarded with a searching intensity.

"I wasn't," Amelia answered bluntly.

"The hell you weren't," Amelia's so-called father replied. It was with a great deal of embarassment and coercion that Reimu Hakurei-Scarlet had accepted the man's role and title, for she was as fair a woman as could be found anywhere. But the rest of the household gave no quarter: wizardry had brought about Amelia's conception, and Remilia had carried the child, so to call her otherwise would have been untrue.

"You're the Hakurei miko now; you've gotta put up with this crap whether you like it or not," Reimu continued.

"Yes, father," Amelia replied dutifully.

"Don't you 'yes, father' me, you little brat. You're the one who said you could do it all by yourself, and sealed your own damn mother out of the shrine, so I'm damn well going to make sure you're doing your -"

"Reimu, be a dear and shut up," Remilia interjected, her voice honey-sweet and razor-edged. "You should be proud of her; she's every bit as stubborn as you are."

Reimu looked for a moment as if she were about blow steam from her ears; but she drowned her retort in scalding hot tea and blew it from her nose instead.

"It's alright, dear," Remilia said, placing a comforting hand on Amelia's back as she sat beside her mother, "I'm not mad at you. Gods, what I wouldn't do to keep certain people out of my house too," she added, flashing a glare at where Yakumo Yukari sat further down the table.

"Would you like some tea, Mistress?" a petit maid with gossamer wings and grass-toned hair asked.

"Don't call me that," Amelia grumbled.

"I'm afraid I have to, Mistress," the maid replied primly, already pouring a cup. "Miss Sakuya would get mad at me if I didn't."

"I don't see her anywhere, do you?"

"If it's all the same to you, Mistress, I think I'd get mad at me too."

Amelia rolled her eyes. "Whatever. I thought you'd be out and about enjoying the festival with Auntie."

"We're taking turns; we swapped places with Wendy and Tullia just a few minutes ago."

"I caught a fishy!" a second insect-winged maid, smaller still and almost entirely pink, added enthusiastically, holding up a plastic bag filled with water.

"Careful Mon', don't shake him around. He won't like that at all," the older maid cautioned.

"Oh! Sorry fishy!"

"Put him down on the table; he'll be safe there."

The tiny girl did as she was bade.

"Excuse us, Lady Hakurei-Scarlet," a new voice said.

Remilia, Reimu and Amelia all looked up; the Moriya and Mikami miko stood behind them.

"We were wondering if we could borrow your daughter for a while," the blue-white asked, addressing Remilia.

"Whatever for?" Remilia asked, bemused.

"It has come to our attention that the latest Hakurei is suffering from image issues," the brown-white answered.

"We have some experience in that area, so we thought we'd help out," the blue-white continued smoothly.

"How?" Reimu snorted.

"By getting her up on stage," the blue-white replied, her grin showing off her sharp teeth.

"Not happening," Amelia said flatly.

"She didn't ask you," Reimu responded ominously.

"You're the one who dumped this job on me and left me to fend for myself, so that's not for you to decide," Amelia retorted.

"Well, in that case," Remilia interjected, quickly cutting off Reimu's reaction, "I guess you'll have to deal with these two yourself."

Two inhumanly strong hands gripped Amelia's shoulders.

"Wah - hey! No! Lemme go!"

"Good luck, Mistress!" the taller maid called after them.

"We'll be cheerin' for you!" the smaller one added.

Some minutes later, when next the stage was clear, a bewinged girl in a dress of black and red came forward.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've had a slight change of schedule," she announced. "Allow me to present the Miko of Hakurei, Miss Amelia Hakurei-Scarlet!"

Onto the stage stepped Amelia, in full ceremonial attire. For a moment, there was silence. Even the chatter of the crowd had ceased. Then the musicians began their slow tune, and she began to dance. Even having seen its twin once already, the crowd were once again in rapture; for Amelia's movements held a grace and poise that her fellows could not hope to match. No notion of nervousness played on her mind; indeed, she was the most at ease that she had been all evening.

For in those few minutes, the eyes of all the village were upon her.
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The Fabulous Photo We Never Took
I roused from my thoughts still a private in the Defense Corps.

Seiran let go of my shoulder; though her ears kept twitching a mile a minute.
“You’ve got to check this out, man, come on. Something’s going on. I woke up Ringo for it, too. Come on!”

After two weeks posted with her I knew she was, if nothing else, persistent, and would not go away unless I humoured her. So, I shifted my hand under the pillow, feigning a lazy stretch, and felt for the brush of silk against my fingertips; then stood and went to follow her.

Ringo, officer commanding of our three-man post, was outside already, lain prone; seeing us, she flung her arm downward in a gesture for us to do the same. I muttered a half-hearted complaint and pulled up my knee-pads, and crawled up alongside her, following her gaze out to the shore (we were stationed by the Mare Cognitum).

There, perched neatly on the surface of the water, just off the beach, was something appearing like a mechanical spider. I found it difficult to focus my eyes on it: the entire thing shimmered, mirage-like. It had a blocky grey ‘thorax’, with oblique protrusions all over, and its ‘abdomen’ and ‘legs’ wore a baggy golden skin which glinted in the sunlight. So far as I could see, it did not bob or sway; simply stood on the water, as sure-footed as if on dry land.

“Well, would you have at that.”

“‘Would you have at that’?” Seiran elbowed me in the side. “Is that it! This is serious, man!”

I cradled my ribs and shot her a glare which she ignored.

“Get the radio,” said Ringo.

It was a reflexive response, and in fact part of the reason I was posted out in the backwater guarding a pile of Earth junk. (Seiran’s ticket here was a negligent discharge in the presence of a general officer. As for Ringo—Omoikane knows why, but she volunteered. Officer cadre politics, perhaps. Anyways.)

“How do you mean, ‘why’? We have to contact HQ and report this.”

“It’s just some more Earth junk. There’s no need to bother anybody about it.” It was possible that they would make us guard it, too, which would mean we might have to walk patrols between them. No, thank you.

“We are at war, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“ . . . It’s on the fritz.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“I’m not lying this time.”

“That’s what you said last time you tried to lie about it. You can’t just blame interference from the Ocean of Storms every time you have to actually do your job.”

I let out a sigh, defeated, and drug my feet back into the dusty prefab which served as both barracks and guard-house. Despite my brief prayer on the way, the radio proved its usual heavy self as I took it off its table and bore it down the path.

When I returned there appeared on the beach two glow-white atmospheric suits bouncing about and waving their arms.

The others let out the breath they had been holding as I approached.
“What took you so long! Hurry and bring it here.”

I set the radio down and tried to raise headquarters at Lansberg; then Fra Mauro. ‘Tried’ being the key word: the device yielded nothing but static.

Seiran knotted her eyebrows. “This is hardly the time!”
“It’s— yes, it is the interference!” I protested. “What; do you want to try?—”

“Hey! Shut up for a moment.”

Ringo stared at the radio, ears twitching.
“Do you hear that?”

Sure enough, above the crackle and the warble a pair of voices could be made out. I slapped Seiran’s hand away from the knobs and focused in on them:

“Pete? Pete.”
“Watch this.”


“Try that on— Hey, I just threw something. It hasn’t hit the ground yet; it must have gone up three hundred feet. Boing!”
“Stop playing and get to work. Come on . . . Maybe they’ll extend us until four-and-a-half hours. I feel like I could stay out here all day.”
“I know it . . . Right there. Okay.”

We lay for a while, listening. Was this really an invasion force?

“That thing hit the ground; it’s still bouncing.”
“That’s slick. That’s really slick. Boy, I hope— I hope—”

“Hello, Yankee Clipper; Houston.”

“You hope? You hope?”

“Oh, I was just thinking about something.”

Eventually, someone spoke up.

“Should we shoot them?”

Ringo swivelled her head around, the way she did when she heard someone say something stupid, without moving the rest of her body.
“Hey, man, why would you want to go and do that?”

“I don’t know!” Seiran hissed. “Just thinking out loud.”

“We could ignore them and wait for them to go away,” I suggested.

“Do the words ‘Lunar’, ‘Defense’, and ‘Corps’ mean nothing to you?”

“‘Eat the peach; f—’”

“What the hell; why are you even here?”

I opened my mouth to retort, but Ringo shot me an uncharacteristic glare which bade me reconsider.

“ . . . No; you’re right.”

Why was I still there?

I stood up and unrolled my sleeves, mind made up. If not now, when would I ever?

“Hey, what! Get down, man!—”

“They can’t see us,” I told her. “They’re on the other side. Watch their boots.”
It was subtle: their footsteps did not quite match the ground.

With that, I started back up the path to the barracks, ignoring the outcries from my erstwhile comrades.

The feeling of the lunar veil in my hands was unique, to say the least.

It was mass-less, as like the moonlight from which it was spun; and yet, holding it, seeing it, I felt as though I was straining against a great weight across my shoulders and neck. The gravity of my decision, perhaps, or the weight of the crime I was about to commit. Given time, I knew it would overcome me; press me back into my usual routine of work-dodging and punishment-evading. Unchanging, just like this moon.

So I didn’t give it time.

Seiran and Ringo froze in their steps as I opened the barrack door, their lips moving furiously. I shook my head: already there was no atmosphere to carry their words to me.

What are you doing? Where did you get that? Are you insane?
A litany of questions filled my mind.

I’m leaving, I replied; then stepped forward, and watched the pale sunrise invert to starry blackness.

Unclenching my grip on the veil, I wound it around my neck, like a muffler, and looked around at the desolation: the Cognitum on my one side, the Insularum on the other, all dust-grey or else stark black shadow. Then at the spider-like lander at the rim of the crater, the sensor package beyond it, the “Surveyor” I was meant to guard—and the Earthlings who had come for its salvage.

They were pawing around for something in their tool carriers. I focused my ability toward their helmets:

“Makes me kind of mad. Look down there just once more.”

“Wait a minute. What’s in your bag, here?”
“Just a film magazine.”

“Move that handle and throw it away. Get anything out of there we don’t need.”

“Okay. That’s a good idea.”

“ . . . Bad. Had it.”

Nodding to myself, I began to approach.

“Need help with something?”

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Koishi Koishi Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

Koishi Koishi Koishi, Koishi. Koishi Koishi “Koishi.”

Koishi, Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

“Koishi, Koishi Koishi?!” Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.


Koishi Koishi Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

"Koishi Koishi Koishi," Koishi. Koishi Koishi, “Koishi Koishi.”

Koishi Koishi.

“Koishi, Koishi Koishi?!” Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.

“Koishi Koishi,” Koishi Koishi, Koishi.

“Koishi?” Koishi Koishi. “Koishi Koishi Koishi, Koishi?”

Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi. Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi! Koishi Koishi? Koishi! Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi!

“Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi?” Koishi Koishi Koishi. “Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi Koishi.”

Koishi Koishi, Koishi Koishi Koishi.

“Koishi Koishi,” Koishi Koishi.

Koishi, Koishi Koishi.

Koishi, Koishi Koishi.
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The shrine maidens sighed. Again.

It hadn’t even been half a year since the whole deal with those impossible spellcards used on the Moon, and now Mayohiga was under attack by a bunch of twerps. There seemed to be a rather gaudy blonde pirate holding a katana (?) and riding a holy sword (???) that was spawning actual swords out of thin air (?????) and... well, that wasn’t helping their case much.
Trailing behind the pirate was a rather busty redhead that was packing a dizzyingly diverse array of elemental spells in a white dress. The white dress was the most confusing part of all, since Sanae (the only one who had even played Final Fantasy) knew that the White Mage does not learn any elemental combat magic, and neither the Red or Black ones learn “freaking JUDGEMENT of all things,” in her own words.
Behind that there was someone who would fit in perfectly as a WWII-era German military officer. Granted, the swastikas were the Buddhist kind, but still: who the hell would ride one of those “clunky little things that divers use when they go zoom, except designed to fly through the air?” Obviously, Aya had completely missed the two gun turrets on the front (a fact which neither Sanae nor Reimu missed,) so it was more of “a German military officer holding onto the back of a diminutive steel jet fighter for dear life while dodging and shooting bullets.”
The fourth was a green-haired girl riding a “wooden Frisbee” (doth sayeth the Hakurei.) Some light jabs were made at Sanae before the three shrine maidens had to take cover behind a rock as a wild spray of arrows came a little too close. Any return fire was met with powerful earth magic that seemingly sapped the energy of its targets. (Sanae called this “some sort of fancy Limit Break,” which garnered some odd looks.)
Oh, and then there was the adorable little vicious gray kitty riding a star and vehemently shooting up his own kind.

The shrine maiden’s goal: get to Lady Yakumo and warn her of the outsiders headed her way at half-Mach 1. This was not an easy task, considering that it seemed like all of Mayohiga had abruptly militarized themselves upon this intrusion. Heck, Chen had even armed herself with multiple of the same spellcard: namely, “I Face-Tank Your Bullets and Then Ram Your Hitbox Really Really Fast.” What a preposterous name for a spellcard, and wasn’t it against the rules to use more than one of the exact same spellcard in a fight unless you’re using it as a bomb?
Sadly, it seemed that the invaders had learned about deathbombs, and merely shelled the hell out of the stupid nekomata. This, of course, led to Ran suddenly making an appearance, who was more interested in chewing out a half-asleep Yukari than beating up her shikigami’s assailants.
What happened after Yukari woke up... nobody really knows.
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The scythe has felt many
the end that awaits me—
to think that before autumn yields
I'll be a pale mist
shrouding rice fields.

—Ono no Komachi

“Six pence,” said the ferrygirl.

“I have none,” said the soul.

She drew a breath of air, leaning her scythe over the shoulder. With a carefully measured smile, she looked at the wisp.

Pitiful is the one who has no money in the afterlife, she mused.

“There is no second chance for those penniless, and certainly not those who are penniless and honest! No ferryman in their right mind would bring you along!”

She ferried the soul. This marked the sixth on the last day of the last week.

Humans have great aptitude for dying, don't they?

This was a question that she confirmed many times that day. Every day, she eagerly waited for mortals to prove her wrong. And, every day, they did not.

If the sixth soul is the last for today, then I shall be happy.

She awaited the seventh.

The seventh soul appeared before her when the light of the noon shone the brightest. The wisp's form was murky, like the waters she crossed many a time in her ferry. The soul was clear, translucent, but in her eyes, the ferrygirl could only see black.

She wondered if the Yama was rubbing off on her.

“Six pence,” said the ferrygirl.

“I have none,” said the soul. Its voice was light and clear, playful in the way a child's voice was. “But could you spare some mercy for an honest soul like this one?”

The ferrygirl narrowed her eyes. With a brisk slash of her scythe, she sliced the wisp in half. Its ethereal form ruptured, and a dull, leaden light burst from its insides. A dark, fleshy mass popped out from the wisp, complete with fangs and horns.

“This is your true form in the afterlife.”

“I have done nothing wrong,” it said.

She drowned the creature. Then she awaited the eighth.

The eighth soul came when the noon, and after, was well over.

“Six pence,” said the ferrygirl.

“I have twelve,” said the soul. “One for me, and one for my love.”

The ferrygirl stood there, frowning. “Your love, you say?”

“Yes. I know my love is here. He left the world this afternoon. And I, who could not bear even a minute away, have decided to take my life to meet him.”

“I see.”

“Do you know where he is, caretaker?”

She knew exactly where that man was and what had become of him, but she was reluctant to bear the news to this one. “I have drowned him.”

The wisp fizzled, its light fading in and out like a candle with little wick left. Then, silently, it fell into the water by its own volition, sinking into the depths below.

The ferrygirl collected the twelve pence.

At the very morn of the first day of the first week, when the clock struck twelve, the ferrygirl awaited the first.

It was not until the sixth hour, when the sun barely crept up above the eternal river, that the first soul of the day arrived. Stirring from her slumber, the ferrygirl groggily uprighted herself from her boat, smoothed down her hair, and grabbed the scythe she used for a headrest.

“Six pence.”
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Why do I have the oddest feeling that this is grammatically correct?
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More like THpfff, am I right?
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The sun was setting in the West, sunbeams slanting down the town's main street when the stranger arrived.

Somber eyes stared from beneath every shop awning and straw-hatbrim, watching the silhouette shimmer in the thermals rising from the road. It seemed to swell from the earth as it crested the rise; wide-brimmed hat pulling a person up below it. With the blazing orange sun behind his shadow fell down the street, sharpening as it thrust through the thermal haze to lie between the quiet storefronts. The steed crested next, long shadowlegs flickering in steady time to its leisurely gait.
He had come (they said) riding a cyclone, but now he sat astride a glossy chestnut quarterhorse, and the men almost sighed at the sight of it. Golden sunlight seemed to shimmer off its rich coat, shed by the motion of muscles rippling beneath. A massive, muscular Western breed, and though he didn't call it warhorse, the villagers knew it for one. Thoughtful eyes played over the silent rider as he drew near and details emerged - foreign in shape but so familiar in wear and weathering. Some let their stares linger on the long flowing length of his yellow duster; faded canvas burnished bronze by the sunset. But those who'd worn baldric-straps solemnly studied the details. The reins gripped in a single tanned, ungloved hand, the other resting ready on his thigh, arm pinning his unbuttoned duster close. The worn leather saddle-scabbard; too narrow for a horse-bow but unmistakable all the same. But above all the dusty black hat, brim tipped low to shield dark eyes that drank in the all the world without moving.

The villagers knew him for a warhorse as well.

He rode in, and past, and through, the soft sound of his horse's hooves drifting through the sultry summer heat as he followed his own shadow eastward. An almost accidental audience ambled after, a slow wake towed behind. He spared them few glances and they gave him none, studying the blazing beauty of the sky, the golden light slashing across second-story windows and (sidelong) each other. He knew them in turn, after all; knew them by the eyes - foreign shapes, but with the familiar look in them.

They followed the rider followed the shadow followed the street to the outskirts, where the hoofbeaten path began its gentle rise towards the foothills of the valley's flanking mountains. Now he lifted his chin, ever so slightly, and they all saw his bronzed skin catching the sunglow as dark eyes peered up and out. The big chestnut halted on instinct, and for a moment they stood, staring at the distant treeline where the path began to wind around mossy boulders and rocky screes on its way to the Shrine.

"You can't go."

The feminine voice landed in the silence like a blow from a boxing glove; soft edges around stern power. The rider stared for a moment longer, his eyes lingering on a distant figure standing astride the road; their red hair and redder tabard visible across the long mile.

Then - reluctant, almost resentful - he relinquished, turning his face to his accuser.

The schoolteacher. Of course; the road passed her place, anyway. He heard the slightest shuffling of feet and the creak of sword-leather behind; it was their schoolteacher... but not their fight.

And a fight, they all knew, it was going to be.

The rider swung out of his saddle with one fluid motion, duster flowing about his boots as he lit upon the ground lightly. He straightened slowly, flexing the saddle-soreness from his muscles and letting his yellow coat fall open. She spared his gunbelt no more attention than he paid the scroll she pressed against her thigh.
"She's going to kill you," she said with utmost certainty.

He tilted his head slightly by way of shrug. "She'll try."

"She'll break the Barrier," the schoolteacher pressed. "To have her arm... don't you understand?"

"If," he said simply, the clipped syllables hanging in the hot air.

"She's an oni," the teacher growled. "One of the oni. And she thinks she's doing right - to stop the barrier youkai, to - to save everyone. You can't reason with her and you cannot best her."

The rider stood silent for a moment. Then he slowly pulled his duster's lapel open to reveal his breast. The audience fell deathly silent when the golden star upon his chest was revealed, flashing brilliant and bright in the fading light.

"I know I'm doing right," he replied quietly. "Win, lose... or draw."

The world held its breath for an eternal moment - and then it shattered with the quick clap of her scroll's parchment snapping taught. The outline of a sword began to glow upon the paper, and her navy-blue dress began to lighten towards turquoise as unseen updrafts ruffled and played about the hem. The fading sunset was all keeping the monster at bay; there was no time now for parley.

He swept the duster's canvas back behind his hip, revealing the blued gunmetal gleaming in the low-slung holster riding on his thigh. He met the schoolteacher's sorrowful blue eyes, and a queer sensation stole through him. Horned magicians barring his way; a self-professed protector and a sad savior...

As the Peacemaker flashed from the leather to pin the schoolteacher beneath a ribbon of blued steel, he couldn't shake the feeling that they'd done this before.
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"Congratulations," she says, looking at me and him both.

I stare at the doctor, doubting my own ears. I feel the face of disbelief drift to the front as anticipation joins the threescore and odd waiting for their turn. It doesn't make even the slightest sense. Yes, I'm glad to hear it, but that isn't how it works for my kind, we're built, not born-

Stirring from his own moment of shock, he takes my hand in his, a joyous look smeared across his features in that disquieting but strangely adorable way that it happens to everyone else but me, and I feel disbelief give up its spot to happiness.

May 7 - Eientei confirmed it. I'm pregnant.


"So, how about it?"

I stare at him, entirely unsurprised. The face of contentment drifts forward, and curiosity returns to its place of waiting. It takes only moments to turn the suggestion over in my head before I nod my assent.

I'm sure he'll have to do a lot of talking. Arranging these things is work enough the first time; getting people to move up their schedules by months won't leave him a lot of time, or energy, or spare favors to call on. Still, it makes more than enough sense.

May 11 - We're moving our wedding day up from next March to this October.


"Just call for me if you want to talk, okay?"

I stare at him, wondering why he feels the need to outright tell me something that's always been an understanding between us. My face holds position, not stirred enough to give way to any of the others.

I tell him that, yes, he can go work on whatever he's working on in the shed out back, and no, I won't feel lonely and abandoned because he's twelve shaku away instead of one. The face of irritation circles forward. He's a worrywart, I say, and should try thinking about himself sometimes, too.

May 12 - He started working on something for the baby. I'm looking forward to seeing what it is.


"Delivery for-"

I stare at the box, and tell her that he's in the shed in the back. The kappa is in and out within five minutes. My face doesn't swap out; I don't think much of it.

April 27 - He got another delivery from that kappa. I wonder what he's making.


“-sed on this, it looks like your child is, well, children. Plural. Also, they’re growing faster than anyone expected. They’ll probably be born in early October at this rate, possibly even the tail end of September.”

I stare at the doctor, then at the picture in her hand, then at my soon-to-be husband, then at the doctor again. This isn’t the first time she’s seen my face of disbelief come to the forefront.

It is, however, the first time I’ve seen my beloved break out in a cold sweat.

June 12 - We’re under a lot of stress.


“Sorry, I need to go out back.”

I stare at him, and this time the face of disappointment is the one to take the frontmost position. He spends more and more time in that damnable shed, working like mad, his fingers turning callused and his face going gaunt. What could be so important?

August 1 - He won’t even talk to me any more. Why? Why?


“Don’t you dare try to comfort me now, of all times!”

He stares at me in shock and drops my hand. I can see him starting to shake, barely stopping himself from toppling forward under exhaustion, and for what? For some stupid side project that he couldn’t be bothered to explain? His mouth starts to open, and then-

-Then I hear the sound of dozens of things cracking and breaking at once. Not a sound like shattering, but a sound like splitting down the middle, into pieces.

The pain hits me with the force of a freight train at that same moment.

He runs away from me, now of all times, that coward, and I clutch at the floor, desperate to divert my attention somehow. And I strain, and I scream, and I feel myself being wrenched in two -

-The sound of wheels, those little useless wheels kappa use on carts.

The pain subsides a little.

I look up at him, and as the first mask - no, the first half-mask, split cleanly down the middle somehow - drifts weakly up off of the wheeled shelf, I understand.

My kind are built.

September 15 - Everything is going to be fine.
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i needed a marisa pic and this was as good as i co
There was a house.

Marisa pulled back to a hard stop on her broom, peering down at the dwelling from above the forest's treeline.

There was a house.

This was remarkable, because there were approximately three buildings in the Forest of Magic that she knew of, and this one had not been there yesterday.

As Gensokyo's self-proclaimed number-two incident resolver (which no one would ever dispute, given how many times she and Reimu had blasted through everything in their way), Marisa considered it her solemn duty to investigate. As Gensokyo's number one thief (something else no one would ever dispute, for much less admirable reasons) she also considered it equally, if not more, important to case the joint for valuables.

This was why she cautiously descended, touching down just outside the clearing that had sprung up around this small, dark-wooded hut. She adjusted her hat to a roguish skew, twirled her broom about to rest on her shoulder, and palmed her hakkero in her other hand, hiding it behind her back as she merrily strode toward the entrance. When she reached the doorstep, she found herself with the dilemma of her hands being full, and settled on politely kicking the door instead to announce her presence.

After a reply failed to materialize, Marisa shrugged, setting her broom next to the door. “Welp, guess no one's home. I'll just let myself in-”

The moment her hand touched the handle was the moment the door kicked open with a deep roar of “WHOZZAT” and smashed into her face.

Marisa was, by all respects, a small girl, which was why this blow sent her hurtling through the air with a shriek of “Aaaaaiiiiiiyaaaaaaaaaargh?!?!?” She hit the dirt hard on her back, hakkero bouncing from her grip as she clutched her nose.

And then- a blur of movement above her-

Marisa instinctively rolled aside, narrowly dodging the bottle tumbling through the air, liquid spraying out erratically through the top. She was on her feet a heartbeat later, already flinging a hand out with a furious cry, stars shooting out of her palm in a machine-gun rhythm at her attacker.

The same attacker who, in a distinctly higher-pitched voice, yelped “Ow! Ow. Ow. Stop!”

Marisa stopped, eyes narrowed into slits as she cocked her head. “What?

The silver-haired man in the doorway lowered his arms from his face, wince clear through his spectacles. “...I thought you were up to something nefarious,” he admitted, placatingly keeping his hands up.

“I knocked,” Marisa growled, her throbbing nose strongly advising her to turn this into an Incident.

The man raised a gloved finger, offering a sheepish smile. “You also said something about letting yourself in. Again, sounded nefarious if you ask me-” the smile widened nervously as Marisa's eyelid twitched “-which it wasn't as it turns out but that's how it is.”

Marisa stared him down a moment longer before she sighed heavily, lowering her arm. “...Fine.” She tilted her head towards the bottle on the ground.“The hell was in that thing?”

“Blinding ooze!” he said, smile turning genuine as he lowered his hands, smoothing out wrinkles in his thick sleeves. “I was aiming to stun you, but then you, well, dodged.”

“That's a thing I tend to do, yes,” Marisa agreed. “So why isn't that bottle made of something that could scatter the payload better?”

He cast a pointed look at their forested surroundings, then back to her. “I am not a man who can make glass. Wood, meanwhile, is reusable, if not especially conducive towards shattering on impact.”

Marisa couldn't help her smirk. “Not if you're making proper potions.”

“Beg pardon?”

She produced a flask from a blouse pocket with a flourish, and held it overhead. “Like this! Very volatile, blows up when you toss it hard enough at a guy you want to explode, things go from there.”

His eyes, magnified through his bottle-lenses, looked positively ridiculous as he squinted at her. “...Fascinating, miss.”

Marisa couldn't help it; she grinned, preening. “That's just one of my tricks, mister what's your face. And, seeing as I can't call you that this entire time, what's your name?”

“What's yours?” he politely shot back. “I thought it was common courtesy for guests to introduce themselves when they show up on someone's property.”

“It's also courtesy to not hit a dude in the face with a door,” said Marisa, her grin flip-turning upside down in a hurry. “You first.”

Faced with this unassailable logic, the man sighed, and pushed his glasses up from where they'd fallen askew. “Very well. Arkad, if it pleases you.”

“Cool.” Marisa puffed her chest out, flashed him a smile, and gave him a thumbs-up. “Kirisame Marisa, at my own service and no one else's!”

“Hm.” He nodded. “Pleasure meeting you, miss Marisa. And now that this is all cleared up, have a good day!”

Marisa watched, dumbfounded, as he turned around and walked back inside. He was already pushing the door shut when she raised her voice. “Oi!”

He looked up at her, puzzled. “Yes?”

“Aren't you going to invite me in?”


Marisa flung her hands up. “You hit me with a door!


She hauled an arm back, ready and willing to send that explosive flask rocketing through his face. “And if you don't let me in now I will blow up your entire house.”

“Oh.” He considered this. “Okay.”

“That's right.” Marisa huffed, content she was taken seriously. “Just leave the door open and I'll be in with ya in a sec. I gotta get my stuff.”

So Marisa stuffed her bomb away, the better to retrieve hakkero and broom, before following the man into his home. The place, she noted with approval, was an absolute disaster area, the surest sign of a genius intellect; she could already feel the camaraderie surging through her veins as she looked over scattered papers, bottles filled with bubbling liquids, bits of animals set about at seemingly random, the small bed with the blanket dangling off it, and other sundry things perfect for the Man Living On His Own™, like an icebox and a stove and suchforth.

“So, when'd ya get here?” she asked, as he returned to his desk full of ingredients and gadgets.

He looked at her over his shoulder, confused. “Eh?”

Or maybe that was just disbelief in her veins, Marisa wasn't picky. “Gensokyo. Here. The place that is home to the witch who is asking you these questions.”

“Oh!” His eyebrows creased as he thought on this. “...I don't know.”

Marisa looked like she was sucking on a lemon. “How.

He shrugged.

“Well, then, how'd you get here?” Marisa tried again, only to be answered with another shrug. She pinched her nose, heaving a great, deep sigh of exasperation.

“Are you going to do anything besides ask questions I don't have any answers to?” said Arkad, his expression bemused. “I do have experiments to run here.”

Marisa lowered her hand, curiosity piqued, and sauntered up next to him, peering at the various ingredients laid out across the table. “What kind? I don't... quite recognize some of these things.” She was lying, of course; Marisa only recognized a few very basic items on his desk, but that doesn't mean he had to know that.

Arkad's bemusement only grew stronger at her words. “I had figured you for someone who knew the basics of potioncrafting after your earlier words, Marisa.”

“Yeah, but you're an Outsider. You people get all these weird- these- these things-” Marisa waggled a hand back and forth vaguely, as if that would explain anything.

“These 'things' are the tools of my trade, madam,” Arkad huffed, his frown severe, “and I will thank you to show them proper respect.”

“Eh, gimme a mortar and pestle any day – at least that stuff's straightforward. Not like this thingamajigg.” Marisa had snatched up some device with too many gears spinning around through the glass casing. “What's this even do?

“That helps me with the-”

Now she was inspecting something flat and boardlike, with a number of buttons on the front. “Or this?”

“That's for calculations, madam, and it's delicate, so please stop-”

Marisa set it aside in favor of snatching up a little glass sphere, which she started shaking about. “The heck's this thing, now?”

“Oh, that's just decorative,” Arkad said, a touch relieved now that she wasn't threatening to damage his equipment.

“Huh.” She set the little globe down, watching the white flakes within drift to the bottom. “Neat.”

“Sometimes a man desires trinkets and baubles,” he admitted. “I'm alone quite often; acquiring the occasional decorative curio is the least I can do for myself.”

“Bet your loneliness issues ain't helped by how you wound up here,” Marisa commented, side-eyeing him.

“Wherever 'here' is, it seems pleasant enough, present company included.”

Marisa cocked an eyebrow, the corner of her mouth twisting up. “I see what you did there.”

“Eh?” He looked genuinely confused, which only set Marisa to snickering, which in turn only confused him more.

It took her a little bit to calm down, but once she did, there was something important that needed saying. “Anyway, you seriously don't know anything about Gensokyo?”

“Not a whit.”

“Despite the fact that you're talkin' in perfect Japanese?”

His magnified squint threatened to set Marisa off into giggles again. “...What's 'Japanese'?”

The witch valiantly reined her amusement in. “Doesn't matter, doesn't matter. Okay, so, there's things you need to know-”


It had only been a day since Marisa had given Arkad the long and short of things about Gensokyo, but she was going back to check on him regardless, the better to make sure he hadn't gotten himself eaten by a youkai or something. As the only one who knew he existed, that duty fell on her shoulders.

She sailed on over to his little hut, grazing the treetops, and came up short at how his home now had a tarp covering part of the wall, which had definitely not been there last time. Odder still was the indecipherable writing all over the walls surrounding the tarp; this was something that bore investigating.

She touched down in front of the tarp, broom in hand for emergency bludgeoning, and lifted the covering to discover it hid a hole. Concerned, the witch cautiously advanced, pausing on the threshold to poke her head in – and discovered Arkad busy etching runes into the floorboards with a little knife. Perhaps more concerning were the reams of text carved into the walls that he occasionally glanced at to reference something or other, which was also how he found Marisa frozen in the hole. Confusion flitted across his face for a moment before recognition took over. “Ah, Marisa. Good to see you!”

The blonde cocked her head as he got back to work. “...Did someone break into your house?”

“Oh, no, no, I did that.” He aimlessly gestured at the hole with his empty hand, too busy carving away to look back up.


“So I could write my notes on the walls outside without constantly having to head out the front door. Saves time.”

“And this doesn't strike ya as weird?”

“Well, I mean.” He did spare a glance, this time. “I put up a sheet.”


“Protect myself from the elements.”

“Huh.” Marisa thought about this for several long, long moments, then raised a finger. “But you had a wall for that?”

“Yes, but I already explained why I had to take it down.” Arkad's tone was perfectly patient.

“You do know it's not going to stop anything from wandering in, though, right?”

“Well, that's what the tripwire's for.” He gestured vaguely at her feet. “By the way, don't move another inch or you're going to blow us both up.”

Marisa hissed as she sucked in a breath, unwisely taking a step back on reflex. “What tripwire-

The tip of her shoe just barely caught it.


Once the smoke had cleared, Marisa thrust a hand free of the wreckage, fist clenched defiantly in the air as her own personal insult to whatever gods may have tried to claim her life. Her head popped out next, wood fragments lodged in her hat as she glared about at the ruins of the hut. Arkad soon followed in breaking loose, dislodging the tarp that had somehow landed atop him, only to be caught on the receiving end of Marisa's murderous gaze.

why did you set it to blow up your whole house” she hissed.

“To make a point?” Arkad replied, surprisingly calm for a man who'd just lost several days of work.

what point is accomplished by blowing yourself up too

Arkad huffed, undeterred as he frowned right back at the irate witch. “It'll all come out in the wash, you know!”


And that was how Arkad ended up moving into Marisa's house.


The moment he'd set foot inside, she'd faced him down, expression totally serious. “Okay, I got some rules if you're going to be staying here.”

He folded his arms. “All right.”

“One: a guy does not knock down any walls to write things more easily even if we run out of paper.


“Two: a guy does not lay tripwires or any other kind of trap in someone else's house, because that awesome person is more than capable of taking care of herself.

He looked pained, but nodded regardless.

“Three: I do not actually have a third thing but you gotta have three things because two rules ain't enough to sound impressive. Do you understand these rules as I have said them?”


“Okay, cool, make yourself at home.” And just like that, she was all smiles as she bustled off to do something or other.

Marisa, he found, was a surprisingly lax host.


Several days passed before something came up; that something was Arkad vanishing from the house for several hours when Marisa had looked away for a bit, but she wasn't the type to worry overly much about it. When he finally came through the door, she was busy flipping through a book – his arrival got her to slap it shut, although she didn't bother getting up from her comfy chair. “Yo!”

“Yo?” Arkad asked, removing his cloak and setting it aside.

“Where were you?” she asked, leaning back and crossing her legs. “Least you can do is tell me if you're heading out for a while, you know?”

“Ah? I suppose so.” He shrugged, walking over to take his own seat nearby. “In any case, I had quite the journey.”

“Really? Do tell, do tell!”

He was working on removing his boots, now, undoing strap after strap. “Well, I walked until I found this lake, and it turned out there was a mansion across from it, so I visited.”

“Oh, those guys.” Marisa nodded knowingly, before the last few words he spoke clicked. “...You visited.

Now he was tugging his socks off. “Quite. They were surprisingly hospitable; I was able to visit their library, even. An impressive place, all told.”

Marisa was squinting deeply at him for reasons he couldn't quite parse. “Okay, fess up, what did you really do to get in? Did you use a bomb? I bet you used a bomb.”

“There were no bombs,” Arkad said, utterly sincere.

Marisa's squint was so severe at this point that her eyeballs had all but vanished from her face. “You're bullshittin'.”

“I... don't understand?”

“That's my line,” Marisa growled, thrusting a finger at him. “What the hell're you doing that- that makes 'em just let you walk in?

“I believe it's the fact that I'm not in possession of several dozen 'shamelessly pilfered'- Patchouli's words, not mine- tomes of arcane knowledge, unlike yourself.”

Marisa blinked, lowering her hand. She cocked her head, brows furrowed, mouth hanging open, and said, in all honesty, “I don't follow.”

Arkad stared. For once, he was at a loss. “...You make no great secret of all these books you have stolen.”

“What?” Marisa shook her head, genuine puzzlement on her features. “I don't steal them. I'm just borrowing them until I'm dead.”

“That appears to be her problem with you.”

“...I still don't get what you're getting at.”

“Marisa,” Arkad said, quite patiently given the circumstances. “Have you, by any chance, devoured more mushrooms as of late?”


“Ones you've identified?”


“Would this perhaps have any effects on your mental state?”

“Naw.” Her lips drew together, tight and small, as her eyebrows drew together in thought. “...Probably naw.”

“Is it possible that your continued consumption is why you currently do not seem to understand the concept of personal property?”

Marisa chuffed, folding her arms and turning her nose up at him. “No possible way. What's mine is mine and what's Patchy's is Patchy's. She'll get her stuff back soon as I don't need it any more.”

“When you die,” Arkad said, as though hearing it for the first time himself.


“...You are a strange girl, Marisa.”


It was getting dark out, which was why Arkad was not quite surprised to find a grumbling Marisa seated at her kitchen table with a large bottle of alcohol and a pair of cups set on it.

“Marisa,” he inquired politely, as she slammed a shot down her throat. “What is this?”

She set her cup back down, glowering at him. “It's booze, Arkad.”

“What kind?”

Booze, Arkad.”

“Yes, but I'm asking what variety-

The variety is booze, Arkad.

“You are not making any sense, Marisa-”


Marisa, he decided, was a scary drunk. This was why he did not resist when she jumped up, stormed over, thrust a cup in his hands, and filled it to the brim.


And so he drank.


It was about when he'd lost count of how many cups he'd drank for the second time that evening that Marisa had simmered down.

“Arkad,” she said, her enunciation clear only through mighty effort on her part. “Arkad.

“What?” he managed, squeezing his eyes shut because the way everything was swimming, he could probably navigate better with them closed than open.

“I got an idea.

“What idea is this, Marisa?”

“I have a friend.


“Her name is Alice.

“Must you emphasize the last word in every sentence?”

“Shut up and drink.

“Fine, fine.” He slammed his drink back – sake, Marisa'd called it, after he'd pestered her sufficiently. “So. Plan. Yes.”

Right.” Marisa blinked. “The plan is...”


“That we go...”

“I'm listening.”

“And visit Alice...”


“And then we do things.” Marisa straightened up in her chair, looking inordinately proud of herself. “Yes. This is a good plan.”

Arkad had to think very hard to try and find any flaws in this idea.

He couldn't.

“Well, then,” he said, standing up on unsteady legs, bracing himself on the table. “I say let's do it.”

Marisa grinned. “Hell yeah, motherfucker.

“I did not do anything of the sort, Marisa.”

“I meant it in a good way.

“Oh. All right, then.”



When Arkad woke up on the floor, a short-haired blonde was giving him a deep, deep smile- oh, wait, no, she was upside down because he was laying down, and that wasn't a smile, that was a frown.

Also, his head hurt. Quite a bit, actually.

“You're wearing my dress,” said the woman, (Alice, his brain helpfully supplied, before another icy stab of pain pierced its mouth shut) quite politely given he had no idea how he'd wound up here or who she was or why she was in her underclothes, for that matter.

He looked down at himself.

“So I am,” he said, bemused. “When did that happen?”

“When you and Marisa kicked my door down in the middle of the night, stole all my plates, stole my dolls, combined the two with some bizarre ooze I still can't identify, threw the dolls-affixed-to-plates at each other in some kind of bizarre jousting competition, which Marisa won, by the by, and then, when I had mustered my forces to stop you, Marisa hit me with a chair, you stole my dress for your own incomprehensible purposes, and then she shoved a bottle into my mouth while I was still dazed and made me drink it. I don't remember the rest, but it's morning now, there is a chair fortress in my living room, my eyeballs feel like they will pop out of my sockets, and you're still wearing my dress.”

Alice had delivered that entire diatribe in a perfectly level tone.

“...Well,” said Arkad.

Well,” said Alice, packing all the cold disdain of hell itself into that single word.

“Beg pardon,” Arkad ventured, “but do you know where Marisa is now?”

“Curled up under all my blankets.”

“I see. Do you mind if I-”

“Give me my dress first.”

“Oh. Right.” It was a heroic effort, but he succeeded in getting up and taking it off, which left him, to his surprise, in the same clothes he'd started this outing with – wasn't that one of the things that had to go when you put on a different getup? Whatever the case, Alice accepted her dress with all the dignity one could muster in her situation.

“Head left out of here and go into the farthest room down the hallway; you'll find her there.” With instructions delivered, Alice spun around on a heel and marched out the door, leaving Arkad alone with his hangover.

It was a short jaunt that felt immeasurably longer by virtue of the fact that he could not walk straight to save his life, but Arkad made his way out of the room and down the hall through the power of leaning on the walls. When he entered the bedroom Alice had directed him to, there was indeed Marisa, although the fact she was flat on her face on the floor was something of a surprise.

“G'way, Alice,” muttered the witch, pulling her hat down further over her head. “You can kill me later.”

“I don't think anyone's killing anyone else, Marisa,” Arkad said, leaning against the doorway for support.

“Hngrmh?” Marisa rolled onto her side, squinting blearily in his general direction. “Oh. S'you.”


“...How're you doing?”

Arkad tried to step forward. He didn't know when he'd ended up on his hands and knees, but it must have happened somewhere along the way.

“Right,” said Marisa, torn between amusement and empathy. She propped herself up on hand and elbow, not quite lifting herself upright but coming fairly close. “You gonna puke?”

“Are you?” he croaked, lifting his head enough to meet her eyes.

Marisa took a moment to massage her eyes. “Nah. Probably.”

“Then I'll follow your example,” he said, crawling forward until he was close enough to touch her. “Also, my legs won't let me stand.”

“I know the feeling,” Marisa said, nodding sagely. “Started with an itch and a tingle down there, right?”


“Yeah, that's how it goes.” She managed to heave herself upright, sitting cross-legged, face set in a grimace as she kept her eyes squeezed shut. “Okay. Okay, dude. I'm, like, half your weight. If I can manage this, so can you.”

“Excellent motivation,” Arkad said, and with titanic resolve he managed to push himself up on his knees, looking at the world through slit eyes so only a minimum of light could assault his brain. “Marisa,” he said. “I can't quite place it, but this night out with you has... lead me to realize something about you.”

Her eyes widened as he reached out, and, after several failed attempts, laid his hand on her shoulder. “Eh?”

“There's this... feeling deep inside my heart I don't quite recognize.”


“The words are hard to find, but... Marisa, you...” He cupped her cheek with his other hand.

Um,” she managed, not really in any state to contest this.

“Are someone...”

“I- I'm-”

“Who is...”

“This is really sudden you know I mean why are you telling me this now when we hardly know each other-”

Dangerously irresponsible,” Arkad concluded.

Marisa's jaw clicked shut. “...Oh. That's all?”

He nodded, letting go of her face. “That's all. That's what it is. I realize this now.”

“Huh.” Her brows knitted together. “I thought you were leading up to something else.”

“I don't know what else I could possibly have been leading up to.”

“I mean, this just felt like it could've been something climactic.”






“I think we should get breakfast?”

“Well, we did apparently destroy this house.”

“We did?”


“...I guess we should fix that, then?”

“It would be courteous, yes.”

“Right. Well. Let's go do that.”

Whatever it was she'd felt just then, Marisa mused as they helped each other up, was gone.

But that was all right.
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“I hate winter.”

A chill spreads through my heavy clothes. The crunching of snow underneath me echoes in the forest as evening gives way to night. Snow seems floats down from the moonless sky without end onto the bare branches of the forest trees. I didn't expect the meeting to go on so long, and in the end it just turned into a party. I'm not against a good party, but if I had known I would have taken a scarf. I wave goodbye to the mermaid as I leave the lake. How can she stand living in the lake at this time of year? It's hard to believe she doesn't turn into an ice cube. I shake myself out of my thoughts with a shiver. The snow is light, and the cold is bearable enough to make it home without stopping at the village. I haven't visited the village since the incident last Autumn. I didn't cause as much of a ruckus as certain youkai. The incident's events have blown over, but I'm not in the mood to visit such a place tonight. I'm still considered a youkai by some, at least half of one. Yet, in the darkness of the new moon I'm just another human.

It's not lonely walking down the snow covered path by myself. I've gotten used to walking in silence. This would almost be tranquil, if it weren't for the cold. In moments like these it's easy to get lost in my thoughts, take my mind off the weather. At least there are less people getting lost in the forest. Most people have enough common sense to stay away from somewhere known to lead people astray this time of year. Which means I can hole up at home without worrying about someone freezing to death lost amidst the bamboo. As the forest trees become sparse my train of thought is knocked away with a yelp by a mouthful of snow. I groan in pain, my foot snagged on a tree root covered in snow.

I suck in air through my teeth, but it just makes my mouth feel colder. I don't want to get up right now, but freezing isn't something I planned on doing tonight. I lift my head up to see a lowered hand. People don't travel this path often, it's surprising to see someone out here so late at night.

A woman in a white winter coat outstretches her hand, “Would you like help getting up?”

“Thanks for the offer, but I'm fine.” I push myself off the ground, shaking the snow off my clothes.

Then land in the snow as my ankle gives way. Before she can move to help me I jump up to my feet. We stand there for a couple minutes as I try not to put weight on my right foot. She coughs, too loud to be anything but forced. “Are you sure you're alright? There's no need to act tough.” Her eyes narrow, some concern slipping through her voice. It's difficult to make out her features in this light.

I avoid her gaze, trying to find something I can pretend to look at while I compose myself. “I-I said I'm fine. I didn't need your help. More importantly what are you doing out here so late?” I speak more forceful than intended.

“My, how cold of you.” For a moment a smirk crawls onto her face in the dim light, “I could ask you the same question, most humans know better than to wander into this forest alone.”

“I... can handle myself.” I continue down the path while trying not to limp. I didn't notice while talking with the woman, but the snow had gotten heavier since my fall. It is not much longer before a sound of footsteps follows. “Why are you following me?” I say, most people would take the hint to stop bothering me.

Most people wouldn't be out here right now.

“You seem upset.” She speaks from behind.

I make no effort to look back. “It's cold, and the day is getting old.”

“The day may be old, but the night is still young. Why not go out for pleasure in this crisp time?” The words roll off her tongue, “Winter only comes once a year, one should enjoy it while it is here.”

“What's great about such a bleak and barren night?” I reply, motioning my arms to the sky. “I just want to go home, and forget about all this white.”

The woman in white matches her pace with mine. She almost seems to drift through the snow as she walks, unfazed by the weather. “Indoors or outdoors it's all the same, but if you didn't see what winter had to offer, wouldn't that be a shame. Why not play in the snow, or chat by an open flame?”

“Why would I do something so lame? I don't see why winter is as good as you claim.”

She turns to me. “Even as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder. When food becomes sparse and plants wither. Humans always burn brighter in winter. When they come together in the cold, humans seem so much more alive. Everything is better in winter, in the cold and snow.” Her mouth stretches into a smile, “You should be lively too.”

“...that's up to me isn't it?”

“Of course.” She pauses, and we stand there in the snow. It has become much heavier without my noticing. The reason for the pause becomes apparent to me, before us stands the village. Its large gate lit by stone lanterns. I didn't realize just how much time had passed. “This is your stop. Isn't it? I hope you enjoyed my company, but this is where I must turn back.” Her face is lit by the lanterns, some snow has caught onto her lavender hair.

“I never asked for you to follow me. I would have been fine on my own.”

“Oh? Well you seemed to be fine rhyming with me.”

“That wasn't intentional!” I shout. If I were to describe her expression right now, it would be smug.

very smug

Before I can do anything about it a large gust obscures my vision with snow. When it passes the woman in white has vanished. I let out a sigh, I hate dealing with these types of people. The tall gate of the village is intimidating, but the cold is starting to get to me.

The street is illuminated from all directions. Light filters out from windows and lamps across the road. The loud chatter of villagers fills the air as they run towards their destination. The gentle snow from earlier has become a storm. I find myself at the door of a familiar bar in seek of a place to warm up, if just for a couple minutes.

When I enter the warmth hits me like a wave of danmaku, only now do I realize how cold I was. I shake some snow off of my clothes and look around. There's a few others in the bar, some of which I recognize. The bartender waves me over as soon as she sees me, “Well look what the wolf dragged in. What can I get you?” She says laughing.

I give her an incredulous look and sigh. “Sorry, I don't plan on staying. I just needed to warm up.” After a minute of rubbing my hands together I open the door.

A torrent of snow crashes into me through the open doorway. I can't even see the other side of the street through the blizzard. I slowly close the door and sit by the bar. “I'll stay for a couple rounds.” The barkeeper is tries not to laugh. She fails horribly.

Somewhere outside the bar a woman in a blue and white dress whistles in the blizzard.

“I love winter.”
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“Are you Letty Whiterock?” asked the man with the shovel.

“I am,” said Letty Whiterock.

And then he beat her with a shovel.
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Wrong thread, pal. This is an old contest.
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