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File 15443694987.jpg - (899.71KB, 1344x1600, parade_logo.jpg) [iqdb]
41501 No. 41501
“Platonic love is love from the neck up.”
—Thyra Samter Winslow

59posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 41603
[x] Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.
Time for the squirt bottle.
>> No. 41604
(x) Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.
>> No. 41605
(X) Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.

And me.
>> No. 41607
You guys are the best. Like...seriously.
>> No. 41608
(X) Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.

>> No. 41609
(X) Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.
give 'er the squirt bottle, but only a little bit. Her speech was juuust a bit too much last update.
>> No. 41610
(X) Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.

Because I know it's one of her sore points
>> No. 41611

Prolly why so many novices keep quitting too.
>> No. 41614
File 154561653360.jpg - (246.24KB, 864x880, __toyosatomimi_no_miko_touhou_drawn_by_momo_baso4_.jpg) [iqdb]
(X) Her language had been backsliding. She was confusing the novices. And Mu.

“There is,” admitted Mu, “a thing.”

Miko regarded him in a quizzical way. “A thing?”

“… That takes fore,” he conceded. “I watched Futo teach today: an introduction to Feng and Shui for redsleeves. Her language has retrogressed. Quite literally… and literarily.”

The Crown Prince let the lame wordplay glance off her ears. “Causing frictions, is it?”

“Less frictions, more… fractures. Of comprehension. Some of those reds looked positively… What was it? Adrift?”

“At sea, I should think,” said Miko. “Same watery area. An oar’s difference. At any rate, I acknowledge your charge, yellow-rank Handai Mu. It shall be remedied. Ironic such as it is…”

Mu dignified himself with a shrug. “I’ve no huge issue slipping past those ‘eth’s and ‘dost’s myself,” he said. “But, owing to your assigning red-rank Handai Mu as her ward, I’ve had time aplenty to get used to them. See them coming. Futo could talk me upwise all day; I’d still understand her. Mostly.

“Would that not mean,” Miko noticed, “that you were the one who spoiled her?”

Mu hesitated. Then blinked. “I… uh, recognise my failing?”

“And doubtless you mean to amend it.” The Crown Prince swatted it aside. “It does not matter, in the end, who or what encourages Futo’s little affectation. It is, after all, nothing else than that. An affectation. A vice of character. We all have our own. Futo adores her romantic speech; I cannot disavow the lure of external politics. Tojiko loves gossip… and the occasional scream of fright from the inattentive novice. Aiko would bury you like a plant should you step on one of hers. You, I have on good authority, have yours, no different.”


I do, thought Mu. He saw them flitting through the shoals of his memory. A house on the fringes of the human town. Nights whiled away outside the latitude of his goddess’s all-hearing ears. Bottles never left uncorked. Scathing comments never left unmade. A red-eyed face, full of derision… but never telling him to stop.

Mu shooed it away.

“… Yes. I have,” he surrendered at length. “… My sincere regrets, Lady Miko.”

“If they are,” said the Crown Prince, “then I wish you speed in amending them. This is what we have furnished you for. This is why we’ve taught you the Way. Make sure, only, that it marks no decline in your responsibilities to me… I have so few trusty servants; I ill desire to miss even one.”

Mu stared. His jaw squeaked open, but clever retorts seemed suddenly a thing that happened to other, more clever people.

“Were you expecting reprimand?” Miko wondered, all smile and patience. “Chastisement? Mistrust? When I willed this space to be, years ago, I did not destine for those to weave into its design. When I witnessed the lattice of lies upon which Gensokyo had been built, I craved a place where those could be laid down. Where humans like you – like Aiko, like goodman Kijou – could be what they desired to be, not what the Sages of Gensokyo have prescribed them.

“Have you heard of the philosopher, Epicurus? The man was possessed of concepts hauntingly similar to those propounded by students of the Way in our continental rival. Moderation. Minimalism. Interior balance and personal fulfilment. The western wight that he was, however, his application of these ideas proved more… empirical. On his own, by his own means, Epicurus established a commune of like-minded, closely-knit people, who pursued work and pastimes of their own preference, at their own pace… all in the name of their own, subjective happiness.

“There were those in that commune who tilled the land – not because Epicurus had decreed they do, but because they themselves were enamoured of the process. There were those who amassed knowledge, penned chronicles and missives – not because their lords had commanded, but for their own creative aches. There were those who pursued philosophic inquests – not because their doctrine demanded so, but because they themselves desired to.

“This Sen-kai is… not such a place.” Miko shaped a sardonic smile. “I am nowhere as selfless as that ancient, Grecian man. Yet, there are parallels between his ideals and mine; and this, my dear Handai Mu, is one of these. I may demand my novices sever their ties to their kinsmen in Gensokyo, yes. But, this is only a preventive measure. There are those who would take advantage of my generosity. They would reap the rewards of a double allegiance: to me, to Gensokyo; and that, Mu, I simply cannot let be. It is the one blasphemy I will not permit in my religion. The least because I do not wish to inadvertently step on another’s.

“Now that you are beyond that stage, however,” the goddess finished, “now that you are mine… you may walk about unfettered. As long as you respect the precepts, respect yourself… you may exercise your Way in whichever direction you desire. The paths you walk are but your own. All I require in return is that you come when I call… And, perhaps, that your Way does not tread on the younger students’ toes. Like a certain dusty-spoken woman we could both name.”

“Futo,” guessed Mu.

“Whom, may I add,” Miko, faithfully, did add, “I have nothing against being courted. Gods of the land know she could use a healthier distraction…”

“Sooner I’ll court Tojiko,” grumbled Mu. “Less like to burn the hair off my head.”

Miko eyed his clean-shaven scalp.

“… Futo’s idea,” Mu gave up.

“And you consented?”

“… Futo shaved it off. Started while I was asleep. My consent was… consequent.”

“Mysterious regard for each other you two have,” marvelled the Crown Prince. “On top of those other things I have heard… Ah, but do try not to twist this particular prank back on her. That shine on top of you complements your shining personality. Futo, however… Well, she needs the hair to help her keep balance, if nothing else.”

“Gratefully,” muttered Mu, “I prefer Futo hair-with, as well.”

Though the Crown Prince gave him a knee-melting smile, all Handai Mu could do was look away. More denigrating was that he could not call to account the reason for his pique. There were a few candidates. None of which adolescent truants he wanted to drink with. Nor, likely, would they answer even had he called. Too busy at his nous. The bastards.

Miko must have sensed his… whatever it was. Miko sensed everything. And, the beautiful, golden goddess she was, she took mercy.

“Ah, well—” she sighed, lying out her long, smooth legs. “I did not recall – and I still do not recall – sending for an escort today, but… Now that you are helpfully here, perhaps you could go fetch dam Aiko for me? I should very much like to plant this idea of lending her out early… And that address. Maybe it’ll take root by Spring. I’ve no more petitioners today, either, so… No need for anyone to glower them over, I don’t think.”

Mu bowed his head – and not because of any legs present. He joined his sleeves at his front.

“… It will be as you will,” he obeyed.

“Good enough,” the goddess praised. “Ah. And, Mu?”


Miko gave him a look. “When you come back to me tonight—” she began, and Mu felt a wave of heat work up his face, “—please, do not pass into the Sen-kai with your humours all Winded. It makes a terrible report. Almost as if a youkai was breaking in.”

“I will strive not to be a toad in anyone’s shoe this time,” Mu promised.

“Yes,” Miko replied, chuckling. “You do not be that.”

>> No. 41615
time to go get turned into a toad
>> No. 41622
Don't let her off the hook so easily! Futo can thee and thou on her own time. While she's teaching, she needs to be more professional.
>> No. 41626
File 154605053122.jpg - (1.20MB, 1181x1748, 5775798ed93247d7d27fc52aa5ec91be.jpg) [iqdb]

FUTO SLID DOWN the temple’s hallways at glorious speed.

The best of it was, no sorcery required. No Winding her feet’s slipperiness; no Damping the wooden floor’s resistance until it felt like waxed. All Futo had to do was take off her clogs, and she could glide along on her socks forever.

It wasn’t without a check. Turning. Turning was a problem. Belike since it wasn’t part of the Way. When the Sage Laozi had first climbed the mountain above Chengzhou, Futo doubted much he’d stopped for every blade of grass in his path. Futo had to stop. If not for she would have dashed her nose on twenty different walls otherwise, then because her sliding had a definite destination.

Futo skidded right past it. She hopped out of her overshot slide, span around, and tiptoed back to the door she wanted.

No plaque. None needed; the Crown Prince’s home was intimate to those wised to it. Any new cadet would learn it soon or late. Futo cracked the door three hand-spans, then slipped inside. Thank the wicked Seiga for this compact body. She pushed the door back shut with nary a hap of sound.

An archive. This was what the room had been, once; it was long and narrow, with a ubiquitous bookcase running one, entire wall and little else of contrast. When the Crown Prince had recreated His home through arcane, hermit means, following His resurrection, the archive had been grafted a new purpose. It would be where those students of the Way inclined to knowledge in its more flammable form would bring, and store, their findings. Some called it a library. Futo called it a broom closet. It had as good been one; there was dust enough here to complete the illusion.

At the rear of the closet, an old scribe’s desk had been emplaced – with a chair underneath and a glass-window lamp atop – as though to hinder Futo’s choice of term. The lamp threw a long, bulky shadow half down the stretch of the room. Incumbency of the bare-headed man stooped in the chair.

Futo sidled on forward, depositing her clogs on an overturned book in the shelf as she went.

From behind, the man seemed he could be anyone. Futo, of course, knew wiser; the shaven stern of his impressive skull had, after all, been her own achievement. Her pupil, titled Handai – “without base” – at his ascent to greens, cut a fine chunk out of the closet’s musty air. A simple yardman back in his non-native Gensokyo, he’d had scarce care or time to exert for his outward looks. The mane of scruffy, flaxen hair he had carried into Toyosatomimi Miko’s secret realm had been a fair distinguisher in his redsleeve weeks. Once, however, the Crown Prince had turned him over, now as Handai, unto Futo’s undivided charge, it had proven something of an eyeful.

An eyeful of hair.

Futo would wait her pupil to attain his yellows, ahead she’d moved to have that bother solved. Scissors in hand, she had sat her pupil down on a stool in the temple’s modest washroom, and rid him of the mangy thing as best she could. It had been her own, personal elevation of Handai Mu: from a man merely close in rank, to one she was unafraid to call “brother.”

… Might be, to hang an eye on, too. Now, especially, that Futo had fallen into ownership of a proper razor. Overnight, Mu had become a sight more akin to Futo’s ideal of the less fair sex. In the years preceding her shikai, that image had always been filled by the paragon, the Crown Prince. An unspoken part of Futo had oft viewed the shrewd, elegant ruler with a less than moral eye. Now He was conspicuously not a man anymore, it had become easier to ignore that – niggling – facet of her attraction to her liege.

The tumults of her arrival in the modern era, as well, had diverted her something intense. The revival of the Crown Prince, reuniting with Toziko, the rite of combat with Gensokyo’s shaman priestess, the re-emergence of the lost masks, the hunt for the disastrous Occult Orbs… All they had eclipsed the day-to-day function of Lord Taishi’s court. All they had drawn Futo away from what for her sense of aesthetics had been lacking.

No sooner had she held the mirror for the freshly-shaved Mu, than she had remembered what it was.

Which might have had everything… or nothing… to do with what she did now. Futo pulled up at her brother’s undefended back. Then, smartly, she slapped one hand over his eyes, while her other strapped his chest.

Mu tensed – but of course he did. To boot, Futo sensed him Wind some attribute of his body… albeit she couldn’t sense which. He didn’t scream or squeal his surprise, though – which was more than could be said for some in the temple.

Futo smiled a pleased smile. “Guess you who?”

Her brother recomposed himself. It was a brisk process because Mu had an aptitude for breaking things up – unless they ducked under the table. “… Tojiko?” he said. “Weren’t ghosts supposed to be… um, softer? I’m disenchanted.”

“Again,” Futo ordered.

“Lady Miko? We just spoke… Two hours ago. This is unseemly affection.”

“One more, Mu.”

Her brother chewed it over. A likely third name must have been tougher to find.

“… Seki?” he said at last.

“I do not any ‘Seki’ know,” Futo informed him. “And you out of chances are.”

Ahead Mu may wiggle himself a more unassailable position, Futo squeezed the arm she wasn’t using for his eyes around her brother’s neck. Then gave it a wrick. Not too hard. No Winding her strength; no actual injury. But a twist of pain, yes. Tooth for tooth.

Mu didn’t fight back. He didn’t because he couldn’t; and only half of it was for Futo had him in a choke-hold. The remaining one… Well, she was almost certain he would have a different answer than her own. He did, though, give her an obligatory wheeze. A dutiful chokee, her brother.

Futo softened her grip, until it was merely a strong embrace.

“Awful pert,” she accused him. “For someone purported to after my company pine. Aren’t you so, Mu?”

“Lady Miko’s suggestion,” Mu griped back. “I didn’t pine… out loud.”

“Lord Taishi all hears, all knows,” Futo argued. “And He nay mis-hears.”

Mu scoffed. “Her ears are scarily big, yes.”

Futo grinned, even if their conversations on the Crown Prince always felt a little… seesawing.

At an early leg of Mu’s training, he and she had simply agreed to disagree on their Master’s gender. For Futo, who had lived beside Shotoku Taishi the emperor, it perplexed her now to think Him anything but so… except less attractive. For Mu, who had first seen Toyosatomimi Miko in vastly feminine splendour, the reverse almost had to hold true.

It vexed Futo to condone such thoughts. But, the Crown Prince did, in honesty, make a splendid display of His new femininity. Not but the visual side; not even the penchant for gold and finery. Those had ever been with the Crown Prince; He merely wore them better now. But His mannerisms, even His tiny foibles, were all at once more womanly: softer, daintier. Almost it drove Futo to question whether she had ever known Shotoku Taishi as good as she’d believed. Almost it made her wonder if He also preferred male companionship now.

Might it be He had always?

But, no. His betrothal to Toziko and its products were incontrovertible. Nor were Futo’s… other memories attesting to such a case. And, even if His desires leant at a rougher angle now, He had still declined to tutor Mu by Himself – as He would have other promising cadets. Instead, He had given that one to Futo. But if so, why? What had He seen that she had not?

Intrigue. Even in this era: petty, upper-crust intrigue. Some habits lived through death. Futo rubbed her cheek on Mu’s smooth pate. Her brother was a worthy man. He could trade repartee with ease, and had an evident passion about him. Yet, he was not domineering. He was keen and purposeful, but even-handed to a fault. He did not deserve the tail of courtly knavery she and the Crown Prince were dragging behind.

Well… He hadn’t. Futo pinched his face.

“What, then,” she asked him sweetly, “of on your lovely tutor ratting?”

“You werf confufing fe ftudenf,” Mu groaned. Futo eased up on her punishment. “… I could listen to you thee-thou all day,” resumed her brother, “but I’ve listened to you do just that. All day – for days. Gensokyo taught me to pick up tongue on the go. The students? I doubt.”

“I can speak this new, mongrel mode of the language,” Futo said, without a hitch of trouble. “Maugre it, I nay to do so choose. What you crass ‘thee-thou’ hightst, style hath. Cadence. Class. Why, pray, would I nay in it delight?”

“You can. With me, with Lord Taishi. But spare the poor redsleeves, please.”

“Fie—” Futo snorted. “No. If you would the young cadets of this joy reave, then nowise shall you yourself it fully feel. I will my silvern tongue from now on clip.”

“No more ‘heyday’s for me?” Mu lamented.

“No. It all lackadays from here on is.”

“Shame,” replied her brother.

Then, not at all shamefully, he gave an overt sigh of relief.

Futo tweaked his ears. A rational and reasonable way to fight pedestrianism. Mu didn’t sound educated once she’d finished; mostly, he sounded in mild discomfit. But of course he did. Her brother was a handsome, erudite man; but, he had a lump of wet lint for a sense of art.

It made no matter. Futo dropped from Mu’s back, and moved to wedge herself between him and the book on the desk. This, a few shoves and jiggles later, placed her comfortably astride her brother’s lap.

Mu stiffened. His mouth quirked with uncertainty. A few heartbeats in the pass, though, and he mended his expression. Then, he secured Futo in place by her hips.

He always did that. Not the hips thing. That was on occasion her butt or her shoulders. But the hesitation. Something about Futo’s closeness chipped her brother’s confidence every time. Months of nigh-familial intimacy hadn’t stripped it away. Truthfully, Futo felt a little chuffed. It was gratifying to see an easy man such as Mu in unease. It was even more gratifying to know the unease was caused by her.

Mu minced that, too – as well he did most things which stumped him. Then, when the bits were small enough, he stored them in a drawer of his mind whence he may pull them out for study later. Although, Futo rather suspected he wouldn’t.

“… On another boat,” her brother said, as if recalling. “Tell me, sister. Have you done anything… rash, recently?”

Futo cocked her head. Her hat tipped, but stayed attached by the clip sewn to its inside. “How rash?”

“Are we talking degree, or kind?” Mu wanted to clarify.

“Why not the cause whereof to ask?”

“Right. Well, see,” he told her, “I fear me the Crown Prince has been giving thought to selling you off. Maybe even into marriage, if you read the fine print.”

Futo chuckled. “I well past my edibility am,” she said. “Who-ever would a crone alike me buy?”

Her brother rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “Well, you’ve heard the rumours…”

A crumb of the unease must have not stored properly; for there it was, tinting Mu’s face. Futo rolled her eyes with him. She had heard the rumours, of course she had; there were whisperers in Lord Taishi’s palace temple whose voices thundered even when they whispered.

“Candidly,” said Mu, “I see where they derive.”

“Whence might that be?”

Her brother considered her closely. “… Futo,” he said, “let’s not pad it. You are nothing if not forward. I like that about you; I love that about you. But it spawns rumours like earthworms in the rain. I am also nothing if not easily forwarded myself,” he added with false modesty, “which like only made it rain harder. I hadn’t before, but now I’ve mused it over, I see through.”

“Yes,” Futo admitted. “It why I after respect in front of cadets asked was.”

“And I had too much fun pulling your legs to stop and think. Sorry.”

“Fie.” Futo made a derisive sound. “It idiocy is, withal. I your sister am. I haven’t aught with you done which I would not have with my blood brother.”

Mu raised a brow. “Pelted him with fire-balls?”

“Pff. Nay!” Futo smacked him. “Tother stuff!”

“Hung off of him like a high bar?”

She nodded. “When-ever no one looked.”

“Let him pick you up and kiss you?”

“To an annoying point.”

“… Took baths together?”

“Right ‘till I flowered. Afterwise… sometimes when he visited.”

Mu had the look of someone with additional questions, but ones he held back. “… Any way you tear it,” he said instead, “the Crown Prince wants us close. I’m not fooled. I think either she foretells I will do something rash, or you.”

Futo smiled. “I haven’t aught such planned,” she lied. “Have you?”

Her brother shrugged. “Not beyond what I’ve been doing already.”

“Same,” Futo agreed.

Mu gave her a stare which came as near shaking its head as it could without one. Then, in the same breath, he slid a hand up from her waist to scratch the hair behind one of her ears. He mirrored her smile. The reflection brimmed with cheerful conspiracy.

Heed, my Lord Taishi, Futo exulted inside. Heed, what you in independent thought fosterest. The man Handai, who had never made stealth of his fascination with the Crown Prince, now foiled his liege’s own advice. Had the Lord Taishi predicted this when He’d thrust cadet Mu under Futo’s wing? Had He believed her own investiture would naturally extend to her adopted brother? Mu was loyal. No mistake about it. No one would dispute the adoration in his eyes whenever he gazed upon the Sen-kai’s beautiful master. But he was loyal on his own accord. He hadn’t been conditioned to love the Crown Prince through proximity and exposure, as some of His servants were. Mu loved Him – or Her – for no fealty, training, or obligation.

He did, because he wanted to.

And that was the soul of what it meant to follow the Way. That was the hidden path. That was what Futo’s blood brother had preached – a millennium in the past.

The trouble for the Crown Prince was, such genuine love as Handai Mu’s knew its freedoms. The grander of which was to be shared with someone else. Happily, that someone was her. Futo calmed her racing enthusiasm. Then daubed on a sober face.

Soberer, anyway.

“Think you, then—” she poked a finger at Mu’s chest, “—we should that watch-each-other order have belayed?”

Mu gripped her hip. “Absolutely not. I don’t much relish the sensation of being paired off,” he admitted; “but, if it gives me an excuse to piggyback you around the temple, then I hallow the Crown Prince’s name for it. Whatever the term she sticks to it.”

“And your inquest?” Futo questioned. “Shall you it too chase, as promised?”

“I would have, Futo,” said Mu. “It is… a thing of pride, I think. I may have just wanted a second opinion. Yours.”

“Now you it have.”

“Now I do,” Mu agreed. “And even a plan to go with tonight. Thank you, Futo.”

Futo patted his cheek. “Naught less for my brother. When you victorious return, we may about satisfying the Crown Prince’s request go. Small steps. We may bathe and talk… Mayhaps a common tale match, in case something rash does one day happen. Hmm?”

“Sounds swift,” said Mu. He seemed pleased, somehow, at the turn of phrase. He began to stand up.

Futo slid out of her brother’s lap.

In passing, she cast over a shoulder at the book her brother had been perusing. The contents were nothing of moment: a guide to Gensokyo by some amateur pen with no appreciation for finer verbiage. What a love for brevity these modern Japanese had. The confines of paper must have shrunk the language as decades passed.

Futo wasn’t ignorant of the function which books served; she was, after all, lettered. It did not mean she was fond of letters. A speech from a noble mouth might accomplish what not a thousand books might… unless burned in a strategic place. One had but to consider what hers had done for Mu earlier in the day. The margins of the book on the desk may be scratched with Mu’s simplistic script, which no one understood in the temple but he. Still he had needed words from Futo’s mouth to regain his Way. What good was a book?

Futo gave that one a fiery glare for giving her brother false hope.

Mu put his hand to the lantern on the desk, and smothered the flame with a quick Wind of the air. He could have blown it instead; but Mu wasn’t above an excess of effort when it very well amused him. Futo wondered whom he was taking that after. He had used to be so stoic before his greens.

But that Mu would never have done what current Mu did now. He would never have crouched with his back to Futo, and beckoned her to latch on. He would not have said, “Hop on, and hold on to your hat. And mine, while you’re at it,” with a twinkle in his eyes. Now he did.

Futo grinned, happy all over.

There had been some tough dances to dance along the way, but she finally had a brother again.

>> No. 41636
Yep, Futo's cute.
>> No. 41640
File 154622555128.jpg - (288.15KB, 727x1108, __mononobe_no_futo_touhou_drawn_by_satomachi__0276.jpg) [iqdb]

Thrice. Thrice they were espied on their way out of the temple. Twice by new cadets committing the temple’s plan to memory. Once by an established one, lately given her greens.

With the former, Futo had pre-empted the arousal of further rumours by spinning her peculiar ride into a lark. She had spurred Mu viciously with her heels – all the while yelling at the redsleeves like a herd driver on a busy thoroughfare.

With the latter, Futo’s brother had taken hold of his own reins.

Aiko – this name being also the Crown Prince’s gift – was a small, stout woman of no more and little less than twenty. An herbalist’s second daughter, she had enlisted in Lord Taishi’s service ensuing her elder sister’s belated marriage. With a scarce remaining dowry – and an even scarcer itch for relationships – Aiko had opted, instead, to wage her passions under the Crown Prince’s patronage. As many Taoshi with pre-existing… social conditions… Aiko, too, could betimes be a touch abrasive. But she was faithful and tenacious underneath; and these were the qualities which the Crown Prince sought to bring out above all.

Aiko had given Mu a nod of recognition, which Futo’s brother had loosely returned. Then, the girl had noticed Futo peering over his shoulder. She’d motioned a polite namaste.

“Adviser Mononobe,” she had said.

Futo had returned it – with slightly more flourish. “Sister Aiko.”

Mu had hiked her up on his back – almost as if to shush her. Futo had kicked at his sides. Her brotherly steed had jolted, but hadn’t thrown her.

“… Well?” he’d addressed Aiko instead. “What’s your take?”

Aiko had sketched a shrug. “I know of the Toorima,” she’d said. “Not a name I’d have dabbled with before. Now… who’s to tell me otherwise? There are a few techniques I’d much like to try on a larger scale, too. If the Toorima volunteer, who am I to tell them shoo?”

Mu had nodded. “Wash your feet,” he’d cautioned.

Aiko had blinked. “… What?”

“When you go,” Futo’s brother had explained, “and your techniques work out. Wash your feet.”


“Trust me.”

Aiko had stared at Mu for a moment. Then sighed. “… I’ll take that under advisement, mentor Mu,” she’d assured. “And? What about you? Sneaking out again tonight?”

It had been Mu’s turn to shrug. A feat of some weight, with his arms Futo-occupied. “Trying.”

Aiko had peered at his passenger. “Not proving good, I see.”

“I shan’t anyone tell—” Futo had grinned, “—if thou shan’t.”

“Suits me,” Aiko had agreed. “My bed don’t listen, anyway. Good-night, adviser Mononobe. Mentor Mu.”

The green-sleeved girl had bowed, and gone on down the darkened, smoke-filled passage. Afterwise, once she had quit the earshot, Mu had made an amused sound.

“I like that girl,” he’d admitted.

Futo had done the high thing and hadn’t let herself feel too jealous.

Outside, night had been allowed to fall on the Sen-kai’s sky. It shifted the hue of the surrounding landscape: from the brilliant gold of grain in harvest, to a pale, muted blue of deep secrecy.

Mu loosed his arms, and Futo slid off his back to her own two feet. She slipped on her clogs, while her brother gazed out over the night-shrouded hills. She hung back – a few paces behind him – as they embarked along the singular, packed-dirt road streaming out from the temple palace’s main access. It ran to course among the hills, ultimately to terminate on a sleek Toori gate, visible even in the dark, a handful minutes of brisk walking distant.

Mu marched enveloped in an air of quiet purpose.

His posture was not unfamiliar to her; during Futo’s childhood, her blood brother had often marched as Mu did now – usually into something to which the rest of the clan would tactfully object. Like the dissent in Naniwa. Like the disaster at Shigisan. Mu’s, of course, may never effect anything of the scale. Gensokyo was a closed, firmly garrotted system; with basic care and the Hakurei priestess’s vigil, it was implausible Futo would have to intervene again. He may rebut the existence of native gods; he may court the Hakurei priestess herself for the good that would do him. Nothing Mu desired could ever force Futo’s hand.

Not at all like her blood brother’s stone-blind fixation.

Murky thoughts, Futo told herself, swallowing them down. Murk could swamp a woman. Best not to pour it over her head.

They crested the final hill, and the base of the Toori gate loomed at the bottom of the decline. A faint shimmer – like the rime of frost on flagstone on a cold Winter morning – played along the pane of space between the tall, timber-hewn pillars. The road did not suddenly shear off at this milestone; it weaved on as far as the eye leapt – even in the day – together with the fields which hemmed it on both sides. But the eye lied; and this was the end of the Sen-kai, no different. Mu had attempted, once, walking the road past the invisible threshold. He hadn’t done twenty paces when he had turned around, his face paper-pale and nauseated as if he had Winded or Damped something of his body far beyond the impositions of his mind. He had never tried again.

Nor was tonight a time for experiments. Futo’s inquisitive brother stopped at the gateway, an arm’s breadth away from the glittering, frost-rime barrier. He turned to face his sister.

Futo was not her liege lord; but even she knew what to brace for when Handai Mu approached. She mounted no objection when he swept her up in his arms. None whatsoever. Handai Mu picked her up – the same he had earlier in the day – and Futo helped him along to anchor them both in a mutually comfortable embrace.

This embrace, however, was less reserved than its older sibling. Something in the fallacious privacy of the night had caused her brother’s arms to be tighter than usual. And warmer. Mu was already Winding his body heat in preparation for Gensokyo’s wintry cold. His body felt like one huge hot-water bottle.

“… Toasty,” Futo giggled into his ear.

Ahead any scientific cleverness spoiled the chance, Futo squirmed herself more room in her brother’s arms. Then, once she but might, she looped her arms behind his neck, and gave his left cheek a long, generous kiss.

“There,” she said when she pulled away. “Does this any wise for my neglecting you make up?”

Mu’s replying sternness was all but comedic. In fact, it very much was. “Other side,” he commanded. “Then we may check.”

Futo feigned a weary moan. Then, doing exactly as he’d said, she smacked a twin kiss on his other cheek.

“Done?” she asked when she was.

Mu gave her a sportive smile. “Now between.”

Futo huffed. “Fie, Mu,” she scolded. “Fie. I a far too pure and intricate soul to fall for that trick am. Nay, either, to mention: a thousand years old. Can you not of aught better think?”

“… Hmm,” mused Mu.

Had she imagined it, or was her brother in honesty about to— Yes. Yes, he was. He was thinking. Crazy world. And there came the effects.

“Have you ever stumbled,” Mu posed to her with not a drop of mockery, “upon the country they call France?”

Futo hadn’t. Not even with a finger on the map. Yamato had been her sole home; what use had she for Franz? “… No,” she admitted. “What of this ‘Franz?’”

“There is this one eccentricity they hold very dear in their culture there,” Mu explained, “that is relevant to my making a better try. See, the French – they love to kiss. Often, and with few inhibitions. I went there on a… let’s say business trip, once. Before now. Before Gensokyo. The whole kiss thing had me caught quite… How do you say? Without panties?”

“With pants down,” Futo prompted. “Men pants wear. Not panties. Those for womenfolk are.”

“Both work,” decided Mu. “Any way we do, imagine me as I step off the train, and that my guide and translator saunters up to me, all sunny smiles – and slaps a kiss straight dab on my dopey mouth. Woman I had never seen, Futo. Only talked to through, uh… Correspondence, I suppose. Well. Turns out, that is how they do in France. No one thinks it lesser to kiss someone else by way of hello or good-bye. Women with men, with other women. Men with men, too… if they like.”

Futo frowned up at her brother. “… Does this Franz country exist?”

“Last I saw, yes. Of course, last I saw was… when I last saw the Outside World. But, here. This is it. My better try.”

And what dost you of me expect? Futo thought, no less lost than the minute before. Well, no; Futo knew what it was here Mu was concocting. This game was no new thing; all throughout their partnership were sprinkled instances wherein they would goad each other onto uneven terrain, for no end but simply to see which relented first. This had seen Mu first pick her up; it had seen them first bathe together, and their odd, nigh-on blasphemous debates on Lord Taishi’s nether bits. This, now, was but another bout. Mu’s deadpan expression all but spelled it out. And yet, where Futo would have kissed him as ready as the Franz reportedly did had he but asked within the Crown Prince’s sanctuary, then here…

… Here, out in the lightless hills, it gave her pause to as much as contemplate assent. Alone, at night, outside Lord Taishi’s wakeful hours (for He must, unlike Futo or Mu, to sleep off the burden of retaining His Sen-kai), irrationally, Futo felt a sink of reluctance open under her heart.

Aware full well this had belike been her brother’s aim, Futo’s womanly instincts still made her delay. Those forgotten things. Those she had once fancied burned away.

Mu, that clever imp, had struck her figurative gonads. Futo had seldom felt prouder of her new brother.

Souring this pride was that she still hadn’t figured out how-wise to proceed. Wind? Water? The Way didn’t bend strong in either direction this time. This time was clearly not her ally.

( ) Boldly.
( ) Modestly.
( ) Simply put, no.
>> No. 41641
(x) Boldly.
>> No. 41642
(x) Modestly.

I'm voting for this because I just can't picture, in my head, Futo acting bashful at this point in the story. So I wanna see how it's handled, instead.
>> No. 41643
(x) Boldly.

I love this Futo.
>> No. 41644
(x) Modestly.
>> No. 41645
File 154626642230.png - (241.36KB, 800x1000, 26880656_p5.png) [iqdb]
(x) Boldly.
Of course.
>> No. 41646
(X) Modestly
Kiss on the forehead I guess. That's 'between', right?
>> No. 41647
(x) Modestly.

Yea Mu has Futo pretty outmaneuvered here. He deserves a modest reward to let him know he's won the battle, but not the Futo war.
>> No. 41648
[x] Modestly.
>> No. 41649
She has been somewhat bashful at times. But it's always good to see.

(x) Modestly.
>> No. 41652
File 154647929656.jpg - (350.62KB, 1113x1528, 72315501_p0.jpg) [iqdb]
(X) Modestly.

But she had beaten time before. Fell beast though it was, care and study had laid it low the same it lay low everything else. Time was nothing.

Nor this. Futo rallied her mistaken faculties, and withdrew her arms from Mu’s shoulders. Her brother had naught to return but silent amusement in his eyes. Futo slapped a hand over it. Mu’s brow wrinkled under her touch, but the rest of her brother held faster than a bent nail. Futo tweezed his waist between her legs, and lifted herself a little higher in his arms. Then canted her head.

To her evergreen credit, she only wavered a trice. Then, Mononobe Futo, once his guide and tutor, kissed her impudent brother on the lips.

No smooching. A brush and a tiny press. Naught more modest. Nothing Futo would not have given to her blood brother. Not near.

Handai Mu’s brows squelched, even so, tighter under her palm. Futo snuck in one more press ahead she quit her brother’s feverish lips. Not the hand, though. That, she left clapped over his eyes. No use letting him see what he potentially shouldn’t. He managed, somewise, to give her a puzzled look anyway.

“… Huh,” he opined.

Futo held back a smack. “Nay enough between?”

Mu gave a soft shake of his head. “Oh no,” he said; “the geography was fine. Only I’d thought—”

“That I would alike yon Franz girl had done do,” Futo chimed in. “Fie, Mu. You a thousand years too early are. Nor am I a Franz. Take it. This all you get this time is.”

Goodly, Mu didn’t hang too long on that last part. Her brother pushed himself an inch or so taller, then produced from the depths of his soul (or just the stomach) a disaffected growl. He peered back, hungrily, at the shimmering Toori gate. That Futo’s palm was still in the way seemed airy matter. Like a greyhound in the slips.

“Rearing to go,” Futo sighed, mock-despairingly. “Are nay we?”

Mu’s mouth twisted. Then, he caught the rib. “… Yes, well,” he murmured. “Unless you can shikai the night to be again as young as you are, I am eating every minute here.”

“I can time stay,” Futo told him. Leastwise for myself. “I can nay it respool.”

Neither am I young, she added – quietly – inside. The springtide, mobile body Futo’s soul now animated was nowise that which Soga’s clansmen had laid to rest in Lord Taishi’s sepulchre. No more than a forgery. A gift of selfishness from the selfish hands of Seiga. The hermit’s Somatic wards – granted on nothing above a moment’s fancy – had allowed Futo’s gutted soul to shape its new vessel after what it had felt it had been – rather than the reality.

The ravages of age had been undone. When the Crown Prince had waked from His trans-historic journey, and Futo with Him, they had met the rising Sun of Yamato with younger, unblemished faces. In Lord Taishi’s case, His desired transformation had taken… a turn. Yet, these changes had been but physical; and His mind, as well as Futo’s, were still the same things they had been a millennium ago.

Something which Futo vowed every day to fight.

None, still, overmuch relevant to her brother – whose desires grasped toward the portal gate like invisible, lecherous fingers. Futo removed her hand from Mu’s eyes. Momentarily, they remained affixed to the gate. Then slid back to Futo.

A twinge of surprise – even if not un-pleasant – did all the same round their already oddly round edges as Futo climbed, once again, up her brother’s front – and gave him one more kiss. On the forehead, this time. Mu may have won that bout; but, that had been an exception to the rule. Futo would come back. For now, no more romantic kisses. There were rumours enough swimming about to feed a small town for a year, anyway.

Her brother had the marked set of someone about to say something clever once she pulled back. So, she kicked the heel of her clog into the small of his back. Mu winced. Then, he dropped her – when she kicked again. Futo danced back, sleeves flaring. She threw them down, and propped her hands on her hips.

Mu gave her a contrite smile.

For a moment, Futo returned it.

Then, once it was gone, she stored the feelings it had contained in a safe, backwise corner of her mind. With hope, they wouldn’t rattle out from the first next such shake.

Futo fanned her hand: like the Crown Prince did, these days, now it made Him look charming rather than ridiculous. “Go,” she told her brother. “I will you when you return sense. And heed what Lord Taishi has you this afternoon told. It me as well hurts when you all Winded burst in.”

Mu managed to humour her venture at authority. He inclined his hatted head. “Yes, sister Futo.”

“Stay warm. Never to mind: safe. I a restful bath want – nay one sticky with blood.”

“I’ll try, Futo.”

“Luck, Mu.”


Saying no more, Handai Mu turned to approach the barrier at the heart of the Toori. The gate towered, even over his tall figure. Mu sketched a focusing gesture – his own, as if he were swinging back a curtain – and desired himself through.

And then, betwixt one infinitesimal slice of time and the next, he vanished into Gensokyo.

>> No. 41659
File 154664911530.jpg - (475.89KB, 1347x2047, 71682191_p0.jpg) [iqdb]
MU (briefly)

The priest’s booted feet crunched into the mantle of frozen leaves on the forest floor.

A wrench of dislocation, a preternatural motion sickness, almost pitched him off-balance. Handai Mu swallowed hard of the stiff, wintry air. He brute-forced his mind to acknowledge it was here, and not on the golden hills of Miko’s Sen-kai.

Gensokyo, remember? he hushed inside. Our old amigo. And cold as a bastard. His Winded body heat would stave off frostbite and chattering teeth; though, being otherwise a natural process, tuned above its proclivity it would soon leave Mu positively (or negatively) starving. The better, then, that the night’s target had a relationship with food. Food that, importantly, wasn’t Mu.

As the dizziness began to rinse out, Mu reassured himself further of his scene. The skirts of a well-trodden forest. From where he stood, it was possible to make out where the trees ceded ground to the farmland which sustained the human town. Once Gensokyo took the Spring train, there would be a pair of eyes on them – prowling, watching – somewhere. Something Mu would must watch out for as well.

At his back, the slip-gate to Miko’s domain was a faint blur between two nondescript trees. No more conspicuous than a spider-web in the same arrangement, the gate would have been a right female dog to pinpoint without foreknowledge. That, and a relevant need. Mu sensed it resonate, even now, with his longing to be near the Crown Prince, and Futo, once again. Mostly near Futo. Very near Futo. In touch would be the best.

… Swung that trick right around on him, had his pretty tutor. Handai Mu scribbled a mental post-it to give some mind to self-injury. Then, he banished the memory of Futo’s lips where it belonged. With his lowest fantasies.

He Damped his weight, slowly, until his feet weren’t punching holes in the frozen carpet of leaves. All the while, he scanned the forest’s canopy for a hint of the night sky. Soon, and he found one: a patch of deeper blackness, pinpricked with stars. Mu gave his strength a flash of Wind, and kicked off the ground toward the opening.

The untamed woods of Gensokyo sprawled beneath him like the surface of a roiling, kelp-infested ocean. To the east, over the inert farmland, the walled, terracotta-roofed town burned an orange blot in the lightless landscape. Where humans dwelled, there was illumination. Glowing windows and lantern-lined streets: men and women staking a claim on the night. Mu’s thoughts weren’t with them. They strayed, wistfully, to someone – one decisively in-human – living unbeknownst among them. Then reeled back.

Another oddity to harry tonight.

Mu squinted at the forest roof below. The book hadn’t deigned a more precise clue to his victim’s location than the tatty old newspaper from the archive had. There had been report in town that Toyosatimimi Miko’s secret home – as secret homes did – contained a veritable cache of tomes on ancient, recondite subjects. This, of course, was a baseless fancy; the Crown Prince could no more have recreated whatever esoteric library her original home had held than she could recall its every book and scroll word for word. The books that there were, were the bigger share contributions from the students – meaning whatever had wound up, or been printed locally, in Gensokyo. Had the gossip been true, even, then Mu had ever little faith the tomes would list the whereabouts of a tiny, somewhat recent, business enterprise of one insignificant youkai in an arse-end-nowhere valley of rural Japan.

Futo hadn’t even heard about France. A whole country. Futo should stop intruding on his thoughts.

What was her name, again? Mu forced himself to remember. Something… mystical? Lore, lore, lay? Any how the book and the newspaper had spelled it, one congruity welded the two accounts together. That the youkai in question was capable of inducing night-blindness in passing humans at will. The latter of the two claimed, also, that she had of late been using of the skill outrageously to make a living off her blindness-curing cookery. Why, however, a youkai of all things would need to make or desire a living…

… Well, this, Mu meant to find out.

He Winded his weight up a fraction, and let mother gravity pull him back down. Father logic would have him out of his hide; but, with no more definite way to track the Lore-lay’s stall down less his sense of smell, Mu would have to resort to leaping about the vicinity of the town until the reported blindness struck him. Then, presumably, he should leap face-first into a devious bird lady.

With his Futo-wished luck, Mu hoped the bird would be a softer one than his last.

>> No. 41660
So from the third story post until now was a flashback?
Well, not that I mind, but what was the point of that? Coulda just started the story from there to begin with.
>> No. 41661

I appreciated the character introduction before engaging with Futo. Also giving us a sneak preview of birb route before definitely influenced my decision to pick "moderatly" in the last vote.
>> No. 41662
I'd be okay with leaping face first into Mystia's chest
>> No. 41671
File 154716153044.jpg - (756.20KB, 1100x1500, __soga_no_tojiko_touhou_drawn_by_oshiaki__d12ec4b3.jpg) [iqdb]

FUTO FACED AWAY from the Sen-kai’s gate, and Winded her sky-lust. The familiar, lukewarm air embraced her like an old lover. She rose, gently, upwise, and willed herself back toward the temple.

For the twenty heartbeats of flight, Futo allowed herself to feel immoral. No fraternal excuse may disguise the things she and Mu were doing were well beyond their ken as tutor and student. Futo may once again be young and full of zeal; it didn’t mean she was once again stupid. The buzz about their relationship was naught if not an effect of their own fluttering. Neither of them imagined otherwise; neither of them, nonetheless, did aught to head it off.

Futo took solace in but one thing: whoever the unutterable prudes who would countermine her brother’s achievements with suspicions of liaison, they would now need countenance Lord Taishi’s own approval. Futo’s repute may indeed be spotted; yet, there were few souls in the Sen-kai who would gainsay the Crown Prince as they did her. Who, after all, would dare disappoint their beautiful, saintly benefactor? Except Futo?

She had but to alight by the temple’s front door and steal into the silent vestibule to remember who.

Futo’s left foot wasn’t halfway out of its clog when a splotch of greenish luminance broke out on a nearby wall. Tongues of ethereal smoke boiled out of the light-stain, as if seeping from the other side. A finger’s breadth out of the obstacle, and they coalesced into a familiar shape. A face shape.


The ghostly likeness of Lord Taishi’s deceased wife flushed with colour as the remainder of her form birthed out of the solid wall. From corpse-grey to the cream of healthy skin; from funereal black to the vivid green of her favourite dress. Futo’s lips twitched into a tart smile at Tojiko’s full, voluptuous figure reconstituting before her eyes. Not, precisely, at the figure itself; Tojiko’s assets, while enviable, were now as useless and barren as Futo’s own. What they were besides was a stroke of sour irony. For where Futo and her liege had sought change in death, Soga’s middle daughter had remained hauntingly the same as she had been in life. For where her disembodied spirit had the power to appear however well she desired, Tojiko felt still at most ease in her original appearance. A young woman, barely on the wrong side of twenty, wonderfully recuperated from her first maternity. In Lord Taishi’s court, Tojiko had been the simmering resentment of His other consorts. In His Sen-kai, she had no such rivals. No admirers. No children to nurse. No husband to please. Not anymore.

And yet, Tojiko chose to stay her plump, motherly self. Futo was loath to think what this spoke of her own, selfish alteration.

Tojiko’s featureless tail – her sole telling part – wriggled free of the wall. The ghostly dreg of Futo’s shameful past regarded her with gorgeous, emerald-green eyes.

“Mononobe,” she said, in her sonorous voice.

Futo warmed up her envious smile. “Toziko.”

Mononobe,” Tojiko insisted.

Futo checked her cracking expression. But, Tojiko wasn’t focused on her anymore; she gazed out whence Futo had come – as though the temple’s walls were no more substantial to her senses than they were to her body.

“… Walking out late?” Tojiko asked with mild disinterest.

“I was.”

“With your latest fling?”

“Language, Toziko,” Futo chided with a wrinkle of her nose. “If thou to me taunt meanest, so leastwise with propriety do.”

Tojiko’s eyes widened into huge, cut gems bright with innocence. Mostly false. “Taunt?” she echoed. “Sooner I’ll die. Had I wished to taunt you, I would have spoken differently.”

Futo sighed inwardly. So it begineth. “… Such as?” she obliged out loud.

A full, wholesome smile opened on Tojiko’s face. “Why,” she almost sang, “I do not know. Squeeze? How about these? Toy boy. Necker. Bed warmer. Personal prick.”

“Enough!” snapped Futo. “Taunt me all thy heart thee demandeth, Toziko. But leave thou Mu of it out.”

“So defensive.” Tojiko tut-tutted. “Whatever gives?”

“Mu my brother is. I shan’t stand by and listen—”

The ghost’s face darkened. Corposant lashed from the tips of her fingers to the nails in the floorboards. Ah— Futo caught herself. Wrong excuse. Fie, me.

Tojiko crushed her hand into a tight fist, the rogue lightning contained. For the moment. “You disgust me,” she hissed. “You are a wedded woman. How long must the world turn before you learn to act your state? Your age? Have your parents taught you nothing but to rebel against your betters? What should Father say if he saw you now?”

Futo shook her head. “Umako a thousand years dead lieth. He canst nay see aught. Whenas will you let go, Toziko?”

“Let go? Let go? Listen to the rot pouring out of your mouth, Mononobe. The Crown Prince lies a thousand years dead. That preposterous, romance-play jargon you speak lies a thousand years dead. Why cling to these relics of the past, while you spit on the memory of others?”

Futo’s gaze took on an edge. “Do you begrudge me this, Toziko?” she asked. “Do you begrudge me making best of my second chance at life? After all the arguments, is that it?”

“What I begrudge you,” sneered Tojiko, “is the spite. The spite you bear under that blithe exterior. The spite that enables you to deceive your own family and feel nothing afterwards.”

“Then you resent what I have done to you?” Futo dared.

Tojiko bristled, her ethereal form blackening with barely restrained fury.

… And yet, within the same moment, as if sucked out of a hole in her soul, Tojiko’s anger vanished without a trace.

The ghost’s opulent, green eyes wandered someplace distant. Someplace far away, where no one else but she may see.

“… No,” admitted Tojiko. Her voice had fallen nigh to a whisper. “I do not resent you for that. You may never know what it is like, Mononobe. To be free of need, free of want… You may never feel the peace I feel when I close my eyes.”

Our wants, Futo thought petulantly, are what us who we are make, Toziko. Lord Taishi, me… even thou. Why else, if not so, would she have suffered the vigil over the Crown Prince’s sleep? Why else would she hover at His side, loyal as a hawk, even to this day? Why else would she have come to spoil Futo’s mood tonight? The differences of age, state and womanhood may well mean nothing before this one, grand distinction. That of the Way.

Where Futo was faithful to her desires, Tojiko would deny hers even in the grave.

And this, above all else, nettled Futo something wild.

Tojiko – curse her father’s keenness passing down – gave her a sly, knowing look. “Ah, worry not—” she said, almost off-hand; “I shan’t meddle with your romances, Mononobe. Your… brother is a decent man; unlike some, you would have a tough time of making him your bedside aide. Try, though, at your leisure. I’ll fain watch you fumble.”

“It’s not like that, Toziko,” Futo argued.

Tojiko laughed it away. “Bed him or stab him, it makes no matter to me in the end. I am but dead – and not even very well.”

“… I will do what my heart tells me to do, Toziko. Naught else.”

“As you always have, Mother,” Tojiko returned. “As you always, always have. At least your mistakes are unlike to haunt you, this time. So long.”

The final dagger punched in, Tojiko sailed noiselessly through the air toward the wall opposite whence she’d emerged. Then passed through. As if it all counted for naught. As if the entire conversation had been no more than a roadside distraction on the way to… wherever it was that ghosts went to rest.

Futo stood in the dark, empty vestibule for a long while: a clog stuck in one hand and a storm churning in her head. A storm of guilt, indignation and, bizarrely, pride. Trust Toziko to take the air out of an affair.

At the end of the while, she shrugged out her frustrations. Lord Taishi may sleep off the strain of His arts, and Tojiko may doze out of habit; but Futo had learned early her immortal body was at odds with the concept of rest. A gentle Dampening of her awareness may still put her to sleep, yes; and Futo did, on occasion, engage in the pure luxury of dreams. This night, however, she had a watch to stand. Her brother would ahead long return from his outing, and they had plans in place.

All Futo may do now was to find something sharp enough with which to kill the intervening time. An idea formed. Futo pulled off her second clog, and launched at a deft slide down the temple’s mist-filled halls.

Hours afterwise, Futo would sense the Sen-kai portal being breached. She would blow out the candle over which she had been burning pages from Mu’s book, and quit the dusty archive.

Then, much heartened, she would go to draw a bath.

For the next block:
( ) Mu
( ) Futo
>> No. 41672
(x) Futo
>> No. 41673
(X) Mu
>> No. 41674
(X) Mu
>> No. 41675
[X] Mu
>> No. 41676
(x) Futo
>> No. 41677
(x) Futo

Mother, uh? I love things like these.
>> No. 41678
(X) Futo
>> No. 41679
[x] Mu
>> No. 41680
What the hell does it matter that she was married? Wouldn't her husband be a thousand years in the grave?

What a strange butt-frustrated ghost.
>> No. 41681
(X) Futo

Give me Futo staring at his "Mu"
>> No. 41682
File 15474214924.jpg - (340.83KB, 900x1440, 70860233_p33.jpg) [iqdb]
(X) Futo

Some minutes later, Futo slipped into the narrow changing room neighbouring the bath. She unceremoniously dumped the heap of towels she had gone to retrieve in an empty basket. Then, she kicked the door close, and engaged the latch.

Her brother’s robes already lay in another basket: a martially-neat stack of blacks and chalky whites. Futo unclipped and dropped her hat. She wormed out of her voluminous over-cloak, and tossed it haphazardly on top of Mu’s clothes. The blue under-shift, which comprised the inner layer of her uniform and the skirt, followed before long. Futo loosed her ponytail and shook her hair straight. Then, she skinned and stepped out of her underwear.

Naked as her birth-day, she padded for the screen dividing the changing room from the bath proper, and slid it aside.

The palace temple’s bath was one of the unnumerous touches of modernity in Lord Taishi’s secret realm. Whereas straw-mat, bamboo and cypress reigned ever elsewhere in the His home, the steam-fogged room beyond the screen was peculiarly foreign. Maroon wood of a mysterious name lined the walls endlong as well as the ceiling; and the floor had been cobbled with whitish, blue-veined stone which didn’t slicken when wet. A row of spouts jutted out the length of one wall – fitted with contrived shower-heads, which would grate the hot water from the pipes into a fine likeness of a summer rain. Quaintest of all, perhaps, was the tub – fairly, more a basin sunk into the bathroom’s floor than aught else – with its wide bottom inlaid in dark, polished brass.

Only a tiny dash behind was the man sprawled in the tub.

His chin propped on the edge, an arm laid out on the floor; Futo’s brother seemed to be doing a practiced impression of a washed-up castaway. Unlike one, he did crack open an eye as Futo pushed the screen back shut. His arm enlivened long enough to give her a lazy wave.

There was aught to be said of her: higher-ranked, carrying towels to and fro whenas her student had showered already and was taking his ease in the tub. But, Futo paid it not overdue attention. Truthfully, the brief touches with domesticity were a pleasant experience. They reminded Futo of an age when her life hadn’t been near so… stratified. An age she might count on but two hands and a few toes. An age before her blood brother’s campaign of obsession.

Though she had a more even-humoured brother now, there were more parallels between these days and those than Futo had accounted for at the start, when she had first goaded Mu into taking their baths together. More underhand of which was her brother’s one-eyed gaze trailing after her as she walked under one of the fancy shower-heads. There was little else for his imagination to fill in unassisted than the stretch of Futo’s back under the waist-long cape of her silver hair. That, too, was given up when she twisted the lever on the wall, and the hair parted under a jet of hot water.

A deep-seated part of Futo wanted to shriek.

The propriety, embedded in her in her earliest education, was revolting at the instance of nakedness in front of a man who wasn’t her betrothed. But, want though it might, Futo voiced nary a squeak of shame. No. Her will was made of sturdier stuff these days. Her right to shrieking had been forfeit long before she had first undressed before the man assigned as her ward.

And, that besides, a more immediate percentage of her felt treacherously excited. Her brother may baulk at some displays of intimacy – and, curiously, not others; yet, he did little and littler to keep himself athwart of bluntly ogling Futo’s nudity whenever they took their baths. It spoke volumes of Handai Mu’s discipline that Futo had never caught him with any hard evidence.

It spoke volumes of her, perhaps, that she had looked for it.

For all her mastery, Futo was not without weaknesses. Tojiko’s accusations, the Crown Prince’s prodding, Futo’s own half-hearted denial – all these were but rind on a fatter chunk of reality. A chunk which she had never explained to her liege lord, let alone tattletale Tojiko. A chunk which weighed down her own standing among the students, as well as Mu’s. A chunk which she had carried under her heart since her first kiss with her brother.

No simpler than this simple chunk, Futo simply enjoyed being seen as a woman again.

After the awakening, after the Crisis of Hope, after the Symposium and the Occult Orb incident, her role as Lord Taishi’s torch had been doused in the peace of the ensuing days. No more loosed on His enemies, no more permitted to take part in Gensokyo’s power struggles, Futo’s revived sense of purpose had been Damped, collared and confined in the invisible barriers of the Sen-kai. And, what torches did when denied fuel was, they began to eat away at their own handles.

Futo’s handle was that simple thing. Mu’s appearance and allotment under her care had only stoked it.

The crude, unalloyed truth was, she had thought about having sex with her brother. At length, and in scandalous detail. Mu was, plainly, attracted; and, when she detached her obligations to her liege, Futo could not lie that she wasn’t. Her adopted brother was, nonetheless of his oddities, a prize. His crash with Gensokyo’s immunity to modern sensibilities had made him by need take on work unrequiring of brains, but rather much of brawn; Futo’s own like immunity had seen him further adjusted to her liking. He was swift on his wit, and had an impressive capacity for learning. Nearly as good, even, as her own. He understood her quips. He was tall, handsome, delightfully puzzling, and she wanted to have sex with him.

But, she hadn’t. Nor would she.

Not because of Tojiko. Her blabbermouth of a daughter had anyway already pegged them for lovers. The worst Futo might do here was confirm the presumed. Nor was Lord Taishi why. The Crown Prince would pair them merely for He believed it would bind Futo’s attention tighter to the temple.

No. What was why, was Handai Mu. Handai Mu who stared and did nothing. Handai Mu who would confess to like other girls, but not her. Handai Mu who dared her to kiss him between his cheeks, and hadn’t the decency to kiss back. Handai Mu who, not three weeks before, had quit sneaking out to overnight in the Human Village, and suddenly took on some cryptic (and evidently frustrating) investigation.

Futo was not dumb. She had grown in court, and could read the courtly alphabet. Though, while she would rather her brother stopped making her hot and bothered with no release, she still loved him enough so as not to force the latter. Tojiko may blather; Futo wasn’t an animal. Her brother deserved better respect.

She grabbed a hold of her arousal and Damped it until her chest wasn’t tingling.

Mu… Well, either he’d somewise detected her focussed will, or hadn’t at all – because he was idly contemplating said chest even as Futo sat on the edge of the tub, picked up a bar of grey soap, and began lathering up her long hair. Mu’s head was, in fact, laid on its side the better to see: the drowned man’s pleading arm now delegated to the trite function of a pillow.

“… Futo?” he said after a moment.

He had a slack quality to his voice. Hot water did that to men, Futo had noticed. Hushed them. What sense did that make?

“Yes?” she’d replied. “What doth my brother ail, this time?”

Mu scrunched up his wits for a bit before saying what.

“… You’re pretty,” he said.

Futo paused. There had been a challenge in the statement, though Futo knew not what kind. Her brother’s impression of a barely live fish was lasting, however, and not telling.

Fie, Futo thought. Nay a while of rest with this boy.

( ) “Yes, I try nay to Toziko’s bubbly form imitate. Thank you.”
( ) “Belike not as pretty as some in the town, hmm?”
>> No. 41683
(x) “Belike not as pretty as some in the town, hmm?”
>> No. 41684
(x) “Belike not as pretty as some in the town, hmm?”
>> No. 41685
>hard evidence

So I guess we more or less know Futo's deal now, but Mu's not so much. Is he just comparing and contrasting? Maybe his question extends beyond youkai behaviour.

(x) “Belike not as pretty as some in the town, hmm?”
Little bit of jealously showing is a nice spice.
>> No. 41686
[x] “Yes, I try nay to Toziko’s bubbly form imitate. Thank you.”
>> No. 41687
(x) “Yes, I try nay to Toziko’s bubbly form imitate. Thank you.”

"Y-you too"
>> No. 41688
(x) “Belike not as pretty as some in the town, hmm?”
>> No. 41691
(X) “Yes, I try nay to Toziko’s bubbly form imitate. Thank you.”
>> No. 41699
File 154767867254.jpg - (598.87KB, 1500x1500, __mononobe_no_futo_touhou_drawn_by_yua_checkmate__.jpg) [iqdb]
(X) “Belike not as pretty as some in the town, hmm?”

Futo allowed her eyelids to drop shut. The compliment had stung in its casualness – even if there was a point behind it. Mayhaps because there was a point. Futo hadn’t fought enough pointed compliments to figure wherethrough they were meant to sting. Her brother hadn’t deigned to let her practice too often.

Futo had all the same to respond somewise. Sarcasm volunteered – briefly. That, however, would have been ill appropriate. The comment had been trained at her womanhood; the best, therefore, if Futo responded in a like womanly fashion. If it also meant rubbing Mu’s nose in it, then all the better.

“Yes, well—” Futo sighed, “Belike still not as pretty as some in the town. Hmm?”

Sediments of modesty in her mind instantly reared up at the inadvertent envy behind her words. Futo stifled the old impulse. Words had never been her ally nigh as commonly as her enemy, but they would array together against a shared threat just the same. Mu was now just such a foe. Futo absently massaged the soap-foam into her hair, awaiting her brother’s response.

None was forthcoming.

At length, she condescended – and gave him a tentative peek. Wrong-footed by her reply, Mu was merely staring up at her – and, markedly, not her chest. His exotic, round eyes were even rounder than the rule. Futo raised a brow. Her brother twinged. Then, abashed, he sat up, cross-legged, in the middle of the basin.

“I’ll warrant,” he offered, the very soul of conciliation, “there are no more than four women prettier than you in all of Gensokyo, Futo.”

Futo graciously took the offer. “Do we their names perchance know?” she asked. “I will them over a fire cook.”

Mu scoffed. “I shan’t tell Lord Taishi you said that.”

“Good,” she returned. “That one is. Who the second counts?”

Her brother shrugged. “Mistress Seiga is certainly striking.”

Wicked Seiga,” warned Futo, “for attention such as that trawls. She a facile and wily succubus is. Stay out of her net.”

“Has the ‘pretty’ part down pat, though,” Mu maintained.

Futo splashed him with a kick of the foot. “The third, then?”

Her brother wiped the water from his face. Then wrung his woefully inadequate beard – the little length Futo had permitted him to keep. “Well, there is this talk,” he put forward, “that the rabbit princess of the Bamboo Forest is the prettiest woman there is. Not in Gensokyo alone. The whole, wide country. As wide as Japan is, anyway. Which would place her on… How do you say? The rim of the cup?”

“Cream of the crop?” Futo guessed.

“I almost had it.”

She rolled her eyes. “And have you this alleged princess seen?”

“From afar, and not really,” confessed Mu. “Once, back when you and Lord Taishi combatted for the Mask of Hope. I glimpsed her spectating a bout. Seemed like she was sleeping on it, though; difficult to tell, what with what you and the rest were doing on up. There’s hearsay she likes to visit and divert patients in her clinic, but… I’d need have at least a violent stomach cramp to get admitted. And, forgive me, I like to keep my stomach just fine. It’s on the list of my favourite organs.”

“A long list that must be.”

“Only topped by the list of my favourite fingers. Probably.” Mu breathed out. Then frowned. “… How did we get onto this tangent, again? I swear, Futo. I love our conversations, but they remind me sometimes of a horse.”

“… Hard to bridle?”

“They kick. Then run away.” He sniffed. “I don’t like horses.”

“Methinks,” said Futo, “that the first kick yours was, Mu. Have you for hooves checked, of late?”

Her brother dutifully hefted one of his legs up over the surface of the water. He wiggled his toes. Then dropped it back in explosively.

“No hoof,” he concluded among the waves. “But, I suppose it would behoove me anyway to put us back on track.”

“The race track, I assume?”

Mu nodded – very seriously. “Yes. No more horsing around.”

Futo chuckled, rather despite herself. “Fie, Mu,” she chided. “Had you half the mind whereof you into this punnery put elsewhere employed, you might have your blues by now had. Or your idioms on straight. Your focus misaimed is.”

“I don’t put that much mind in it, actually,” he said. “It’s mostly made up on the hoof.”



Futo flicked some of the foam at his eyes. He’d squeezed them shut in time, but was courteous enough to sputter about it appropriately. Though, the pick of language wasn’t that which Futo was able to appreciate. It sounded… rustly. Like a bunch of really angry leaves.

Futo had never asked after her brother’s birthplace, and Mu had never told; yet, if his homeland were aught alike his language, then indeed it was no wonder he seemed as thick-skinned as a tree at times. Ultimately, he arrived at the conclusion many a Taoshi did: that the readiest solution is usually right underfoot. He dunked his head in the water. Then came up snorting.

“Horseplay aside,” he said next, “that is still norm, isn’t it? It is natural you are pretty. You’re human. Or, were.”

Are we nay someone skipping? Futo wondered distractedly. “Semantics besides,” she indulged regardless, “yes.”

Mu nodded. “I’m not greatly bothered which,” he told her. “But, either or, human. Therefore, normal. Functional.” His expression became speculative. “We enjoy dressing it up in smart clothes, but that is what it is, at core: a function. Flowers are bright and colourful to attract bees; women are busty and butty to attract men.”

“I familiar with the concept am, yes.”

“And the clothes,” went on Mu, “simply serve to enhance it. Or the lack thereof; both can work.”

Oh, they can, can they? Futo thought. “Did a thrust with all this come, Mu?”

“I think so, Futo.” Her brother paused, gaze wandering to her admittedly un-busty quarter. He shaped a frown, and Futo debated internally whether to splash him again. “… See,” he confessed at last, “I have a problem.”

“Just one?”

“In this case? Yes. One. One cantankerous, maddening problem.”

“Does she a name have?” Futo dared.

Ahead he’d even begun to make his reply, she knew her brother had missed… or carefully ignored… the jealousy in her quip. Instead, he sketched a simpleton’s shrug. “That’s the foreproblem of it, Futo,” he said. “I’ve no first of what it’s supposed to be.”

Futo eyed him incredulously. “‘Foreproblem?’”

“The head part,” Mu explained – as if it were the plainest thing. “And then there’s the midproblem and the rearproblem. All problematic. Stacked together, and it’s one huge problem.”

“And no name to call on. Alas, poor problem.”

“Ha,” he indulged. “But, name or no, it doesn’t matter. Not really. If there is but a single truth you’ve taught me in absolute, Futo, it’s that if you hack at a problem long enough, soon or late you’ll… Um.” He looked to her face for help. “… Something about lumber?”

Futo shook her head. “I no idea have, Mu.”

Mu sucked his teeth. “This blasted tongue…”

Wouldst you to speak Franz prefer? “What happened to hacking the problem?”

“Yes—” Her brother exhaled. “That. Well. Hack it, and it’ll give way. Once it does, the name will come by itself. Take, for instance, this.”

He raised a palm up flat, and Winded the air in front of it. It kissed Futo’s bare skin, a warm breeze.

“What, then, do you call this?” asked Mu.

“Air,” Futo replied. “You made it, no?”

Her brother made his own shake. “Motion,” he countered. “Force. More accurately: pressure. When you first taught me the Wind and the Water, Futo, I couldn’t relate what you did to anything I could… well, relate to. It was impossible. You cannot create air – not least because all matter is constant. You cannot push it – the rest of it will simply push back and stop it. Air is not… not entirely, unlike water. Stir a spoon around in a lake—” here, he stirred his hand in the basin’s water, “—and the surrounding mass will simply drown out whatever movement you manage to cause it. Similarly, there is enough air in any large space to suppress the turbulences we would make by walking about alone. The weight of air is simply too great, too steady, to allow any sustained motion.

“Except then,” Mu asked conspiratorially, “how do we explain wind? All that heavy air, whooshing about, blowing up your skirt… Once I remembered this bit, it was like… like something that opens all of a sudden. See, there is this thing we Outside World men call the atmospheric pressure. And there are areas of air where that pressure is higher – where it is more densely packed than elsewhere. Wind, trivially, is a thing for no reason but that pressured air seeks to equalise with the nearest, less-crowded spot. Like an emptying balloon… or a smart man on a train. Thus, I figured it, if I were to suck in the air surrounding my hand – round and round it – except this one hole at the front…”

“You would wind make,” said Futo. “Heyday.”

Mu snapped his fingers. “I know that idiom!”

“No. You nay do. It ‘breaking wind’ is. Not ‘making.’”

Her brother made a dejected face. “Blast. Well, but here it is. Once I can decompose something into something else that I understand… I can usually do it with the Wind and the Water. Not even the precise mechanics. Just… the concept. I may make my blood run hotter for the Winter outside, because I know it can do that – even if I do not exactly know how. I may make my body lighter and hop around like I’m on the Moon – even if no one has ever told me what gravity really is. I may make the gruel from Reo’s kitchen taste better in my mouth – even if I do not know what it is he adds to it sometimes that offends my taste buds. As long as I can understand where it comes from, and why,” Mu summed up. “Then it becomes possible.”

It was, altogether – Futo considered as she kept on nursing her hair – a convoluted Way that her brother had. Convoluted, roundabout… however, not wholly alien. The Wind and the Water – Feng and Shui wielded, as opposed to planted – were an art of the mind. Handai Mu’s prescribed how his particular Winding and Damping brought about the effects he required. Futo’s was no different. Though, there was a third world of contrast between their two.

Where Mu’s was scholarly, Futo’s world was that of desire. To wit her humanly lust to soar the sky – that timeless wish – meant to be able to Wind it and fly. To wit the strength within her limbs meant to be able to Wind it and split boulders with her bare fists. To wit her desire to push her savant of a brother down and reaffirm his manhood… that meant she may grab it and Damp it to a level less disruptive for her thoughts. There were other tricks, as well. Tricks she would fain have shown Mu – had he only given in and agreed to be pushed down.

Nor was his theorem about air completely without it. It reminded Futo, if remotely, of how local spheres of Feng and Shui tended to interact with the results of temporal Winding and Damping of a practitioner. It had been, mostly, the risk her brother had taken earlier in the day by Winding the air to deflect her fire-ball in a place of focused Feng. The inherent harmonics of Lord Taishi’s palace temple had been as like to feed into his clever Winding as to fuel the fire-ball – which, too, had been a creation of Futo’s own Wind. Somewhat alike the atmo-spheric pressures which Mu had described.

This, here, was the crux. The axle of tragedy upon which Handai Mu had spun in insular Gensokyo. He thought differently. He didn’t demonise that which he didn’t understand; rather, he broke it down, then put it under the loupe of his firm, logical mind-set. It was the curse that his kinsmen in the Human Village had branded strange and undesirable. It was the blessing which Futo was fiercely proud to have discovered early in their partnership as tutor and student. Mu with a lesson was like a mastiff with a bone: leave him to it, and he would soon be lapping on the sweet marrow. He but had to gnaw it down to splinters first.

The truth, therefore, was belike that Handai Mu was perfectly equipped to solve his problem (with its fores and rears) on his own. Futo was pleased he sought her opinion anyway. She was galled she didn’t have much of one to provide. Not that he’d helped it much.

Mu watched her rise from the edge of the tub – the horse of his thoughts apparently forgotten at a previous crossroads. She felt his eyes quartering her back even as she rinsed the foam out of her hair under a shower.

“… Mu?” she said.

And turned around.

It took her brother a second to muster a response. “… Yes?”

“What are you for tomorrow set?” she asked him.

Mu wavered. “I’m… I think supposed to show the newbloods around the facilities in the morning,” he said. “Feed them. Then bring them before the Crown Prince. Afterwards… I’m not sure.”

“You are now,” she told him. “You aid me in my lectures shall. High time the redsleeves be a taste of power granted. I will you to demonstrate and simplify need, if such need be.”

“And to show,” guessed Mu, “how formal and non-illicit our relationship is, after my today’s stunt. Got it. I’ll be your target practice, Futo.”

Futo gave him a satisfied smile. “The Crown Prince it willed, Mu. Remember?”

“The Crown Prince,” said her brother, “willed we keep each other out of anything inappropriate.” He replicated her smile. “I don’t reckon that’s working.”

“Nay at all.”

Then, ahead either of their smiles may wilt, Futo shut off the shower, Winded her strength…

… And leapt straight for the tub.

Mu scrambled out of the way as she cannoned into the water, spraying it all over the white floor and maroon walls. Futo came back up like a mermaid: beautiful, nude, whipping her wet hair in a graceful arc.

She laughed when she saw Mu cautiously lower himself back into the tub.

“… One of those days, Futo,” he sighed, settling down again, “you’re going to kill me. And then, I’m going to be very put out.”

Futo sneered. Then kicked some water at him by way of reply.

Mu, resignedly, kicked some back.

Things only got rowdier from there.

>> No. 41700
>> No. 41701
So does futo hate herself or is this some kind of advanced long-term edging strat?
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