Kahi 2011/05/07 (Sat) 05:26 No. 140707 ▼
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Tabuki was sagging with relief from finally getting it all smoothed out. Safely wed... well, effectively being 'used goods' no longer mattered at that point. Such thoughts fled as there arose a clattering at the doors, and the fairies started to cheer unanimously. Ah. The cake was finished, then. The doors creaked open... and a comparatively huge wheeled tray was rolled in, on which there sat an ornate silver platter.
Upon which there was absolutely nothing.
In spite of this, the fairies seemed delighted, floating around and above the platter, larger ones passing knives slowly through the air, appearing to lever wedges of something onto plates as varyingly sized as the girls themselves... one was handed off to her, and she simply stared as everyone laughed soundlessly, the buzz of idle chatter, indistinct and formless, filling the room.
For a moment, she picked up the fork and stared at the plate, trying to make sense of it. Maybe... maybe it was an invisible cake? A few halting shifts brought the fork around, searching for anything, even as she realized the truth.
This cake. It was a l-
"Are you alright?"
Tabuki snapped awake, having nodded off even while still standing, and realized she was starting to lean dangerously to the side. She stumbled slightly, righting herself, and leaned back into the wand.
"Fine... I'm fine. Just all the excitement catching up to me, I guess." She groaned softly. Emerald stepped in, seeming concerned, and helped to support her from the other side. Tabuki decided to ignore the hand that had idly landed on her posterior, in so doing. "J-just... get me to a chair, I'll be fine."
The chairs... that was a point of interest all on its own. Any number of them had been moved into the room, completely mismatched, and of all shapes and sizes. At a guess, it could only be for the accommodation of the fairies, as the cake was slices up and divided, set on plates just as wildly different in size. The largest of the fairies sat at the main table, where Satori and the other big people... normal-sized people, rather, sat, though they didn't always quite fit the chairs and a number had discreetly settled boxes and books into their seats, feet dangling well above the ground. They scaled down from there, tables getting smaller and smaller until the final, smallest table, was set directly on top of the first and largest one, toward the center. That was where Emerald settled her gently down. After a minute, a plate of wedding cake was settled down in front of her.
She let it sit for the moment, not really trusting her fingers to manipulate utensils at the moment.
"Ah... miss Satori. I'd like-"
"-To thank me for playing along and aranging all this, yes, it was no trouble."
Tabuki blinked, not sure how in the world he would ever get used to that.
"Um, yes..." She mumbled, before shaking it off. "Ah. Would you-"
"-like to talk? I suppose. There's close to half dozen little things flitting through your mind right now that you want to speak about... Hm, rude? I suppose it is, somewhat, not to wait for you to finish verbalizing. It's simply so... inefficient. But very well, I will endeavor to allow you speech before I respond."
"Thank you." Tabuki replied gratefully, taking a moment to gather her thoughts.
"The rest of us thank you as well." Tuck chuckled. "Those one sided conversations are the devil to listen to, even if you're not taking direct part."
Satori frowned slightly, but simply continued nibbling at a slice of cake as she waited.
"... I will comment that, once you were no longer distressed, your mind seems fascinatingly neat and orderly."
"... Uh, thank you for the compliment?" Tabuki hazarded, before continuing. "In any case... the best place to begin would likely be the local environs. Please, it would be much appreciated if you would tell me details in this regard, most specifically the Palace itself, as that is most likely your greatest area of familiarity, and in a somewhat broader sense, the underground as a whole and Gensokyo in its general entirety. Um... it would be much appreciated if you composed your statements under the assumption that my own knowledge in this regard is minimal, as though I had lived a particularly cloistered life, or slept for the past hundred years or so."
"Hm... a reasonable request. I would assume you only recently underwent full transmogrification from your previous state to full sentient sapience and unaided animation, then."
"I... have memories of the time before, but you are for the most part correct in that suspicion."
".... You used to be a boy?" Emerald asked, in clear incomprehension.
"No, dear." Satori gently chided. "But that is entirely beside the point. In any case, to begin, Gensokyo, the sealed land, is a place to which Youkai began gathering at some point, around a particular village. Perhaps this was because the village in question was notorious for its number and quality of its youkai hunters, or perhaps the reverse was the case, that the number and quality of their defenses improved in direct response to the youkai increase. The exact details of the matter are, I am afraid, lost to time. In any case, at some point, the outside world's magic began to slowly drain away. The humans had not yet begun to notice, and would not for some time, but for youkai the difference was almost immediately apparent."
Satori paused and waved over a cup of tea before continuing.
"Naturally, something would have to be done, as while Youkai could, in general, live even in environs thoroughly devoid of magic, it would not be at all pleasant. As a stopgap measure, they flooded the area surrounding that village in even greater numbers than before. And at this point the story differs. Youkai contend that they manipulated the humans into giving them exactly what they want, while the humans insist that they acted of their own volition, sacrificing the village in order to be rid of the vast bulk of the youkai threat in one swoop. if the first was correct, then it was far more cohesive, cunning intelligence than one typically expects from the majority of youkai these days, individiual exceptions notwithstanding. If the latter, then not only was the attempt a failure in most respects, but in some it completely and entirely backfired."
Satori shrugged idly.
"In any case, the end result was the initial rise of the Hakurei Barrier, completely sealing away the mystic lands of Gensokyo, capturing the magic of the area within, like a bubble. Were it to break, then Gensokyo would spill forth for a sort time before the magic dispersed, like water splashed onto desert sands. And since the outside world has moved on, even the humans would have difficulty reintigrating, so in general it's agreed that it's best the barrier remain. Of course, the barrier is at this point semi-permeable enough that many Youkai can simply pass through and pick up a human from the outside should they feel the absolute need to devour one, so conditions between them have lowered from the previous state of rampant hostility to a wary sort of mutual respect. Almost nobody gets killed and eaten inside the Barrier these days. In any case it has been quite some time since I last viewed the surface, so I'm afraid all I'm familiar with are the most notable landmarks, the main Human Village itself, and the Hakurei shrine. A second shrine has made its way into Gensokyo, I'm told, however I'm unclear as to exact location other than 'somewhere on the mountain'.
As for the underground, I know somewhat more, but there is actually somewhat less to tell. This place... it used to be used as a literal outpost of Hell, famed for the torment its fire chambers could be brought to inflict upon the souls of unrepentant sinners. For this reason, it was termed 'the Hell of Blazing Fires'. For various reasons, however, it fell somewhat into disuse and while we contain a vast number of evil spirits even now, we are no longer an official Hell. The vast majority of the living population are, however, Oni, who generally prefer living underground, and Youkai for whom life aboveground became an issue, for whatever reason. Terrifying power, or indiscriminate personalities, or such things. There is a treaty with the surface Youkai, however, that as long as those sent down here remain down here, they will not interfere in our dominion. A sort of mutual separation. Rin, of course, became a Youkai in the underground, and so is not technically bound by these restrictions, which leaves her free to pursue the occasional errand on the surface, such as fetching the good Friar. Utsuho would be much the same, however a matter arose which culminated in something of a bothersome situation, and special clauses were afterwards written into the treaty specifically relating to her as an individual."
"They didn't have to bother with that." The bird-winged woman grumbled around a mouthful of cake. "I'd already agreed not to blow them all up. Besides, if I'd overpowered the blast enough, they wouldn't have even felt anything, just a bright flash and 'poof'~"
"I can't imagine why they felt the precaution neccessary." Satori dryly responded. "In any case, Orin is generally much more dependable and willing to be sent on tasks than the Oni, wo also aren't bound by the treaty. Moving along, there are... perhaps a half dozen passages linking the surface of Gensokyo to the underground, though more than half of those require a traveler to navigate a warren of labyrinthine caverns and tunnels, in which the unwary could spend hundreds of years walking and never find an exit. The main passage, though, is reasonably straight and unobstructed and has no side-passages whatsoever. There are no real landmarks, however, until the Great Bridge, beyond which is the Ancient Underground City, where we are now. I'm afraid I don't go out much, however, so I know little about the attractions save in a general sense, shops and eateries and many many houses. And, of course, there's always an Oni party and brawl happening somewhere. In most cases, though not always, they are the same event. Warnings that should be issued, however... Oni drink is strong, and if you can't hold your liquor you may end up making a fool of yourself. However, if you refuse to drink, some may decide to take it as an insult. Keep that in mind, should you find yourself in a situation where it becomes relevant. Also, as this is underground, certain goods will cost more to purchase here, should you feel the need at some point to purchase knicknacks. Wood, in particular, is much more expensive than on the surface, as to a lesser degree are the majority of plant-based items not related to mushrooms, moss, lichens, or other species that do not strictly require light. However, precious stones, metals, and carvings fashioned from rock are much more easy to come by here, and so generally go at a lesser price than you would find on the surface. Lastly, you may occasionally see Zombie Fairies. They are not at all harmless, despite Orin's occasional attempt to put them to thematic effect-"
"I've mostly given up on that. They're useless at Danmaku, and really slow besides, not to mention they'll try to get bitey on ya if they can." The girl chimed in.
"Yes, quite. In any case, they are, as I said, not harmless at all, despite being slow, stupid, and almost completely incapable of any sort of ranged attack." Satori continued. "If one catches you off guard, however, while their bite will not cause you to become a zombie yourself, as some contend, it will be excruciatingly painful and highly likely to become infected. They may be something more of a threat to you than, for example, someone of Okuu's size. Don't worry about killing them if you have to, in spite of things, they are still fairies and will re-spawn after a little while as though nothing had ever happened to begin with."
".... They would respawn as zombies?" Tabuki asked, just for clarification.
"But.... that makes no sense at-"
"I assure you it does, however to verbally explain exactly how would require at minimum four months, with no breaks for food, sleep, or other such things. In general, it's simply accepted that that's how it works, and none pry too deeply into the actual mechanics. But moving along, that is my limit of helpful advice regarding the underground, I am afraid. As to my home in specific... there is really no detailed history to the palace of the earth spirits, I am afraid. It is simply where I live. My power, the ability to read the thoughts of others... unsettles many, particularly those with the fewest, least interesting thoughts, for whatever reason. A number of Oni approached me and agreed to build it for me, to my specifications and of the materials I requested, provided that it be situated a small distance away from the city proper. It was an agreeable trade, as it cost me nothing in the way of monetary recompense, and so I was able to have them fashion the palace of solid slabs of stone, rather than thin planks of wood. Had I been required to pay, lumber would, of course, have been initially cheaper, as vastly less of it would have been required to initially erect the housing, but would have proven more expensive in the long run as patches wore down and had to be replaced. As The agreement was only for the initial construction, and any repairs or maintenance would have to be paid for, it was only logical to go with the more durable option, though I fear the consensus at the time was that the choice had been made specifically to cause more work for the Oni. In any case, there are a number of rooms. Some are used for storage, others to house my pets, and many more still lie vacant even now, waiting for something to fill them. There is, of course, also the main hall, the kitchens, the Library, and the bedchambers for myself and..."
Satori trailed off for a moment before continuing.
"... And another which currently remains unoccupied and undisturbed. Behind the palace is a vent to one of the largest fire chambers, where Okuu and Orin spend much of there time, and inside there is another opening to a... Nuclear Power Generation Facility, I believe, where Okuu is technically required to spend much of her time, for various reasons."
"Oh, I don't mind. I enjoy using my power more than almost anything. It's more fun to let it all go in a big 'KAROOOSH-MMPF' or a flare that goes 'PPVVRRRRRRRRRRRR~', but I'm not really allowed to do that too often, anymore. Usually. Unless stuff happens that I can't remember right now, in which case I can blast the bad guys with Full Power, as the masked, uh... wait, no, I don't have a mask. Oh, right, no, that was that comic book the snake-goddess's shrine lady lent me..."
"Hm. Well, was there anything else you wished to know?" Satori continued blithely, even as Okuu crinkled her nose in deep thought, seeming to be trying to force memory-neurons to spark and conect by simple willpower.
Tabuki thought for a moment before deciding on a topic.
"Ah, Friar Tuck... You mentioned you were one of only a few priests in Gensokyo... is it not particularly religious, or is it simply that there's so small of a population that there is no need for..."
"Oh, a bit of one, half a dozen of the other, but mostly you're barking up the wrong tree entirely my dear." The friar answered cheerily. "There are actually a great number of people in Gensokyo, mostly in the main village, but with some scattered outposts here and there. For the most part, they actually are fairly religious, it's simply that... well, they adhere to their own religions. I suppose it helps their popularity that, if they want to go to the trouble, they can usually simply travel to wherever the god of their choice lives, and have a pleasant chat, rather than devote themselves to prayer and hope they are heard. Or that if they get a little anxious about what comes after, there's ways to get in touch with the people who run the local afterlives, and the lady in charge of Judging the deceased will occasionally stop by for a quick chat if she thinks someone is going too far off of the straight-and-narrow... As for the three people I mentioned, including myself, well... for the most part, our flock includes only those which were of our religion before finding themselves in Gensokyo, and that numbers something like, hm, perhaps three dozen worshippers between us. Sadly, many find it simpler to direct their faith to Gods which can be seen and conversed with, and at times are not averse to calling down a blatant miracle. Though... well, it's not as though I personally bear a grudge over it. I've always been rather more moderate than my fellows, and I understand that the faith of worshippers is the sort ofsustenance that they require simply to continue to exist at all, and there are only so many people to derive that faith from in Gensokyo..."
Tuck 'hmm'ed contemplatively to herself for a moment.
"... I will admit, of course, that it does raise some... doubts, in the mind, when you consider that these gods are fighting for every worshipper they can get ahold of, and are more than willing to use the faith they have mustered to keep and protect its providers... when those worshipped outside, in general... hm, it cannot simply be that gods also require Magic to exist, as until recently a pair of the most powerful actually lived in the outside world themselves. Perhaps it's an issue of the quality of the faith, or... ah, excuse me, I seem to have meandered off topic, if miss Satori's dull stare is of any indication. In any case, as I said, I am the most moderate of the three, but I'm afraid there are only three regulars to my sermons. On the opposite end of the spectrum from myself is Gabriel LaCroix. He, hm... well, he would have fit in very well in the crusades, I suspect. Very big fixations on the smitings, and fire and brimstone. A terribly confrontational fellow. Strangely enough, that seems to be what people want from their preacher, as roughly two thirds of our religion are numbered in his particular sect. They'll occasionally make a nuisance of themselves with the locals... head out in numbers on what amounts to a tiny crusade of their own. For the most part, Youkai don't really pay them much heed, as it's terribly difficult for them to die, and the fairies generally come back to life on their own after a little while, so there's no permanent physical harm done, there... of course, they know better, these days, than to meddle in the affairs of 'Heritics', who are protected by their own gods, or human 'witches', or those who willingly 'consort with devils', which can be anything so simple as sharing the occasional cup of tea once or twice a year, with a brief chat."
" Heard about a couple of those through the grapevine. Marisa blasted 'em good." A nearby fairy piped up in amusement. "Nothing fatal, though. But, um, Yuka wasn't nearly so kind when she heard they'd been harassing and tearing up the flower garden of this one person she'd started giving tips to. Oh boy was she mad..."
"Yes, well, let us just say that Gabriel's flock was once considerably larger than it currently is. Leaving him and myself aside, there remains Richard Wellington, somewhere in between our extremes, leading the prayers of the remainder. He is not so moderate as myself, loathes 'the unnatural' with a passion, despite that fairies and youkai, in some respects, are elements of nature. However, unlike Gabriel, he very firmly understands that if it is brought down to a fight between us and the rest of Gensokyo, we will lose... and in that respect, he is much less approving of anyone giving cause for such a fight to be started than Gabriel is. He will even, when necessary, speak to 'the enemy' himself, though he makes no attempt to temper his opinion, or pretend to be friendly. As for those not of my religion specifically... well, I'm afraid I have to admit I don't know much in that regard. Just that there are two shrines, one of which is part and parcel of the Border itself, and the other on Youkai Mountain, where the majority of the gods choose to dwell."