“Okay, Keine! We’re well out of range to blow up any unfortunate buildings, there’s no youkai nearby, and I have transformed into a competent MC over night! Please, teach me danmaku.”
She sneers at you across the clearing. She wags her finger at you.
“That’s a lie.
I mean, you could always blow yourself up, after all.”
Somewhere far off in another land, a rimshot sounded.
“True, true. I did not know that, however! That’s why I’m here to learn.”
You nod approvingly. Keine is much more knowledgeable than you!
“Now then, let us learn!”
She claps, pulling her hands apart to reveal a swirling orb of blue light. You gasp at its surreal nature, being nearly transparent, yet also incredibly bright.
“This, for lack of a better term, is danmaku. Do you know why it’s called danmaku?”
No, no you really don’t. I mean, you are some failing college student from the outside. Goodness knows you don’t know Japanese.
“I expected as much. Danmaku quite literally translates to ‘curtain fire’. Probably better translated as a barrage.”
“I thought you’d never ask!”
She throws the ball of energy at you with both hands, it exploding in the middle of the clearing. A thousand blue sparks, miniscule bullets, discharging in every direction. They shoot off, suddenly bouncing at a moment’s notice, changing directions on a whim. A confusing and harrying array of bullets swarms in your general direction, whizzing by at every conceivable angle. You can only throw your arms up to protect your face as the bombardment overwhelms you.
“Ow ow owowowow.
That really hurts, Keine!”
You say, letting your arms down and rubbing the spots where the danmaku hit. Several welts form on your arms where the spiritual bullets hit. They certainly hurt.
“You see? That’s how danmaku got its name – It’s often used in such attacks.”
Eager to learn about how not to get the snot beaten out of you by metaphorical bee swarms, you probe further.
“So the residents of gensokyo solve their problems by shooting at each other with less-lethal bullets? Cool! But uh, how does this solve anything, really? I could just punch people. That works too. I mean, I totally punched those fairies out.”
Heh. Dem fairies.
“Right, right! By itself, it does nothing at all! It’s just another way to kill each other! Oftentimes, it isn’t used, in fact! It’s much easier to punch your neighbor into submission than to go through a formal duel which you may or may not win. But our resident shrine maiden didn’t very much like that, so she drew up the spell card rules which standardized duel agreements and set down specific rules. Then she set about vigorously… ahem, how shall we say enforcing these rules. Mostly by beating the living hell out of anyone who disagreed.”
“Spell card rules?”
You should probably ask about that. You don’t want the living hell beaten out of you.
“Ah, yes. Spell card rules. When spell cards come into play – which is to say practically any duel – you must submit to the Hakurei rules. If you don’t, well… we went over what happens. But anyway, the rules! It’s very simple. First, you must declare your spell cards. Each card must be given a beautiful and meaningful name. Each card must be announced beforehand. Each card shapes and directs your danmaku, enhancing and amplifying perhaps, but never creating. Think of spell cards as musical instruments. Without a person playing them, they are useless. But, with a person behind them, they may be used to create all sorts of wonderful effects.”
“Wait wait wait, so danmaku can be used without spell cards?”
Her eyes twinkle, and she clasps her hands together.
“Very good, student! You caught that, did you? Yes, danmaku is quite separate from spell cards. Danmaku is not dependent on spell cards, as I demonstrated earlier. Danmaku is, quite simply, a manifestation of your spiritual energy. It’s quite crude, usually being projected as bullets. Hails of them. Wild and unpredictable, the purpose of danmaku when spell card rules are in effect is to hit your opponent with bullets. As many as you can. There’s no real number as to how many means a win, but it may be put down beforehand. Sometimes a single bullet hit means a loss on their part, sometimes it means you need to hit them with a number of bullets before they give in. Sometimes a very large number of bullets*. Spell cards help with that. They can be anything from a preset pattern for your bullets, to changing the way your bullets work. Like forming them into a raining pattern, or enlarging them into great, large, glowing suns.”
You say, nodding, soaking up the information.
“But what’s this about spiritual energy? How do I know how much spiritual energy I have? What is spiritual energy and what does it mean to me?”
“Calm down, I was getting there! Spiritual energy is… Well, basically it’s your faith.”
“My faith? Like, belief in a god? What if I’m an atheist? Am I just screwed?”
“Oh no, no! You don’t need to believe in a god, although believing in some of the gods around here will certainly help you. Moreso, it’s basically just your belief.”
“My belief? In what, exactly?”
“It’s jut your belief! You have to believe in order to use danmaku.”
“But believe in what?”
You take a step back and shake your head.
“Sorry Keine, but you’ve really confused me. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to believe in, in order to… well, apparently shoot bullets of my fingers.”
“Okay, look. It’s simple. Really simple. Put your hand up like a gun, okay?”
You nod, holding your fan out, index finger prominent, like a crude interpretation of a gun.
“Keine I can’t shoot bullets from my fi-“
Blam! A bullet nearly takes your ear off, forcing you to cringe at the near miss. Keine imitates blowing the smoke off her “gun finger”.
“See? Perfectly possible. Now you do it.”
“But Keine I can’t-“
She angrily stomps over, grabbing your arm and forcibly straightening it, giving you a more rigid posture. She leans in behind you and keeps you pointing straight by holding your wrist.
“Now focus on inside of yourself. Your anger, your will, your determination, whatever. Just focus. Focus on that one though. You want to shoot a bullet from your finger. You want to concentrate your energy in your fingertip, form it into a bullet, and send it hurtling at one of those trees with enough force to destroy it. Think hard! Think about the bullet!”
You concentrate. You fixate on the one single thought energy flowing through your body, forming in your fingertip and becoming a single bullet, flying through the air. You grit your teeth, dig your heels in, bend your knees. You shut your eyes, drowning out everything. The world is you. You, your finger, and that tree. And you’re going to blow it up.
….Okay no it’s not working. You open your eyes, realizing the entire forest has gone silent. Snickering behind you makes you think that that last thought may have been more externalized than internalized.
“Did I get it?”
“See for yourself, champ.”
She pats you on the back, reassuring you. You let the silly posture drop and look. The trees are all still perfectly intact. So unless you completely vaporized one and covered where it was with soil, you did jack shit. Sigh.
“It’s okay, not a lot of humans can do it. To really use danmaku, you either need a lot of training, be completely insane, or have no concept of failure. Just like a bird grows up knowing it can fly, you need the same experience. A bird knows
it can fly. It doesn’t know anything else. Where you came from, people can’t shoot lasers or bullets, can’t fly, and don’t believe. Do you think humans can do all those things?”
“But why can’t I do it?”
She scowls for a second, then asks you a question.
“Can humans fly?”
Pfft. What kind of question is that?
“Of course not. We’re too heavy, can’t generate a lot of lift without wings either.”
“There’s your problem. You don’t believe.”
“What? That’s… ridiculous. You can’t just fly by thinking about flying.”
“Right! You fly by flying.”
“What? That’s circular logic.”
“It’s not! Just lift off the ground. You don’t think
about it. You just do it. And it happens. You can do anything with danmaku, really. Fly, leap tall buildings, run incredibly fast, punch through walls. You just have to believe! I mean, for example-“
Your attention is stolen by the crashing of trees not far off. As you look, trying to discern the commotion through the bushes, the trees blocking your view explode.
“Haha! Convert, foolish trees! Become Buddhists, or uh… You’ll die! Hahahah!”
She says, laughing, punching clean through another tree trunk.
“Another Taoist? Your heretical beliefs will not save you!”
“Erm, let’s walk in the other direction, outsider.”
You nod your head and follow her, probably a very good idea given the omnicidal nature of most beings around here.
“Oh, and if you really do get into a duel with spell cards, you should know! There’s a few rules that aren’t explicitly stated but are just as enforced. Your danmaku barrages should be beautiful and stylish. Not a wall, but a winding wave. A colorful pattern, a work of art. Always give your opponent an out, too. It takes no skill to simply make a wall of danmaku and throw it out your enemy, but it takes real effort to make a net that will ensnare even the most cunning fox. Spell card duels are a matter of thought and cunning, not physical strength.”
She sighs, wandering away.
“That concludes our lesson. Hope you never need to use it. People around here hold grudges!”
You watch her walk away for a few moments before she stops and turns around, waving.
“Oh, and one more thing! Not that I’d expect you to, but no killing! That is absolutely forbidden!”
* This is a reference to the disparity between the amount of bullets the player character and your opponents can take in the Touhou games. I’m not aware if this is explained anywhere either in-game or in supporting documentation. I’ve certainly never gotten an answer for it.
**Any information contained herein subject to change with or without notification as the plot demands. However, should one of these subjects crop up in the plot, it shall not be changed further as the plot progresses. i.e. Once a rule is stated, it’s locked in for the rest of the story.
Let’s summarize and expand, shall we?
Danmaku exists independently of spell cards. Danmaku is a direct manifestation of your will. If you believe, you can do anything. Superman style shit. Leap buildings, stop trains, etc. Normal people cannot use danmaku to this effect. They have grown up in mediocrity. Even the greatest upbringing is near mediocrity to the youkai’s natural instinct. Believing is all that is necessary to bring about ANY sort of power. Mokou believes she can shoot fire because she’s been doing it so long she doesn’t remember it was an acquired skill. Keine grew up seeing history, then toying with it. Her abilities are a direct result of this. Some exceptions to the normal rules apply (i.e. Sakuya’s timestop ability is a function of her watch, all else is due to her superior athletics). Otherwise, only a fraction of danmaku’s true power may be harnessed. You concentrate long and hard enough and you may harden your body, toughen your bones, and increase your speed. You may even learn to shoot bullets. You will never be able to call upon a great fire phoenix, or turn people mad with a glare. Not in your current state of mind.
I hope you have enjoyed this somewhat tongue in cheek update. It does not take place in the proper plotline anywhere. However, it may be referenced in the future so I don’t have to retype up the characters explaining the entire danmaku rules. Again.