Yeah? Are you, uh, okay?
You close your eyes and feel out the emotions roiling in your gut.
The anger, the hatred, the embarrassment, the confusion, the guilt, the anxiety, the fear - you can feel the entire gambit of human emotions.
they're all there, muted.
Strangely, this doesn't hurt as much as you thought it would.
You felt this coming on some level. When Byakuren needed to collect her thoughts instead of eagerly answering your confession you began to steel yourself for the inevitable, as much as you hoped it wouldn't come to pass.
More to the point, you know her. You know Byakuren. This isn't the first night talk you've had with her. This woman who is like you but isn't, plagued by her past in a heart-wrenching way. You understood going into it that her acceptance wouldn't be so simple.
But...that's why you did it. She deals with social schemes and power struggles every day. Byakuren works her way through hard negotiations with the human village and other powers. She maintains her facade through thick and thin, advancing towards those borrowed ideals she clings to. Nothing Byakuren does is simple.
You can be.
Your love is.
Ignore the complications.
Throw out the second-guessing.
Byakuren's rejection doesn't change a thing.
"Thank you Byakuren," you tell her.
The sorrowful look Byakuren has answered you with once again falls away to shock. "Why?" she asks immediately.
"For being honest with me. You could have given me the run around or come up with bullshit excuses, but you gave me an honest assessment. Maybe you omitted a few things, but I'd like to think I know you well enough to call your answer the truth."
"And you're happy about that? About me tossing aside your feelings?"
"Of course not!" You half-shout. After a breath you continue, "I wouldn't say you tossed them aside. You considered them. You thought a long time about your own feelings and how I play into them. That's all I can ask of you. I wanted to make it simple, to make it clear how I felt. it's not like I wanted to make your life more difficult or anything."
Byakuren's lips twist and give you that lovable, sad smile. "How selfless."
"It was wholly selfish, believe me. I'd love it if you loved me back. But?But whether you do or do not won't change how I feel. There isn't a lot you can do to change my feelings on the matter either; I'm quite stubborn like that.."
The depressing mood begins to abate, heralded by Byakuren's smirk. "I know you are."
Her teasing is comforting. This kind of serious talk about emotions of all things is not something you're accustomed to. "Then I hope you know that I don't want things to change, either. I made a bet and failed, but I hope you don't cut me off completely. I'm not sure how I could go on without my daily dose of Byakuren Hijiri."
"Do you see yourself as an addict, unable to function without my presence?" she jokes while poking you in the arm. The contact is both sorely disappointing and a wonderful relief.
"Oh, definitely. I can't imagine a life without you." The hyperbole turns a bit sour at the end once you realize what you're saying. "Maybe that's too strong of a sentiment, but I honestly do enjoy the bond we've created. I think it would be awful if me speaking my mind like this has ruined our relationship."
Shit. Your mouth just runs.
"Relationship? I do believe I just turned you down."
The both of you smile at the awkward accidental phrasing turned joke.
It kind of stings, but you wouldn't say it's too soon to be poking fun.
You brace yourself and segue into the last serious topic you feel needs to be covered, to make sure everything is out in the open. "Also, I'm sorry if my confession wasn't good enough. I couldn't quite put my whole into it. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't just promise to drop everything I've been working towards. I wouldn't want you to play second-fiddle to someone I consider the most important woman in my life." Thanks Bro.
Byakuren listens patiently and nods. "I would not wish you to cast aside your aspirations for someone like myself either."
"I didn't mean it like that!" You unclench your hands after a moment. "Never like that. You aren't less worthy, Byakuren. Now that the festival is over, my break is over. I can reach for the Necronomicon again. But after I grab it, after I return to my sister the life she deserves," you pause, searching for the right words.
"...I'm open to anything."
"A bold declaration. Who says you will not be called away to a new task worthy of your attention?"
"My next priority is already lined up." Kind of lame, Bro.
it's not like you can take the words back anyway.
The two of you return to the silence of the night and the beautiful scenery around you. Things aren't quite as comfortable as before your impassioned declaration of love, but it isn't horrible.
With the drama over and done with it, Yoshika latches back onto your arm in a heartbeat.
After some time, after some hidden cue or some disturbance in the air, you decide to stand up. Behind you the streets are still alight with activity and partying.
You extend your hand out. "May I escort you home?"
Byakuren shakes her head. "I do not believe I shall return yet. I have more I wish to think about. Are you planning on retiring for the night?"
"Not quite yet," you answer. "I think I'm going to go for a quick walk first."
"Please, have a safe trip. The darkness can be dangerous."
"Thanks." You channel a bit of magic into your scarf and fly upwards, Yoshika at your side. "Have a nice night, Byakuren."
When you glance back once more you see something glint. Perhaps she's pulling out that flask. Soon enough, the night shadows Byakuren completely.
it's none of your business now. Not heading back?
Nah. You're too wound up to go to sleep. It'd probably best for you to kick around for an hour or two and-
The mop of hair attached to your shoulder begins to move. Cold, dead flesh rubs against your upper arm. "What's wrong, Yoshika?
The jiang-shi stops nuzzling your arm only to extend her own and wrap them around your body. "Master!"
"Wha- Hey! Don't make us crash, now."
"Sorry," she mutters, but doesn't let go of you.
This is going to be a hassle, you can tell right now. What do you mean?
Before, Yoshika doing this wasn't as much of a problem. Even though she had superhuman strength, she had the body of a teenager. Now? Everything about her is larger. She has longer arms with more reach, her legs can more easily wrap around you, her head can butt into yours, and her chest squishes into your body in-
You don't regret repairing Yoshika with the cadavers that Eientei had in storage but she's going to be even more of a monster combatant once you recreate her magical enhancements. A good thing if there's a fight on hand, but a bad thing in any situation where you need to pry yourself loose from the mischievous jiang-shi.
"As much as your hugs don't crush me now," you say to her, "I'd like to know why you're clinging to me more than usual."
"Master is sad."
"I wouldn't say I'm-" Yoshika tries her best to squeeze the life out of you, forcing the breath out of your lungs .
"Master, is, sad!" She squeezes you hard one last time before relenting, her angry glare daring you to disagree.
You chuckle. "Fine, fine, I'm sad. And?"
Unlike the mask of calm that Byakuren tries to maintain, Yoshika's expressions are as clear across her face as a child?s. "I don't like Master being sad."
"Well, thank you Yoshika. But nobody likes others-"
"Byakuren does!" Yoshika yells. "She wanted Master to be sad!"
"I don't think she was intending to make me sad. It was just a consequence of-"
"Stupid! Dummy Byakuren!" Yoshika shakes you in her anger, but luckily stops once she realizes how it throws off your flight. Such a sweet girl.
You tousle the jiang-shi's hair. "Don't blame her, Yoshika. I'd say it's more my fault if anything."
"Isn't Master's fault," she whines.
"Thanks," you tell her with the largest smile you can muster.
It isn't enough to placate her. You hear her mumble, but can't make out the words. "What was that?" you ask.
The zombie girl looks at you, her mismatched eyes wide in curiosity. "Can I make Master happy?"
"You do, Yoshika," you tell her.
You can't say Yoshika reacts much at all. Compared to her previous displays of emotions, the little smile she gives you before returning to resting on your arm is incomprehensible.
Damn. You must be absolutely pathetic looking at the moment. I don't think so Bro, but you are a bit down.
It'd be hard not to feel down at a time like this, right? it's only natural. We can't control what we feel.
I'm sorry, by the way.
For what? How it all went down, I guess. I was nagging you a lot too and-
Please, it isn't your sister's fault you decided to bull rush straight into things. That was all you. Still, I'm sorry. I could have-
Nope. Nope, nobody is going down that line of thought. Your sister is not responsible for this at all. it's hard. It feels like I'm guilty. Not just in a ?I didn't guide you properly? sense, either. I could have interceded directly, could have helped you keep things in perspective while-
It would be unnatural, wouldn't it? Doesn't matter. I was in a position to help and I didn't. Letting you work things out on your own doesn't matter when you're hurting.
Your sister shouldn't be in that position to begin with. That's what you're working towards, after all. It isn't her responsibility to be your inner conscious. ?I guess.
What a way to end the night. You were doing so well with the not dying and all, and then this happened.
After spotting a familiar land feature, you slowly descend to the ground. Before you, the calm waters of the Misty Lake stretch out. The lake seems different at night compared to the morning but it is no less beautiful. Fireflies dance among the reeds, bright even against the soft fog drifting just above the water's surface.
It is one of the many scenic locales of Gensokyo. If it weren't for all the hyper-powered, man-eating threats in the area, you could truly call this place paradise.
You sit down at the edge of the water and run your fingers through the chilly liquid.
What would happen if you decided to go for a swim? You get wet? What does it matter? You don't even like swimming.
it's not like you hate the act. It just so happens that most things found in the water are more likely to kill you than not.
Like her. You're positive Minamitsu would totally kill you in the water before you could banish her.
"Geez, no reaction at all?"
"I'm not sorry about that," you tell the ghost that tried to sneak up on you.
You glance back at her where she floats half out of the ground. Minamitsu grumbles a bit more before rising completely out of the earth and dropping down next to you.
"What are you doing out here, Minamitsu?" you ask.
"Too much drink tonight, skipper? I've been out here."
"But you-" Has she really? "You've been out here since this morning?"
"That's right. Never left, as it goes. I'm doing better, before you ask."
"I can see that. I am surprised that there isn't a pile of trash coming out of the lake." You had met with Minamitsu this morning, partaking in her favorite pastime in order to blow off steam.
Which was also your fault since you are the one who summoned up Mokou's mother from the dead. You didn't know that old woman would give Minamitsu a tongue lashing.
No, but you could have expected it given how volatile she had been in the past.
"Har har. I was not in that rickety of shape." Minamitsu picks up a pebble and tosses it outwards, the rock skipping along eleven times. "How about you? I can't imagine you sailing out to dark waters such as these if you were in tip top shape."
"Guess I came out here to think."
"Thinking alone is a dangerous thing. Care to share your tale?"
You think of telling her off just like she had you however many hours ago. After all, you came out here to get away from it all.
But something in you doesn't agree with that. Maybe it's how Minamitsu doesn't push any further, instead absently slinging stones in silence. Maybe it's because the spirit is, no matter how she may seem, hundreds of years your senior. Maybe it's because you know she's been cooped up by the lake all the day and you consider her a friend.
And she'd notice the inevitable tension between you and Byakuren eventually. Maybe as soon as she returned to the temple.
You tell her about the day. From the boring drudgery of moving supplies to the outdoor stage to flailing around in the bamboo forest, nothing is off limits. Naturally, you end your story with Byakuren and your interests being ground into the dirt.
Minamitsu listens with a silent, attentive ear. Once you finish, she goes right into it. "Wow. I gotta say, before anything else, you have got to be one of the craziest people I've met."
"I don't think I'm that bad."
"You are!" she accuses. "How do you go from fighting tentacled monstrosities, chopping up dead people, and staring down a lunarian dreadnought to going partying and confessing your love in one night? That is not normal."
"Because you, Captain Murasa, are the definition of normal, right?"
"I know what I know." Minamitsu sighs and pats you on the shoulder. "Byakuren could have been less bitchy about it. I don't think you deserved all that."
The ghost slaps her hand over your mouth, silencing you. "No need to go all white knight for her now, buddy. She dropped you like an anchor, remember? This is the time to get your anger out."
You grab her hand and throw it off. "The spirit of vengeance is telling me to vent, huh?"
"Hell yeah I am and if you know what's what you'll listen to me. If you try and patch it up now you'll just be leaking throughout the rest of your time here. You have to let it all drain out first before repairing anything."
"I'm sorry to disappoint but I'm not feeling particularly angry about anything."
"Oh really?" she scoffs. "You seem to be getting a bit hot right now."
"That's because you won't stop going on about it! Of course I'm going to get annoyed when you needle me about nothing!"
"Oh, it's nothing now? That's why you're sitting at a lake past midnight with a ghost that tends to drown people?"
"Just lay off!" you shout. "So I'm a bit upset that Byakuren didn't decide to passionately reciprocate my love. So what? There isn't anything I can do about that! Getting angry over it solves nothing! So I don't know why you keep heckling me about it!"
Once you look at Minamitsu and see the wide grin on her face, the flash of anger seeps away.
The ghost holds up three fingers. "Not the worst. Three out of ten, might have been able to poke a hole in a canoe. Feeling better?"
"Not really," you grumble. "Did you think I would?"
Minamitsu laughs. "Not really. I've tried venting for decades and look where that got me. I was run aground by a woman that hasn't seen this world in ages." The ghostly girl laughs again before becoming a tad more serious. "I doubt I'm the one who should be telling you this, but try to not let this rejection get to you."
Fine advice, but words are simple. "So you're telling me not to get hung up on it for a thousand years?"
"Better realize I'm still fully capable of drowning you here," she retorts. "But yes. That's what I'm saying."
"No matter how calm I was in front of Byakuren, it isn't so easy to just let it all go."
"I know that too. Do you think I don't seethe with anger whenever I think about the thrice-damned Fujiwara clan?" You know full well how angry Minamitsu can become at the mere sight of Mokou, let alone talking about her past.
"But I-" She halts, suddenly unsure and lacking her usual boisterous confidence. "But all these years?I don't t need anybody else to tell me I was wrong. That I was a cruel monster, destroying lives all around me. Yet fucking Mokou Fujiwara's mother comes back from the dead and lays it out straight?"
"You know, spirits of vengeance aren't supposed to be rational, thinking people." A naturally made spirit, one whose grip on reality was forged by their hatred, isn't some coincidental excuse to be human again. "That you managed to break free of your natural inclinations is, frankly, amazing. Someone should have come around and exterminated you long before you could reach this point."
She snorts. "And ain't that wonderful? We have our lovely Byakuren to thank for that." The ghostly girl shakes her head. "Hell, I don't know where I was going with that. My mind is still a confused mess. What I think is that if I took a thousand years just to get to this point, and maybe a thousand more to get somewhere decent in the future, you should be able to manage in a couple of days."
She expects you to recover from a broken heart so soon? "I only get days?"
"Maybe a few weeks," she offers. "I'm sure Byakuren will be moping after this far longer than you will."
"You think so?"
"I know it. That woman is an overloaded barge. I think you'd have to be a pirate with two eye patches on to miss how much she has been enjoying herself with you around. There's no way in hell that she brushed you off lightly."
You suppose she was rather lost in thought for much of that. It would make sense if she wasn't just thinking of the best way to brush you off but was actually conflicted.
Minamitsu dips in front of you, leering. "That made you awfully chipper, didn't it? Can't wait to get back in the sack with ?ol Byakuren?"
"T-That's not it!"
That smug look on her face quickly drops away to horror. "Wait, what? You have?"
"That can't be true! Not with that kind of answer!" The ghost floats back, cradling her forehead with a hand. "I thought you two were too awkward. I never saw-"
"We haven't! I was just thinking of the one time I slept with her-" Shit.
"You just said-"
"Not like that! After the reaper incident! She had Reimu and I sleep in her room and-"
Minamitsu gasps. "How scandalous! I never thought two innocent souls would ever-"
"Enough out of you!" You learn forward and swing your arm, splashing the water up at the annoyance in front of you.
"Hey! You'll get my clothes wet!"
"You're a ghost!"
"So I don't matter? See how you like this!"
Her leg kicks out, slapping the water towards- "That's cold! Are you trying to kill me?"
"If I was trying to kill you it'd look more like this!" She dives downwards, her body throwing up a wave of- Damn it! You throw your arms up in a desperate attempt to-
Ugh. Water soaks your shirt and upper body. You spit the excess lake out of your mouth and pull Yoshika close, reaching into your jacket for a handful of bone dust.
Half a second after pulling your hand out from the pocket, Minamitsu bolts. "Oh not that fucking shit again! Get away from me!"
You grin and chase after her, the magically created mucous-like ghost-sticking substance stretched and ready between your fingers.
Yoshika quickly scrambles after you, the joy of the hunt overtaking her as well.
You, Minamitsu, and Yoshika fly and run through the night. A few of the fields suffer a deluge of water and magical gunk. Eventually, you all grow tired and stumble towards the temple. The guard says nothing about how mud-covered you are or about the green slime Minamitsu picks out of her hair. With some snark and good cheer, you part ways with your ghostly friend for the night. Not exactly the most relaxing activity before sleep.
No, but it was fun.
The halls of the temple are relatively empty, although you can't tell if it's because most of the residents are still out and about or crashing in their rooms.
Luckily for you, it means the communal bathrooms are free of people. After a quick shower, you and Yoshika hunker down for the night.
What a day. You're telling me.
With your undead companion curled up in your arms, you drift off into a dreamless sleep.
The sun greets you next morning, peeking through the shutters of your window. You feel great, refreshed.
As if you weren't almost eaten the night before.
You feel good enough to accomplish anything today!
[ ] Rally the troops
[ ] Check on Reimu
[ ] Friendly visit to Eientei
[ ] Speak with Byakuren
-[ ] About books
-[ ] About love
[ ] Back to sleep
[ ] <Write-in>
Life reared its ugly head again. Sorry about that. We should be back on schedule. >>182420 >Welp
I admit to being one of those illiterate fools that uses ?whelp?. When going for silly internet slang, I like how the ?h? fits in phonetically and visually, even if it turns it into a real word. Whelp. >>182428
That's a bold write-in anon, let's see if that pays off for you.