Men are all like that. Why would one be any different? Everyone should know why.
Whether you do or do not know, please begin by observing the girls who had to deal with them. The first three of six, each with a decision to make. Like songs of love, their fleeting stories resound with a lingering taste of life.
Sanae Hey. Are you doing okay? It’s been tiring for me. Ever since we ended it, you know? It was a break up, but it was hard on both of us.
Sometimes, I hear you've been doing well. You’ve found people you can be with, they said. You have people who love you, they said. People who really love you. I didn’t ask, but they said that anyway.
That’s good, though. That way, you wouldn’t have to endure all the emptiness that comes after.
You like how it is now?
Yuuka She’s still living her dream, never telling anyone. She planted something in her life tricking everyone. But she didn’t see yet.
The young boy will show her for the first time that it can be seen. That the door to her secret garden—
—can be opened.
Seiga A long time has passed. I am interested to know how much she has improved. I created the greatest lie by removing everything. I thought I had done so after my separation. I regret that day deeply.
There is no such thing as a good separation. But, if I had let her go more nicely, maybe she would have found happiness. Maybe she would have found someone else. Has she become better than she was before?
There is a woman standing before a spot of dirt. It is in a location outside of Gensokyo, and the reason for her arrival here is unknown even to her.
Seiga stands, her eyes focusing on that patch of dirt. The thin blades of the bamboo leaves rustle amidst the trees, the sun's light cutting through to paint a haze of light on the ground. A haze of light and warmth that also buzzes in Seiga's memories. A haze Seiga hates. As she blinks, she weighs all the power she's attained to this point. As if to show off how far she's gotten to someone she wishes to see. Not out of respect. Not out of thanks. In a place where even a drunkard could stumble onto, she searches for what she has lost.
This is the story she shares with me.
I met her as a younger woman. It was the life of a child in poverty, far in the mountains of her region. As every child in that era, there was not much to her name or her future. A child with a sick mother and a father who did what he could. Some fathers bent their backs with heavy weights from the rising sun to the quiet moon. Some aspired to make better of their family. Seiga’s father was of the latter. And to her father, his aspiration took form in faith of a higher power. So much so that he lost himself in his fanaticism and left his own family.
Like this, I spotted her.
A spark lit in her eyes when she saw me. Speechless, yet twinkling with a hidden spark.
Perhaps I saw what it was she could become. Perhaps I descended upon her from sheer fortune. But I know now my choice was correct. It would be a little while later that she would inform me of her father’s studies, and how I seemed to be a living example. To me, it was a truth I already knew of. The mystic power that her people believed in. The “magic” I wielded. All I cared about was the pursuit of that strength, and yet….
“Would you like to hear what I have to say?”
I chose to teach her what I knew.
“It is not so simple. You would have to relinquish all worldly connections. Friends, family, anything that you know now, you must discard.”
“But I will become strong?”
Her eyes gazed beyond the world before her.
“You cannot return. You cannot interfere. Anyone you care for now must be abandoned. Anyone you might remember and care for in the future must be abandoned. Are you certain you can remove all ties?”
Something seemed to hold her to this world.
“My father does nothing for my mother and me. She would be the only thing I care for in this world. May I have a day to cut my ties?”
I accepted. Night had barely fallen before she returned to me that very same day. There were no tears, nor any trace of the woman Seiga had been before.
But the smile she had shown me was genuine.
“Please teach me.”
I slapped her hand with a stick when she fell to the ground. Blood covered her chin as her body cracks under the strain. She faced the floor, steadying herself with her arms and knees as she coughed in agony.
“I-I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” Seiga lowered her head for me to scold. “I didn’t believe it would be this difficult to perform….”
“I would not lie to you.” I angled the stick under her chin and kept it steady for the span of a breath. “Failing something this simple will disrupt the flow and possibly bottle-neck you for another decade. Perhaps a century. So focus now, unless you face the hard trial of performing again with a weaker body!”
I turned away, her glance lingering before she began to concentrate once more. Seiga willed her body back into stance, closing her eyes.
I faced a nearby mirror. In it, I saw an older man with hair decorating his sides and chin. A body yet unfit for perfection. However, it is a far better form than the withering body I had to improve on decades ago.
How long have I spent to achieve only this level? How many more centuries must I spend toiling over achieving immortality? Endless years of endless work, with no fruit to bear.
And yet, I took her in as a pupil. As with any amateur, she experienced the pain and learning that came with the training. Failures upon failures. But despite the blood and agony that came with those failures, there remained a fire lit deep in the twinkle of her eyes.
“Who are you?”
She speaks to nature as if it will respond. Indeed, it is the place where we were together last.
I am but a specter of what I once was. I am not alive, but neither am I a ghost.
“I do not know who you are.” Seiga continues staring at the earth. “However, if you are malicious, I will find out myself. If you are not, then I simply wish to know what your purpose is.”
Do you not possess the means to identify me? Is that not why I am here now? Why you are here now? You have done much while I was not aware. A familiar for your plans. Puppets under your fingers. But what about you? Your desires? I remember them well.
Well enough to know how foolish you were, despite your potential.
The cup struck flesh, and the scent of blood fell from Seiga’s head.
“I-I thought it was appropriate to tell you,” she knelt behind me. “With this, I can obtain more materials to further my training. And the man is not a bad one, either.”
My eyes remained focused on the fire before me within the house. “Did you not think about what you would have to give for what you think you would receive in return? I asked you years ago to cut all ties to the mortal world. Did you not think of why that was?”
“I have!” She dared to speak out against me. “Using the Kaku family’s prosperity to further our goals, is that not better for our progression?”
“There is merit in preparation. But you choose to squander time focusing on preparations more than the journey itself. That says nothing of the time you will waste appeasing those who will use you for your reckless connection, as well as the time I have wasted for your decision.”
Another cup crashed against the wall by my hand. I stare into the fire burning before my eyes. The essence of blood falling down her forehead reached me, as well as the slight creak of her body kneeling behind me.
“Master, we cannot pass up this chance. I will not refuse—”
“If you will not refuse, then leave. Or I will kill you where you kneel. Get out!”
Her presence faded before I could summon the killing intent I warned her about.
There were no tears. The initial anger subsided with some time. But the deep regret and betrayal I felt for giving Seiga my time cut deeper than any wound. Many insulted me in the past. I knew well of the promises of those who wish to use me to further their own goals. But this pain, it was too personal. Too close. To give trust and lose it, I expected too much. She was persistent, but not wise. I did not expect her to do something so sudden and foolish.
And so, eight years passed where I recovered from my lost time. I was again alone until the eighth year, where she returned on her arms and knees.
With her forehead pressed to the dirt, I spoke.
“Do you now understand? The folly of your ways?”
“I was wrong. Forgive me.” I heard her teeth grinding her mistake to dust in her mouth.
“The fleeting life of a mortal is poison to one who pursues immortality. I had thought you were smarter than you were. You have wasted time learning what I had told you before you made your mistake.”
“Please, take me in once more.”
“And why should I consider that?” I threw back. “Do you think the years I spent teaching you can be preserved so easily? That a few years are nothing to those who last centuries? Millennia? Tell me. Did you manage to progress at all during those eight years? What did you do for all that time?”
“Nothing.” Her fists raked up the earth under her fingernails. “I have achieved nothing.”
At that moment, I turned over all the choices in my mind.
Any logical man worth his power would send her away to die by herself. If I were a crude man with lesser agendas, I would simply use her for more carnal pleasures. However, the trembling in her fists was not of fear. Less of anger for her own mistake. Deep within, as she ground her forehead against the dirt, there rose a desire for the power she so desperately craved for. The eight years she wasted had indeed cut at her power, and I would have to do much to return her to proper form. The difference between us was the night to the rising sun. And still I made my decision.
“Do you know why I took you in?” I began my ultimatum. “If we took every miserable child in the mortal world and placed you amidst them, there would be no visible difference. However, on that fateful day, you displayed something that intrigued me. Something that shone brighter as you withstood the pain and hardship of your training. Something that, before your foolish mistake, is the only reason I will consider taking you in once more.”
She did not move. I sensed neither joy nor fear. What I did sense—
“It is the fire that burns deep within your eyes when you looked at me.” I took one step forward. “However, know this. I will no longer help you as I have before—yes, I did that much for you. If you cannot withstand the training that is to come, I will not hesitate to leave your corpse where it falls. That is the price you pay for your betrayal of my trust. Show me you are capable of overcoming, and I will accept you by my side for as long as you stand.”
Seiga still did not move. All that came was her reply.
Seiga prepares a ritual to sense me, surrounded by all the materials needed. She sits in the middle of a circle, eyes closed. But I know her search will be fruitless. She is performing the wrong ritual.
She tries for so long that someone walks in on her. Her servant. The undead girl merely looks down at her master, as though waiting for an order. After leaning down for a moment, she rises back straight and waits. Eyes dull and lifeless, yet attentive and loyal. It is days later that Seiga finally moves.
“Yoshika. Return to Gensokyo.”
After being still for so long, the girl named Yoshika blinks and flies off into nothingness. Exhaling, Seiga stares up where I observe her. She does not see me; it is only a simple consequence of my own positioning to observe her form.
“I will find you. I am gathering the pieces. I will remember.”
Interesting. She has modified and improved the ritual. As always, she strives to improve. To empower herself.
Seiga approached my unconscious body as I meditate. I returned to acknowledge her presence.
“Has something happened?”
“I have retrieved what you sought.”
“Well done. You may leave.”
But she did not leave.
“Is there something else you require?”
It had been over a century since I took her back in. The both of us spent years fading in and out of our physical bodies to improve our form. The moments between were spent on journeys that would improve our powers. Running into others who may have helped or looked to harm us. Practice for the abilities we wished to hone. And always had Seiga remained steadfast in our pursuits. So much so that this was the first time she had spoken her thoughts in such a manner.
“I wished to speak with you.”
“What is there to talk about? Is something the matter?”
I knew not what she could speak about other than our work.
“No. Nothing is wrong. But, I was wondering where you came from.”
I fully returned to my body and rise to a sitting position, still facing away from her.
“What importance would you knowing about me have?”
My question was not without merit. There was nothing to be gained from learning about my history. Aside from practical experience.
“Forgive me,” Seiga did not waver, “but I think there is some importance. I ask to know what purpose you find in obtaining immortality. To become stronger.”
My eyes rose higher. Her words awakened something deep within me. I turned with a slow shift of my body, facing the young woman before me. She knelt in a sitting position, hands on her thighs.
I possessed no desire for the pleasures of the flesh. However, I did find appreciation in the fire still bright in her eyes. And at this moment, this was also the first I have seen it flicker. An ineffective breeze to a flame. Yet, proof that the fire was capable of changing form.
Because of this, I answer.
“The specifics of my origins are unimportant. Much like yours when you began.” I dismissed the first question. “The only relevancy is that, like you, I wished to change myself from what I was. I had no teacher, but I did learn with others who I met.”
“And so you wished to become immortal?”
“So I did. My younger desires grew and evolved with the knowledge I gained. What I could do and what I could achieve. The desire to change became the desire to grow stronger. And to grow strong, the beginning of the pinnacle, was to achieve immortality.”
“I see. I understand.”
I assumed that was all she wanted to know. Yet, she continued.
“Then what purpose was there to teach me?”
It was strange. Her question brought forth a different form of the question within my mind.
If it was a matter of why I chose to teach her, then the answer was “because I wished to improve by teaching you.” However, what was the “purpose?” The word brought along with it the risks and rewards that came with teaching her all I knew. The reward was the very answer to why. As for the risks….
“There is no reason we both cannot achieve immortality. Indeed, I have been harsh to you at times. But that does not mean I dislike the prospect of growing stronger with someone by my side.”
Seiga paused for a moment at my response. After the span of a few breaths, she bowed deep to the floor. When she rose, she expressed a smile.
“Master. I did not think you cared that much for me.”
Her words were nothing more than an obvious gesture for me to deflect.
“You speak of care. You are my disciple and I am your master. If I did not take care of my only disciple, that would shame me.”
The shadow of a laugh escaped her, Her mischievousness did not go unnoticed.
“Now leave me. I must return to my meditation.”
Her withheld breath of amusement failed to remain hidden as she leaves me. At the same moment, I considered what I had said to her.
I did not lie when I said I did not mind someone being as strong as I was, and that that someone could even be by my side. But something deep within myself asked: What if she became stronger than I was? How should I face such a reality if it came to be?
Seiga had left for a brief span of time only to return with more preparations. Had I not known her intentions, I would have thought she had come to construct a shrine. Such was the quantity of items she had brought, along with the change in her spiritual form.
I wonder just where she retrieves everything from? Where does she reside now? I am aware of her connections to the land and what she has done to some extent. This Gensokyo she speaks of, though, makes me doubt her presence in the world.
A land of fantasy. Fantasies that have long expired the realm of reality and retreated from the mortal world. Those revered by mortals and other forms of nature often lose their place in the world. Yet, that does not mean they are without form or power. Rather, much like a hermit, they likely withdraw and retreat to where they can recover or rest. I suppose Gensokyo is one such place. Fitting, as well, considering Seiga hails from such a place at present.
She progressed well under my teaching.
Some centuries later, Seiga sent a spectrum of nature down on the great beast in the sky. Lightning and wind struck and lashed at the beast slithering through the clouds, yet it all seemed ineffective before my eyes. I watched from miles afar as she attempted to harvest the beast of the gem within its stomach, something we wished to use to strengthen ourselves.
Seiga chanted and called forth several spellbound swords to pierce at the beast. Meaningless, but a diversion to summon forth a strike of lightning that manages to cut into the beast.
Gone was the woman who seeks my assistance with trivial matters and the foundation of learning. The one present before my eyes was someone not yet my equal, but worthy enough to seek my advice when she reached a bottleneck.
And soon, the beast fell with a mighty roar. Seiga quickly returned with the gem, and we left together.
“This will help us retain our strength?” Seiga inspected the red marble between her fingers.
“Yes. It’s potency is high enough that we will require years to truly integrate its power within our bodies. But the growth will be worth it. And with it, the level of our spells will expand higher than most are capable of at this moment. You did well, Seiga.”
“Thank you, Master.”
After a moment of silence, Seiga spoke once more.
“What is it?”
Seiga seemed to hesitate. Reluctant to say what her thoughts were.
“...If we were to change the world, do you think we could become stronger?”
Wrinkles formed on my face from the thought of her implication.
“Is there something you wish to confess?”
“I am not so foolish as to accept marriage once again.” Seiga calmed my suspicion. “However, I speak of changing the mortal world.”
“Change the mortal world? What purpose would that serve?”
“Instead of being tied to the mortal world, we could change it to fit our needs. Nothing so drastic, but perhaps make it so it could benefit us somehow.”
I did not like her words.
“And how long would it take to change it? How much time would be lost changing the minds of countless individuals? Humans may be a fleeting herd with no purpose beyond their lives, but they are not mindless animals. There is a reason some of our kind come from them.”
“We would not need to be present for the change. A simple year or two, with a brief visit now and again. Is there not those among us who do the same?”
“How many of them succeeded over those who failed? That is enough of this talk.” I attempted to end the conversation. “It is sufficient to be aware of the mortal world. To attempt to change it is only under attempting to seal the heavens.”
“Master, you do not have to concern yourself with those matters. I alone will suffice. You may continue to live as you are now—”
I glanced at her expression, one filled with determination and boldness at her own confidence. She stared back, the fire bright in the stars of her eyes.
“—We can become stronger, together.”
A blinding light, twinkling before me. It radiated with her desire tenfold, hidden deep where only those who know her as I have can see. Yet I had to face that flurry of stars with my own power.
“I will not have you wasting your time with fruitless endeavors. You must not leave my side.”
I faced forward soon after I said my words. Before I do, her expression flashed to stone. I paused to withhold my thoughts for a moment.
“Do not betray my trust once again.”
Seiga fell silent for the span of a breath. Then—
And so, the light that she had cast at that moment cast its own shadow over my own heart. One that would not fade despite my words.
Good Old Days part 2!UVSuwVzKfA2018/12/17 (Mon) 18:06No. 200150▼
Another century later, Seiga stared down with none of the compliance I thought she had before.
“It is as you see. The humans have taken a direction that is favorable to our needs.”
“Despite my words, you hid such a thing from me—”
“But look at what we have gained! And for so little!”
Before me were several treasures, surrounded by many necessities that those of our practice use regularly. I suppressed the fire raging in my breast.
“You have caught a bounty once without peril. That does not guarantee the forest is bountiful, or lenient in the least!”
“There is much to be gained from exploring.” Seiga spoke out against me. “Master, if you would listen to reason and result—”
“I ask you to listen to wisdom and experience,” I cut in, “and I demand nothing but your service in return. That is without mentioning all I’ve taught you so that you are as you are now. Do you think those without power would not notice? What would you do if a lone individual stronger than you challenged what you have done?”
“So long as I live, the rewards far outweigh the risks.”
The rewards. The risks. I released ill intent, but Seiga did not flinch.
“Those risks are what will bind you, limiting your potential! You would endanger our lives, our chance at immortality, and slow our progress as consequence, all for a wager with fate. And for what? Progress that can be made without!”
“Master, we will progress faster if we are able to successfully perform such deeds. And we can reduce or remove all risk if we are careful with our actions.”
I stood, and Seiga flinched. However, she did not falter.
“I will not concede, Master. It is a reasonable approach.”
She released her own intent, though nothing as heavy as my own.
I did not see her eyes. No. It has spread to even her voice. Her intent. Her desire that begun as a seedling all those years ago.
I stared down at her for a candle’s time.
If I refuse, what would I refuse for? Aside from the points I have given, which are all as circumstance as those Seiga has spoke of, what else was there? My pride as her mentor? My belief in her faith to me? It is not as though she has brought danger, true. But there will no doubt be those who have noticed or observed what she has done to the mortal world. Planting ideas in their head about the world. Changing the minds of those whose fates had yet to be changed. Manipulating them. She believed she could control it, and that in itself sounds foolish. But what other option was there?
Send her away or kill her where she stands? That was more foolish. What would that accomplish? She was still my pupil, and any dangers she has brought forth at this point have already begun to move. But her secrets cannot remain so. What else had she hidden from me? The shame of admitting that I could not see this when it had happened filled me with a sense of weakness.
Seiga remained still. Unmoving.
She has grown much. The thought repeated itself. If she hid this from me, what else has she hidden? I know well how far she has come. The extent of her power. She was by my side for most of my days. Yet in the slightest of moments, she was capable of doing things of this nature without my notice. And what did she do to bring back what she has brought?
The thoughts swirling within me expanded the shadow over my heart. Yet, there was nothing else I could think of doing.
“I do not wish to hear of this again.”
Seiga finally looked up toward me.
“Is that understood?”
There is an unmeasured hurt in her expression. Disappointment. Betrayal, if it could be explained.
The nerve of it. She hid this from me and believed she had the right to feel betrayed?
Her eyes closed with the hanging of her head.
“...I understand, Master.”
Yes. That moment perhaps gave you the taste of what you turned into now. The influence you spread touched more than you had initially thought. The only relief of danger was that you were not well-known in the world, so in the end, everyone thought it was simply a change in the world. But I knew. And now more know, as you seem to have continued your ways.
The bamboo rustles around the two of us, yet only one speaks amidst the nature.
“I borrowed these from my acquaintances on the other side.” Seiga places more ritual components around her. One such component is a rather simple one, sitting before her. A cup of tea. “I know I am sensing something. Someone. But I know not who. And whoever it is is here.”
It is with those same ways that your mind grew. All those centuries, your mind began to develop on its own how to progress and further your training. Perfecting your own ways. Ways that differed from my own, yet finding basis with my words. And I was indifferent to it all. All until I knew that I could not be anymore.
No. It could not stay the way it was.
Indifference was what caused the first of our partings. I then allowed her to commit a second, potential moment of parting.
This would be the last.
No more than a few decades later, I brought her to a surrounding of bamboo. Dressed in blue and with a shuffle of feet to approach me, I turned to face her proper.
She has matured much. Many a man found it hard to resist looking at her for her beauty. Many have tried by force and failed without my own assistance. She has even learned things I could not perform without difficulty. That being said, I was confident I could outmatch her if we were to be waged in conflict. But I did not wish to bring her to a dishonorable end.
Which was why I spoke, sacrificing any attempt at a preemptive strike.
“Are you hiding anything from me?”
The shaking in her voice came with her notice of my killing intent. A controlled force that she could sense at her level.
“No,” she was unsure of what was occurring, “I have not done anything without your notice.”
“Is that so?”
The inside of her chest enveloped my hand in her warm blood. A multitude of spells occurred before I came within reach of her body where Seiga stood.
Not knowing why what was happening was happening.
She released a choked gasp, overcome by blood rather than pain. It spilled forth from her mouth as she looked up at me.
“You have grown up well.”
A rather splendid lie. Not that she had not grown much over all the days spent together. But the implication of my words as she tried to understand.
She managed to gather herself enough to speak with coherence.
“Why are you…?”
“Because I felt endangered.”
But this. This was the truth.
The hurt in her eyes was immeasurable. But I did not withdraw my arm from her body.
“Yes.” I let my thoughts spill forth. “The fire you have shown me, it has grown too bright for me to accept. I do not believe you are capable of overwhelming me, but I felt it had to be done. Because you have made the one mistake that I had asked you not to make when you began.”
“You must not have ties to anyone you care about.”
I had recognized it just before that point. No, perhaps it had been brought to me as a whole, with the pieces brought together with every moment. Every day that she had shown me her eyes. Her voice. Her desires. At some point, just as my desire to become strong had become one that wished for more power in immortality, her desire for strength became one to become strong with me. And that...that was also my own fault. A part of responsibility I must take because of what I had done. What I had told her. Taught her.
“I have no need for a woman in my life.”
I understood at that moment how deeply words that hurt humans without blood could cut into someone who could understand them. And it could be understood by Seiga, considering my outward presence to her. Never had I smiled at her as she had to me. Never had I laughed for her as she did for me. For all these years, for all of those days, I had shown her no care for the feelings she held. So the lie was easy to create for my own purpose.
“I have never held any feelings beyond that of teacher and pupil.”
That was another lie. At least, I was speaking an uncertain truth that became a lie, as I realized with Seiga’s expression.
I have seen tears of pain and agony during Seiga’s training. But what fell from her eye was something outside the blood that spewed forth from her mouth. From my hand slipping out of her body.
It was that moment that I felt right in what I was doing. All that awaited was for me to make what I felt was right a reality.
And so I spoke.
“I only needed you to further my own desire.”
Seiga fell to the ground. Alive, yet heavily injured. Yet, I saw the change that arose from my words.
I knew well that this would mark a change in her life. Perhaps it would cause some distress in the short term. But if one was to think like an immortal, then one must consider what awaited in the eternity that an immortal received. And in Seiga’s immortality, I saw it was unattainable with me at her side at present. But that was not what pushed me to perform my actions here. No. It was that I would only become a hindrance. A tie that would weigh her down. She would become greater than she was now. The potential she held was too much. Too great.
The fire—the eternal space of stars in her eyes—had grown too great for a man like me in her life.
All that remained was to force her to rise above me.
“With the effort you’ve made changing the world,” I started, “I have spent some time making a plan to improve it. Much has changed since you interfered. And there are groups that, with some change, can help me become stronger.”
A shadow cast over Seiga’s eyes at my words. Tears and pain throbbed from her figure.
“Do you think you can challenge me as you are?” I goaded her. “I commend your effort, but you only invite death. I thank you for the progress you have made for me. I have improved much since taking you in, but I have decided you now have no more worth by my side.”
I prepare a spell that I had shown Seiga before. One that was meant to kill.
“Farewell. I took you in and changed your life. It can only be understood that I am meant to take it away.”
And at the same time, Seiga released her own spell. The one time in my long life at that point that I could commend her for her strength with all my heart.
Something struck my chest. A weight that I could not feel. At that same moment, my spell changed from one of killing intent to one I had prepared just for this encounter. My hand—embedded in power—reached for her face, caressing her cheek.
Along with it—
...Ah. What a horrible expression you have on your face. Am I the only one who will see such a thing?
”Please, take me in once more.”
Perhaps I am selfish as I proclaimed.
“Master. I did not think you cared that much for me.”
“—We can become stronger, together.”
Meet good people.
”“I will not concede, Master.”
“Please teach me.”
I cannot return to those days.
Everything faded as something fell on my cheeks.
Seiga meditates before me. She is close. I can feel my corporeal form shifting. But if she had been able to converse with me, much less observe my presence, she would have come out of her meditation. Which means her ritual is only partly taking effect. The full effect is for her to fully sense me.
Seiga Kaku. That is the name you are using in this present day. You have brought many changes in people, in the world, to further your own goals. Yet how far have you come in truth? I was correct in identifying the potential you held. It is you as a person that I could not grasp in my mind. Because I could not grasp the idea that you would do such a thing. Your desires had changed, and then I changed you because I believed it to be right. Was I wrong? Did you not become much stronger as a result? You had changed the world as you wished to, and received much in return. Does that not make you happy? You have done everything you wanted to do all by yourself.
Suddenly, everything blurs around me. My body—my form—splits before me, and I feel less a whole and more apart. I glance down at the cup of tea.
I realize what is occurring without Seiga’s knowledge.
It is not meant for drink, but to be touched. A sign that I am present. My form is unstable, likely to disperse soon. Even now, I am beginning to fade. What remains tying me to this earth now is the cup before me. The ritual has disrupted my existence here. If I touch the cup, I will return everything I have removed. The memories of me. She will remember. She will remember the old days with me. That is all that would be done. Her memories will be restored.
I glance down at the young woman I love.
For her sake, I have given her what she needs to be better than she was before.
But for her sake, I have taken away the important memories that brought her here in the first place.
Her memories of me.
She—  —should have that much.  —does not need to remember me.
I watch for another few breaths as the bamboo begins to bend and break. Seiga’s concentration grows fiercer. Dust flies and throws several of the implements around her beyond the leaves. The splash of liquid strikes everywhere but her body. Glass and porcelain break, the objects become unusable.
Seiga. This is the end. I have found my answer, and what I wish to know.You have accomplished much. Completed, much. Now, you are free to do as you please.
The cup before me shatters. And so—
The ritual’s power fades around Seiga. Her robes stop fluttering, and she waits a moment for a change.
A change in anything.
But after a minute, she opens her eyes.
She blinks, then stares around her.
There is something important here. Someone. Someone was here. She knows that something is missing, and she can find it here. Could have found it here. Both in reality, and within her mind. The small pull of force within her inner core is no longer present. The pull that brought her here, where her senses told her that she could find something.
“So I’ve lost it.”
She almost wants to forget about it herself. That this was but a trifling matter in the end.
But she cannot. That is not right, though.
Seiga’s eyes track the earth before her. As if the dirt will create a message for her. As if the wind might whisper to her. Something might give her a sign. A few minutes in silence, and Seiga cannot forget about what she had felt here.
“I do not know who you are,” she repeats what she had before. “Do you think I would leave a debt unpaid? That I would not respond? Those who would endanger me, I will find a way to give proper recompense. Those who steal from me, I take back what is taken. And everything I desire, I will do what I must to fulfill it.”
For whom does she reveal this much about herself? Surely, there is someone at fault. But Seiga does not know who. She does not know who is responsible for the space in her memories. The space among her own training, where she knows she had learned how to become stronger. She knows she had ascended from the mortal world to become a hermit. But there was much she did not remember. The details, the days between. It is a gap larger than explaining one’s past in a general sense. Only the outline of her growth remains. The result, and not the cause. The beginning and end, but without a middle. The middle between the middles.
This is why Seiga makes her vows.
“I will find you. This I promise. Not even the dead can escape me.” Her eyes narrow. “Nor will death mean I stop. So long as you exist, on this earth or anywhere else, I will eventually grow strong enough to locate you. If you ascend to heaven, I will look for you. If you fall to Hell, I will follow. If you are reincarnated, I shall find you. ”
Nothing responds to her voice. A lingering sense of loss is the reason for her words. Defeat. Failure. And that, Seiga could not accept without vowing to correct her mistakes.
The fire in her eyes twinkles in the quiet bamboo.
“I will. I will not be satisfied with this. I will become stronger….”
That is how Seiga remembers. Even if she does not remember anything else.
This she will remember.
Seiga stares down at what is nothing.
Good Old Days END
Kanako and Suwako glance down at Sanae, who breathes heavily. Under the blankets on her futon, sweat falls past her hair and ears. The two goddesses inspect her condition.
“You think he’s the cause?” Kanako frowns.
Suwako’s face masks her emotions. “It’s him. Gotta be.”
“I’m...alright….” Sanae heaves her words out of her breaths, cracking a smile with one eye. “Really.”
She coughs and grimaces.
Somewhere, at the same time, a young man stares at the ceiling of his room. Thinking of her. The moments before she left. The moment she did leave.
A young boy stares at the blades of grass before him. His body lies on the earth. He can’t look at the sky. The sky of Gensokyo. What he sees before him hurts to stare at for a long time. Not because there’s pain, but because he doesn’t like looking at it.
Yuuka notices the boy lying in the grass. After enjoying the sights and words of the people she’s run into, another human would be a delight. Wouldn’t it?
She stands over the boy, who sees what’s before his eyes.
A boy lies outside in the grass. A silent field outside the village, yet uncovered by the sun. At a glance, aside from being alone, nothing appears to be strange about him. Dresses like a human, and quiet enough to avoid most youkai’s attention. But if a youkai or any non-human continues observing him, they would find his stillness odd. Perhaps if he was staring up at the sky, it wouldn’t be strange. Instead, his eyes stare into blades of grass, all of which stand over his body, making it hard for any human to spot him at a distance.
This is how Yuuka finds him.
“And what is a young man like you doing out here all alone?”
Nothing but formality. There’s no reason to bring any malice to a greeting. Curiosity is as deserved for the boy’s strange actions as a human’s would be.
The boy’s head turns up—not to look at the sky—but to turn his eyes up at Yuuka. He says nothing, only stroking a blade of grass with his fingertips. Not to pluck it from the earth.
“Is there something interesting about the grass?” Yuuka ignores the fact that he doesn’t reply. “Do you like flowers? Plants?”
“I think the grass is nice.”
Is that so? Then….
A flower descends before him from Yuuka’s hand.
Yuuka faces an older woman who runs over. For a moment, she thinks the human thinks she might do something to the boy. The human woman coughs from the exertion.
“Sorry. Is he causing trouble?”
“No,” Yuuka’s eyes slide over to the boy in question. She presents a smile. “I was simply wondering what a human his age was doing all on his own. For a moment, I thought he might have been hurt.”
“O-Oh. That’s good….”
With a quick glance, the older woman calls over to the boy.
“Don’t make any trouble!”
Without hearing a response, she leaves. Yuuka approaches the boy lying on his palm once more. Her parasol taps close to the dirt behind his head.
“You seem to worry people.”
“I know she’s worried.”
A rather blunt reply, isn’t it?
The parasol taps at the grass in front of the boy. The blades lean over toward the tip, brushing across the folded hinges.
“Is that what you use?”
Yuuka listens in intrigue at the boy’s sudden question.
“Why, in what manner do you mean? I’m a youkai.”
Shutting his eyes, the boy releases a long breath of air through his nose. Not quite a sigh, but not a breath for air, either. Something creeps within Yuuka’s head.
“What do you mean by that?”
He turns back on his side, looking at the grass. “You get into fights with other people, right?”
“I do, on occasion.”
What could he mean by that? Isn’t it obvious?
“Because it’s part of the rules.”
The boy looks up at Yuuka after she speaks. Green eyes stare down at brown before the boy decides to stand.
“You should clean yourself off.” Yuuka inspects the dirt on his clothes. Unlike his prone form, he stares almost straight into her eyes with his height. Somewhat short.
“Alright. You too.”
There is something in how he stares down at the path. Rather than forward. Rather than at Yuuka.
“Why are you asking me?”
Fixing some of the charms hanging down, Reimu lowers her eyelashes at Yuuka standing in front of the shrine.
“It’s the human village. Surely you should know all the eccentric types that live there.”
“Are you calling me a weirdo?”
“Why, no. But the boy who sleeps alone in the grass brings some attention to himself, doesn’t he?”
“Oh,” a voice calls out in the shrine, “you mean that guy?”
Marisa pokes her head out from inside before stepping out.
“Yeah, he’s strange.”
“Really?” Reimu shoots Marisa the disagreeing glance. “He seems pretty well-behaved. Sure, he’s a bit quiet, but that doesn’t make him strange. We’ve even had a few conversations.”
“Really.” Marisa shoots back in both word and tone. “He doesn’t say much to me. Seems like he’s a bit crazy if you ask me.”
“Maybe because you talk like that?”
“I talk just fine.”
Yuuka spins her parasol behind her. “Is there something special about him?”
There has to be something for the way he acts.
Reimu resumes her work, fingers passing through paper.
“What would that be?”
“If I knew, I would’ve told you what.”
“You seem real interested,” Marisa jumps in.
“Humans can be interesting.” Yuuka turns around. “As a youkai, is that not why I came here to ask?”
“And as a youkai,” Reimu sighs over at her, “don’t cause any unnecessary trouble. That also doesn’t make me an expert on everyone in the village. Aren’t there other people for that?”
“Yes, but I thought fellows humans would know better?”
“Take a look at the person behind me. You think she knows any better?”
“Hey. I know plenty.”
Yuuka walks away.
The next day, Yuuka stares around at the humans in the village. Many non-humans also walk here and there, buying various things or talking with other individuals. She spots the person she’s looking for talking with someone else. He doesn’t notice her yet.
Or maybe he chooses not to notice?
“Good afternoon.” Yuuka smiles at the boy and Seiga, both of whom are sitting while eating a rice ball. The boy makes a move to turn, until he suddenly looks at the floor.
“Is there something you’re looking for?” the hermit returns a smile of her own.
The boy takes a large bite.
“I thought I would make acquaintance with this boy here.”
“Yes, he seems to be very interesting, doesn’t he?”
With their voices almost asking for the boy to include himself more, Yuuka takes a seat on his other side. He swallows without a glance at Yuuka.
“I never introduced myself. I’m Yuuka Kazami.”
“Sorry,” Yuuka leans over to address Seiga, “did I interrupt something?”
“No. I suppose I should leave. I just came back from an errand, and I ran into this boy.”
Seiga stands and claps her hands, vanishing the empty wrapper between them. She waves once before leaving. When she does, Yuuka turns back to Yakamochi.
“Is there something wrong with me?”
The choice for silence picks at something inside Yuuka’s stomach.
“I’m only trying to be friendly.”
The boy takes a deep breath. His eyes flick back and forth at Yuuka for a moment before he finally faces her. Yuuka giggles under her finger.
“So there is something wrong with me?”
Yakamochi shifts his eyes away at the ground for a second. The wrapper of his eaten rice ball crumples in his hands.
“I-I don’t hate you.”
“But you certainly act like it?”
“That’s not what’s wrong.”
“Then what is?”
A few seconds pass. Yuuka grins at the boy struggling to say what he wants to say.
But he can’t. Yuuka chuckles.
“A youkai? Yes, a lot of people seem to be afraid of me.”
The boy narrows his eyes at the ground, glancing back at the feet of everyone walking on the road.
Is he not afraid?
“I hear you speak with others just fine.”
“Can you not speak? Is there something wrong with you, by any chance? If that is so, then forgive me for not realizing.”
A silent moment passes. Yuuka doesn’t move, and neither does the boy. When it’s clear Yuuka isn’t leaving, he speaks.
“So you’re a youkai, then?”
“Oh, did I not just say so?”
Yuuka catches the slight way his head lowers. The way his eyelids droop somewhat.
What is that?
“I’m sorry, Miss Yuuka, for being so rude.”
But the way his eyebrows slant right after. That anger, that annoyance. That makes Yuuka feel better about herself.
And with a smile, she leaves.
The day after, Yuuka fires a ray of danmaku at a fairy. For a few minutes now, she dodges the easy shots and fires a few dangerous ones. The danmaku roars through the sky, the pressure pushing the leaves off trees below. No doubt the village in the distance can see the spectacle in the sky with how bright her attacks shine.
She could have left the fairy be. But not only did it try to prank her, it would be a good way to tease that boy lying down in the distance.
So that’s why she hasn’t finished the fight yet. Both to toy with the fairy and to display her power to him. The fairy’s clothes burn with the next ray that singes her. Yuuka keeps the smile on her face before her parasol fires another. A distant scream rings out as the fairy disappears, soon to revive somewhere after learning her lesson.
Opening her parasol, Yuuka spots her other target and floats down.
“Is it safe for you to be so close to a fight?”
The boy ignores this, refusing to look at Yuuka. Yuuka, on the other hand, smiles wider.
“Though, I suppose it’s understandable for you to stay where you are. Had I been serious, there would have been nowhere to run.”
“Is it fun?”
Yet, he still looks through the blades of grass while lying on his side.
“Is it fun to bully people like that?”
“I wouldn’t call it bullying. She offended me, after all.”
“But you didn’t need to play with her like that.”
“Danmaku is both play and fighting in one.”
“...And how would she feel, if it was more serious than she thought?”
“Are you trying to say something?”
The boy refuses to respond. Yuuka continues.
“It is the role of youkai to make humans fear them. The weak will fear the strong, and so the fairies are in their place. Is there something wrong with what I’m doing?”
After blinking hard, the boy turns on his back to look up at the woman standing over him. A smile meets a frown, and the boy can’t stand looking at Yuuka anymore. He flips back on his side, staring back through the grass.
“And what is so interesting about the grass?” Yuuka catches on. “Are you making a comparison?”
“No. It just doesn’t lie.”
“Lie?” Yuuka laughs once through her nose. “But everything I have said is true.”
But Yuuka continues to laugh. “Believe what you wish. Youkai kill, and humans die. If you refuse to believe in the cruel nature of Gensokyo, then perhaps you should do something about it. If you can.”
Her parasol spins behind her, and she floats off into the sky. She does her his whisper.
“So he hates you.”
Marisa throws a berry up and into her mouth while Yuuka sips her tea. Reimu also takes a sip from her cup, her eyes cutting over to the woman beside her.
“I’m telling you you shouldn’t bully humans. If you continue to pester him, I’m going to get angry.”
“But was I wrong?” Yuuka answers back. “That is the nature of Gensokyo, is it not?”
“Hey. What are you saying in front of two humans?”
“And my job is to exterminate troublesome youkai.”
“That does not mean the truth is different.”
“Well then,” Marisa sits up, “maybe it’s because he’s a human, you know? He’s scared, like you said he’d be.”
Scared? Was that the impression he gave?
“Yet you two do not seem to give that impression.”
“Well that’s ‘cause we know who you are, don’t we?”
Reimu speaks after another sip. “And because we know, I’m not going to sit here and listen to a youkai talk about how it’s going to bully someone. At least, I won’t if you might do more than bully him.”
Yuuka looks down at her tea. Her face is not smiling while she’s deep in thought.
...That is not possible, is it?
Another day, yet unlike the others. After spending the daylight thinking about it, Yuuka walks under the moonlight toward the village. But before she can reach the house she thinks she needs to go to, she spots someone in the grass.
“And what are you doing out here so late at night?”
“...The same thing.”
“Ah. So it’s safe even now, is it? I suppose there are more than enough individuals who can protect the village.”
With a giggle, she steps over the boy’s head and kneels down. Even when her knees touch the hairs on his head, he continues looking through the grass. Yuuka spots a flower in front of him.
“But there is a youkai before you. Does that not make you scared?”
Her hands grab at his head. One behind, the other on top. Almost gentle, if Yuuka didn’t say what she had just said.
“What are you doing?”
“There are very few people who are not afraid of me. And there are two types of individuals who are so. Those who have not measured their power against mine, and those who simply do not feel fear. Which are you?”
“I’m scared of my mother. I’m scared of the magician, when she gets angry at me. I’m scared of dying, and feeling pain.”
“But not me.”
Now, the boy looks up at Yuuka. Upside-down, there’s no trace of fear that she can see.
“I’m scared of you.”
“Now who is the one that is lying?” Her smile cuts wider. “There is something that prevents you from fearing me. You waver from me, yet do not run. You do not withdraw like the men in the village who see me. They may not run, but it is in their eyes. Their mind, their very being, withdraws within itself from fear. That is what it is to be weak, and my confidence in myself is what it means to be strong.”
Yuuka can see nothing but a boy who doesn’t fear her.
“Even other youkai run from me. The weaker who cannot triumph. Stronger youkai are wary of me. They would not think of fighting me if they can help it. They may not fear me, but they are cautious. Much like the shrine maiden and the magician, they are cautious not to provoke me. So which are you? Do you fear me, or is there some reason you are only wary of me?”
The boy still doesn’t respond.
“I have lived longer than you could ever hope to. I have power that you could never hope to obtain. That is a fact. I could end your life, even if I would earn the wrath of many who protect you and everyone here. Yet, I feel I must introduce myself in full to someone who does not seem to realize how dangerous a youkai is. Who I am and what I am will never change. I would not need to do anything akin to danmaku.”
Yuuka’s hands grasp the boy’s head tighter without causing pain.
“I can. Is that not the truth?”
“It is. But why are you lying, then?”
Yuuka doesn’t understand.
“What is this? Are you making fun of a youkai?”
“No. But it’s the reason why I enjoy looking at the grass.”
Yuuka listens as the boy goes on. Her smile disappears.
“The grass is what it is. It doesn’t lie. Except when a fairy makes it an illusion, but I can tell. My mother doesn’t lie when she says she’s worried about me. The shrine lady doesn’t lie. But you do. And I don’t like it.”
Yuuka’s fingernails press against the boy’s head.
“And who do you think you are speaking like that to? Do you think it a wise idea to provoke me? After what I just said?”
“I’m not trying to say bad things. It’s the truth.”
“You must not realize what you’re doing. You are a human. Do you want me to kill you?”
After the boy blinks, there’s something in his eyes—
“Even though you’re the same?”
...A moment passes where Yuuka understands what’s been said. Another passes for her to look deep within herself. A third passes for her face to reach the same level of understanding that her mind has reached. There is no smile. The intense gaze Yuuka gives the person below her transcends what she’s felt in Gensokyo thus far.
But even with her face as it is, the boy’s expression doesn’t change. His hands do rise up to his eyes, which close as he touches his eyelids.
“Only a few people know what I can do. You see, I can see the `truth` of everything. If something isn’t true, it becomes dark and disgusting. A bunch of worms or bugs swarm the lie. When nothing’s wrong, everything looks fine. But if something isn’t real, that’s what I see. When someone tells a lie, they’re covered in it. When someone stops lying, they disappear. That’s why I hate looking up at the sky of Gensokyo. That’s why I like the grass, and everyone who really cares about me. And that’s why I didn’t like looking at you. Even though I felt sorry for you, I didn’t know why you were lying.”
The words come perfectly to Yuuka. The boy swallows, opening his eyes. His hands rest on his throat.
“I know you can hurt me, but you’re covered in it more whenever you talk about being a youkai. Even so, I thought it was too sad. That’s why I asked specifically the other day, and that’s when I knew for sure.”
No one’s supposed to know. No one should know.
“No one knows.”
The hand behind his head moves over his hands over his throat.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I cannot kill you. That would cause...troublesome things.”
The tone in Yuuka’s voice is something she doesn’t recognize.
Anger? Surely. But fear? Fear…? Not toward this boy. But it is what he knows that is...that is….
“Then what are you going to do?”
The same question.
“I won’t tell anyone.” The boy removes his hands from his throat. “But, if you’re going to do something, could you do one more thing?”
Ask something from me?
“...And what would that be?”
“Could you...take away these eyes, too?”
So he doesn’t have to see anymore. That would not be an issue. That would make it easier….
Yuuka’s other hand moves over his eyes.
“I know you were lying about other things.”
It would be simple to get rid of both.
“But I don’t know why. I just thought that it was sad. And even though you act like that, I think you’re a nice lady.”
One for him. And one to keep him quiet.
“That’s why I wanted to stop. If it gets that bad, I don’t want to keep seeing you lie. I don’t...want to see any more lies.”