I can't really write a CYOA. I'd say I can't really write at all, but you people seem to be determined to tell me otherwise. Still, I write. Sometimes. Get these ideas. Maybe you've seen the things I wrote, over in /border/ and /forest/.
There were some people, they didn't like that there were whole threads for just one little short story. So, when I write, now, I'll be putting them here. I won't be updating often, but I'm a slow writer anyways. If there's a scene you want to see, or an idea you have that you don't have the confidence or the time or whatever. I can do that.
Down the hall, to your left, five steps forward look at the ceiling and pull down the stairs. The directions themselves were simple, but getting there was another case entirely, with how busy she was kept taking care of that girl. The years that she had wasted – no, not wasted, she reminds herself. Even through the great effort she puts, and the painful ordeal that has been responding to every little cry for even the slightest needs, her mind wanders to that satisfied smile, her laugh, her warmth. No...some would say she discarded the best years of her life, but it was all worth it. Given the chance, she wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.
The soft thud of a retractable ladder brings her back to reality. No one can say how many times she's gone here, and even less can say how many she's been interrupted just as she was ready by another cry, or a crash, or an unintelligible shout. As much as she loved this room, she was needed, and need comes before want. It had been a long time since she stopped thinking about the day that she'd stop being called upon almost constantly for anything and everything. Perhaps the numbing of her mind was some kind of a defense mechanism; Hope is built only to be crushed, read in a book of poetry, somewhere, long before all this. Books! She missed those, too, now that she thought of them.
But again, her mind wanders and dawdles among all manner of things that she doesn't have time for. With a shake of the head and a light smack, up the stair-rungs patta patta patta careful of the creaking on the tippiest of tippy-toes she goes. The moment her head is above the floor – ceiling? Not sure of where the boundary lies, and not sure it entirely matters, she just keeps going. The moment her head emerges, let's say, she is greeted by the unsure feeling between happiness for her reunion and sadness for leaving it so long, and the musty smell of a dust-coated room that has gone long unused. Her room.
Her room is a small one, and one that many would be unsatisfied with. No light graces it aside from a single window that opens out onto the slanted roof, and to keep more than two people in it would make things uncomfortable. Still, she's happy with what little she has, and allows a smile to creep on her face as she gently dusts off an old wooden stool and opens the window to reveal the view – her view, she notes, and no one can take it from her. Out goes her head with an enthusiasm she had almost forgotten, and her smile becomes a grin as the gentle summer breeze warms her cheeks and flows through her hair.
"Thank goodness she went to sleep early today..."
Her view was perfect, as far as she was concerned. Below, she could see the other houses of the town she was in – a close-knit community, and one she could always trust. An orange hue spilled over the houses and the forest beyond them, memories of pleasant days resurfacing with every glance at another flower or another lengthened shadow as the sun made its way slowly, slowly, under some distant land. So many times had she sat and watched as the people went by on whatever business they were on with smiles on their faces all the while, or as the neighborhood children – her own included, fairly often! - weaved in between the houses and each other, making use of every minute of daylight that they could before being called in by doting parents.
And above, Oh, above! It was so beautiful this time, she almost wanted to cry. The sun bounced and danced among the clouds, which despite covering most of the sky betrayed such clarity, such beauty! No two inches were the same, the varying density allowing light to pierce through in places and blocking it entirely in others. Shades of purple and orange intermingled as though the sky itself was a quilt lovingly crafted by the hand of some greater being, and even among them textures changed – the fluff and the wisp and off in the distance the horrifying towers that spelled death for some and life for others. That she could tear her eyes away for even a second was as much a miracle as its occurrence.
And what her eyes meet when she does is as beautiful to her as the sunset itself. Directly in front of her, now, was the reason she had come up in the first place: a half-finished painting of the village and the forest and all that she loved portrayed in such detail that she dared not finish until the perfect sky presented itself. Of course, sky or no sky she would come up to this room every time she had the chance - having even this much was a blessing. Today, however, was the day. She knew that something like this, she would never see in another lifetime. This was what she was waiting for.
Her trusty smock, now in desperate need of dusting, hung lazily off the side of the easel that housed her pride. As she hung it around her neck and tied the strings with an eagerness perhaps better placed on a child – How unbecoming, others might say, but who cares about all that would you just look at that view?! The smock itself was a source of that eagerness and that pride, it being a memento of the messes that she's made, the experiments she's conducted, the heart that she's poured into every one of these paintings that no one will ever see. Like an Olympian's sneakers, or Rambo's headband (And she giggles uncontrollably at that thought, despite having thought it a hundred times already) it's a signal – this is where it gets serious.
From the corner of an old cabinet she brings over a cardboard box as beaten up as anything in this house. The moment she lifts it, it gives with surprising ease – so much lighter than she remembers! - and she can't help but feel a bit silly as she very nearly loses her balance, stumbling backwards to the old stool. Into her box of tricks goes a hand, and out comes supplies, supplies, supplies. Over the years she's put together a collection of all manner of things that ultimately serve no greater purpose than to spread paint, but for something like this, it's going to take all of them.
She can't help but glance outside for another moment admiring the textures and considering what she could possibly use to imitate them on such an empty medium as a canvas, and the horrifying prospect of her own inability to capture this in the course of a single sunset surfaces. Sunsets are fleeting things, that's just nature. The odds of her being able to finish as fast as the light would change and the whole vision would disappear are impossible here, but she has to try.
Down comes the brush, gently held in between her long, slender fingers. She has surgeon's hands, almost machine-like in both their precision and their steadiness; the brush doesn't shake in the least even in her tired arms, and even under the pressure of the wild endeavor she's undertaken by choosing this of all subjects. There are easier ways, and who really cares but herself? She doesn't know anyone well enough to show these to who would care about them any more than their next meal.
Still, she thinks. Still. She owes it to herself, and to her subjects. She doesn't deserve anything less beautiful than this, she thinks, painstakingly carving out as close a texture to one of the wispier clouds as she can muster with one of her knives, and balancing the blue and orange just enough to accentuate the hint of white that's still visible. Just seeing that there's a cloud at all is an accomplishment, and imitating that subtlety doubly so. Even if it'll never be witnessed, it has to be. Just like her, she thinks, and almost forgets to smile through the concentration she's giving to every one of her motions.
The work goes faster than she had expected, clouds and colors coming together in an almost perfect imitation of the sunset before her that has hardly changed. Thank goodness, indeed – her luck tonight was ten-fold, for this slow-setting sun. Even as fatigue struck, she continued desperately, her entire soul devoted if only for this moment to capturing everything she could, and with the final stroke, her unbreakable concentration faded with her consciousness. Darkness flooded the room as the sun finally gave up its struggle, and she, she slept where she stood.
Awareness seeped slowly into her, the smell of paint thinner and old wood mixing with the smells of flowers, earth. Outside. As she glanced around her, making some attempt at remembering the previous night, she was met with the first rays of sunshine glimmering in the dusty air, a now-completed and most breathtaking painting, and a single, tall figure, clad in a purple nightgown with her legs crossed and her eyes gazing toward what were no doubt the neighborhood children enjoying the morning. A look of contentment graced her, half-closed eyes and hair full of curls and waves that a long night and a pillow had wrought.
Try as she might, a groggy query is all that escapes her mouth, and it fights her every syllable along the way. "Yu...Yukari? What are you doing up at this hour?" "Watching Chen play, watching you sleep. I thought that much was clear." "You haven't woken up by yourself for as long as I've known you." "And you haven't seen me go to sleep that early for as long as I've known you. Nice painting, by the way. It certainly took you long enough to finish." "You knew about it." "I did." "So yesterday..." "Mmm. Suns don't set at 3 AM, Ran." With a gentle smile, Yukari stands up, makes her way to the pile of blankets that now signifies Ran's lap, and gives her hair a pleasant ruffle. "Now how about breakfast? I've been wanting pancakes for hours!" "Fine, fine. Go get dressed, I'll catch up."
Giggling and bouncing follows, the most decidedly mature body of her master moving in ways that no self-respecting adult would allow themselves to be seen moving, and faster than she can clean up her blankets there's a slam of the ladder steps hitting the floor below and excited footsteps.
Ran on the other hand slowly makes her way to the window, taking a deep breath of fresh air – a wonder she can still smell the season after sleeping in a place like that – and calls in her child for breakfast with a satisfied smirk on her face. It'll likely be years before she can come back up here, and she knows it. As she makes her way down the stairs, though, she doesn't regret leaving her little world at the mercy of the elements – or at least, what elements can make it through that window.
A lot of people wonder about death. Where do we go, what happens, how does it feel. Does it feel? A lot of people have their ideas, already. Things they've been taught, and things that they think they know just because someone wrote in in a book or on a scroll, or what have you. They know because their parents knew, because their parents knew. It's all speculation, though, and I can say that with confidence because I know exactly what death is.
I've known ever since the judge said "Guilty."
My body keeps going - out of habit, I guess - but I knew in that instant that it was the end of anything I could reasonably call a "life", or at least one worth living. My life flashed before my eyes, just like they say it does. I'm sure I cried, at some point, but I was so numb I couldn't tell you when. And then it was over. All that's left are three walls and some bars. Sure, they feed you and let you outside, but that's really only to hammer it into you, you're with us now. You can't even see the sky past this grey edifice. Trapped from all sides.
It wasn't always like this. Gensokyo, that is. People were free to do whatever they wanted, as long as it didn't cause too much trouble. If boundaries were overstepped, the Hakurei miko would come by and set things straight. Life went on. Hell, she even beat me up once or twice, but I couldn't hold it against her, we were both just doing our job. One day though. There's no big commotion, there's not even a construction crew to call in. Everyone gets a letter. Things change just because people believe they've changed. I hate this place sometimes.
From where I was standing of course, there wasn't much to see or get word of. The Lady went out one day, and didn't come back. It happened to a lot of people. Even the slightest nudge in the wrong direction, and you got jailed – though I wouldn't hear about that until I was actually in this hellhole. The trial system is a joke, the judge is as hasty and judgmental as the bitch who put us there. Probably some kind of napoleon complex. If you get arrested, it's only a matter of time before you're here. Before you're dead like us.
People don't really talk about religion any more. They don't really talk about death, or their beliefs, or even each other, very much. There's only one story to tell, and we've all heard it. What people wonder is why Reimu even started this whole "project". Why she keeps it going. Some people say she just snapped, lost all the order and none of the power. Some people say she got lazy, and figured this was the easiest way to keep the peace. A lot of people say that it's all about money, there's some scheme behind this. Me...I don't care. Why should I? Reasons have never mattered in Gensokyo. It's all results, and right now the result is that the world has screwed us over.
I wake up. Stare at the ceiling. Wake up again. This is your "life", Hong Meiling. Look at it go.
There's food, at some point. I'm not hungry, but I never really am any more. If you don't eat, they make you eat, and if you're lucky they won't beat you to a pulp for making them do their job. More staring. Anything I could be thinking about I've already thought about a hundred times.
The prisoners are corralled outside in the afternoons, led in lines by chains, the way pointed out with machine guns for the sorry bastards who haven't been here long enough to learn the way. Haven't been here long enough to stop thinking of the yard as a way out. It's just another excuse to keep our bodies running as long as they can, keep up the punishment for nothing. There's a clear view from here of the path new inmates are brought in on, but it's never worth watching. It's just depres-"Get your fucking hands off me you goddamn pig! I didn't do shit and you know it, that trial was rigged!"
It's just depressing, most of the time. Either they fight futilely, or they look down on you like they won't be sleeping next to you that very night, or they just look down and move forward, their will broken as fast as it came into existence. On the worst days, you can see people you used to know as friends brought in. Back in the present, she's still yelling and fighting, until there's a snap and a scream.
A male scream.
My attention having been quite efficiently drawn to the fight, I spin on my heels to see a girl with an agonized guard behind her, his arm bending in all sorts of unpleasant ways over her shoulder. She's chained to the rest of the prisoners just like everyone is when they're brought in, but that doesn't seem to stop her from head butting anyone foolish enough to get close and outright breaking anyone who actually raises a weapon.
"Let me out of here! I swear to God if you don't fucking open these shackles I'll drag all your sorry asses out with me, dead or alive! Don't think I can't take you on!" Crack. "You're not a conqueror!" Snap. "I'm the fucking Alexander!" Her golden eyes are obscured by a deep crimson, but I can't tell whether it's hers or her assailants'. Either way it makes little difference to her, as she continues...wait, is that Jiu Jitsu? God, I haven't been allowed to practice martial arts in years...
Her moves are smooth and...almost beautiful, though I hesitate to say it. She's not going to get out of bed for a long, long time, once she loses – and she will lose. Still, for the time being, it's kind of fun watching her struggle. It reminds me of...me, I guess. In the mean time. Thud. Another guard hits the floor, and another ten flood from the building, piling on her until she hits the floor, and even as her head is ground into the dirt she continues her screams an-did she just spit in that guy's eye?!
Before we can watch how all this plays out, the cheers from what is now a crowd die out abruptly as we're all taken back inside. Time flies until it's flown. As interesting as it was watching that, the rest of the day passes excruciatingly slowly, my veil of apathy having been lifted all by its lonesome. All that's left for me is to wait.
It's three weeks before I see the fighter again, at the cafeteria this time. She's covered in stitches and scars, but that rebellious flame is still in her eyes, and it shows through all her motions. Even just sitting alone at her table and lifting a spoon to her mouth makes her look livid. Her dirty blonde hair is tied into a small braid on one side of her head, hanging in front of her shoulder, and the rest is left to hang behind her, as though to fight to keep some kind of individuality, some kind of recognizable style. The dull blue jumpsuit doesn't suit anyone in here, but it clashes like it was made to look bad on her.
Kirisame Marisa. Not even you managed to stay out...
I don't know what I'm thinking when I sit down across from her. Whatever's keeping people away from her should be keeping me away too, and I don't know whether I want to punch her or love her for breaking the monotony. All my instincts are telling me to get away from her, but before I know it, "Hey." The glare that she shoots me could melt steel. "You put up a hell of a fight back there. Where did you even learn to fight like that? I thought you were a magician." And the glare itself is hard as steel. She's putting muscles into this one I didn't even know existed. "Really though. You did a damn good job agai-" "If you're here to mock me like everyone else, fuck off. I don't need your jokes or your fucking pity." "Who's joking? It'd take an idiot not to see how awesome that was." Apparently she has a problem with taking complements, if the mashed potatoes in my face have anything to say on the subject. Before I can wipe off enough to see through, she's rushed off. By the time I realize I'm smiling, I'm already back in my own cell. It looks like the next few days are going to pass slowly.
When I sleep, I dream. It's always vague – just colors, or feelings. Sensations. I can't pin a story, or events, but sometimes I string them together and think of my own. It helps pass the time, which is all there is to do any more. Lying in my bed, waiting for something to happen, I decide that last night's dream was about Marisa. It was all running, fighting. Falling. There was darkness everywhere, followed by a blinding light, and then there was nothing. Nothing at all. Accomplishment, followed by dismay. It's a sad dream, but it's something.
Food. People shift along lazily, dispassionately. Just like yesterday. Just like every day. Marisa is sitting by herself, just like yesterday. I sit down across from her despite all my instincts saying not to, just like yesterday. She glares at me with fire in her eyes and tense muscles, eating the crap they served her. Just like yesterday. She seems to expect me to say something and stops eating, but I have other plans. Minutes pass, eating in silence, until she finally breaks it. Her voice is rough and impatient. "What." "What what?" "What do you want with me? You've either got some stupid plans for me or you're retarded." "No plans. I'm just interested in you. Nobody's fought that hard in a long time, against anything. Why did you?" At this, her expression shifts from mild annoyance to something that just screams, 'Wow, you really are retarded.' "Because I'm innocent. You were obviously there. You must have heard me screaming. Those fucking pigs brought me in because I was the first person they could fabricate a motive for, and you should know how the trial system is." "You know you still haven't told me what you're in for, right?" "What, do they not give you the news here? I had the biggest fucking trial since this whole bullshit system was instated." No, actually, they don't. Apparently I don't need to say that though. If her expression is any indicator, she can read my face as well as I can read hers. "All right. Let's just say they think I stole something. Something big. Picture the most expensive thing that Scarlet bitch ever owned, and triple it. More precious than your life. One day it was gone, and they convicted me for it, which is too fucking ridiculous." "Isn't that what Gensokyo is about? The obscure, the obscene, the ridiculous." "I was head of the search team. There's such a thing as too ridiculous for Gensokyo, and this is it." "Point. So you didn't steal this precious thing. Now you've injured...what, ten guards? You're not going to have an easy time, here." She shifts "Yeah, well. I'm not planning on staying here. Not for another fucking day. I'm busting out and beating the shit out of Reimu for even thinking of putting me in here." "Big talk. Do you really think they'll just let you out like that?" "No. You are."
...What. I don't even know how to...What is this? Is this a joke? It's got to be a joke, so...why isn't she laughing? We've been staring at each other for, I don't know, minutes now. The whole time, she's had this serious look on her face, like she's actually going to do this. Like I'm actually going to do this. This is too ridiculous, I'm done here. Ignoring what remains of my meal, I stand up and walk back to my cell, leaving her with only one passing thought. "Opium is a hell of a drug..."
There's a lot of time to think, in my cell. People don't really bother me, here. Today, like so many days before, I think about what got me in here in the first place.
It wasn't gradual, and I didn't see it coming. My job was all right, I guess – I had my complaints, but I was treated well enough, and there were plenty of visitors. People liked to spread rumors about how I was a slave to the Scarlets, but that wasn't true at all. There was plenty of time off, I wasn't mistreated, it came with room and board. They charged for food, but it was still the best cooking you could get for the price. Things weren't bad. One day, though, I woke up in a truck. The Scarlet Devil Mansion was gone. There was a gun at my head, tape on my mouth, and rope tying down whatever else I could conceivably use to get out. There was a man's voice. Soft, comforting, trying not to get rough, but still threatening. He told me that my life was going to go through some changes. That I had been bought.
People don't know the meaning of slavery.
In the days, it was work. Whatever menial tasks they could force on me. Working, though, that was no problem, I can work. I'm used to working. The nights were the problem. In the nights, they'd huddle me in with all the other girls who had no idea what they were doing here, or why they couldn't leave. Some of them weren't quite that naïve, and some of them just didn't care. They'd push us all up on a stage, and they'd make us wear these pretty dresses, and men would bid on us, like objects. Whoever won got us for the night – the price included a hotel room on the premises, for convenience.
When I say "got us", I do mean "owned us". Lots of them were bought just to be killed.
Just like I was.
That's not a way to die, though. They're probably still cleaning that room, and if that goddamn dress hadn't gotten caught on the tree...but. There's no helping the past. What happened happened, and of course the youkai can't win in court. It's never happened, not even once. So here I am.
You know, this kind of is bullshit.
A whistle. A yell. More herding, outside this time. Marisa is standing alone again, staring out to the newcomers' path, but she doesn't seem to mind this time as I stroll up next to her. "So. Think about my offer at all?" There's no joking. No smirk, mocking me and my false hope. She means it. "Yeah. What's your plan?" "You're a youkai. I've seen you kick a man clear across that lake. How did you even stay here this long? Just kick a fucking hole in the wall." ...That's your plan? Seriously? "...Hell of a drug." "Would you fucking quit that pessimistic shit?! You can get out of here. You could tear a fucking bus in two, why have you stayed here? Do you like it? Are you just too scared to stand up for your own fucking life?" Well shit. She's...completely right. All these years wasted just because I couldn't even... "...You know, I just might be. That's what got me in here in the first place." "Okay. So quit wallowing in self-pity and just do it." "What, now?" "Yeah. Now." Again with that glare. It's like she's trying to bore through my skull and control my body remotely or something. "Can you maybe tell me what you plan on doing afterward? One step doesn't constitute a plan." "You're going to take that bus of newcomers." Oh, no. "And you're going to pick it up," No, no no no... "And you're going to use it as a shield. When you get to the end of the path, you're going to split it in two, and you're going to pound the shit out of anything that gets in your way." "That's the most stupid plan I've ever heard and it'll never wo-" Ouch.
It takes a second before my mind catches up with the situation. There's...stinging. Pain. Tears are welling up in my eyes, more a reflex than an emotional reaction. Marisa's hand is in the air. She doesn't look angry, or sad. More...disappointed.
"You really think that? You really think you're useless? That you're not solely responsible for this plan? You think you're not going to be the one that gets me out, so I can beat some sense into Reimu? You're the only person I could possibly ask for this. I know why you're in here. I know what you've done for your own freedom, and I know you're the strongest goddamn youkai in this shithole. Now help me out, or Gensokyo as we know it is fucked."
I've had enough of this. I've had enough of fucking around, and I've had enough of wasting away in here. I've had enough of feeling my muscles atrophy, and I've had enough of being fucking useless. I've had enough of being dead. There's a pressure on my hand. A crumble. Yelling. There's no going back after this. My heart is beating faster than I can ever remember it beating, each shot of a guard's gun punctuated by the slamming of an artery. A bus full of new inmates is on its way, and it blocks most of the rounds from the front gate. Beyond it is clear road – or what had may as well be clear road. Marisa is beside me, shouting encouragement. I can do this. The bus is in the air, now – in my arms. Running. Marisa is beside me, shooting lasers everywhere. There's no need to watch that, when there's a wall in my way. My arms tear through the bus as easily as they would a piece of bread, despite the years since I've been given a good workout, and the two halves serve as an effective shield. Marisa is behind me, fighting off a few stray guards. She's all right. She's telling me to keep going. There's another wall, and it goes down just as easily, crumbling in the face of my augmented fists. More yelling. Explosions. Marisa is behind me, but I can see her running through the newly placed hole. Ringing in my ears. It subsides, eventually. All of it. When I can't run any more, I'm in a forest, somewhere. Trees behind me are all leveled, the unrecognizable hunks of steel in my hands have lost all of their paint. It was...easy.
Marisa isn't beside me.
There's not much to see, but it's all worth seeing, after getting out of there. Animals, colors, actual nature...houses. Not just prison blocks, but houses. I run up to the closest home, and knock on the door – contact. Someone, anyone. Just anything but prisoners. No one's home, but that's all right, there are more. This is the human village, they have to be (empty) somewhere. It's the entire (empty) population of humans in (empty) Gensokyo. There must be a (empty) festival going on today, or some kind of holiday at the (empty) shrine. There's...people. Right? Somewhere..."
The day ends, uneventfully. My hopes fall with the night, but watching the stars is more beautiful than it's ever been, and it raises my mood, if only for a moment. Stars. Wasn't that her thing, stars?
When I sleep, I dream. It's always vague – just colors, or feelings. Sensations. I can't pin a story, or events, but sometimes I string them together and think of my own. It helps pass the time, which is all there is to do any more. Walking the streets of Gensokyo, praying for something to happen, I decide that last night's dream was about Marisa. It was all running, fighting. Falling. There was darkness everywhere, followed by a blinding light, and then there was nothing. Nothing at all. Accomplishment, followed by dismay. It's a sad dream, and it kills me.
A week of wandering has produced no one. I haven't even seen Marisa again. I've taken over a farmland, for now...I'm sure I can figure out how to live off the land eventually. I've got a long life to get it down. Still, it's lonely. With no one to talk to, to live with, no one to even live for, there's hardly even a reason for me to have escaped. I mean...Is this freedom? Did I even want this all along?
No. This isn't freedom. This is Gensokyo. This is just an extension of that prison, and the only way to escape is to die...
Good job, Marisa. Looks like you made it out after all.
You’ve captured so many ideas that I’ve thought about Gensokyo before, in a way I have longed to write but have always been too distracted to try. The tyranny of Reimu Hakurei and her desire for “peace” at all costs…the oppression of innocent youkai, treated as no most than monsters for the enjoyment of humans…the futility of life, and yet the ever-present spark of hope against death, despite all odds…to win by dying, and to lose by living…
In reading this without writing it myself, I am given the emotions which would have escaped me, should I have been the author. A joy it is to write, surely…but an equal joy it is to read, to become immersed in a world like reality, a world you cannot control, but only feel and hear and see. And in seeing and feeling without the power to shape events, you experience a tale far more mystic and wondrous. When I write, I can never find the time to see a story in the same way; does a painter look at a picture the same way as the common man does? Does not the composer and the audience member hear a different symphony performed? How wondrous it is to be allowed this small joy of being a creator, and yet still being able to experience others’ marvelous creations.
This story moved me deeply, and that is not an easy thing to do. I congratulate you, and wish you well on your further endeavors.
Ugh... how did this trend start, anyway? Everyone acts like Reimu is batshit all the time. I mean, there's nothing wrong with using it as a "what if", like in this piece, but I seriously get the feeling that some people are starting to believe this is her canon personality.
>>77668 >I'm going to assume standalone, because I have no idea what you're talking about. Anon's escape to the moon sounds pretty awesome though. ITT we have not read Misadventures in Gensokyo. See >>/forest/12921
>>77808 >Ugh... how did this trend start, anyway? Everyone acts like Reimu is batshit all the time. I mean, there's nothing wrong with using it as a "what if", like in this piece, but I seriously get the feeling that some people are starting to believe this is her canon personality.
This, basically, though that itself I believe is somewhat based on an extrapolation and/or exaggeration of Reimu in the games and official fiction.
Sure, she's supposed to be a rather easygoing, laid-back sort of person, but between the way she soundly defeats all sorts of ridiculously powerful supernatural beings on a routine basis and her sometimes dubious reasons for doing so, I can easily see how she could be portrayed as being a somewhat nastier piece of work than she's supposed to be.
I mean, in SA alone she flat-out admits she has no reason for fighting Satori, whose home she just barged into, and after trying to come up with some excuse for fighting basically says "screw it, let's get her anyway".
And what about Tokiko in CoLA? Reimu beat her up, stole her stuff, and pawned it off just because she was there. She wasn't threatening the safety of Gensokyo, wasn't kidnapping or eating a villager, she wasn't even threatening Reimu in any fashion. She was just sitting there reading, minding her own business.
Take behavior like that, throw in her authority as THE peacekeeper in Gensokyo, and how could you NOT see her as the ultimate Bad Cop?
>>77929 The problem with looking too deeply into Touhou's story and characters is that for the most part, it's being told through the medium of a shooter. That's not good for story telling. Especially since for the most part which enemy characters you encounter is fixed for every player character. So you get people fighting when the only reason for their conflict is "it's a new stage, so you gotta fight someone" or "The only way to introduce new character x relevant to the plot is to fight them". Reimu/Marisa/Whoever is the instigator in many situations because of this, but the main characters aren't the only ones who do it. I'd say the best example of the medium hurting the story in IN stage 3. Keine has sealed the human village to protect it, due to the perceived threat of the fake moon. Along comes a vampire and her maid. To protect the humans, she fights them. Fair enough. But what if a vampire doesn't show up, and instead you get Reimu and Yukari? She fights them, of course. Because a youkai is a threat to the villagers, never mind that she's with a human, never mind that the human happens to be the famous shrine maiden (although there is no indication that Keine knows who the hell Reimu, or ANYONE for that matter, is. That's actually surprisingly common among new characters. Reimu and Marisa must not be that famous). Honestly, I'd say that Reimu and the others really only come off as being so mean because they're forced into it, and ZUN just makes up some excuse in the dialogue to explain why the people are fighting.
Although Tokiko only exists in the books, so Reimu was just being a bitch there and has no excuse.
The first one distracted the hell out of me by making me wonder who was narrating.
The second one, however, didn't have the same effect. Maybe I'm used to it by now. However, I do rather like the narrator being a not-pathetic Meiling! I would very much like to see a continuation involving Meiling's efforts to live and to perhaps help others escape.
Because Reimu is supposed to be a likeable person. ... No, really, that's the only reason. Danmaku duels are pretty much harmless (and also always consensual.) I think the fact that she attacks seemingly without provocation only reinforces the 'easygoing' element of her character. "Why worry about the small stuff when fighting is so much simpler?" she might say. "It's not like anyone is going to get seriously hurt."
Given, what happened with Tokiko was one of her "dick moments". Meh, it just goes to show you that she's not one of those "Word of God, holier than thou" types, and is instead more like a "normal girl". Plus, if we judged the touhoes on things like that, where would Marisa be?
>>77966 >and is instead more like a "normal girl". Yeah, because all normal girls physically beat the fuck out of people simply for being in the wring place at the wrong time.
No, that is not a normal girl. That is a girl with some severe trauma in her past and enormous aggression issues.
>a "normal girl" ...Fuck, I'm still not over it, and it bears mentioning again. I am bewildered to the point of irritation. What the fuck were you thinking when you wrote that? In what way is that the behavior of a normal girl?
Not the same guy, but Gensokyo wasn't always the utopia we see. From what we can gather from PMiSS, it wasn't that long ago that Youkai stopped being man eating monsters. So, it makes sense for humans to think that it's perfectly alright to attack the likely hostile monster and teach their children such. Not exactly nice, but it would be normal for Gensokyo.
Didn't turn out too good. Sorry it took so long. Tried to do what I could.
The forest of magic is home to a myriad of creatures, many of which pose no particular threat to people. The few that do, though, are enough to drive away any human being with an ounce of self-preservation instinct. One such creature now walks on an obscured dirt path, unkempt and overgrown but still noticeable enough, toward nowhere in particular. It's just a sunny day, and she was looking for an excuse to have fun.
Her bare feet, soft against the dirt, kick away clouds of dust with every step as she runs simply for the sake of running as only a child knows how to do. Without a care in the world, she jumps and spins as she whims it, sending her sloppy brown hair into further disarray and letting the wind flutter her deceptively complex dress – black with small, subtle threads that reflect the light into a beautiful rainbow when they move, like the scales of a fish. While the untrained eye might pin her as a harmless nine-year-old girl, a local could tell you in an instant to stay away from the man-eater. She's a glowing-eyed, sharp-toothed monster, likely to outlive your grandchildren and even more likely to tear you limb from limb only to reach your intestines and eat them raw, then and there.
She's also less than a week old.
But yes! Running. Lovely. Completely unaware of the intense fear people hold for her, she runs along happy as can be, because why not? Life is great, if a little harsh now and then, and the world is her oyster. If there's more in the forest to see, there's more people to meet, more to do, more fun to have! Which is why when a woman with a regal air about her crosses her path, she stops simply to say, "Hello."
The woman silently smiles in reply and continues ambling along her way, having nothing to rush for. She draws a striking contrast to the young girl, her steps so light as to be imperceivable and her clothes layered one on the next in loud, colorful patterns. Every aspect of her appearance is neatly groomed and reserved, from the buckles on her shoes to her hair, full of light waves that resemble a field of grain blown by the breeze. Even her expression seems serene and controlled compared to the young one's face, which betrays her emotions ceaselessly and clearly.
First, happiness. Curiosity, surprise, determination. As the child hops energetically around the woman, leaning in to get closer looks at her occasionally, not a word is exchanged. Still, they walk together, the woman at her slow, easy pace and the girl making up for it with unnecessary movements that send her bouncing off the nonexistent walls of the forest path. "So." is all it takes to send the girl sprawling in surprise, and still it's all she can do to tilt her head questioningly before the woman continues. "Who could you be, to have such an interest in me?" Most youkai know and respect her – fear her, even. This girl must have been sent on some kind of business, otherwise she wouldn't be crazy enough to bother her to this extent.
Seconds pass in silence, both waiting for the other party to finish their thought, until the woman begins laughing – softly, at first, almost inaudible, but slowly it picks up strength until she's doubled over and tears are streaming from her eyes. Phobe, then. When she finally calms herself long enough to speak, she says, "So what have you come here for, Phobe?" "To play." "Danmaku..."Well, it's been a while. Sure, let's play." She had been one of the prime targets for random challenges, people who thought themselves thrill-seekers or warriors looking for pride and fame throughout the years throwing themselves at her. Her record wasn't perfect, of course, but perfect enough. As the two of them rose and locked eyes, the anticipation of finding out which of the two the girl was provided just as much excitement as the match itself.
Lights fill the air, the combination of their danmaku twirling and streaming beautifully, complementing each other to the point where neither can tell whose is whose. The sight is unique to be sure, but only lasts a moment. Within mere seconds Phobe is shot down, leaving streams of rainbows and a distinct sense of confusion behind her as she falls. For the first time in a long, long time, the woman can't get a grip on her opponent at all.
The ground is a comfort against Phobe's skin. It's cool and soft, sifting its way through her fingers and toes as she tries to sit up, but it's little comfort in the face of that pain. It's all she can do not to cry, but even that can't last. The burning from playing danmaku never lingers long, but hitting the ground like she did hurt so much...She breathes in desperately, but never takes in air. The sensation is new, confusing, painful.
A plaid dress slowly makes its way into her line of sight, followed by a frustrated face. She doesn't even try to keep up appearances now, even her voice betrays how irate she is.
"What are you, crying? You call yourself a youkai?" Assent between sobs. "You come to me, knowing who I am, and you challenge me – and you really didn't think this was going to happen?" "I...I didn't though..." "What. Are you stupid?!" "I've never seen you, that's why..." "Why you wanted to test my reputation? Wanted to see if I'm as strong as I am? What the hell is someone with an attitude like that doing crying after they lose?" "T-that's why I wanted to be your friend..." "My friend? What are you, new?" With tears welling up in her now-red eyes and a twitching lip, she looks up at the woman and nods, too tired and hoarse from crying to speak, and in that moment all anger washes from the woman's face.
"...Get up." "But it hurts..." "I said get up." The girl's labored breathing fills the air, every muscle creaking to bring her to her feet, but each attempt is met with failure, her body falling with her tears. "What are you? Surely you're not a youkai. You must be some kind of insect. Maybe not even that, even that Wriggle girl is stronger than you. If you really want to be my friend, you're going to need more training than that."
Determination fills her expression and makes it hard for the woman not to break into a smile – more for the absurd combination with her flushed and wet cheeks than for pride – and she brings herself to her feet with a shudder. Her legs shake beneath her unsteady stance, but she stares at her opponent ferociously. "So, do you want my help, then? I can make you better. Make you more." She extends her hand, her face not betraying even a hint of emotion, and without another word, Phobe takes it. A serene smile spreads across the woman's face, and she pulls the girl into a tight embrace. "Good girl."
Hand in hand, they walk now for the Kazami mansion. Training can wait.
"Come on, you can do better than that. You should be able to strike fear into my heart! Now show me the meaning of terror!" "Grrrrr!"
The crackling fire sends an eerie light across the grandiose room, gently illuminating it with a constantly morphing hue. The effect would be perfect for Phobe's attempt at being fearsome, had it not failed spectacularly. Her back is hunched forward slightly and her arms are up just above her head, bearing her fingers menacingly in mock claws. A shadow lies over her scrunched-up features with the exception of her stunning green eyes, which seem to glow all their own. Ultimately, though, the effect does nothing more than make her tutor smile, desperately holding back laughter.
"You've gotta be joking." "Grrrrr!!" Phobe's efforts redouble, as does her tutor's. "Nobody's this bad at this..." "Grrrrrrr!!!", almost pleadingly this time. "I think we're done today. Go...play, or something." "Awww, come on, Yuuka! I'm trying!" Dropping her pose, she walks closer to Yuuka instinctually. Her eyes still can't see well in the dark and the dim lighting prohibits her from picking up on any details, which is why when Yuuka's hand extends for her face she has little time to do anything more than flinch before it connects, gripping her only just strong enough to hurt. "So am I. You're going to take a lot more work than I thought you would, and I need time to plan. Now go."
With a flick of the wrist Phobe is sent stumbling toward the mansion doors. She casts a trepidant glance back before running with all her might through the massive field of flowers serving as a front yard, leaving Yuuka to watch her from the window. Her face is flushed with frustration, unsure of whether incompetence lies with her pupil or herself.
"What am I going to do with that child...?"
The walk through the human village always was a risky one. Yuuka never provoked people, really – no reason to, after all – but there were always the stupid few who just couldn't grasp the concept. People who hated her for who she was, and people who fought just for the love of fighting, and she was almost always a target. Still, there's no better place to get supplies, so when the occasional idiot approaches her with some cliché line like "It's time someone brought you down a notch, you monster! Your reign of terror is over!" it's really all she can do to accept the challenge and try not to hurt them too much.
Sure enough, even with a mere child walking beside her, "It's time someone brought you down a notch, you monster! Your reign of terror is over!" A single, long sigh escapes her lips before she turns to face her would-be aggressor. Nothing special. "Phobe, dear, would you take care of this? I have business in this store." "Uh...Wha—" "Sicking your little pet on me, are you?! We'll see about that!"
Steeling herself for battle, Phobe is unsure of whether to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the situation or to take despair in it. Still, she's been thrust into battle, so there's only one thing to do...
In the store, Yuuka hums a happy melody to herself as she strolls nonchalantly through the aisles. None dare draw close, but when acknowledged they put up their best facade of calmness and speed her along her business. As she emerges from the store, uproarious laughter meets her as a frustrated Phobe charges, teary-eyed, at a very bored-looking challenger, who stops her effortlessly with a single extended arm against her forehead. Her arms flail futilely in the air for a moment before she's thrown back once more, only to charge forward again.
"Hey. You shouldn't bring your daughter into the city like this, it's dang--" And his mouth is closed quite forcibly by a slender hand smelling vaguely of earth which was not there a second ago. Following the arm in front of him, his eyes meet Yuuka's, which glow a gentle red as they always have. The effect here, however, siphons whatever courage he once had. "You shouldn't provoke a youkai like that. It's dangerous." A menacing grin spreads across her face, and it is the last thing the hunter sees before the veil of a nearby merchant stand covers his face. "We're leaving, Phobe." "O-okay..."
The walk home is mostly silent. Much of the way Phobe seems to have taken an outstanding interest in her feet, but once – just once – she says, "Sorry Yuuka..."
And Yuuka thanked her lucky stars that the child was looking down. The blush adorning her soft smile then would surely have crushed any respect she held.
"I don't know, Yuuka. This seems really--" "I know what it seems like and I know what you can do. You're better than you think you are, now do it."
They had planned to have a simple, relaxing day today. A walk through the forest, just like the day they met, to take a break from the harsh training that they had been through and to enjoy what remained of the summer, but upon Yuuka's whim they now stood in front of a massive tree, some 30 meters tall. Seeing the top from where they stood would be an effort, but what was asked of her...
"But...lifting this? I might be able to do one of the smaller ones, but--" "What's that? I couldn't hear you over the sound of you not doing it. At least try, how can you know whether you would be able to if you don't?" "If you say so..."
Slowly, she circles the tree, surveying its details and trying to find the best way – or any way at all, really – to go about her task. Her face is as easy to read as it's ever been – worry, quiet contemplation, and finally that same determination that had gotten her into this whole mess. Her fingers gripped the bark of the tree, eventually breaking through and creating crevices for them. Her legs spread and bent, and her struggle showed in in earth giving way beneath her, the high groans her voice had been reduced to, and in time, the tears welling up in her eyes from the effort.
Finally giving up, she rests against the massive hunk of wood and fights back her tears. Her hands are bloodied from the effort, and her muscles creak with every breath she takes. "I...I can't do it..." "Try again. You're so close." "But I--" "'Know I can do it and am about to try it again', yes."
She knows better by now than to go against Yuuka's words seriously, so even as her eyes and hands blind and burn from the tears, she resumes her stance against the tree, runs her legs into the ground and screams to give herself what little extra willpower she can.
Oh, so slowly.
Roots give way. Twigs snap. Birds fly away, startled.
And the tree rises – only just slightly, it rises – before falling on its side, next to an exasperated young youkai who stares in disbelief. Surely, it was a hallucination or a...trick of the light, or..."But no. The tree sits as silently as it did mere minutes ago, quite overturned, and a hand sits on her shoulder.
Phobe's grin spreads slowly until it matches Yuuka's, and in her excitement she leaps into her open arms. "I knew you could do it! I'm so proud of you, you're a real youkai now, Phobe!" Even as she spins Phobe in the air with her embrace, she can't help but be slightly saddened as she realizes the depth of that phrase - this would be their last lesson. With smiles still plastered on their faces and laughing giddily, Yuuka walks away carrying Phobe on her back, and vows to keep her little helping hand a secret. As far as she's concerned, her student passed all by herself.
I've got a request for your thread in forest if you're willing to take it. A continuation if you will.
Marisa notices David's been going out more often and it's been concerning her. She decides to follow him one, being as sneaky as she possibly can and finds him talking to and hugging Yuka when he reachs her flower field. Curious as to why he would do something like this she decides to hide in the sunflowers, a bit ineffectually due to Yuka's connection with them. Yuka finds this to be a bit funny but decides to play it cool and not tell David about this. Going as far as to be more affectionate to him and reaffirm that she's glad that she gets to know her son better to see if she can rile up Marisa. Marisa eventually gets so riled up she decides to hell with secrecy and pops out of the sunflowers to go see David about this and see if it's true. David affirms the fact that he and Yuka are indeed related shocking Marisa a bit. Ending in the three of them talking and Marisa and David heading home.
A bit of a tall request, but I'd greatly appreciate it if you were to write this.
Fuck you, I was referring to disposition. It's not the same as behavior, though it influences it.
Also, I think you'll find that in anime and the like, female characters beating the shit out of people (especially the male protagonist), justified only by flimsy reasoning or impulse, is quite normal.
>>82454 >Also, I think you'll find that in shitty harem anime and the like, female characters beating the shit out of people (especially the male protagonist), justified only by flimsy reasoning or impulse, is quite normal. Fixed. Love Hina is poison.
The human village – a hustle and bustle kind of place, where you can rest assured that youkai are the least of your worries, and you can find whatever it is you may be looking for, from flowers to furniture to friction-reducing gels – thanks to the industrious kappa inventors – or even just fever medicine, which some people buy simply for the opportunity to speak with the beauty behind the counter. Thousands walk its streets every day, and the lucky few in the town center are given quite the show: A puppeteer play, conducted by one Alice Margatroid with such skill and precision that to this day many insist that it's run by magic, or that the dolls have minds of their own. No one has ever spoken with her long enough to come to any concrete conclusion. In all likelihood, none ever will.
Today's tale is of a great empire with a benevolent ruler, brought burning to the ground by a single tyrant. Or lives, forever changed but for the greed of a single man; a melancholy story indeed. As always, when it ends energetic tears come flying forth from the energetic crowd, everyone having taken from the performance their own interpretation (But such is how these things go.) Fans asking for a conversation, or an autograph, even a single word, and as always her open case's gaping maw remains utterly empty, hungering desperately for nonexistent donations. The next show will be...I don't know, in a while, according to the puppeteer. She pushes through the crowd, dolls tucked away neatly in their places with the exception of course of her trusty Shanghai, which few ever see more than ten feet from her side. And with a sigh, her left hand finds its way around the throat of a shrouded young man who is now seeing very vividly why it was not in fact such a good idea to attempt to steal the enigmatic book that Alice holds so dear to her.
"Would you give that back to me? It's rather important, you see." As mechanical and rehearsed as her puppets, she speaks almost instinctively. Thirteen for fourteen this month, she notes – not a bad way to wrap it up. Still, if she can't improve enough to guess that fourteenth next month, another...incident. may arise. Few are stupid enough to let that happen, of course, but some clearly are. A hand on her shoulder rouses Alice from her musings, reminding her of the rather pressing matter of a now-blue fellow holding out a hand and the book within it, shaking from a combination of fear and breathlessness. "Oh, yes. My apologies, for a minute there I lost myself." Her left arm once again comfortably full and her back turned, all that she would ever hear from this one would be a thud as he hits the floor, and the heavy tapping of his footsteps echoing above the crowd as he runs in a panic.
Leaving her to think about more...worldly things. Such as her distinct lack of income, her omnipresent repair costs (Thanks to that damnable brute who doesn't seem to understand the concept of a locked door), the cost of materials for her craft, and her fear of losing yet another of the things she considers precious. Is money worth knowing that they will never be loved as much by their new owners, or that they almost certainly won't be held to such high standards of maintenance? If performing doesn't bring her money (Even if she does keep coming back, over and over, clinging on to the dear hope that just once they'll willingly pay for a skill that doesn't require such an investment of time and money) then it very well may be.
"Yo, Alice!" A voice calls out from a nearby herbal remedy store, and it takes all of Alice's willpower not to cringe at it. Speak of the devil. "Good day, Marisa. I trust you've been well?" "Not half as well as you, eh?" Marisa's elbow nudges Alice with such force that she finds it difficult to believe it's unintentional, straining her image of a refined lady even further. "I saw what you did to that guy back there, he nearly shit himself! It was awesome!" Boisterous laughter louder than most would think a girl of her size capable of flows from Marisa, drawing yet more attention to the already rather attention-demanding couple and leaving Alice more and more frustrated and wishing on all her lucky stars for people to just leave her alone for one day, for Christ's sake. "I have to say, I'm kind of rethinking my image of you, Alice!" On the verge of grinding her teeth, she replies, "And I you. I'm simply making a living here, but you're constantly out partying when you aren't shutting yourself in your study for days at a time or stealing whatever you want. You're really quite amazing." Marisa's grin spreads wider and wider as she speaks, completely oblivious to the fact that she's being insulted, but Alice makes no mention of it. Throwing her arm around Alice's shoulder (and knocking Shanghai free of her seat in the process, leaving her to float coldly) Marisa jokes, "Aww, shucks. You're makin' me blush. Really though! What I wouldn't give to be strong like that...Sometimes, you know, I forget you're a youkai at all." "It's not exactly something I'm proud of. Now if you'll excuse me, I do have business to attend to." With a brush of her arm, Marisa's hand and Shanghai are both back where they belong. "Right, right. See ya 'round, poopleaker." Before she has time to react, Alice is left staring infuriated at the flow of a crowd, having finally snapped under the pressure of Marisa's constant teasing, and having only just been abandoned by the one once hailed as the fastest in Gensokyo.
Her mood quite swiftly soured by that...intrusion, she soon notices a distinct lack of people around her. There are people, of course – but not quite the crowd you'd expect in this kind of city. Perhaps they're being driven away by the fire in her eyes, or the slightly heavier steps she takes. Perhaps it's even the tension in her features which subtly shifts the usually elegant and refined Alice to a frightening figure which demands respect and fear. Or maybe – just maybe – it is in fact the presence of another, far more elegant, far more refined, and far more terrifying individual: Yuuka Kazami, admiring the intricate yet naturally formed patterns of flowers which overflow from hanging pots in a subtle stall on the side of the street.
"And just what has you all in a huff?" Without even turning to face Alice, she speaks. Her voice seems almost perpetually soft, yet carries with it an authority which can freeze blood. Some swear that it actually does. "Nothing. Just...nothing. I'm fine." Lying to yourself is a bad habit and she knew it, but when you need to calm down and fast...Well. Some things start to look a little more acceptable – if futile. "You say that, but I can tell. Your heart is pounding so hard I can feel it through the earth, your facade of elegance is cracking with every word you speak. You're almost as angry now as--" "Please stop. I'd rather we not get into another fight today." For all the rage she can feel building in Alice, Yuuka's smile is unwavering. Anyone unlucky enough to pass by them can be seen very visibly attempting to hide their terror at the two, avoiding eye contact and quickening their pace. "Oh, I bet you would. Just remember who won last time, and who would win again." Seconds pass in complete silence, as Alice simply stares at her feet. Her face is nearly covered by her luxurious golden hair, yet a hint of red can be seen shining through it as she is put through yet another test of her will – this time to swallow her pride, rather than maintain it. Finally, barely above a whisper, "Yeah. I've got it. I won't be causing any trouble." Not that she would in the first place, of course, but to bow down before her like this is a disgrace.
"Lovely. Carry on then, wherever you were going. The flowers don't much care for people as wound up as you." With a line that would pin anyone else as just a little out of their head, she turns back to the flowers and continues the soft lullaby that she was humming to them, leaving Alice much more eager to retreat to...somewhere. Anywhere, just not here. Home, or to visit the Scarlet Devil Mansion, or off in the forest somewhere, even Marisa's house would be better than the village right now. Pounding the pavement, her head, normally cool and contemplative, is now empty of all but the basest desire, Just let today end, already.
"Heeeey. You listening or what?" Another surprise that shouldn't be a surprise. After making a quick mental note to stop letting herself get lost in her own thoughts, Alice turns to face...whoever it is, she doesn't even care any more – until she sees. "Why hello, Reimu. What a pleasant surprise." At this, Reimu's face tightens quickly and strongly. Whatever traces of relaxation that were in her are gone now, replaced by a sincere worry for her friend. "Surprise..."I was calling to you for a good minute. You look really down, are you all right?" "Oh, I'm fine. I was just thinking about...things." All the smiles and fake cheer she can muster don't phase Reimu's concern for a second, and knowing that relieves Alice immensely. Very few in this world can speak with Reimu on equal terms, and being friends with her was an even greater honor. Her insight here only went to prove their bonds. "I think you need some time to relax. I'm about done here, would you like to join me back at the shrine? Maybe get some tea in you?"
The smile on Alice's face makes any words she could say unnecessary.
"Well lookee here! You've gotten so big, I hardly recognized you, c'mere, sport!" For every calm, collected, and pleasant person, it seems there is an equally rowdy, scatterbrained, obnoxious individual that endlessly pesters them. Mima is one such counterpoint, and the current focus of Alice's dissatisfaction – or, rather, Mima's fists, which are currently rubbing her the wrong way, in the most literal sense. "I'm not a child, phantom. You can stop treating me like one." "Oooh, scaaary. Even though you've only been a youkai for what...ten years, against my thousand? Face it, kid – you're a kid. And for the record, I'm not a phantom, I'm a god. Get it right." "I'd rather you not put me on that scale. I'm old enough to be considered an adult by human standards." "And just what, may I ask, is human about you? You're a youkai, and you've been one ever since you opened that Grimoire of yours." "Mima. Stop." Quiet enough to be forgotten until now, Reimu makes her will known sternly, and hers is a will only the most stupid or the most brave would go against. "Why did you even do that? Didn't your mommy tell you not to?" "Mima." "Or did you stop caring about what she said after she--" "Mima if you don't stop harassing my guest I will stop you myself, and you know exactly what that would entail." Only when faced with the ire of the law of the land does the spirit's onslaught of insults finally end. The dead silence of the room is an eerie contrast to the energy present only moments before, and it lasts entire minutes before anyone dares break it. "Hey, uh...sorry." Silence. "I didn't really mean all that, you know? Just bustin' your balls, so to speak." Weak, forced laughter, punctuated by silence. Alice's sight doesn't even leave her cup. "Okay, okay, I mean it, I'm sorry. At least look at me?" Her pleas grow more desperate by the second, and her voice wavers, but Alice doesn't move a muscle. "I think you should go, Mima." "But—" "I think you should go, Mima." With a dejected sigh, she turns her back to the two now quite sour young women and fades into the ceiling, leaving them to drown in the silence once more.
"Hey...I'm sorry I let that happen." "It's not your fault. You have to deal with her all the time. I guess you just forgot, or something." "No, I mean...that." It takes a moment for her meaning to sink in, and when it does, Alice's shoulders slump even further. "...It's okay. Really." "…" "She was...causing an incident. Threatening you. Right? I know how these things work, I helped to solve one, once." "Alice, I--" "And back then, there weren't spellcard rules or anything like that. It's only natural that there would be a few casualties. You all knew you were risking your lives, it's just how the dice fell." Her hands, having abandoned their place at the table, now grip her dress. Every word out of her mouth is like dancing along the edge of a cliff as she fights off tears, every second that passes her fists tighten all the more until they threaten to draw blood. All the while, Reimu can do nothing but grasp for words that aren't there. "I...I'm sorry, Alice. I'm so, so sorry." "It's been ten years, already. We should both just...let it go. If you don't mind, I think I'll head home. It's getting late." "...Yeah. Yeah, you get some rest."
In silence, she leaves. The setting sun provides a backdrop for her walk home – too exhausted or perhaps too apathetic to fly, she can't decide herself. Back at the shrine, Reimu is still sitting. She hasn't touched her tea.
Alice Margatroid lies in bed, in complete darkness. Her feet ache, her fingers creak with every movement, her hair is disheveled and her nightgown has been given almost no effort into staying on. Even Shanghai is only given a loose grip underneath the weak comfort of her sheets.
Alice Margatroid lies in bed, awake and afraid. Her mind is filled with doubt and with bad memories that she wishes she could abandon, but never will. Sleep would be a welcome escape, if only for the night, but her buzzing thoughts don't permit her to drift away.
Alice Margatroid lies in bed, thinking of tomorrow. Of peddling off her babies, the dolls that she loves so much. Only the best ones ever get bought, and she knows it. The others aren't showy enough for collectors or playwrights, but she can't afford the materials for the good ones unless her performances come through like they used to.
Alice Margatroid lies in bed, and shifts her head to look at the last doll on her shelf. It's a modest one with a simple design. It's old, and it's not as professionally made as the others which have since found new homes, but it's still dear to her. The red cloth, the white hair done up in a ponytail, the tiny, detailed accessories and those beautiful wings that she had spent so long on.
Alice Margatroid lies in bed, crying silently into the night.
Yuka's toying was brilliant and Marisa's heartless competitiveness was believable. Things were already heartrending by the time we got unexpected relief from Reimu, but Mima's addition, though effective in provoking an emotional reaction, seemed unnecessary and uncharacteristic, and to finish it with Alice not even getting to cry in front of the one person who is truly concerned... well, it leaves this reader unsatisfied.
I have a bad habit of losing momentum halfway through, which I'm sure you've noticed if you've read much of anything. This is the kind of response I love hearing. I already know I did something wrong, I always do, but this sort of thing really helps me. It gives me something to think about for the next entry.
I'm sorry that I couldn't bring this story to the ending it deserved, but I thank you for your honesty.
Has a damn good point though. Personally I'd say that you made some parts unnecessarily long (primarily the dialogue with Mima).
Basically I think that the emotional impact would be greater if you'd leave more details up to the imagination of the reader. After all, what goes unsaid is often more interesting than that which is spelled out.
On the subject of Shinki being Alice's dead mom... Is there any canonical basis for her being dead? I'll admit I've never played MS. I know that Shinki supposedly being Alice's mom is based on the "Everything in Makai is my creation" line, but does she actually die at the end of MS?
>>89230 The worst part about posts like these is that I've seen Fight Club. If you have too (And really, who hasn't?) then you know exactly what I mean. Still, thank you - and I truly am sorry that I couldn't make it better.
>>89231 I don't know, actually, but let's just sweep that under the carpet. Nobody takes canon too seriously in here anyways.
>>89233 >Nobody takes canon too seriously anyways. That's true (Although I wish it wasn't so true). I was just curious if that had any basis. Or even if it was just a western-only thing, like leaking poop.
Personally, I completely disagree with it. To me it just seems like nothing more than "This possibility is not explicitly contradicted by canon, therefore we can say it's true", i.e. it's a crack pairing like Wriggle x Yuka, just in a more platonic sense. Even if Shinki created Alice, there's no basis for her acting as a mother to Alice. Plus, so what if "Everything in Makai is Shinki's creation"? I'd like to point out that when this line was said, Reimu/Marisa/Mima/Yuka was in Makai.
Reposting from /downtime/ for organizational purposes. --- Warning: This story contains a rather overt reference to a certain H.P. Lovecraft short, The Stranger, which I would recommend reading at some point before or after this. I'll also be posting here when I can schedule a live reading via a streaming site, because people seem to like my voice and I'm having relative trouble finding it online.
Vomiting has got to be one of the single most disgusting things I've had to do in my life. I wake up in the middle of the night, head spinning, and no matter how I sit or lay down I can feel my stomach pressing up against the sides of my body. Or not pressing, rather. Sinking. Fuckin' gravity. Then of course comes the weakness, all throughout me. Arms, legs, even up to my eyelids, heavier than heavy. Can't keep anything still. Even inside of me, I can feel my throat loosening, the burden of keeping food where it belongs suddenly too much to bear, so I run to wherever it's possible to run and even then it just can't be over quickly. Just when I want to get it over with, nothing happens. Dry heaves so hard they bruise my lungs, big chunky mouthfuls of half-digested food, over and over again, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for hours. Nothing settles my stomach afterward, nothing washes out the taste in my mouth all fucking day. I don't know if it's the same for everyone. I don't really care, it's not gonna change me.
This, by the way, is at home, and frankly the longer I can hold off thinking about the filth that's made its way through the alley in back of Sully's the better. The kinds of things that I've seen back here on better days kind of makes me start gagging by itself. You know what sorts of things go on in the city. If you don't, you're a luckier man than I am. Sometimes I wonder why I drink as much as I do. Usually goes away with the next shot.
Today is special in that it's not only the first time I've puked out here (There's a reason the "ladies" sign is scratched out, and everyone figures it out eventually.) but the first time I've been kicked out of a pub. I guess Sully used to be a chef or something. There's a reason he stopped doing that too, but good luck bringing it up without seeing some kind of consequence. I've seen guys walk out of here with glass jutting out of their arm, and I've seen 'em without arms for it to jut out of, but then those types can't really be called "guys", now can they? Testing his limits seemed like a good idea after the fourth 3:1 screwdriver – three parts vodka, mind. Luckily he knows me better than most of the chumps who "walk" through here, and gave me a "You've had enough." instead of an assortment of hospital bills.
For those of you patient enough to deal with me this far, you have only just seen the beginning of my night. Spoiler alert, folks: This is more than I can say for myself. What I do see however is a flash of blue off in the corner of my eye which is trying and failing to sneak up on me. "Boo!" Yep. "Mmmngh..." Let's show her a thing or two. Rise from the knees oh-so-slowly, bending at the back in just that way where you can see my spinal column shifting through my wet, tattered grey T-shirt - my drinking shirt, incidentally. Don't wear anything you don't want to lose when you plan on blacking out. Long, greasy, mussed hair full of knots and stray hairs from rocking out to the jukebox all night, lying flat in front of a pale face with bloodshot eyes. A gaping maw that lets out a low, guttural moan, teeth still dripping with questionable fleshy substances. Extended arms with fingers just a little too cold to comfortably call "human", all helped along by the freezing rain.
Most people would shake you off, or walk away, or ignore you. Some people would play along. Let out a scream too long or too weak to be real. Nobody in their right mind would believe that you were actually a member of the walking dead and freeze up in terror as you wrapped your hands around their throat, drawing ever closer until you can feel her ragged and interrupted breaths on your face. Nobody would let you collapse into them and keep right on puking over their shoulder. Nobody would slowly realize what you really are as what little heat remains in your body comes rushing to your head and seeping through the flesh of your neck. Nobody would rub your back and hold your hair, or run inside during a calm moment to get you some water. Not in this kind of a place.
Hello, nobody. Nice to meet you.
Tomorrow – that is, yesterday – came and went. I guess. I don't remember what happened with the girl after that or anything about her for that matter, there were no new numbers scribbled on torn bits of paper and shoved hastily into my pocket to gather lint until my vision cleared up enough to read them, and everyone at Sully's assumed she was my sister or something and I had called her when I got thrown out. Sister, my ass.
It's Sunday, I'm only just getting over a hangover from Friday, my work schedule screwed me out of a day off, and it's been raining ever since. If I wasn't a zombie back then, I sure as hell am now. Not physically, of course – it's been two days. Plenty of time to clean up and change my clothes. Mentally, though, it's all I can do to shuffle down the streets and look up occasionally to make sure I'm not ramming into whatever may or may not be there. Maybe even catch a glimpse of something interesting for a change. These days all there is to do is sit in front of a screen and collect cancer cells or drink yourself to death, but I already did both this weekend.
Every once in a while though you get lucky, you run into an old friend or you see some new shop open up like they always do in those places you know nobody would ever bother stopping. A Mexican restaurant, a barbershop, another different Mexican restaurant and why not? They're better than the last guys, they have a better plan, they'll make the place nicer, or that's what they think. Nobody once is nobody twice though, and invariably they go out of business after a short stint of people who like to explore new things. This time it's a book store that looks too small and too boring to compete on any level with a chain. Tut tut, so sad.
"See something you like?" An oddly familiar voice trying way too hard to be oddly unfamiliar. This has to be the worst Turkish accent I've ever heard. "Well hey there. I was just thinking about you." Nobody, indeed.
As it turns out, she doesn't look half bad. On the short side, though you wouldn't tell from across the street. Roundish features, kind of soft and sharp all at once, pale but healthy skin, shoulder-length blue hair (Blue hair, why not! It's not the craziest thing I've seen on a chick.) and two different colored eyes – one blue and one red. Her fashion sense could use a little work, but then everyone seems to be their own designer around here so I can't exactly complain. The one thing that does kind of stand out is the umbrella, and not just because I don't have one. It's old and beat up, wood where plastic or metal should be and an almost fleshy purple fabric that I can't pin. Regardless of what it's made of, there's holes all through it. Completely useless, but she keeps clutching it to her as though it's actually making her less wet.
And it's clearly not just for sentiment's sake, because she's offering it to me. "Looks like you could use another hand." Tough decision here. Ditch work and go hang out with the rather suspicious girl I kind of met a minute before blacking out two days ago and know nothing about, or be a good boy and earn my paycheck? "Not really, but a roof would be nice. Where are you headed?" "Nowhere in particular. I just like to walk around on rainy days. It's how I found you, remember?" "I suppose you wouldn't be too keen on ducking into a book store then." "A perfectly reasonable supposition." With a wink and a smile, she strolls nonchalantly into that shack of a store and flashes me the tip of her tongue as she disappears into it.
A minute later I'm in the hallways formed by dusty old bookshelves trying to find her. I already steeled myself for this, and if I'm gonna blow off work it has to be for a reason. Luckily, there's no one here aside from a couple of bored cashiers and I like the smell of old books. If she feels like hiding, let her hide. I'll sit here and read all day. Mind, only old books will do. The new stuff is all horrid recycled romance or wannabe action tripe, people stopped knowing how to write in 2011. Sometimes I have to wonder what happened, why people can't consistently put out good stories any more. The books here may be a bit more predictable, but that's because they made the cliches! They're cliches for a damn reason, these guys were good!
"Boo!" Oh. Right. Her. Sometimes, you know, I get kind of lost in my own rage, even if I do know it's all pointless and aimless. Who the hell am I supposed to get mad at for having opinions? "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to yell in book stores?" "Would you believe I've never been in one? Or at least not very far into one. Never made it past the door." Delivering a line like that without so much as flinching, she's either lying or one of the saddest children I've ever seen. "This must be quite the occasion for you." "Oh, yes. Big as a birthday." Smart-ass. "Well, happy birthday then. Pick one." Even if she is lying, nothing in here is gonna be too expensive and if she picks something good I might actually be able to take her seriously. Maybe even hold down an actual conversation.
At first, it's about the expected reaction. Somewhere between a giggle and a cough, she looks at me with perhaps a bit too bright eyes as though waiting for the rest of my sentence. A bit slow, this one. Cute though. Especially the way her smile fades just long enough to hit "shocked" before bouncing back to ecstatic, then gliding around there as she skips among the shelves, eyes darting from cover to cover faster than I can believe she's actually looking. Ten minutes later she comes back with significantly less skip in her step.
"I, uh...don't know what any of this is." Called it. "You don't do much reading, huh." Nobody does any more. "Well, no. None, really. I was hoping you could pick me out something good and scary, you seem like you like it here." "Congratulations. You aren't stupid enough not to ask about things you don't know about. You did however completely miss the horror aisle while you were running around." "So you expect me to believe that all books are good? Every single story in there is gonna scare whoever reads it? Come on, just look through it for me." Oh thank God. "Ding ding ding! I do believe we have a winner. Enjoy your fabulous prize!" I don't have to think twice about this. Not two minutes pass before I'm at the cashier with a collection of H.P. Lovecraft shorts in decent condition, wrapped in plastic for the walk to wherever it's going. This girl has to be one of the only other people I've ever met who's not about to read three pages of that and then never touch it again.
"I want you to read that. Pick random stories from the index and read them. Whatever order. Just make sure you read it all." "Got it." And as though it was the most natural thing in the world, she pulls me by the arm over to a couch they have set up in the corner.
And we read.
Now, I knew that she wasn't going to be very familiar with literary standards going into this. I knew she might be a little bit more impressed with it, not having seen much to compare it to. I did not think for a second that she would be as utterly oblivious as she is. Every twist, every surprise, no matter how predictable or how automatically the picture completes itself, has her absolutely spellbound. It's as though she never thought about the existence of things that aren't human.
"You know, this one...the way he describes this thing, it kind of looked like you the other day." "Yeah, that would be what I was going for. Haven't you ever heard of a zombie?" "...Zombie? What's a zombie?" See, this? Right here? This is what I mean. "You know. Dead and rotting people who've climbed out of Hell to get their revenge on the living?" "No, I don't. That's terrifying! What if they wanted revenge on me? I'm living!" "Man, what's with that attitude from before about only wanting the good ones? You'd be terrified by a kitten." "Hey, you've only scared me once and that was the first time I'd ever seen something like that." "Doesn't mean you're not easy to scare. You froze up before I even got my hands around you. Speaking of which, why did you even stick around me? You stopped and found me today, too. Usually going to choke someone isn't the best greeting, you know?" It's actually been bothering me ever since, but I've long since learned that you need to handle blackouts carefully. Hell, I still don't know her name. "Because, you scared me. I have a lot to learn from you." "About being scary? You'll learn more from these books than you could ever learn from me. I'm just a grumpy old drunkard." Never mind why she wants to be scary for now. The kind of day we just spent, I'll save it for next time. "Hmm...If you say so."
It's been a month and a half. The girl (Kogasa, as I found out after an awkward goodbye. There's no smooth way to tell someone you forgot their name after spending an entire day with them.) went on her merry way, and I haven't seen her since – though I did peek into that book store now and then under the pretense of buying something, while it was still open. She's been kind of running through my head, and I'm really not sure why. I'd call it love, but then I'd be as pathetic as a fourteen-year-old girl who's already planning out her life with this boy she really really likes. Regardless of what it is, it's a pain in the ass and I need to stop thinking about it before I get to work. The night shift is even more boring, if that's possible, and the sooner I start spacing out the faster my night will go.
Until there's a pressure on my leg. Something's grabbing me, pulling me down. Nobody close enough to hear me scream, I'm reduced to a pile of thrashing limbs on the slowly sinking ground. Arms and legs seem to wrap around me, and all my struggling proves useless against...whatever the hell it is back there, but I can't stop. If I stop I'll die so I have to keep running keep running away but my feet won't move and my body is getting colder I can't breathe the smell of dirt and mold is creeping up the side of my face it's all over fuck me fuck me fuck me...
That no one called me out on the clear failure of research is both relieving and saddening, as it means none of my readers are familiar enough with H.P. Lovecraft to call me out on my shit.
The short in question was not in fact titled "The Stranger", but rather "The Outsider", and is readily available online for all parties interested enough to read it. It is not one of Lovecraft's best, though it holds a special place in my heart for reasons I will not detail here. I apologize for the misinformation, and will attempt to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
The pale light of the moon shines down, dulling the normally vibrant colors adorning the bamboo forest. You might not think a bamboo forest would be particularly vibrant or colorful if you'd never been there, but if you think about it no forest really sticks to the one type of plant life. Sure, there's lots of green, but small stalks accompany the bamboo, adding their shades to the mix. Some even have flowers, the occasional hint of purple, white, or red all the more apparent for their contrast. Looking lower, small mushrooms litter the ground in the shadier spots and insects crawl along with their rough yet reflective shells, a tiny chrome rainbow forming when the sun hits them just right.
And, of course, the outside walls of the mansion quite literally built for a princess. The perfectly smooth surfaces and the stunningly intricate murals that no mortal being could fully admire seem to stretch on infinitely, a wonder of craftsmanship. As looming and silent as it is now, even the air around the place seems to vibrate with energy in the waking hours – not an entirely impossible feat in this sort of place, you must remember. The sheer number of living beings inside this labyrinth of hallways is nearly as incredible as its existence itself, and all of them have a job to do during the day though if you didn't know it you certainly wouldn't be able to tell. Nothing ever changes even when it changes, and no, that doesn't make much sense. Few but the new additions are bothered by it.
In the innermost chamber, lit only by dim candles placed in paper lanterns, sits the person responsible for the house. Around her, the floor is littered with sheets covered in poetry written only in the most pristine calligraphy, numbers and words arranged in odd grids, and artwork that would bring a grown man to tears. Many are crumpled and battered, some are torn slightly, and a few are simply covered in unintelligible scribbles written with so much ink that they seep through to the floor underneath them, but not a speck of dust or grime rests on a single one. Her five kimono are each more detailed and expensive than the last, lifetime masterpieces of only the greatest craftsmen, but to her they serve only as an inconvenience. Their sleek fabrics are no longer a luxury to her, as they multiply the already-uncomfortable warmth of the summer night and weigh down her every motion. The outermost is nearly half-covered with the beautiful monster that is her hair, long and thick as it is. From her almost inhumanly pale skin to her shoulders so obscured as to not even exist to her dainty, smooth feet and all the way to the floor, dragging and spiraling behind her in its resting place, not a single wayward strand ruins the perfect image that she's created for herself.
Perfect. She had come to hate that word – or rather, she thought she did, as they never really allowed her to hate things as a child. Hatred was a new and interesting privilege to her, and she couldn't quite be sure that she was doing it right, so to speak. Merely being awake at this hour is a thrill, and thinking about it is enough to bring her eyelids back from the brink of sleep. Not that there was any point in staying awake at this point, of course. Having already exhausted everything she knew to do to pass time by herself, all that's left to her is the small comfort of a window view of the main courtyard, the naturally-formed and unnaturally exploited rock formation that had been turned from a mossy snaking hunk of stone to a majestic dragon spouting water from its mouth, and the full moon in all its glory.
From the comfort of her bed she stares long and hard to the night sky, which seems to slowly fade to an even darker black, and is eventually replaced with fleeting images and illusions that see her through to the morning.
Sunlight filters in through the east-facing window, and the first rays of the morning pierce her eyelids without warning or welcome as any jagged, poison-coated dagger would. Her sleep-deprived body refuses to move despite her commands, the ever-increasing light of the still-rising sun, and the thumps and yells filling the air that are inherent in living here. She gets as far as rolling on her side once before her eyes droop shut again, but in doing so she catches sight of her room. The floor is clear, and smells vaguely of citrus, and the table that she had spent the night over carries two large stacks of paper and a neatly placed calligraphy set.
Somewhere between a smile and a sigh, the princess drifts off once again. Tomorrow beckons – or no, no, today. Not that they're any different at this point; it'll just be the same as always for the rest of eternity.
Another clear night, the first since before. In celebration, she decides on a whim to stay awake again – and why not? No one stopped her from sleeping the last time, and in fact they may have been grateful to have the task of serving her delayed. All the rabbits that would normally wash her, dress her, feed her, brush her hair, and entertain her had an extra six hours to themselves! Yes...Staying awake is a gift, not some act of rebellion.
Rebellion. The word rings clear in her mind, a taboo that she had already inadvertently broken once.
She'd never say it out loud, of course. Even thinking it sends a shiver down her spine, but when it occurs to her a thin smile spreads on her face. She fights it for a moment reflexively, another lesson she had drilled into her, but as thoughts rebound and reverberate in her mind they gain as much strength as her smile. There's no one left to hide it from, right? There's no reason not to smile. Why, there's no reason not to do much of anything. For that matter, there's no reason to do anything if she doesn't want to, she's a princess! The prospect is dangerous and exciting, eliciting a soft and rushed giggle which she covers with a sleeve despite herself. Just to seal the point to herself, she stands – quickly, and...And on one foot! The way she spins is reminiscent of a child having only just gotten a grip on moving, still ecstatic over every feat of balance that no longer fails them, and her laugh is unrelenting and deep.
Her blood rushes as she sheds her clothing, one piece after another until all that remains is a paltry single kimono. Dressed almost like a commoner, her gaze falls on the window. It's just large enough to fit a body through, though it's a bit high for one person. A person and a table, though, prove to be more than enough. Through the bumps and clatters, she drags her new platform to the window (Though she hesitates for a moment, as the noise went against her theory. If a perfectly smooth table is dragged across a perfectly smooth floor, there shouldn't be any noise!) and with a heart that seems to be attempting to leap out of her throat with all its spirit she climbs through and lands hard outside.
For the first time, she observes the mural on the outside of her wall. It takes much of the night, and her will gives way as the darkness gives way to the sun. Again, her sleep is uninterrupted.
The pale light of the full moon shines down, dulling the normally vibrant colors adorning the path that lay before the princess. Nightly excursions have made both her will and her legs strong, and the more familiar she became with the mansion the more her path had spread out to the vast forest. It didn't take long before the single kimono became less of an alien thrill and more of a comfort, reminding her of freedom rather than poverty. Even now, her heart is calm as she observes for the first time the life that she had been denied. The sounds of crickets remind her of the mansion during the day, a cacophony of life unique to the outside. Even the smell of earth is foreign, but through it all seeps...
Chicken? Something delicious, in any case, and something that sends her stomach into a rumbling fit. With a change in sleep schedule comes a change in eating schedule, after all, and it had been some time since she had been fed. Hopefully, she almost skips in the direction of the smell until a quaint stall comes into view. Flaps of fabric half-cover the cart on wheels, obscuring the lighting from inside but not the sizzling sound and especially not that tantalizing smell. Raising a small arm to clear the flap in front of her, she ducks into the cart with no small amount of trepidation. Two commoners are eating at the table, tearing away at chunks of meat with their bare hands and teeth. Their mouths are surrounded by a brown sauce, and their fingers are dirtied, but they talk and laugh with each other as though it were completely normal. Have they no shame?! Disgusting.
"Hold on a second, I'll be right with you." And the shopkeep, an enigma of age and gender. What the princess had thought to be an old man, tall and dressed in a ragged white shirt underneath wide-cut red pants covered in...some kind of paper – for all her education, she couldn't pin their meaning or purpose – with long, flowing grey hair, calls out with such a young and feminine voice. Truly, commoners are a sight to behold.
"That won't be necessary. I was just on my way out." "Oh, come on! You haven't even bou-YOU." The enigma turns from its work while speaking, hands still dirty with mysterious juices and charred flesh, but the moment it lays eyes on the princess its friendly demeanor turns to a terrifying rage. All of its muscles contract, creating a hideous face that seems to burn as hotly as the grill behind it. The two commoners quickly rush from their seats, leaving their meals to rot as they...fly. Fly? Well. Commoners can fly. That's new. Unfortunately, the princess is without time to consider this new information to any depth as a hand quickly finds its way around her throat. So aggressive, this one!
"I have been waiting. I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for so, so long just to get this chance. Do you even know who I am? What you've done to me?" Its voice quivers, hovering among emotions with such rapidity that its intent is not entirely clear. Quick, low and raspy one moment, yelling the next, and even letting out the occasional laugh, it ends in a whisper so close to the princess's face that she can feel its breath resting on her skin. "You are a commoner, and I have graced you with my presence. Why do you respond with such hostility?" Its response never comes, or perhaps she simply never hears it over the crackling of her flesh. It had started with a heat that she had dismissed as excitement, welling up from her blood. Now, however, the pressure from within her is unbearable, pain searing through every vein in her body leaves her praying for an outlet that comes in the form of a hole.
Despite the size of the fissure in her skin, very little blood pours from her. Instead, a high whistle accompanies her growing injuries, and steam jets from the wounds. Her near-white skin grows a darker and darker brown, until it curls in on itself, a black husk that could only once be called a body. Her clothes have long since burnt away and her fiery hair works closer and closer to her as her sad attempts at screams only pull in more heat, fanning the flames that occupy the space her lungs once did. The enigma's grip lets loose, and charred, brittle bones shatter one by one as they hit the floor. All that remains are ashes, which still carry a dull ember.
"Are you awake yet, princess?"
Again, her body refuses her orders. No muscle contracts at her will, but her eyes slowly open seemingly of their own will to bear hazed and blurry witness to the room that once served as her prison. When she tries to speak, all that comes out is a cough and a splash of blood no larger than the back of a child's hand.
"I'll take that as a yes. Welcome back to the world of the living." Her vision gradually sharpens, though from the voice and the distinct red and blue dress she had already known the identity of the person standing before her as her trusted consort and pharmacist. "We brought you a present for your return, milady. With all the time you spend at your work table, a centerpiece seemed appropriate. It's really quite beautiful, I do hope you like it." As the imposing figure steps aside, the first and most distinctive thing that the princess sees is the red. Such a vivid red. And so lively! Above the table, hanging from its neck and kicking the air futilely, is her murderer. Its gasps and chokes are the perfect seasoning for the sight of its hands reaching up and prying at the thick rope that suspends it, and the red shade of its face either from the slow onset of death or simple rage brings forth a giggle from the princess. For minutes, the two watch in silence as it struggles against its fate, occasionally giving up only to breathe a raspy and desperate breath and continue its kicks. Its eyes never leave hers, and its struggle is as undying as her smile. After a long and hard fight, its motions subside and its eyes roll back into its head, no longer even white through all the burst veins.
"Eirin." The show having finally ended, the princess turns her gaze to her partner. "Yes?" "Though I did quite enjoy that, I think I would have preferred the sensation of ending her life myself. This effort only gets half points, I'm afraid." "My apologies, princess. I'll be sure to let you at her when she revives." "Revives? She's another...?" "Oh, yes. Very much so. Shall we set her back where we found her?" "Please, do." Without another word, the ropes snap and the lifeless corpse falls into Eirin's waiting arms. As the princess is left alone, she calls out one last time. "Oh, and one more thing?" "Yes?" "Would you teach me to fly?" "Certainly." As simple as that, huh.
Laying in bed, she recovers slowly from her ordeal. The process is long and painful, but the thought of having found a new plaything brings a grin to her face. The thoughts of the fun the two of them would have tomorrow lull her to sleep. Surely, it will be a good day.
It has been four days since I have seen light. In this time, I've been able to do some thinking.
There are times in a man's life where he must come to terms with his own existence. That he is not in fact as great as he may have believed himself, or that he is nothing more than the species that he comes from. Perhaps he is aging, losing his respect, his money, or his mind. Perhaps he is simply in a philosophical mood, discussing universal truths with his colleagues simply to stimulate his mind and pass the idle hours. Me, though...My only companion is the cold earth beneath me. All that I can share my musings with is found in the hollow trunk of one of the forest's innumerable and seemingly eternal trees, and all that I can do now is ponder.
So what am I, exactly? All feeling with which I could find out has been stripped from me in this pervading darkness, and even now the echos of the forest come together in just that way that sounds like a woman's howling cry. The kind that feels so real you could swear she was there, just next to you, outside the tree. You could swear that some abominable creature was tearing away at her flesh, sucking down the blood that leaks out, ripping bits of skin (I've been told it's the most delicious part, though I've yet to try it myself) and savoring every minute of the meal while it dies a slow and agonizing death without even the release of unconsciousness.
And why not? Well, it's important to keep a strong grip on reality when you're in here. The slightest waver in your heart can set off any number of beasts and monsters and I don't know how they can tell but they can always tell and I do know that you don't believe me but at the very least you won't go in here after me, will you? I'm already gone, and the village is so warm and safe. Why would you even want to go somewhere so dangerous just to find some empty husk of a man (figuratively speaking of course) among so many empty husks of men? (Literally speaking of course.) No, no one will be coming for me. Strong grip on reality.
It's getting harder though, you know. Today, I was talking to myself in a language I couldn't understand. I like to think it was some kind of hidden knowledge or potential, but it wouldn't be the first time I forgot mid-thought what I was thinking about and it wouldn't be the first time I wondered if I've been reduced to shattered fragments of sanity that look vaguely like coherence from a distance (if you tilt your head just right and cross your eyes, it turns into a delightful little 3D dragon.) The worst, though, is when I think I see a person here with me. Always the same person, but never quite the same person, she takes many forms, all of them stunningly beautiful though at this point I wonder whether my standards haven't simply disappeared dissipated despondent distraught little me just stares and stares until she's too close not to tell. It's the hair, you know. Hair shouldn't be that clean with all this dirt and mud and there isn't a flowing stream for miles yet everything still manages to drink from it somehow and eyes shouldn't be that calm that wide that bright that sharp tooth jutting out from her mouth just enough to look cute from a distance but I know what it can do I've seen it.
Don't cry, she says. Run.
Footsteps but loud, pounding, echoing. Even being chased by animals is better than being here, and dying would be better than that but she won't let me. I've tried, believe you me, I have, but I fear that fear is staying my blade. Logic takes a side and fear takes a side and the knife goes right down the middle but the darkness itself seems to stop it less than a coin's width from me every time. Gentle whispers in my ear, joyous yet pitying, never words but always meanings. She wants me to live, even though she's already killed me.
They're supposed to be warm, you dirty bi
"He's gone." "You're sure this time? You've been saying that for four days."
In a small building, through an alley and underneath an antique shop, far removed from the streets of the village it inhabits, sit three young men. Two of them stare longingly into the sole source of light: a humble fire sitting in its place. Their expressions, deepened and scarred beyond their years, carry within them a blend of grief and duty. On a table in the corner lies the third. His image is a horror; patches of hair are falling from his skin, which grows paler and cracks to the point of bleeding with every passing day. His eyes, bloodshot and dilated, sleep without so much as blinking, and his nails run cracked and yellow. The walls around him are covered in deep gashes and splinters, evidence of the torturous clawing that has set upon them.
"Well, no, but at this point you should know what I mean. Why don't we just put him out of his misery? It's pretty clear at this point that when he comes back – if he comes back – he won't exactly be functional. Going without breathing for that long is bound to mess with his brain, too; haven't you seen any of those Kappa victims?" Deafening silence hangs in the air for a long moment, until the other's decision is reached with a heavy sigh. "...Wait until we're done. Make sure you give him all the credit in the letter to his family, if we get her." "And if we don't?" "And if we don't, then start writing a letter to your own family. I hear she gets a kick out of that sort of thing. In the mean time, have you heard from the guard?" "No sightings yet, but that's just from the ones that have reported back. We're still waiting on--" "They're dead. Call in the Hakurei, we know where she is." "And how do we support them?" "Pray."
How. How did this happen? Did this actually happen? No, no, I'm dreaming. I got a little too excited and hit my head, or the Hakurei blood isn't agreeing with me, and I'm just having a really really weird dream where some guy in a dress ties me up and drags me to some anomaly in a dress who then drags me to a big old building full of people in dresses who don't like me very much. Wake up...Wake up!
"From your behavior, I think it's safe to say you know why you were brought here." Some smug bastard in red and white. Don't think I won't rip your eyes right out of their sockets the second I get out of these bindings. Poke me with that stick of yours again, see if I don't. Come on. I dare you. "Only in one sense. Don't you religious types usually just kill me and call it a day?" "Did you think we were incapable of learning? Killing you hasn't done anything. We need more permanent measures." For all the big talk, the idea of something more permanent than death gives him a pretty funny expression. Seems like he's trying pretty hard not to let me see it, too. "Give the man a trophy! He's finally figured me out!" "Can't you do anything to shut it up?" A voice from above! "Oh-ho! Another one? I couldn't see you behind that podium of yours! Why don't you come out and look at the amazing captured beast, made docile by human hands long enough to point and laugh? Are the seals, restraints, and bodyguards not enough to quell your fear, or do you have even more severe delusions of grandeur than the rest of your kind?" "There is no delusion about it!" So yes then. "Do you have even the slightest idea who you are speaking to? I am the head of the great Saigyouji family, here to decide your fate, sitting above you in every possible way! Bow to me, as you would bow to a god!" Very yes. "She will do no such thing. You should know your position means as little to her as it does to me." "Now there's a face I know. And what a surprise, they've let you speak to them! Quite a long way you've come, dear." Traitorous sow. I can smell human flesh on your breath from here, yet they treat you as some kind of asset. Next we meet, you'll be eating fox. "I could say the same for you! Not a day ago you were uncivilized, running around in that forest of yours without a care beyond your next meal, and here we are discussing matters face-to-face. If I didn't know better I'd say you were human – though, that can be arranged." "Do not think for a second that you understand my motivation just because neither of us are built of flesh. Do you even know what I am?" Burning. All throughout my body, it burns, as though by a thousand needles dressed in magma. This is what it's like to be captured by a Hakurei, is it? Fine. No force. "A beast, awaiting a beating from its new master." "Then beat me and be on with it. Have you nothing better to do than make small talk with your prisoner?" A sly grin that has no place in such an oppressive room spreads across her face, only to be blocked before it reaches its end. Another human mannerism. Disgusting. "No, actually."
Dragged behind the reception, eh? Can't have the lesser folk watching your glorious forms for too long, now can we? The air here is thick, despite there being only the few "important" ones with me. Past some unnecessary number of hallways is a small, bare room with a single table and a window for a roof (couldn't even give me the one comfort...) and in the corner sits a woman whose clothes are too colorful for such a stealthy position, but her silence is as eerily concrete as her body.
"Sit." "No thank you." "Sit." Again with the burning trick? Really? Fine. "So. How do we judge it?" Ugh. How does he even move around carrying such a bloated ego? "We judge her like we would any criminal. It's what we agreed upon, correct?" "It's not just any criminal though. We've already killed it, though never as horribly or as abruptly as any of its victims, and if anything's happened for our trouble I've yet to see." "Your folly is in assuming that you are capable of more than a slap on the wrist. Do you have even the slightest idea what I am?" As the red-white opens his mouth, a particularly frilly hand shoots into the air. "Ooh, ooh, me!" "You're neither cute nor young, wench. Stop lying to yourself." "And you're the first youkai! Am I mistaken?" "Ignoring insults isn't wit-" Ow. "That's quite enough. Yes, Yukari, thank you." "It's more than that," Isn't it always. "This beast has tortured and killed no less than a third of my guard and every merchant that they were protecting. It's been solely responsible for the drought in goods within our village, and I demand repentance for them!" "You mean the drought in overly elaborate pottery that lines your halls, each of which could feed a man for his entire life?" For the first time, that statue in the corner moves its mouth. Glad I'm not the only one who hates him. "Your tongue has outgrown you, scribe. Still it and do your job." Sorry, miss historian. Your correction only fell on the ears that didn't matter. "We're not here to debate your lack of morals, Saigyouji. You're here to ensure the punishment properly reflects your lost goods, just as I'm here to protect the dignity of all the lives she's ended." "What dignity? They were all as corrupt as this bereft imbecile. Perhaps it's for the better that they died? At the very least, it discouraged more people from heading into dangerous wilderness." Ever aware of just what to say to piss people off without getting into any real trouble. You're a class act, gap-hag. "May I remind you of your vulnerability to most anything I touch? All life is sacred." "All human life, perhaps. How many cows have you slaughtered to feed your settlement here? How many of your own people die simply because others cannot live comfortably unless they do?" "A cow is not a man!" How forceful! I could swear the table cracked a bit with that. "Nor am I! Fear sustains me, as it has for thousands of years before, and your race lives on only for that purpose. You are a resource, and one which lives on as it does only in my good grace. I ask you again, humans – can you judge that which stands so far above you? I alone have lived as long as your entire race has, and I don't intend to die soon. Your pathetic existence relies entirely on sheer numbers. Even your best cannot live more than a hundred years, or tear even a single small tree from its roots." "Ah-ah, but they did capture you. There is something to be said for that." "And what did it cost them? A hundred men? Two hundred?" "Thirteen, with my help."
Don't get angry. Don't get angry. Save it for when you can move. Just remember to make every waking moment into an exercise in pain. Happy thoughts! She's going to see everything she loves killed in the most horrible fashion, by her own hands. Then you're going to make the humans repay her in full for her betrayal. Then you're going to cook her, then you're going to poison her, then you're going to dismember her in front of a mirror, then you're going to stab her eyes with hot knives so a bubble forms in the center, and then you're going to smile and you're going to start torturing her.
Shake it off.
"See? Useless. What purpose do you even serve in life?" "Change." A nearly inaudible voice from the corner of the room with more weight than its holder. This should be good. "We change things. We live our short lives, we expand our ridiculous numbers, and we change ourselves and the world around us. When was the last time any one day looked like anything but 'a day' to you? Has anything in your domain moved so much as an inch since you came into existence? We may die, but at least we can say that we've lived." "For what purpose? The world rots beneath your feet, you maim whatever earth you grasp and you kill whatever can die a convenient death. Is civilization really good for the world?" "By popular vote, yes." "Ahahaha! Beautiful, Akyu. Absolutely beautiful. And it gives me an idea for a proper punishment! Hakurei, would you help put our guest to sleep?" So that's how we're gonna play it? Wake up, get punishment. Great, less waiting this way.
Sweet dreams. I do hope you enjoy your little present. Your so-called family is faking their love and you're no better than an unwashed whore.
And stop giggling.
All I have is the sound of my heartbeat.
My last line of defense is this tree. Hollowed out like so many dead creatures in here, I can only hope that I can stay quiet enough to drive off...Something. Something is here but if I focus on Something then it's bound to find me, that's how Somethings work in this place. They can feel your heart in the air as vividly as I can hear the wind howling through the trees in just that way that carries the smell of food from miles away and makes you want to get out so bad but if I leave Something will get me or like how I can feel the millipede crawling along my ankle. I'm not sure which is scarier. Centipedes are the meat-eaters, right? Right. Yeah.
Still, it's...dark. Too dark. Night doesn't get this dark. This is eyes-closed-at-night-with-your-hands-covering-them dark. That can't be good, because that's how Something gets you. It gets all dark and then they're on you, and you can't move at all but you can smell raw meat on their breath and their eyes are as red as their claws and they're stronger than you could possibly imagine, which is as far as my imagination gets before it shuts off. Something is pretty scary though. I'd hate to get caught after I've managed to run away for so long. I've lost track of how long it's taken, but I think I'm winning. Until there's...stomping, so hard I can feel the vibrations in the ground. Before I have a chance to pull my head down...
"I found you!" Poo! Maybe she's bluffing...just keep hiding, keep hiding keep hidEEE! "That was a good spot, but you already used it last month. My memory isn't that bad!" "Fine fine you win just put me down! Just because you're taller doesn't mean you can keep picking me up like that." "I know, I know, but it's just so cute the way your arms go out every time. If you made airplane noises I think I'd have a heart attack." It's not nice making fun of people's reflexes, you know... "Come on, I'll walk you back to the stall. You were the last person I found; for being so young, you really know the good hiding spots." "What can I say? I'm good."
Back at the stall, Wriggle is looking awfully intently at a bunch of glowing bugs, and Cir- "Cirno! How many times have I told you not to get near that grill? Do you know how dangerous it is?" "I'm hungry! You took way too long finding the new kid, I can almost see the sun already!" Whoa. Really? "That's a lie and you know it." Guess not... "And it's not my fault Rumia's a hide-and-seek prodigy. You'd have never found her." "I did though. Faster than you, too." With that cocky little smile she's so good at, Wriggle extends a single finger to the skies, revealing a monstrous millipede spiraled around her arm. "Fine, then. You decide the next game." "It's been a while since we went hunting, hasn't it? If it's this late, we might even run across a human that was stupid enough to wander in here. You guys in?" That doesn't really... "I think I'll pass for tonight." "Oh come on! You have to learn how to do this some time, and there's no time like the present." "Sure there is! Tomorrow. Promise." Go on. You can go have fun without me. "Well, if you say so. You remember how to find us if you get bored, right?" "Don't worry about it, I'm probably just gonna go to sleep." "All right. Don't let the red-white bite!"