Even so, I'd rather have her beside me. I know she'll do what she thinks is best for me. I think I'm the one closest to her, same as she is to me.
As for Rin, I can't say the same. I don't know her. From the looks of her, she could subdue me with no trouble if she so wished: weak people don't spoil for a fight as she did — I'd know. And I'd be completely alone with her. It might be a tad paranoid of me, but I've earned my paranoia. I'd feel more at ease with Yamame around..
Of course, I don't communicate any of my thoughts. What I feel or don't feel has no impact on anything. Luckily, however, the fates are going my way for once.
“I'll go.” She draws herself up as she says it, sticking out her chest. Rin also flicks her eyes downwards for a split second, perhaps just now noticing Yamame's impressive... stature.
“Very well. You'll have to deal with miss Satori yourself, though. If her sister doesn't come home for too long, she gets a little... on edge.”
She nods, eyes filled with inexplicable resolve. I'm not sure where it came from, but I'm not about to refuse help.
“Then we have no time to waste.” She cracks her knuckles theatrically, suddenly looking like she's enjoying the moment. Her fangs peek through her grin. What a strange girl. “Bring along your food, water and a change of clothing. The trip isn't short.”
Oh yeah, it's really quite far, isn't it? Through the tunnels, over the chasm and the bridge, past the city and all the way at the mouth of the fiery tongues of old hell proper. As soon as I think of the distance we have to cover, the old exhaustion descends upon my head like an iron anvil. I've already flown around so long today... I'm not accustomed to being this active, you know? And no, passing out drunk doesn't count as proper rest.
I'm reminded of how bad I am at hiding what I'm feeling. “If you're that tired, dear, you can ride with me!” She winks, tipping a wheelbarrow that wasn't there seconds ago. “It's the Rin-Rin express! How about it?” Her grin is a little too impish – even for a cat-devil who works in hell. I shake my head.
“That's a shame.” She all but confirms my fears. “It's been too long since I've had a willing passenger. Well then, if we're all set, this way please.”
Neither of us do get any water, or food, or a change of clothes, but along we go anyhow. We set off, at first fast enough that I'm scrambling to keep up, but our chattering guide soon slows to a comfortable pace, with no prompting to me. I think she's more observant than she lets on.
And chatter she does. She talks entire way to the palace. Through the caves, she speaks of the one she calls little brothers, sisters and cousins, who mew, bark, caw, whistle, roar and snarl freely in her home, bunching around her master like a swarm around their queen. Something about how someone who is liked by animals can't be a bad person.
When we went over the chasm and I felt Parsee's eyes on us, she spoke of her mischief on the surface, snatching corpses from right under the humans' whiskers, living among the nearly-dead and the nearly-dying. She says humans in their deathbeds are possessed of an irresistible urge to think of everything they failed to think about in the rest of their lives. To tell tales and discuss philosophy, even if they spent all their other years scoffing at storytellers and philosophers. From what I gather, this tendency greatly pleases Rin.
As we pass over the Ancient City — now in the dying moans of their artificial night — she speaks of her good hell-raven friend. “Good friend” are her exact words, although the next twenty minutes of her speech are dedicated to how forgetful, careless, immature, insensitive, naive, defenseless, stupid and altogether a bloody helpless idiot her “good friend” is; all delivered in the tone of someone who knows they're complaining for the hundredth time about something that can't be changed. I can't say I understand the sentiment.
I don't mind her speaking. It was annoying at first, true, but she seemed to grow more excited about her own words. As we grow closer to the palace, she raises her voice, fully narrates and even turns to gesture her tales to us. It turns out to be very difficult not to go along with her. Even Yamame, not usually the most sociable with strangers, seemed to hang on to her words and even occasionally prod her for clarifications and details, which she seemed very glad to provide.
With such a skilled entertainer in our little troupe, it's no wonder time passes us by nearly unnoticed. It's a good thing too, because if I was forced to come all the way here in complete silence in the state I am, I probably would have passed out midway through. By the time Rin decides to take a break from talking, the great Palace of Earth Spirits is within easy walking distance.
Rin drops onto the barely traversed path from way above what would be safe for my knees, not making a sound when she lands. Like a cat. Showoff.
“Here we are, my humble home. What say you?”
It's... different from what I expected. It's certainly not what I envision when someone says 'palace'. Rather than tall towers and gold-gilded gates, it's more like a mismatched mish-mash of elements. There's the prohibitive bare barred iron walls and gate, slightly rusted here and there. Just beyond is a very expansive rose garden in pink, red, white and yellow, arranged nicely in neat squares. The rose garden is flanked in all sides by more gardens, of every growable vegetable and fruit I can think of, plus some I can't. Apple, lemon, mango trees. There are even... are those really? Yes, they are. Those are watermelon vines. I can tell because there are watermelons attached to them. It's all very neatly cared for, with absolutely no overgrowth anywhere that I can see. A simple paved stone path snakes through the garden, giving it a homely kind of feel.
Now, this would be all well and good... if there was any sunlight down here. As it is, it's a garden growing under the waving dim light of lamps and torches. How the hell does it work?
“The mistress enjoys her gardening, see?” Uh-huh.
The residence proper is more like a gigantic block than what I'd think as a palace. About the only thing palace-like about it are the solemn, somewhat grim stained glass windows strewn about nearly haphazardly. I'd like to meet the one who designed this place and ask them a few questions.
Rin pushes open the unlocked gate, and it gives with a loud whine, as if complaining that we didn't just fly over it. “Come along! Please don't step on or pick the flowers.” We follow her through the path and as she opens the large gate with a mighty push, not bothering with the eye-shaped knocker, with the same cables I saw on Koishi saving as the handle. Creepy.
The inside is, well... populated. Rin had told me, but there really are a lot of them here. At least in this entrance hall it's mostly cats and dogs, but I spot a sleeping fox curled into a ball, on one of the couches. There's also a really big parrot of a startlingly loud blue perched peacefully on a lamp. A half-dozen mixed mutts yip and lick at Rin's ankles, competing for her attention as she pets each in order. One kitten tries to clamber up her dress and gets slapped down as gently as something can be slapped down.
It's lively in here. Yamame asks what I'm thinking. “Isn't there trouble with this many animals living in one place?”
She smiles like she'd been expecting the question. “Miss Satori is very good at keeping them in line. Plus, most of the wilder ones roam more than they stay here.”
“If you'd be so kind as to wait, I have to go warn her she has visitors. You can stay here or go explore wherever, I'll find you when she's ready for you. I only ask that you don't go into her room.” She does another curtsey and disappears inside a hallway with a dainty “I'll be back soon.”
I peer at Yamame, who seems to have repelled every animal who happened to be in her path. I think a couple of cats hissed at her as she walked by, even. Not much one can do about that.
[ ] Explore! -[ ] Rooms -[ ] Kitchen -[ ] Backyard -[ ] Garden -[ ] Other? [ ] Stay put with Yamame and wait.
I have a host of very good reasons not to go trotting around someone else's home completely unattended, especially so when it's a palace, filled with potentially expensive, breakable objects and corridors to get lost in. The greatest reason, though, is sitting right nearby, looking even more anxious than me. She shifts in her seat and fiddles with her hands, looking thoroughly uncomfortable. The way her eyes sweep the room, you'd think she's scared of kittens and dogs. But I know that's not the case. The reason is something much worse. Thankfully the herd of pets has enough sense to keep away from her also. These are just regular animals, far more vulnerable than a youkai like me.
As for me, well... I really want to go over and pet them. Can you blame me? It's a sea of cute small furry creatures. There's a litter of black and white kittens that look like they just opened their eyes yesterday, tripping and jumping over each other adorably. I want them. I wanna take them home. But that wouldn't be very fair, would it?
Yamame probably feels the same. It'd be like taunting her. I have an idea, though. It requires some sacrifice from me, but I think I'll do it.
She's seated at a corner of the only couch in the sparsely furnished room. It's mostly empty space for the occupants. She squeezes herself in like she's the tenth occupant and struggling for space, trying to make herself small. Okay. I need to think of a good approach for this. I circle the clearly distressed Yamame, watching her ribbon bob as she fidgets. I think she's forgotten I'm around completely. Alright, this should be pretty simple.
I settle down right next to her, inadvertently nearly startling her out of her skin, if the jump is anything to go by. She shoots me a confused look. That's good, I'll take confusion over what she had before. I riposte with my best innocent, happy smile. It's not one I get to use very often, but I think I manage to pull it off fine. For a while, she stares and I smile, like a strange sort of friendly stalemate. I guess this is kind of awkward, but neither of us have enough experience with socializing to properly appreciate it.
I dip my head slightly and close my eyes. Come on, do it. We both know you want to. Look, aren't I inviting? I shake my head just a little bit, hear my hair clips clicking together.
Ah, there it is. I feel her hand brush my hair — very very lightly — then recoil.. Like she was hesitating and accidentally touched me, which is probably what happened. Finally, she relents, and I can hear her sighing above me. It's a good sort of sigh.
“You're really going to catch something eventually, you know?” She mutters more than says. Of course, I can't very well enjoy it. Not yet, at least. My neck tenses painfully as her hand lands lightly atop my head. I have to consciously remind myself not to jerk away, to force my thoughts to stay here, in a nice place. It's not so bad I can't hide it, however.
That's good progress, compared to last time she tried.
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Now that she's gotten started, it's going to take something significant to get her to stop, I feel. She messes up my hair then moves to behind the ears. I bear it all, breath held. I guess it doesn't feel so bad, physically, but it just invokes terrible, terrible feelings in me. As expected, she doesn't stop so easily. I don't know how long we sit there, but it sure feels like a long time. By the time she's done, my scalp is thoroughly massaged and my hair thoroughly messed up. More than before, I mean.
“Ahem.” Another jump by Yamame. Kind of jittery today. She tries to back away from me quickly, even though we're practically glued to each other on this really wide couch.
“Oh, don't mind me.” It's Rin, right next to us. I'm surprised she got this close without either of us noticing. She does another quick bow, “I didn't want to interrupt, but I've been standing here for some time now.”
Yamame lets out an embarrassed “Yes, of course” as she gets up, dusting off her dress, more as a nervous tic than out of any real need to.
Rin guides us through the mansion. I'd describe what the inside of it looks like, but I was too busy hiding inside my bucket. What? I got embarrassed too.
After a rather extensive trek, we arrive at a more ornate door than others, in worked wood. Rin knocks twice and opens what I thought would be Satori's room, but turns out to be wonderland. It's a huge room filled with rows and rows of shelves. There's like... ten of them! It's more books in one place than I've ever seen in my life. Hell, it's more books than I've ever seen in my life altogether. The delicious distinctive smell of knowledge fills me as soon as I step foot inside, so to speak. Oh, all the colorful spines lined up. It's just beautiful.
It takes all my meager willpower to stop myself from darting up and disappearing among the shelves or at least taking a few books and hiding them with me. Besides, that would be stupid, considering our host.
Speaking of our host, where is...? Ah. I see her. She's nearly camouflaged, hunched over at the reading table at the center of the library, amid a pile of books. My first impression is that she's very small. Almost as tiny as me. Rin said she'd have to get ready for us, but I have a hard time believing she's done anything. The messy fading-pink smock with a button undone, the disobedient locks of hair coming out of her head every which way and the slight border of black on her eyes tell me she must have just gotten out of bed. I don't know what kind of 'getting ready' she did, but it sure wasn't of the prettying up kind. There's also the big red eyeball looking directly at us, but I was expecting that.
She's very deliberate about putting the page marker on, closing the huge tome she was buried in and putting it aside, needing almost visible effort to lift it. Even though she's small, I can feel a kind of intensity from her, like a particularly scary librarian. It's enough to make me sorta kinda hide behind Yamame. Just a bit.
She looks straight at us, but addresses the cat instead. “Rin? I don't recall asking you to bring a health hazard into my home.”
Two girls in the room both flinch simultaneously. Rin's ears lay down flat against her head.“Miss Satori, please...”
Her gaze shifts. “I'll assume you were at least thoughtful enough to offer the guests some tea? A slice of cake?” She looks down.
“I see. Aiko, you're a competent one, why don't you go fetch us some tea? Use the good one, if you please.”
A previously invisible little fairy with a halo on detaches herself from a wall and flies quietly out of the library.
Satori pulls on one violet strand of hair idly. Springy. “I hear you have some news for me about my sister. Before that, though, why do the both of you need to be here for this?”
Surprising me, Yamame perks up to answer that. “Well, we–“ “Silence, please.” Isn't that rather rude?
She complies anyway. The attached eyeball keeps fixedly staring at us. It's a tad unnerving. “Aha, I see. That's very admirable of you.” It sounds like that should have been said with sarcasm, but she sounds sincere about it.
“You, then? Come on out from back there.” So I do. “A little closer, would you? I want to get a good look at you.”
Feeling a little self conscious about being put on the spot like this, I go over to her. My eyes wander to the stacks of books on her table. Encyclopedias, it looks like. “It's good to read, but right now—oh dear.” She pauses as I get near her, her voice getting softer along with her eyes. “Are you alright?”
Am I alright? I feel alright. I look down at myself. I seem to be unharmed.
“That's not what I mean. You're terribly thin. When's the last time you had a good meal? You need some meat on your bones.” She reaches out to me, but I dodge her hand. She doesn't seem to mind too much, aside from an odd look. “And so filthy, if you don't mind me saying.” Well, I know it's the truth, so there's no point getting mad over it.
Satori smiles for the first time. “You have no idea how often I've gotten people mad for thinking exactly that. Before we talk of my sister, we need to get you fixed up. This won't do at all.”
She gets up, smoothing her dress out. She still looks really small. “Rin, go draw a bath for her.” She turns to me. “Our kitchen is fully stocked, and you also look like you might need a good bed. Am I wrong?” Absolutely not. I'm on my last legs here. “That's what I thought. Of course, the same will be provided to your friend, as long as she stays away from my cute pets.”
Yamame lets out a breath she'd been holding. I think it's of the relieved sort.
“It was. Which will you have first?”
[ ] A relaxing bath would go well. I can't remember the last time I went to the hot springs. [ ] Food? Well, I'm in a permanent state of hunger, so... [ ] I just need to pass out somewhere.
Ehhh... Went sans real proofreading today because I can't be arsed. Hopefully nothing too bad in there.
Yamame stays behind to talk about something with our host. To be honest, I don't really mind. I'd like to be alone for a little while now. Another fairy guides me through the surprisingly empty corridors of the mansion. There's just doors and more doors. These must be guest rooms, but what for I don't know, since Rin did say they don't get many guests. We pass a number of fairies on our way, flitting around in groups of three or four. It takes way more time than it should to get where we were going. I really have to wonder what practical reason there could be to live in a mansion so huge. Oh, there's the animals, I guess. I'm still not so sure. Imagine the amount of work that goes into caring for, cleaning after and feeding all of them.
The fairy delivers me to a door like any other in the mansion, explaining that I just have to turn the knobs and hot water comes out, like a hot spring on demand. No heating needed. I'd ask how it works, but it's very unlikely she'd know.
And then she's gone.
I feel my shoulders unknot almost as soon as she leaves. Finally I'm alone again. It's like I've had a sack over my head, preventing me from breathing for the past several hours, and suddenly it's been removed. Phew. I open the door up and go into the most pastel-coloured room I've ever been in.
It looks fairly luxurious, for a bathroom. The multicoloured tiles, the western style bathtub, the dozen different types of soap near the tub. All sparkly clean. There's even a big full-body mirror, but I think I'll avoid looking at that one. Yeah, I think I can relax in this place.
The bath is already filled with gently steaming water, fogging up the place a bit. I know you're supposed to take a shower beforehand, but... I just can't wait. It's been so long since I've felt nice warm water on my skin. I do remember it being very pleasant. Now to get these rags off me...
“Let me help you with that.”
Oh, damn. I recognize that sing-song tone. There's a hand on my robe. I stumble forward in the air to get away from her before she can rip my clothes off, as I'm sure she would.
“Aww. Don't be like that, you. We're both girls, there's nothing to be ashamed of.” No, no, that's not the issue. The issue is that you left me in the middle of a panic attack with an unfamiliar person. In possibly the most hostile environment to me: the middle of the city. I turn around, intending to give her the angriest stare I can. But... She already has her top out, and is in the process of sliding her skirt off. I whirl back around.
“Aren't they frilly and cute? I found them in a shop aboveground, full of stuff from the outside.”
They... are, but that doesn't matter right now. She reaches for me again, but I jerk away. A pause. “Could it be you're upset about before? Come ooon, I know Yuugi. She's trustworthy and a nice person, there was no danger.”
Ah, geez. I feel like it's gonna be pointless to stay mad at her. She's just going to carry on as she was regardless of how I feel.
“Good, now be a good girl and let me take your robe.” Sighing, resigning myself, I let her slip it from my back, which she does with considerable enthusiasm. Well, a bath together isn't the worst thing she could have asked me.
There's an excited gasp from Koishi. “Wow. What's this?” Hm? She drags her fingers through my back lightly. It's kind of ticklish. “It looks amazing! Where did you get it? I think I've seen a few humans with these.”
What the blazes is she talking about? I didn't want to look in the mirror, but I'm kind of forced to now. My back? What the hell is on my back? A few steps over that way, a look over my back, and... Wow. It's true.
How come I've never seen it? Come to think of it, when was the last time I saw my back? Have I ever? Engraved on my back in what looks like perfect black ink are a series of black... circles? Overlaid and scattered around my lower back like gears on a clock, adorned at the borders with strange runes that I can't read at all. At the very center, the largest circle sits, lines running across it in the shape of a star. The way I live and my general aversion to mirrors must have made this go hidden for as long as I remember.
I'd like to know what the hell this is, and why it's there.
But I don't think I can find out right now. There's a certain someone pulling me by the arm insistently. She's lost interest already. “You can gawk at yourself later. Drop your bucket, we're going in.” Fine. I'll think about it later. She's right, anyway. We're both girls, so there's not much to be embarrassed about. We're just having a bath together, it's nothing big. That's what I'm going to tell myself, anyway. I drop down to the floor and step outside, only hesitating a little. I guess she's worked her weird mind magic again, because I feel relatively well and safe outside. She's shed the rest of her clothes by now, showing the rest of her body. She's kind of... modest in proportion. Not as much as me, though.
She goes in first, then pulls me in by the hand. The warm water really is as heavenly as I remember. Is there anything more relaxing than this? I settle on her lap, like I did when we were over the ancient city together. It's really comfortable. I did want to be alone, but... this isn't so bad either. I close my eyes almost unconsciously. Her cords brush against me. They feel smooth... It's weird, but not unpleasant. The bathtub is only for one person, but I'm small myself, so it's not much of a squeeze for both of us. Koishi giggles behind me as she removes my hair clips and tosses them aside. “Right at home, aren't you?”
W-well, can you blame me? Plus, it's not like we're doing anything wrong. “You look like a mess. Dip your head in so I can wash your hair for you.” I do, feeling my hair sticking in clumps to my shoulders. This is... how life is supposed to be, right? Normally? It's how I wish it was for me, at least. It'd be great. I better enjoy this while I can, because I know it's not going to be permanent.
Humming a made-up song now, she pours a generous amount of some sweet-smelling liquid directly onto my head from a bottle. Now that I don't have to worry about my thoughts wondering, it feels... really good. She scratches and massages, spreading the bubbling liquid everywhere. It's so good. By the time I notice what I'm doing, I'm already leaning back against her, eyes closed. Hmm.... I can't stop the little sighs.
She moves down, pressing her fingers down on the back of my neck as she does, and my shoulders. “Look at this,” she whispers, much closer to me than I expected. I'm the one slumping against her, though, so it's my fault. There's an exceptionally strong squeeze that nearly makes me half cry out before I catch myself. “Look at how tense you are. You really need a massage. I can do it while I clean you up! Isn't that practical?”
Um... Okay, I guess. I scoot forward to give her easier access. At once she's at it, spreading some mysterious cold, slippery liquid from yet another unmarked bottle on my back. She's really forceful about it, too, like she's trying to rub it into my skin. It even makes little waves on the tub. She traces along my spine and sides almost all the way to the front, tickling me, squeezing and scratching with her nails. She follows on through to my lower back, under the water. I don't know where she learned all of this, but she's really skilled at it. Still, it's started feeling kind of... strange. Everywhere she touched with that oil feels like it's heating up. I...I think I want to finish it up by myself here
I try to move, at least sit across from her, but she grabs me by the stomach and pulls me back towards her. I smack into her with a wet noise, splashing the bathroom with water. I'm suddenly very aware of her delicate curves on my back, the pair of slight swells pressing on me. She wraps her arms completely around my stomach, locking me in place, and lowers her head next to mine. Um... She's so close. I feel her cold lips touch my ear as—Aahh... “Don't run away now. There's still so much to do...”
Even though I feel really warm, I only stop shivering several seconds later. Whispering in my ear like that isn't fair.
Okay, that's enough for me. This—I guess it feels good, but at the same time, we really shouldn't be doing it. Something's wrong. It feels off. None of that helps me shake her off, though.
She seems pleased with my reaction, because she attacks my other ear as soon as I manage slow to my breathing down a little. She hold my head in place and blows softly into it, drawing out another long shiver from me. “You make the cutest noises, you know? It's really your fault. How am I supposed to resist if you keep moaning like when I'm just washing your hair?”
I've been making noises? O...Oh. Well.
Wait, that doesn't matter, does it? Koishi sends any thought process I might have had careening when she snakes her hands up from where they were resting around my navel, tracing each of my ribs, and farther upward... “My sister is right, you do need a little meat on you.” I try and press my arms against my torso, but she easily slips her hand by. She finishes her trek upwards with a light pinch, and I can't stop the little whimper that comes out. She keeps whispering. “I know a lot more things that feel really, really good. Why not do it? If it feels good, it's good, right? It's right there in the name. There's no reason not to.”
I don't know... Something is wrong here. We're really not supposed to be doing this, right? For multiple reasons. But then again, it feels really good... It's the first time I've felt this warm.
Why shouldn't we? I...I'm not sure. It's hard to think right now. Everything is warm, humid and foggy. Koishi doesn't let me move an inch and her hands feel like they're everywhere: stroking my sides, poking at my navel, rubbing the outside of my thighs, the curve of my shoulders, chest and neck, lightly and deliberately. It should be just a little ticklish, but everywhere she touches burns like her fingers are red-hot pokers. Feels like if I look, i'll have angry red welts like I've been whipped.
Why shouldn't we do anything... again? I don't remember... but I'm fairly certain there's a very good reason. I find that I'm heaving, taking great gulps of vapor and air with every breath. Koishi is still whispering in my ears, and although it's all I hear, I can't understand what she's saying. It's all so –so foggy. I try to direct the scrap of my mind that is still functioning into paying attention to her.
Oh. Oh my. If I wasn't entirely red already from the heat and... everything else, that would have completed it. She's telling me of... um, what she intends to do to me. With lots of indelicate words that I'm not sure I'm supposed to be hearing. There's probably not a part of me that's not red with rushing blood right now. I should be getting out of this.
I try to struggle, but end up only wriggling pathetically under her firm grip. She even breaks off her string of vulgarities to giggle at me. “If you really don't want to do anything,” she pauses to plant a long kiss on my cheek that definitely brings to mind more than just a kiss on the cheek. “You're going to have to do better than that.” I feel her words on my skin moreso than hear them.
I don't know what to do.
She brings a single hand to my chin, too strong for how slim she is, and seizes. Aah, I think I know what's coming. Somehow, it seems worse than everything she's done up until now. If I'm going to do something, it really needs to be in the next few seconds. She forces me to turn my head her way. Her still mostly dry hair brushes my cheek and her breath, even hotter than the surrounding air, tickles my own lips. She's really going to do it.
I really don't want this. There's a pang of something that feels really bad. Disgust? I'm not sure.
With all the strength I can muster, I jerk away from her. By some miracle, I manage to slip from her hold, although since I'm pretty much laying on top of her already, it just means I dislodge my head from her grip. But that's enough. Koishi ceases her... attentions for the first time since we got in here.
She isn't still for long, however.
“Aw, really? Come on.” She disentangles me from her weird cords — which I hadn't even realized were there — and rolls away from under me, sending me face first into the water in the process. She continues when I've pulled myself out. “Fine. Whatever. I don't feel like it anymore. Enjoy your bath.”
She steps out and wraps herself in a towel unceremoniously, then just... walks out. Just like that, leaving her clothes and underwear still pooled on the floor.
...Well. That was something. We really made a mess of the place. There's water everywhere. I wasn't even aware we were moving quite that much. It'd be easy to blame Koishi and get mad at her, but I think it's my fault too. I could probably have foreseen the situation and steered her away, If I wasn't... well, me. Plus, she did wash my hair, and it did feel good. One way or the other. I better not dwell on it too much.
So troublesome. I need to finish up my bath and clean all this up. Then I have to go into a coma in a dark place somewhere, hugging something fluffy.
It's almost an hours worth of work, I think. A few minutes into my bath, I realize that even though Koishi is no longer here, I don't feel too bad being outside my bucket. It feels warm and safe here. I still pull it a little closer to me, though. It's a safe place to hide in, in case something happens.
Done. Clothes (mine and her's) folded, tiles dried, water drained, weird lotion bottles in their proper places. I even gave my wooden companion a once-over. There's a very comfortable looking green bathrobe just sitting in the sink, thoughtfully provided by Rin, so I put it on and float out into the hallway again, eyes half-lidded. Now is absolutely the time for sleep. ...Or it would be. If I had any idea where I'm supposed to be sleeping. Hell, I never thought to ask and nobody thought to tell me. But you know what? I don't care at the moment. Anywhere will do. This place is nothing but guest rooms, so I randomly wander into one of them, finding a very generic but clean room, window looking out to a desolate piece of naked cave. Excellent, this will do.
A couple of pillows to hold on and a bunch of covers and sheets dragged from their resting spots later, I'm all set with little nest in a corner of the room, like in my own home. Set my bucket beside it as an extra wall, and I have no time to think back on the events of the day: I'm asleep practically before I can close my eyes.
[ ] Wings broken, [ ] caged, [ ] and only half healed.
Feels kind of weak today, but I wanted to write some more lewd, so I did. Not much, though. Are dream choices passé yet?
For all the guys wanting more of Yamame: The Writer seems to be itching to write something lascivious involving the bucket loli and certain other touhous. Turning down Koishi is one thing but turning down a dream about Yamame?
>>11661 They voted to turn down molestation, more or less. In a context involving informed consent, we probably would have voted yes, but Koishi was being creepy and trying to take advantage of Kisume's ignorance on these matters.
>>11674 >someone we know to have good intentions Koishi made her intentions very clear, both in this particular case and more broadly. I don't think she's a deceitful type. Just distracted in her own way.
>>11684 I'd normally agree, but we're getting ready to deal with Satori and her errant sister. We don't want our mind too broken to help out. Maybe afterwards we can ask her about it. She's already doing a lot for us as it is.
I didn't do anything to those small humans. Immature ones, as I recall. A small girl barely my size, and two inflated, beady eyed boys. Siblings, I gathered. I found them in a desolate sort of place. Just fields, animals, and a small, clearly often broken down and repaired home.
Our first meeting went reasonably well, I think. The little wide-eyed creatures were almost as curious about me as I was about them. The first day, I refrained from asking too much because of the warning light in my head telling me humans were dangerous still. But it was just infuriating. I knew all kinds of things although I didn't remember learning them, and I know that's not supposed to happen. More annoyingly, there were huge voids in my knowledge like someone went through my mind with a shovel, and an intense urge to fill those holes. I knew something was supposed to go in there, but not always what. Humans were one of those voids.
The small ones were kind and enthusiastic about me right away, even though they couldn't possibly have thought I was a human. They clustered around me, asking where I was from, why my hair was a weird color, why I had no clothes on. They brought me a simple white robe which I found agreeable, and I showed them a few simple tricks. Their little eyes shined at that. Humans can't do things like that, then?
It didn't take long for me to be pulled into their silly play and immensely enjoyed it, feeling I shouldn't have.
So followed the third, fourth, fifth day, and a number my questions were answered just by being around them. I also won't deny that it was fun. So I ended up slowly coming to ignore my own instincts. These humans were fine.
That was very stupid of me.
The boot presses a little harder on my back.
This must be ruining the clothes I was given. These humans are way taller, wider, squarer, hairier, gruffer and scarier than the small ones. I don't like them so much. Especially not when this is happening.
These weird papers they stuck on me feel like patches of ice. I can't move my limbs. I can't move anything, actually, or even speak.
They youngest looking of the three men piped up. “Sir, are you sure this is right?” A grunt comes from somewhere directly above me and the foot resting uncomfortably on me shifts slightly. That's the one with the graying beard. “Not that I'm doubting your experience, but every youkai we've been sent for has been some three eyed, multi-legged animal abomination. This girl doesn't look much like one of those.”
“So, in other words,” comes the weathered voice of the elder. “You're doubting my experience.”
“N-no sir, but she just doesn't look li–“
“Silence, boy.” The oversized 'boy' obeys. “I haven't protected you and your parents before you so you could question me.”
There's awkward shuffling of feet for a moment. “I'll tell you this. The closer a monster looks to a human, the more dangerous it is. What we are equipped to deal with is the small fry. I wager we only got this one because we came prepared and got lucky it was distracted.”
The one being lectured gives a minute nod.
“You saw it floating around, didn't you? That's high witchcraft.”
The third human speaks up. “What do we do with her... it, then?” He corrects himself after a stern look from the old man.
“That's not for us to decide. Just take 'er in, for now.”
“...We're bringing a youkai in alive?”
He receives another look, more pointed than the last. “Just shut up and carry it, will ya?”
The last thing I feel is another of those weird papers being slapped on my forehead.
After that, everything hurts. More than expected.
Everything hurts. What in the blazes did that damn girl do to me? It feels like I got beat up yesterday. I check for bruises, just in case. Nothing.
Somehow, I tipped over the bucket and half crawled inside in my sleep. Which is just fine, because remembering what happened yesterday, sticking my head in a hole is my first thought. Oh gods, what the hell were we doing? Without the haze of exhaustion and whatever spell Koishi put me under, just thinking of her makes me go bright red. We're both girls, how the hell would...
Actually, I'm not even going to think of that. How am I ever going to look Satori in the eye after this? I curl up a little tighter. Oh, geez. I'm really hungry, completely lost in this huge place and I left Yamame completely alone. On top of all of that, I have to find out what those weird marks on me are, which I'd like to do sooner rather than later.
Just what have I gotten myself into?
I didn't feel like thinking up choices. Just anything you want to do around the palace. Wanna try to find that library or food? Take a walk around the gardens? Wander around looking for Yamame? Run away through the window and ignore everything?
A remarkably well-timed rumble of my stomach informs me what I ought to be going for. Of course, it doesn't really matter what I'm looking for. Either way, I'm just going to be wandering through the halls aimlessly. Still, the thought counts. Since I'm looking for food specifically, I should be more likely to find it. That's how it works, right?
I feel pretty good. Got a very good night's sleep, no dreams, and in something vaguely resembling a proper bed. For me, anyway. Sitting up, I do my stretches, hear my joints crack and everything. That's a good sign, and I actually don't feel the same tense pain as before. Whatever Koishi did before she went too far actually seems to have worked, somehow. Waking up somewhere where the ceiling isn't a palm above my head is a new experience, and the pillow and covers have a nice, flowery smell to them, a far cry from the usual stale smell of dust and old books I'm used to.
Before I go and look for something to sustain me, however, I better fix up the room. Being a bad guest wouldn't do. I can go without food pretty much indefinitely anyway, so a few minutes more won't hurt too much. The room is still dark, so it takes a little feeling around to fold up everything, put the pillows back on the proper bed and... set. Now to do some treasure-hunting.
My search is cut short in no time at all. As soon as I open the door, I realize something is off. The corridor is nearly pitch black, the clear lamps lining the walls have only the slightest flicker of blue flame in them, all throughout. There's that kind of feeling that everything is more silent than usual. It's creepy, if I'm being honest.
There's... something here, too. Looking down, a little bundle of some soft-looking thing under me. Is it moving? Yeah it is, slowly, like it's breathing. What is this, a cat or something? It's too dark to see right now. I give it a poke, bumping into it. I guess I should just get going and leave this alone, but... I wanna have a look.
Ah, it's not an it. I mean, she's not an it, it's a she. The little fairy turns over, emerging from the mass of her black hair, sleepy eyes slowly opening. It's just a fairy, then. It must have just fallen asleep here randomly. We get fairies in the tunnels and even the city, but they don't usually do much aside from flying around in groups and chattering in their shrill voices. There's been a couple times when they all got riled up and flied out of the cave in droves, like bats, but that doesn't happen very often. I didn't even know we had that many fairies down here. I'd like to know how Satori managed to tame this many. They seem to be naturally unruly.
In the end, though, fairies aren't very interesting I'm about to 180 and go do my thing, but a hurried cry interrupts me. The long-haired little thing is quick to wake up. “Ah, hey!” She swiftly floats up and to the air with me, only slightly stumbling from sleepiness. Or maybe she stumbles because she's a fairy and that's what fairies do.
“Who wakes up in the middle of the night like this? Seriously.” Night? I glance at the lanterns on the walls, lacking their previous lively flame. Huh. Maybe the same artificial day-night system is in place here. Makes sense, if I think about it. If more than one person lives in the same place, they'd have scheduling troubles if they all just slept when they felt like it, like me. The fairy produces a candlestick from somewhere, lighting it with a wave with her hand, much to my surprise. I guess some fairies can do that, too.
I've tried a lot. To do some magic, I mean, but it doesn't seem to be for me. The lack of any proper instruction could have to do with it, but it seems the extent of what I can do is to fly around. Magic books are pretty rare, so...
The fairy composes herself while I'm thinking about stuff I can't do. A common subject for my thoughts. “Miss Satori said you might be hungry when you woke up. Come with me.” Well, at least I'm not lost anymore. She leads me through the darkened corridors, only the reddish flame to light our path. It's a bit eerie how deserted the place seems to be at this time, but at the same time, I kind of like it. It feels like at any time, a murder mystery could start up. Maybe in a locked room. The only other living beings we come across on the way to the kitchen are two or three lonely roving cats that don't even acknowledge us. The fairy is quiet the whole way too, looking like she's quickly leaking all the energy she woke up with.
It takes a good amount of walking (well, flying) before we get there. I swear this place doesn't look that big from the outside, but here we are.
It's rather smaller and more modest than I expected for the size of the palace, sporting little more than a set of counters, a small dining table and an unlit hearth, but it makes sense. It looks like it's mostly just fairies, and they only eat when they feel like 'playing youkai'. “Miss Satori baked some bread and there's lots of fruit. Pick what you like.” Indeed, there's a big basket with all sorts of deliciousness inside.
Several minutes later, I'm a far happier and more contented than before. The bread is fluffy and fresh and the fruit nearly devoid of imperfections. Very good stuff. I gorge myself for long enough that my guide has already fallen asleep again, leaned over the dining table.
Well. Apparently it's the middle of the night and I just woke up. I'll probably be the only one awake here for a few hours. The thought of visiting that treasure trove of books is the first thing that comes to mind, but there are other things I could do.
[ ] Wake the fairy up, get her to guide you somewhere. [ ] I can find my own way. Probably.
[x] Wake the fairy up, get her to guide you somewhere. - [x] Library. - [x] Write a message to Yamame, telling her we're in the library, and get the fairy to take it to her. Offer delicious food as payment. Or a bribe. Some form of incentive, anyway.
I suppose as long as I'm not doing anything, I may as well find some way to amuse myself. That library comes to mind, and I briefly see myself in the same place Miss Satori was before, sitting, ladylike and dignified among the books and shelves with more books. Piles and piles of them. I'd never get bored or have to read a book about boring human customs out of lack of choice again. A painful pang of envy flashes through me. Maybe she'll at least be kind enough to give me some? Lend, perhaps? Well, you make do with what you have.
First I have to get there, though. The fairy rests her head on her own crossed arms, entangled in her long hair yet again. It feels like a bit of a shame to wake her up. She looks very peaceful, the calm movement of her breath clear and deep, like she's been sleeping for hours. Still, she's just a fairy. Plus, if she stays for very long in this position, she'll regret it when she wakes up. I'd know.
I draw a (very) crude representation of a book. The fairy probably can't read, and my handwriting is the absolute worst. I can barely understand it. My drafting skills aren't much better, but she should be able to at least understand. A few pokes and she raises her head, already red from pressing against skin.
It takes a couple more doodles and several more minutes to get the sleepy girl to understand and get up. She takes me on another trek through the dark, empty corridors,and amid many wide yawns from my companion we arrive at the ornate door that signals the library. The girl hands me the candlestick and floats off without another word, probably searching for a corner to curl up and pass out in, like me.
The library, like the rest of the palace, has its lights completely darkened at this time. I float inside, candle in hand, casting the flickering reddish light on the great collection of yellowed knowledge. The tall oaken shelves look somehow imposing. The limited vision from the firelight makes it look like the shelves will go on and on if I just keep walking, like some kind of an... infinite library. What a silly notion.
The tales made me expect something dusty and ancient from any library, but now that I get a good look at it, it's really not like that. Although all the furniture is old-fashioned and there's still that unchanging, easily identifiable smell of resting books, this one doesn't really give off that ancient dusty library feel. It's clearly regularly cleaned and ordered, except for the big mess of books still on the reading desk. I clip my hair back to its usual twintails and tuck my bangs behind my ears. Don't want it getting in the way when I'm reading.
But it turns out it's not that easy. The library is really big and all, but, well... Thing is, a good half of these books are in languages I can't understand at all. Moreover, most of these are centered on a certain subject. There's well defined sections on all sorts of weird things: Gardening, farming, drawing, human law and psychology, even mathematics. Miss Satori must be really learned. There are a lot of outsider books; I can tell from the crisp, perfect images on the covers. Those are outsider stuff for sure: they can't possibly be hand drawn.
But as for me... these aren't really interesting. It may be a little childish, but what I really like are story books. To read about heroic deeds, formidable warriors, silly love stories, impossible cataclysms and great adventures. After a good half-hour of browsing, I finally find the section I'm searching for, hidden away in a corner. She had to have at least some of these, after all. A lot of them are in that weird language with the wide glyphs, but the ones I can read and seem interesting are still ten times as numerous as my poor collection.
I return to the desk, tottering underneath a pile of books nearly taller than me. Thankfully flying can be quite a bit more stable than walking. Obviously I won't be able to read more than one book, but I just couldn't decide on the spot. I just picked up whatever looked fun from the cover. Some cheesy love story, from the flowery imagery and floaty, swooning girl. One with a picturesque mountain range, horsemen riding in the distance. Looks western. There's a nice variety here. With a mighty thump I dump the tower o' books in the only vacant place in the desk, somehow managing to keep the whole thing from toppling.
I didn't find any 'fundamentals of magic' anywhere, unfortunately. I'll have to ask Miss Satori.
I retrieve the candle to light the candelabrum on the desk, but when I turn back...
A flash. Just a passing light, near the door. Like a speeding reflection. It's green.
For a split second I panic, but then I remember that I'm in a safe place now, not in the wild youkai-infested underground. It's probably just one of the many cats living here. Y'know, reflective eyes and all, plus they're nocturnal... although I'm not sure if that matters down here.
[ ] Nevermind that. I got books to read! -[ ] A man and a woman embraced, warm pastel colors splashed all over the cover. It looks really mushy, but I do have some interest in romance... -[ ] A bearded elder in robes shooting a ball of fire from his hand at some kind of youkai. -[ ] A severe book with a solemn black hard cover. Paging through it, I spot lots of complicated words. -[ ] A small boy dressed in rags amid an uncaring crowd. This book seems more yellowed than the others. -[ ] Pick one at random. Anything here will be better than my usual reads. (writer's discretion) [ ] ...You can never be too safe. Investigate. [ ] Write-in.
You may be tempted to go for the obvious choice, but I assure you the books do have significance and may grant some insight.
I pull my knees up and under the bathrobe I'm still wearing, making myself as cosy as possible. It's not as comfortable as the fluffy covers I got from Yuugi, but it'll do. From the pile I selected, I pull out the book with the old man fighting an oversized winged lizard on the cover. Looking closely at it, it's rather... poorly drawn. The proportions and perspective on the old man are rather wonky, he just doesn't look like a real person. His face is drawn goofy as well, eyes bulging out of their sockets, which I don't think was an intended effect.
Everything considered, it actually looks like a cheap, short book, maybe made for young humans. Still, it lures me in, maybe because of the promise of tales of magic inside. No matters how many times I fail at it, it stays an intense interest of mine. Although I've tried again and again to make work, to insignificant results. A spark from the fingers here and there when I put the absolute most effort and concentration possible into it, and that's all. No nice stable light to replace my lousy flickering lamp, no transmuting rocks and rubble into tasty food, and most importantly, absolutely no fancy fireballs. At least not since last time I tried. Everything considered, I'll happily devour any scrap of information on the subject thrown at me, fictitious or not. It just happens that I've gotten next to nothing until now, being restricted to my own efforts.
I stare at the bug-eyed wizard for a moment. If only... Well, no matter. I settle under the candlelight, very thankful that it doesn't flicker like my own lighting, back at home. Like this, I can read without straining my eyes.
I crack the book open, and upon starting, the first thing I feel is...disappointment. It turns out the main character the book follows is not a wise man with the ability to bend reality to his whims as I expected, but a naive, inexperienced young human that doesn't know much of anything. In fact, he wouldn't be any kind of hero if it wasn't for the magical, talking sharpened piece of steel that dispenses advice whenever he's in trouble.
Although it's not the best book I've read by far, it somehow keeps me turning pages, draws me in. The characters have this kind of endearing innocence to them. The story is very simplistic also. It's pretty much the protagonist going through places and fighting monsters with his slowly mounting companions and talking sword, defeating minions of the big enemy overlord (who's barely mentioned) and so on. The old man who's supposed to use magic, the one who drew me to the book in the first place, disappears mysteriously somewhere around the one third mark after serving as the mentor figure to the protagonist.
The book is way self-serving, in some way.. It's a book a human wrote about a pack of humans basically roaming around and killing all kinds of youkai, and it's indeed mostly youkai. Even the big bad evil overlord seems to be youkai, too. Not that surprising, I suppose. That's what we're supposed to be, to humans. Still, it kind of bothers me.
After a long procession of (nonetheless entertaining) sessions of youkai murder, the heroes of the story get to the lair of the big evil guy, or whatever it's supposed to be. Another long bout of fighting and stabbing and so on happens, and I'm nearing the end the end of the book, somehow. I guess it really is a pretty short one. As one would guess, right about now is when the hero's friends all get captured, he gets shot with an arrow and lays dying. Even I know what's going down at this point. It's maybe a tad too obvious...
Even though I end up crinkling the pages from squeezing them too hard.
What? Just because it's predictable doesn't mean it can't be tense and cool.
The expected happens and the old man from the beginning comes back, for the first time using actual magic like it was advertised and saving the day. I don't know about having a guy that practically wasn't there for most of the book having the spotlight at the climax, but it's exciting enough with the spewing of fire and lightning. Easily the high point of the entire book, if only because the star of the hour isn't some bumbling boy with a piece of steel. The book wraps up happily, the evil overlord defeated, the land safe and all that good stuff No surprises or anything. Sighing, I close it forcefully with a powerful thump, spreading dust everywhere. Just the way I like to close them after I finish reading. Gives me a sense of finality.
I stare at the book for a while, thinking. Thinking of how it would be if I could do it. I flex my fingers, concentrating maybe hoping for something to spontaneously burst out. There's nothing, of course. Like something is... almost physically clogging in my veins, blocking what I can do. Maybe I just don't have the aptitude. I could swear I could do it before, though...
I note the candle has nearly burned out and only a comical dwarfish stub remains, wax melted around it. Damn, I know I read the whole book in one sitting, but did it really take so long? The book seemed fairly short.
Huh? When did the lights come on?
A pair of amused violet eyes peer at me from over the top of the pile of books. Noticing me, the pajama-clad Satori closes her own foreign tome carefully and smirks at me, straightening herself up.
“I'm happy you partake in one of my hobbies. Reading is truly enriching, don't you think so?”
I... err.... I'm more than a little off-guard here. She procures a marker from somewhere and fixes her eyes straight at me, making me shrink into my bucket under her gaze. Just a bit. She seems very confident, although there's nothing to be confident about. She defuses herself without much effort, however.
“You know I can do some magic myself? It's not much, but it's there.” Still smiling, she snaps her fingers together, producing a loud noise and a small flame like the one on the candle, still smirking at me. Ah! I can ask her about it now! It's my chance.
[ ] Miss! Will you teach me? [ ] Wait... Wasn't she looking for her sister...? And didn't something happen with her and me? Oh. Oh god. [ ] Um, where's Yamame? I'm worried for her in this animal-infested mansion. [ ] Right! Miss Satori is supposed to know a lot, right? Maybe she'll know about these weird tattoos on my back. [ ] Write-in.
I may or may not have been *slightly* intoxicated when writing this update
My stare is glued to the flame for a passing moment, and then to Miss Satori, also contentedly looking at the flame she produced. Somehow, she really commands the 'miss' in front of her name, despite her slight build, frilly dress, perpetually messy hair and everything. Maybe it's the eyes. Now that she seems to have caught up on her sleep, her eyes lacking the bags from yesterday, she seems rather... calculating. Like she's looking right through me, even though she isn't even looking at me. I guess she does see right through me, when I think about it. It's the appropriate look for someone in a position of power.
It helps that she's naturally pretty, as well.
“Are you going to ask me for a favour?” Oh, right. Mind reader and all that. At least she said it jokingly. I hope. “That's usually the only time I get that much flattery. Unless you're trying to woo me,” she completes with a smile.
I go a little red again as I shake my head.
But about the favour, I... pretty much am, aren't I? I've so much to ask her, and not that much to offer. I should start off by telling her what she wants to know... but it really worries me, the weird drawings on me. It shouldn't, since it seems they've been there god knows how long and nothing's happened, but it still does worry me. Or, well, worry might not be right word, but I'd really to know what that stuff is about.
When I think about them, a currently very unwelcome memory comes to mind. From just yesterday.
A firm finger tracing a line on my skin
I bite my lip and shake my head on reflex, and forcefully think of something else entirely, to drive it away from my mind. It's something I've had some experience doing, and it usually works, somehow.
Ah. Satori fixes me with her violet eyes and studies me carefully, the imperceptible smirk that seemed to always be there gone for a few seconds. Even the third eye seems to squint. I freeze under her heavy stare. In no time it's back, thankfully, and she sighs. “Don't you worry yourself over that. Koishi vanishes for months at a time, knowing it drives me mad. An hour or a day more won't matter that much.”
S...She's ignoring it, then? I start letting out a sigh of relief, but it's not meant to be.
“I'm most certainly not ignoring it, and I'd like to know what my sister is up to. I'm the only one who has any chance of setting her straight, and it's my duty to scold her if she's doing anything wrong.” She screws up her eyebrows. “Especially if she's going around despoiling innocent maidens.”
...She did catch it. Yet again, I slink back into my bucket. I'm thankful I really do have a hole to disappear into at moments like this.
“But if you don't want to even think about it right now, that's fine by me. She's already in the underground, is she not?”
I nod meekly, only the top of my head peeking out of the hole.
“Then, she should turn up soon enough. She's probably just delaying it because she knows she's going to get yelled at.” The satori shifts in her seat, crossing her legs. That was so awkward. Couldn't she have pretended not to see anything? I feel my cheeks prickling with heat still.
Ironically, that last thought does go ignored. “Anyway, you said you wanted me to have a look at something? Let's see it, then.”
R-right. Should get over and done with that already. I turn around sheepishly and raise myself just enough that she can see my back. This position has the added benefit of hiding my face from her.
“Oh, relax. Believe me, my sister has done far worse.” That... doesn't make me feel any better. She gets up and circles around the desk. My shoulders tense up yet again, but that's all. “And if I know her well, you had no choice in anything, so you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Alright?”
W-well. All right, I guess. There's a pause.
She drums her fingers on the table. “Well?”
Hm? Oh! Yeah, the... thing. Okay. I loosen the bathrobe (feeling not a little self-conscious about my bony body) and let it sag behind me down to my lower back, still keeping myself mostly covered. She “hmm's”, and lets me know by way of a puff of breath on my back that she's leaned over for a better look. It takes all I have not to jump clean out of my skin at that. I think I hear a snicker after that.
It's a tense few seconds. Although she's not even touching me, it feels like a doctor's examination. Not that I've ever seen a doctor, but I've read about them. That's about equivalent, I think. After the long moment, I feel her pull away. Dressing myself properly again, I chance a nervous look over my shoulder. Satori has a very neutral expression on. distressingly neutral. More ominous than if she had outright screamed in horror, if that's possible. Okay, maybe not that much, but still.
She stays quiet. ... She's not really going to keep silent, is she? Just tell me!
“Hmmm...” She puts a hand to her chin. “I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you might...” She stops at the most crucial part. Might...? Might WHAT? Be cursed? Dying? Liable to explode at any time? Have a scary demon sealed inside me?
She grins, brushing a stray strand of hair. “Might be... pretty stylish.”
“Usually it's only the oni and weird humans who get those. But I quite like it! Very well made and detailed. I especially like the pentagram part.” This wasn't how it was supposed to go.
She cracks and laughs, covering her mouth. A sharper, higher sound than her voice. I see. I'm being mocked. “No,” she manages between laughs. To her credit, she recovers quickly enough. “Actually, yes. I'm sorry.” I give her my best sullen look. I don't think I do too good, since it only makes her smile a little wider. “I'm sorry, but you're just so teasable. Like a little bunny. Look, you're even pouting right now.”
What? No, I'm not. I'm not pouting even a little bit, look. This draws another barely contained laugh from her. I must not be very convincing.
“Seriously, now.” She reins herself in, sitting back across from me. I should pay attention now, I think. “To tell you the truth, I actually have very little idea what it could about.”
Oh. That's not good.
“It's clear that it's some kind of magical circuitry from what little I know, but beyond that, I can't tell you anything. It could just be an inactive scar from something in the past, a seal, some kind of medical enchantment... it could be practically anything. I'm sorry, but I can't help you much there.” Her expression softens. “And I have no books on it. I learned from a tutor, and I only know how to do the very basics of channeling, myself. Magic just required way too much dedication for me. I wouldn't worry too hard, though. If nothing's happened so far, it's not likely something big will happen.”
That's probably true. But I still would like to know. “Yes, I figured.” The hostess smiles knowingly. “There is one thing we can do, but it's not exactly safe.”
I perk up.
“From what I remember, this kind of enchantment can usually be 'triggered' with a simple pulse of magic.” That sounds good enough to me.
“No, it's not good at all. We have no idea what we're actually triggering. It depends entirely on whoever put it on you, and magic users tend to be more than a little unstable and eccentric.” Satori is suddenly a little more grave than the situation calls for.
“Not at all. It could unseal something from inside you, if it turns out to be a seal. You even could die outright, or have your personality changed completely. Or it could do nothing at all. It's completely unpredictable, is what I'm saying. I wouldn't recommend it, but I trust you're smart enough to make the decision on you own.”
“You could also find someone who actually knows about this stuff. Unfortunately, I'm afraid we're fresh out of magicians in the underground. You'd have to look all the way on the surface. And if you're caught up there it won't be good, to say the least.”
I shiver. Yeah, I remember what happened when the enforcer came down here. Those poor fairies. The surface... Well, that's a thought for later. Maybe if I got someone to go with me I could gather enough courage.
But the other way...
[ ] Ask Satori to give it a try anyhow. [ ] No. It's too dangerous.
She's right. There's no sense in risking so much just to sate my curiosity, after all. Aside from looking vaguely ominous and odd, the ink markings show little indication of being more than just that: ink. Aside from the assurance I've just been given from someone far more knowledgeable than I'll ever be that they are, in fact, mystical in nature.
“That's a smart decision.” Miss Satori strokes her book idly, a satisfied smile oddly out of place on her lips.
“I'm sorry, I'll try to look less satisfied from now on.”
I-I didn't mean to-
She stops me mid-thought with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Yes, yes. Nobody means the things they think. Don't worry yourself over it, your thoughts number among the least impolite I've gotten to hear lately.” Huh. That's... good, I think.
“You should take a look at the thoughts of some of the oni that show up occasionally. A violent bunch with lively imaginations, they are.” Okay. Not good, then.
“No, it's fine. It's actually refreshing how they don't try to hide it. We have an... agreement. They won't actually do anything.” Miss Satori has a very interesting range of smiles. 'Wicked' is a new one.
“Actually, why are we talking about this?”
Um, I don't know. It just sort of went there.
The violet hostess pauses for a second before chuckling, all ladylike. “She was right about you.” Hmm? “I had a nice chat with your contagious friend after you left yesterday. She told me that being around you just makes her want to talk about herself, even though she doesn't think you really care. I think I feel it too, somewhat.” Um. I'm not sure what to think about that.
“There's not much to think about. You just have that quality, you know?”
“Anyway,” she continues, “if you do decide to go aboveground — and I have the feeling you will — I'd advise you to take someone with you. I could lend you Rin since she has permission, but that's not a good idea for multiple reasons.” I don't know. The surface is scary. It's just me being too curious for my own good again. Maybe it'd be better to not go.
“Yeah, well, we'll see about that.”
“And on the subject of Yamame, you should go find her. She got rather antsy here without you around.” I can see that happening, the way she was when we got here. Still, it's weird compared to how she usually is. Satori visibly hesitates for a moment, her mouth open. “And I don't mean any disrespect, but if you could take her and go as soon as possible, that would be great.”
What? My eyes widen. Did we do something? “Not at all. However, I wasn't joking when I said she was a health hazard. It's a wonder you're still healthy as you are.”
“Unless you still have some business with me?” Right. Why did we even come here in the first place? I guess to bring Miss Satori news about Koishi who's already here. I recall the younger sister's wide-eyed excitement at the prospect of 'helping' me also. Maybe she's given up after... what happened. So no more business here, then.
“Good, then you can be on your way.”
Yeah, I can see how she would be seen as abrasive. N-not that I mind, of course.
She snorts at that. “Before you go, would you like some proper clothes? I had yours washed, plus we should have something better than a plain robe in your size. As a parting gift.”
Right. I'm still in the same damn bathrobe I slept in. I better go.
After being lead around the mansion by yet another fairy (for the clothes – a simple and rather breezy white dress with straps over my shoulders.) I finally meet up with Yamame again. She's sitting in the entrance hall where we first came in, and in a similar situation too, slumped over on a couch. She raises her eyes when I arrive, visibly cheering up Not much, though. I do too, a warm feeling welling up in me from being able to have that kind of effect on someone. I wonder if being proud over that is presumptuous of me?
Dodging – or being dodged – by the animals perpetually lounging around here, we get ushered past the garden and out the gate by the little servant. The outside is refreshingly dim compared to the inside of the mansion, where apparently it's the middle of the day right now. Yamame still hasn't said a word to me, but she looks fine enough. Not smiling like usual, though.
She stretches, turning her spine into a C for a second or two. It's still impressive, even though I've seen before how flexible she is.
“Miss Satori is very wise, isn't she?”
Hm. I wonder what they talked about.
Yamame's not very talkative today. She sets off in the direction of the city without a word, and I scramble after her. I guess we have some free time together right now.
[ ] Just follow her wherever she wants to go. [ ] Actually, she looks like she needs some relaxing. I have an idea.
[x] Actually, she looks like she needs some relaxing. I have an idea. Backrub? We might be okay with that, seeing as we'd be doing the touching, rather than the other way around. Or at least less not-okay.
[X] Actually, she looks like she needs some relaxing. I have an idea.
>I wasn't joking when I said she was a health hazard. It's a wonder you're still healthy as you are.” It's annoying to see Yamame treated as a pariah by someone who gets a similar treatment. She hasn't infected anyone here.
>>11833 >She hasn't infected anyone here. Only that we've seen in the very short window of time covered by the story so far, keeping in mind that she's hardly been near anyone. Maybe you should use Satori's actions to infer something about Yamame instead?
Hey guys. Sorry for the delay and all, but I really haven't been feeling the groove lately. Still, I don't intend to dip below 1 update a week at the very least, so I'll have an update up tomorrow even if I have to whip myself. Cheers.
A cold shiver runs through my spine when we step outside. Stayed inside too long, I suppose. The ceiling is way too high up in here.
The outside looks decidedly more dismal than it did when before I set foot inside the palace. The opulence has spoiled me, I suppose. Except, it's not really that fancy a place either, unless compared to this huge expanse of jet black nothingness. The lonely road and its ever-present companion torches shrink out of embarrassment from the comparison. And it's so long, the city lights barely visible in the distance... I'd forgotten how lengthy the trip is. I don't know that I can stand this sulking, listless Yamame the whole way. Trodding, she is.
Miss Satori must have given her something to think about too.
Hm. I know a place.
Usually I'm the one following her around, circling over her blonde mop. It's a fresh feeling, although craning my neck to see if she's still walking with me every time her steps get too light to hear does give me some pain. I'd just gotten rid of my neck cricks too... It's not like I've drawn her attention or anything, I think she's just following me unconsciously. In a trance, or something like it. Like when I wake up and don't feel like actually getting up or doing anything so I end up staring at the darkness for an hour or half.
That's fine though. It'll be better if she's taken by surprise, either way. I start to veer off course as the rocky terrain starts showing signs of paving and the uncreatively named Ancient City looms ahead. It's 'night' again here, as hoarse oni yells from inside inform me. Yamame shambles on behind me, apparently not noticing we're not going the way we're supposed to. It's tough to find my way. The terrain doesn't exactly lend itself to landmarks, and I haven't gone this way too often, but eventually I find the winding trail skirting the city. One day, this may have been called paved, but now it's little more than a collection of loose stones. It's a quite well-hidden spot we're going to.
We cross the great plateau in the growing darkness, away from our only sources of light. Yamame still seems not to notice we're not going home. Or maybe she does notice but simply doesn't care. I whirl around in the air to take a good look at her. No, it doesn't look like she's noticed anything. She looks normal... I think. Same bobbing black ribbon, same tight blonde bun of hair, same bell-shaped dress with the golden stripes. Still not really looking anywhere in particular, not even at me.
The ceiling closes in, collapsing into the walls of the enormous underground chamber. It's a little like a giant jagged rock dome. The chasm Parsee guards so dutifully is nothing but a large crack on the floor at this point, but no less bottomless. Yamame still follows me past it, with a careful step over.
Finally she seems to snap out of her reverie just as we dive into one of the many disused tunnels – marked with a half-melted candle. She slowly raises her eyes to me. There it is. She looks around, comically pulling her eyebrows down into a confused expression. I can't help but smile. Not quite a laugh, but almost there. I respond to her quizzical look simply by turning and feeling my way in, so I don't hit my head. Don't wanna ruin the surprise.
Aside from a contemplative hum, she asks no questions, which is a kind gesture. A vote of confidence, do you call it? Even more so since this place is kind of a squeeze for her physique. Doesn't seem very comfortable. I feel the air heating up. We must be closing in on it now.
Quicker than I thought, even. The total darkness gives way to a deep red, bathing the tunnel in the odd flowing lighting. I beckon the still confused Yamame. The tight rock corridor ends abruptly, opening up into a large chamber. The one I've been searching for. It's quite a curious place, and I haven't the first clue how it was formed. It's just a simple dead-end cave as many in the underground, but this one in particular seems to have... popped. Crumbled, on one side. On the other side, is what appears to be a lost arm of the Hell of Blazing fires. A far larger rock corridor stretches out before us, complete with a weak stream of what can only be molten rock. The slow flow of the thick, bright liquid is hypnotizing, especially when coupled with the waving movement of the few dozen translucent spirits floating by lazily, all in the same direction. Gods only know where they go.
A very scenic place, especially if you're used to the underground and its bleak rock walls.
The trade-off is that it's very stuffy in here.
That's not a very big deal, though. You know, since there's a hot spring in the middle of the smaller cave where we are. The whole reason we're here. Bodies of water are actually surprisingly common down here. We have subterranean rivers and lakes scattered all over if you care to look for them. Plenty of them are thermal, too.
I strip from my brand new dress and fold it nicely – don't want to ruin it so soon – placing it on the floor nearby. Pen and paper, too. I plop myself quickly into the gently steaming hot spring, bucket and all. The comforting hot water promptly washes away whatever worries I had about anything, immersing me head to toe.
Yamame wanders over to the 'window' in a daze: the crack looking out into the larger tunnel. I smile to myself: She does look impressed!
She takes a meandering step backwards. “Wow... This is...” Right? I grin at her triumphantly. I never did thank Parsee for telling me about this place. I don't think she did it willingly, though. It was just sort of jammed somewhere in the midst of her normal ranting. It took me some hunting to find what she was talking about. But it was worth it.
Yamame walks over to the lip of the mini-lake and sits, hiking her dress up so as to not get it wet. I'd have gone in, myself, but it's fine if she doesn't want to. And I just realized I went naked in front of her without a second thought. It doesn't feel 'off' with her, for some reason.
I float over and settle next to her to watch the flowing river of flame again. This is what I meant by relaxing.
“Hahh...” Yamame lets out a big sigh, splashing water with her feet.
So we spend a cosy few minutes.
“Hey... I'm sorry.” Hmm? Sorry? I think hard about something Yamame would have to be apologetic for, but come up with nothing. I tilt my head at her.
“I always knew you were smarter than that, but I just treated you like a prop anyway. A pet. Just saying whatever I wanted, without considering you or anything... I'm sorry.”
...This girl sure enjoys worrying over silly things. Who cares? Seriously. You're ruining the nice mood here.
[ ] She'll be fine now that she's gotten it off her chest. Just enjoy the moment. [ ] Indeed. I was very hurt, therefore I must now take my revenge! [ ] A serious apology deserves a serious answer, no matter how silly and stupid it is.
I'm tired. The update is late. I'm too sleepy to proof read. I'd rather be home playing video games. My feet hurt.
I dip my mouth under the hot water, my bucket entirely filled, like a mini tub inside the pool. I exhale slowly and feel the bubbles tickle my nose. The only sounds to reach me are the lapping of the calm water, Yamame's restless feet splashing about and the characteristic constant low buzz coming from the spirits. The hypnotic noise has lulled me to sleep on occasion.
Reluctantly looking away from the nice view, I sink beneath the surface, enjoying the momentary but complete silence.
It would have been such a nice moment.
I come up and crane my neck to look at the nervous girl. She's hiked her puffy dress up above her knees. She avoids looking at me, just staring out and swinging her legs in the water, like an overgrown child.
Well. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on her. I mean, it seems like a stupid reason to worry to me, but I bet anyone looking at my worries from the outside would find them silly and insignificant too.. And they probably are, at that.
Still, though, I ought to do something. Help her out. And I think I just might have an idea.
I submerge again and try to maneuver into place. It's not that easy to swim with a huge wooden bowl constricting your movement, so I just cheat. I do the same thing as when I fly. Well, kinda. Water is like air, but heavier, right? So I just go from there. But that's not important.
I spot the blurry outlines of Yamame's bare feet underwater, barely. With a lunge, I grab her and... Yank!
She yelps and flops over into the hot spring stiffly like a very surprised fish. It's great.
I'm still laughing when she comes up. I get a look that's thankfully more confused than upset.
“Wha...” She lets her mouth hang for a bit. The ribbon tying her hair bun came undone when she fell in, so her blonde hair (longer than expected when straightened out!) hangs around her shoulders. She blinks away the water.
“What was that for?” I stick my tongue out at her, still half-laughing, and immediately feel myself colouring at it, embarrassed. I didn't mean to do it, it just sort of popped into my head and I did it. Such a childish gesture. But then again, so is pushing someone into water. I'm already flush from the hot spring anyway, so she shouldn't notice anything. Hopefully.
She huffs a little bit, but she's not angry. Yamame doesn't get angry.
Sighing, she grabs at the now clingy, wrinkly dress. “Drying this is going to be a pain.” That's fine. As long as it takes her mind off stupid stuff. But I fail at even that, it seems.
Rather than getting out of the warm pool or at the very least removing the heavy dress – undoubtedly uncomfortable underwater – she sighs deeper than before and spaces out yet again. Aw.
Well, I did what I could. Hot springs are supposed to be healing, so I'm sure this should help either way. It's working for me, in any case.
Holding a deep breath, I close my eyes and submerge once again. I think it's the silence and the enveloping warmth. In the latter quality, at least, it's the polar opposite of my usual dwelling. Feels great. I usually only end up coming to this place when I really need to clear my mind, but this isn't one of those days.. I can enjoy myself a little more now, without unpleasant thoughts trying to force themselves into my head.
Miss Satori's little sister does come to mind, however. Not that I think she's unpleasant, but... troublesome. That's a good word for her, I think. She seemed mad when I last saw her, with the stuff in the bath and... yeah.
Erm. Moving on.
I'd like to be prepared if she does show up again, but I don't think there's anything I can do to prepare myself. Hopefully she won't still be mad if she does come back, at least. Someone told me she spends most of her time on the surface, so it shouldn't be a problem.
The surface... Miss Satori did mention going up there. I don't exactly want to, and to be honest I don't care that much about this thing on my back, even if I'm curious about it. Still... The surface probably has so many things I've never even heard of. So many things I'd never – or rather, I will never know about if I stay down here. If only it wasn't so big, so bright and full of humans. I even poked my head around one of the tunnel exits once when it was night, and it was bright enough that shadows were cast, just from the stars and the moon. It's crazy up there.
Hm. Maybe if someone took me.
I come up again. Yamame is still in place, staring nowhere in particular, but she does seem more relaxed now. Slightly. Well, I tried.
[ ] One last attempt to cheer her up. That's what friends are for. [ ] Sometimes people just need their space. I'll end up bothering her if I keep it up.
Eh. Still not quite feeling it. I'll make it up for you guys, eventually. Promise.
[X] Sometimes people just need their space. I'll end up bothering her if I keep it up.
I dunno about you, but when I'm troubled and thinking things over, people crowding around me and trying to cheer me up pisses me off, all the more so because I know that they mean no harm and I can't really do anything about it without being a jerk.
I suppose I should do something to snap her out of this funk and back into her sunny disposition, but to be honest, I'm a little out of ideas. Well, I was out of ideas a few minutes ago too, but that didn't stop me from doing something stupid.
I'm so useless. Friends are supposed to know what to do in situations like this, right? I mean, sure we aren't as close as actual friends who see each other every day and all that, but I should still have some sort of clue rather than none at all.
I should be able to figure something out if I think hard enough. Let's see. I only recall Yamame getting like this a couple of times, usually when she gets caught on one of her aboveground excursions and forcefully ejected back to the dreary underground. Otherwise she's always cheery, telling me about someone new she met up there or how she swears she got closer to Parsee today because she didn't scowl as hard as usual, or just talking about not much in particular. Waxing shallow philosophical, sometimes. I just listen, though.
Which is all well and good, but none of it helps me with my current predicament.
Man. What do I do? What did she talk to Miss Satori about that made her like this? Up again. Deep breath.
At least she seems more relaxed now. There might not be much I can or should do, other than wait it out. She'll get better.
“Hey... You know...” Hmm? I perk up to listen to her. Maybe that's just what she needs. Just us doing our usual thing.
“Do you think we'd be different if we were something else?” Oh, it's this one again. A frequent topic with Yamame. She likes daydreaming out loud with me.
“If we were... say, oni.” She says and pauses, looking up. Imagining it, probably. ...I can't help doing it too, now that she mentioned it. Drinking wasn't bad even if I can't remember much, but being rowdy and partying every day... Not really my style, I think. If I'm not mistaken, horns grow with age, so I'd have the tiny kid ones. They're pretty cute. It's kind of funny to imagine myself laughing loudly and yelling about some dice game with other oni, like they do. If only because of how unlikely of an image it is.
Yamame lets out a short little chuckle. I guess she agrees.
“I can't see you wielding a club or kidnapping humans, that's for sure.” Well, there's that.
“I wonder if we'd be actually different if we were born something else. Y'know, different different.”
I'd say the whole thought experiment is pretty pointless for... multiple reasons that I can't explain well, but she seems to like thinking about it. I don't dare to ruin her fun
She sighs. “We should get out soon. You're gonna get all pruney.” Yeah. My fingers are wrinkly already.
I don't think I succeeded in my mission today, but when we left the spring, she seemed better off than when we came in at least. Except for the extremely wet dress – she didn't even bother to take it off and wring it. We only stopped on the way to say hello to our bridge princess, who urged us in no uncertain terms to get going. Yamame likes to walk the bridge rather than flying over it, just to bug Parsee. I think she likes it, deeps down.
I went with her all the way to her place, then she said she had 'stuff' to do. That's what she says. Always nondescript stuff. It doesn't bother me. I need my alone time, too.
I felt a lot less relieved when I entered my little lair today. Maybe the secret to getting over fear really is just to face it.
I roll over in my blankets. They seem coarse and dirty compared to the ones I slept in back at the mansion, but I know better than to concern myself with that. I'm used to them anyway. It's better to face it like you would a dream, or an uncommonly good day. It's just a nice thing that happened once. Don't pine for it.
I take out the hand mirror and contort myself to take another look at the painting in my back. Maybe the fifth or fourth time I do it? It's just... kind of surreal, when I look at it. The drawings and symbols are extremely fine, some lines as thin as a needle's point. I drag a finger across my skin and feel it again, but there's absolutely no difference in texture between the ink and the rest of me. And it's a perfect black, too, with no imperfections, cracks or anything
Going topside to investigate it, though... I don't know. I'm not supposed to go up to the surface, right? I'd just get kicked out. It just seems so dangerous, with the humans and everything...
Yet... Yamame goes out, doesn't she? Just at night, but still. She's fine. And she always tells me of fun stuff and good people she meets.
Ahh... I roll around again, pressing my face to the sheets. So tough. I wanna go, but I don't wanna go. Why did miss Satori have to put this stupid idea into my head?
I better sleep it off. I've wasted enough time doing nothing that my eyes are getting heavy again. Maybe I'll just forget about it all when I wake up.
I hope I don't dream tonight.
[ ] metallic prison [ ] ray of light [ ] watchtower [ ] the most terrible of omens
I've been having some trouble with the story so I'm gonna make next update a wonky experimental thing to just have fun with.
Is it gonna be a weird cryptic dream sequence so I can have maximum fun? You bet your ass.
"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke, "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate, so let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."
A long, deep breath. My ribs protest with a marked sting, as usual. I ignore them.
From the exhalation comes a white puff, like a cloud. It lingers for a short moment, taking some unusual shape, then disappears into the air. I like to think it as a miniature cloud in fast forward.
This one forms a horse's head for a split second before disappearing. The corners of my mouth twinge.
I move and my joints whine. The sound is remarkably similar to the creaking of this own old place, stinking of rotten wood. So do I. I peer over the rim of my home. The one jagged crack in the otherwise opaque wooden window lets a faint ray of light in, weak and crimson now: my only source of light. It travels way up almost to the roof, telling me it'll soon be dark outside.
I move to take a look through the crack as I often do, but my body tells me not to in no uncertain terms as soon as try to stretch my legs. I wince.
Another deep breath. Another puff of warm smoke leaves my mouth and lives for a scant second before dispersing into thin air. This time, if it had any recognizable shape, I couldn't catch it.
I do another.
A sharper sting of pain than before makes me start start coughing midway through the fifth one, causing an explosion of white smoke. I can't stop it. In fact,I can't do much of anything except wait for the coughing fit to pass, each cough sending a ripple of pain singing through my chest.
Ah, I'm done. No more deep breaths for today. Shallow, now, so I only move a little.
That's enough. I've played far too much for today. The freezing touch of the cold brass makes me wince as I lay back on it, but it's also somehow relieving, like a pack of ice on a bruise. Perhaps more literally than I'd like.
...tap Those optimistic thoughts are unceremoniously ripped away from me. There will be no rest today. The tapping of feet comes from below, along with the faint creaking of the tower where it's responds to being stepped on. It doesn't like it either, I think. They start imperceptible and grow, grow, grow: from a tapping to something like a stomping. I screw my eyes shut until they hurt, cover my ears and crawl a little deeper. It won't do any good. The horrible echoed thumping is muffled but no less clear in intent.
This is the worst sound. The sound of firm, heavy steps on wooden stairs resounds close now. The kind long, black, solemn boots make. Several of them overlap, coming up together.
This is the very worst sound there is. I'd much rather be deafened than hear this sound again. And blinded, and killed, maybe. I bite my lip, reopening a wound barely closed, despite now being quite old. Focus on the pain. The feeling of blood running over my chin is a reassuring one. Focus on the pain.
There's some muttering outside, and the grave tinkling sound of a bundle of keys. Focus. You're fine. I'm fine. You're still here.
The door creaks open.
The sound I make is somewhere in the crossroads between a scream, a sob and a choking sound. I tumble off my little rat's nest nowhere near gracefully, welcoming the naked rock over metal or wood. But it's not quite enough to calm me. I heave once, but manage to hold it together long enough to reach the door of my little hole. I thank all deities I know that I decided to build this place into the ceiling with the door facing downward. There it goes. My first good hearty meal in years, wasted. Sorry, miss Satori.
Awful. I think I said before that you can get used to anything: I'm taking that back now. I'll never be okay with this.
That's right, I'm here and not there. I spread my arms and hug the ground: it's cold, but not the sharp, biting cold of the brass. It's rough, not flat and flawless. It doesn't creak when I step on it, either. It's the lovely hole in the ground that I carved out for myself, literally. I touch my lower lip and sure enough, there's no wound, no blood. No serious bruises when I look down at my scrawny body..
The rapid rising and falling of my chest decides to slow, finally.
I'm fine. I even have people who like me here... somehow. Who I'm safe with. This is just the usual thing, nothing actually happened. Happens. I'm fine.
My hands come away from my eyes wet.
I'm okay. This is the same as always, that's all. I'm...
Might be kinda short and crappy to get back into the swing of things, and I may have lost track of some stuff due to time, but please bear with it. I put that last choice in just for completeness' sake.
Anyway, don't take this as an excuse (and feel free to skip it entirely), but I suppose I owe you guys at least something of an explanation since this is my second sudden disappearance from the site. Most of you won't give a quarter of a fuck about this, but I'm gonna write it anyway, even if it's just to set it straight for myself.
See, it looks like I have a little pattern going on. First, I'll get excited about touhou and throw myself into writing and especially reading stuff every single day, f5ing every few minutes. After a couple months of this, I'll start getting lazier and lazier and putting off updates, until it gets to the rate of about once a week. At some point, I'll eventually be lazy enough that I'll miss a self-set deadline by like a week. This FOR SOME REASON causes me to feel enough shame that I won't want to even load THP. Just looking at anything touhou makes me cringe out of shame for my shitty lack of responsibility. Yeah, I know it's stupid.
Eventually the shame passes and the guilt (and tohos!) pulls me back in, and here I am. As such, expect updates for at least a couple months. I'll see if I can fix my own shit.
Also, I think I feel like writing another short after this update. Please wait warmly.
>>12657 Pretty sure that's Yamame. Might be Satori again. >[ ] Misery loves company Koishi maybe, or Yamame. Parsee is also a possibility. >[ ] Humanity's friend Man's best friend is his dog, but there's no dogs in the underground except for Satori's pets, so this one has to be booze -> Yuugi. >[ ] Repentant Monster Okuu?
Of course we're assuming these refer to characters and not Kisume's opinion of herself, which is entirely possible.
>>12655 >excuse You're a terrible person and everyone hates you, please stop writing SAID NOBODY FUCKING EVER.
If you need time off, take time off. Forcing yourself to write just creates shit. Your return is met only with celebration, not hate.
I dig a piece of old (old) bread from my emergency stock, to wash the acrid taste from my mouth. Damn thing feels like it could break my teeth if I bit it the wrong way, but it does the job. I try to settle myself back into my covers, despite fully knowing going back to sleep at this point isn't likely to happen. I actually feel more tired than I did when I laid down.
I hate dreams. I suppose they must hate me back: I can't think of another reason they'd strike back right now in particular. Just when things seem to be getting better: when I last had a dream it didn't make me feel terrible, I ate some positively luxurious food and even managed to kind of communicate with people that weren't trying to have my head, for once.
Damn it. The old wooden room drifts into my mind and I shiver. I shake my head and tighten my hold on my own knees to clear out the memories threatening to creep back in. It's nothing big. I've toughed it out by myself before, I can do it again.
That said... Was my room always this desolate? I mean, I know it technically always is, and the only other person to have ever even been here was Koishi, but I don't know. It just doesn't feel good to be here alone. It didn't before, either, but I always endured it before. Kind of. Right now, though, I just know something terrible is going to happen. At least, that's what my mind is telling me.
...Maybe someone did mess with my head, after all.
It's only a short flight until the great nameless chasm comes into view again, along with the road to the far-off oni city. As always, I try not to look down into it too much, or at all. Even being able to fly, the darkness is so complete that the light from the torches seems to vanish into thin air, or be swallowed if it even comes near the long bottomless pit. A sheet of pure black. Even the adventurous oni hunting parties don't venture down there. Point is, it's seriously scary.
And the one I'm visiting today is the person willing to live within throwing distance of it. I considered visiting Yamame, but she was probably as tired as I was when she got back, and seeing as I didn't get much sleep, I'd hedge my bets that she's deep in the dream world right now. Hopefully a better dream world than mine. And since there's no Yamame, I opted for the next best thing.
Not seeing my blonde friend lounging atop the bridge railings as she usually does, I circle around to the small garden bed she keeps in the back — a popular hobby down here, apparently. Maybe it's easy food? How these plants grow with no sun, I'll never know.
There she is. I feel her sharp stare flick my way for a moment, then back to her flowers. She's dressed much more simply than usual, opting for a light dress, not unlike the one I received from miss Satori. Loose hair, no detached sleeves or anything. Cozy. I land next to her, slightly more unsteady in my flying than usual from the lack of sleep. Parsee turns to me and I see her trademark toothy frown for just a moment before it unexpectedly changes to a look of surprise. I'd have expected a thorny quip for a greeting as usual, but instead one of her eyebrows go up and she looks me straight in the eyes. I almost immediately avert my own: hers are a little too sharp and a little too green to not be otherworldly. It looks like she's always glaring.
Although, she is a youkai and technically a guard. If you think of it that way, it's a fitting image.
“You look awful,” she frowns further. “Not enough sleep?”
So that's it. I suppose I'd look a little haggard, under the circumstances. I nod faintly. It looks like Parsee was just finishing up her gardening when I arrived. She guides me into her house, a fairly rare event in its own right, and not just for me. The girl isn't compatible with other people, for obvious reasons. Doesn't get many guests.
I think I referred to this place as a shack before, but that's a misnomer: it's far too sturdily built to be called a shack. More of a cabin, really. It's not very furnished, decorated or even painted, seeming to bear only the minimum possible requirements for living and comfort. Parsee doesn't spend all that much time in here, but it still has that well-lived-in feel. Furniture looks well used: the only sofa, sitting in the middle of the living room, is faded and torn in places, and the coffee table nearby is marred with what must be hundreds of circular stains and a cup in the process of making another. Coffee, cold by now. What a waste.
Although it's not dirty, it's not well ordered either. What little in the way of books and random trinkets there are are scattered around the place, easily stepped on if one isn't careful — especially since there's very little illumination: just two oil lamps like mine, casting a dim orange glow throughout the place. Plenty lighting for Parsee, but not quite for me.
“Just sit wherever. It doesn't matter for you, does it?” Parsee wastes no time diving into the only available sofa with a satisfied-sounding 'oomph'. I land somewhere close, on the ground: She's right: I don't really need a chair or anything and cushioning makes no difference. It's good enough in here.
She peers at me and I smile back. She may bark and bare her teeth a lot, but I really think she's a good girl. This is a nice place. It's a lot nicer than being alone, somehow. It's a mysterious feeling: a week ago I would have thought the opposite for sure.
About now is the timing when she'll usually start grumbling about something. Which is fine with me. I think listening to someone else's worries may be just right right now. Good distraction. Although...
The weird tattoos on my back come to mind. Could she know something? I mean, I suppose it's unlikely that she'd know more than miss Satori, but she should meet a lot of people, being a bridge guard. Kind of. As long as we're not doing anything here, I could show her... Although I have a premonition I'm going to have to go topside if I want to know anything about that. And I really do. But I'm thinking too much: now's not the time for any of that. I shelve the thought for later.
[ ] Listen to Parsee ramble, do the usual thing. [ ] Show her. Can't hurt. [ ] Actually, didn't I bring her something today...?
[X] Actually, didn't I bring her something today...?
So mystery. Much suspense. Kisume now Doge in bucket.
Also, don't worry about the whole excitement -> indifference -> shame -> repeat cycle. I know it all to well, going through it with just about everything I do, so it would be hypocritical of me to get on someone else's case for it.