Parsee is easy to read, even for me. It's obvious she has something in her mind: She hasn't started chatting yet, and she keeps glancing my way and back, which isn't really her type of thing. Luckily, I remembered this time around that it's proper etiquette to bring a gift if you're visiting someone. As a bonus, what I brought happens to be just right for the situation. With some effort, I heft up the heavy load from the bottom of my bucket and present it to the hostess. I may be a youkai, but I'm not a physical type, which means I only have a few times the strength of a human of similar stature. It still isn't much at all: a single adult human could probably physically subdue me with some ease. The large bottle gives me some trouble, and I dump it on the nearby table, half fearing it'd break from the impact.
Damn, this thing must be three liters or more. I can't remember, but I probably swiped it from an oni home at some point: it looks like the same rough, ill-refined kind of sake they usually make themselves. I had the thought of bringing it because you're not supposed to drink alone. At least that's how the oni do it, and I'd trust their knowledge when it comes to drinking.
Parsee looks surprised, raising her eyebrows, but not at all disapproving. She gets up right away to fetch us some glasses while I open it up. This should make conversation (so to speak) a lot easier. I hope. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen Parsee drink any alcohol. She doesn't seem at all against it, though, so there's no problem.
She pours for both of us — clay cups: simple, like the rest of her home — and lays back again, with not a word throughout. I would be slightly uncomfortable if I weren't used to it. It's Parsee, after all. I just stay put, enjoying the comfort that comes with her company and taking an occasional swig. Parsee, in turn, drinks quite a bit faster than me, turning cup after cup of strong drink and not saying much. Without much change in expression either, which is not possible for me. This stuff is just a tad too strong for me not to cringe at the taste with every sip. It's not bad, though.
After a few minutes of not much other than enjoying her company and the comfortable silence — comfortable for me, at least — she glances at me, like she's about to say some thing important;. “So,” She starts, and I'm somehow reminded of the sound of tearing paper. “I hear you took a sightseeing trip to the mind-readers little castle.”
I nod after a brief pause, only because the way she looks at me makes me feel like I should feel guilty about it. Even though I didn't do anything wrong. Did I?
She clicks her tongue and glares at me from across the room. More than usual, I mean. I'm not sure what I did this time, but there's not much I can do other than look apologetic. She spares me another look and turns another cup. I'm already starting to feel it, but Parsee seems fine, despite drinking more than me. Not a rowdy drunk, then. Thankfully. She grumbles something under her breath. “Why?” Her voice is too low and she faces down while she speaks, in contrast to her usual rather direct manner.
“Satori is just... condescending, conceited. She treats everyone like she does her dumb, subservient pets. What does she have for you?” I see. So she's this kind of drunk, is she? “Or is it someone else? The empty-headed bird? That damned cat? What is it? What do they have?” Looks like she's entered a soliloquy. She's not even looking at me. “The bird is just a plain idiot only good for being a pet, and the cat is a nosy, loud nuisance. Why them? Is it just the unnecessary fat, same as Yamame? Do you have a thing for that?” She huffs and buries her face in a cushion, turning away from me.
Oh geeze, maybe sake wasn't the best idea.
“And why Yamame, at that?” she says, voice muffled. “I'm always around when you come and all, and she's just...” She trails off. I feel... incredibly awkward. I have no idea what to do right now. Although, with Parsee being drunk, it shouldn't matter much. She'll have half-forgotten it by tomorrow. “She's just... so normal, you know? You'd scarcely believe she's a youkai, from the way she carries herself. And you know how humans are.” Parsee may not be to fond of humans. Although, it sounds like she's just digging for faults where the are none, and couldn't find any valid ones in Yamame.
We spend a few minutes in silence. The only sound is Parsee muffled breathing: She really worked herself up over not much. “To add to that...” she breathes, with uncharacteristic hesitation. “I heard you're planning to go topside, too.”
That one statement does surprise me. I haven't even decided it myself, and it's already reached her ears. The gossip is incredibly fast down here, considering how sparsely populated it is. The image of a certain fire-haired cat comes to mind: the one that's a little too lively for this dreary, grey, rocky place. “And, you know... the aboveground is just...” She mumbles, face still buried in the sofa. Parsee seems more agitated then before. “Just... Everyone goes there, you know? Yamame sneaks out, Satori and her pets get access as well, and only a slap to the wrist if they go. But if old Parsee even moves from her post, noooooo. Everyone who passes by has to make some stupid joke about going to search for a lost lover,” she sniffs. "We can't very well leave her alone, can we?"
Her voice is cracking, like she's about to start crying. I've never heard that from her. Something tells me I should be delicate right now, but then again, I'm hardly an expert in social interaction.
[ ] Attempt to console her... somehow. [ ] Stealthily leave right now when she's not looking: This is too awkward. [ ] Just join her: dive into that bottle. I can find something to cry about, too. [ ] Keep quiet in your corner. She'll probably get over herself before long. [ ] Write-in
Protip: if you stick around with Parsee, she might tell you something about her time aboveground! Previous thread: >>11590
Or, I thought she was about to start crying, but no deal. She just presses her face against the cushion harder, and I can see even her pointy ears flash an angry red. Whether from rage, the alcohol, or what, I couldn't tell you. She goes silent.
So, again I'm thrust into a situation that I'm not at all equipped to deal with. Seems to be happening an awful lot lately. Mostly by my own fault, but still. Normally, I'd be making myself scarce right about now. Thinking about it, she's probably just enduring it: Parsee hardly seems like the type to let herself cry in front of anyone. If my interpretation is correct, it'd only be charitable to let her be alone so she could cry her heart out without worrying about anyone else.
But... I can't very well just leave her alone like this, can I? I look her again. A small heaving girl, splayed over a faded sofa well past its expiration date and hiding her face. Her clothes and hair are disheveled while more discarded clothes and random stuff are laying all over the floor like it's a bachelor's home. A bottle of strong sake, half-finished in just about half an hour or less stands sentinel proudly near her.. It's something of a sad sight, and that's saying a lot, coming from me. I don't know what kind of person could coldly leave at a time like this, but it certainly isn't my kind.
...Also, her ears are kind of twitching. This is decidedly not the time for that kind of observation, though.
Again, people are not my strong suit, so I don't know what would make her feel better, but... The most basic method is to let it out, so to speak, right? Which she doesn't seem willing to do. I know I feel a lot better when I cry, at least. Hm. Well, there's one way to help that along.
I cautiously get up and float over to her side, trying to not make much noise, take the bottle in hand and pour her another cup. Some for myself too, for good measure.
...What? It's one solution. Parsee glances at me like she's astonished, but relents fairly quickly, sitting back up and downing it in one go. Which is a success, I think. Not that she was very reluctant to drink to begin with. Her eyes are swimming, bloodshot, her face is red all throughout and she looks haggard, but that's still quite good: if I drank the same amount she has, I'd already be well and truly out like a light by now.
Some sort of direct physical contact like a hug to console her would probably be good, but I think that particular hurdle is still just a bit too high for me, right now. So I come up with a different plan instead. I strategically park at the foot of the sofa within reach and look up at her. Also strategically, of course. She takes the bait flawlessly.
It may seem weird, but I've read some books where the protagonists really enjoyed doing this kind of thing, so there must be something to it. Besides, I couldn't think of anything else to do other than getting her even drunker. After a second of hesitation, probably considering my circumstances, I feel her hand gingerly placed on the top of my head. I manage to only tense up imperceptibly. Now, I don't know how it is for her right now, but...
A little whine of pleasure barely escapes my throat. My eyes close involuntarily.
It's so gooo~ood. She runs her fingers through my hair: it's strong, steady. I can hardly believe it's a dead drunk Parsee at the helm. She even stops to undo knots in my hair. Once past the initial impact of the whole touching thing, it's amazing. It doesn't help that the alcohol is starting to make my head mushy to begin with.
I hear a sigh from somewhere above me and come back to my senses. Right. Um, this is all strictly for Parsee, and no other reasonnnnnnnot my earsss I slack against the sofa and she timely takes the chance to wrap her legs around my shoulders, securing me in place. I freeze for a short moment and my mind goes to unfortunate places, but the feeling is expediently solved by a few scratches in the right spots.
Well. This isn't exactly the scenario I envisioned.
“I hate bridges,” she begins, which is good: it's a response. Unfortunately, I have no faith I can keep up with her right now. It's just so comfortable, and her legs are so warm, and it feels so safe, and I still am more or less sleep-deprived. Oh no, no no. I especially can't sleep here and now: I already slept before in front of her, I'm in her house and she's baring her soul to me and all...
“...funny that they call me a 'bridge princess' when I died in one? Because it isn't. It really, really isn't. You think I asked for this job?” She sniffs.
And I missed some already. She lightly pinches my ear again, and I lose another stretch of the conservation as my head goes blank for a while. I can't keep this up.
[ ] Get it together, girl! [ ] It feels so goo~ood... [ ] Write-in (?)
Previous updates were judged to contain far less than the recommended daily amount of cute. Attempts to remedy this deficiency have thus been made. This stuff is why you're all reading the story, right? It would be for me.
I entrust my weight entirely to Parsee, going limp as a doll in her arms. Uh... I mean, legs. And she just won't let go of my ears. It's all I can do to keep from practically purring. Well, at least she's enjoying it too. It's really not fair. Normal people don't melt from having their heads rubbed, do they? What's wrong with me? Is it just lack of acquired resistance? Did the little sister change my head here, too? Back when she... well... you know. ...
Aw, as if I didn't have enough trouble without blood going to my head.
“So, that damn brain parasite,” she continues, heedless of my little internal struggle. That's right, she's still talking, I realize past the haze of alcohol and, um, other stimulus. I have to at least make an effort to listen., even if she is drunk. Drunks and children are the most honest, right? “She thought it'd be funny to give me this job. You know, so I can wake up every morning, look at the fucking bridge and remember. I suppose because it gave her a laugh, our '''''Queen'''', as some idiot wisely nominated her.” Parsee puts some strength in her fingers as to stress the word, and I can practically see the quotes form around it. More than one pair, at that.
But only barely. This spot feels amazingly comfortable right now, for some reason. “What's her problem? Even her 'pets' are just annoying.” My eyes close, more or less by themselves. Now it's the standard Parsee talk, except with more touching. And to be quite honest, I don't really care about what she's complaining about right this moment. I feel her legs rub against me, and the gesture is oddly comforting. Like... She's assuring sure she's there, even while what she's talking about is something completely different. That's how it feels. “What kind of pervert keeps sentient, thinking people as pets anyway? What's she doing with them?” I'm sorry, Parsee... Try as I might, I don't think I can follow you right now.
I take a deep, deep breath.
“The cat even wears a collar sometimes. That can't be normal.”
“I hate her.” The blonde girl raises her voice some. “I hate this cave.” She has foregone the cup for the entire massive glass bottle at some point. It's almost empty now. “I hate the stupid merry oni and their jokes. I hate their terrible sake, I hate...” The sentence lingers.
Then she takes a long, tired sigh, her shoulders slump. It's like all her anger is drained in an instant. Her hands retake their work atop the smaller girl's head like nothing happened, and if you cared to listen right at that moment, you'd hear a little sigh of contentment, barely audible. “But it's not their fault, is it?” she breathes. “It's...I'm....”
There's a long pause. In the homely cabin, a scant two weak lamps, their wavering light painting the two youkai a faint orange: the only lights that has ever graced this place. Two sets of breathing can be heard, one much louder and rougher than the other. The smaller girl doesn't even stir. Parsee, for her part, does her share of uncomfortable shifting.
“I...” she hesitates. “I have some business in the aboveground too, since the satori won't help me at all.” She bites her lip. “I heard you're going there to investigate something? That's all I know, but, um— When, if you go, I mean... If you're going too, you know....” The hesitating turns into stammering, and the flustered girl turns her face from her unlistening audience. “You know what I mean.”
“It's – I'm...” She pulls her hand back. The small girl lets out an unconscious low whine and moves her head as if to request the caress back. She's long asleep, as Parsee finally realizes. Her expression twists: The little one didn't hear her roundabout request. She's half disappointed, half relieved.
She clocks out, and that's the end of the night for the pair. At least, what passes for night that far under the earth.
One of them has the best night's sleep she's had in a long time.
My head hurts. It's a dull pain, pulsing I've felt a few times before, and not the best feeling to wake up to. But I think it was worth it, this time.
I look around: somehow I ended up halfway in my tipped over bucket, legs sticking out. It's also stuffed with... blankets? And a pillow. Huh.
I rearrange myself and peek out: sure enough, I'm still indoors, in Parsee's home, but not in that living room any more. It's pitch black now, as it always is in the underground, but if I really strain I can see a big lump in a small bed, and hear some peaceful breathing. She must've rolled or dragged me all the way to her room. I feel fairly rested, so we must've slept for a good while. I ended up getting what I came here for: keeping my mind off... bad stuff, and also acquired some new things to think about.
For now, though, the more immediate concerns.
[ ] Five more minutes... [ ] The most important meal. [ ] I'll call you later. [ ] Maid service.
Shifting perspective is a terribly inelegant solution. Sorry if anything's off.
There's one thing that's been itching in my mind for a while. ...What in the blazes is all this stuff? As my eyes grow accustomed to the dark, it becomes clearer and clearer just how bad the state of Parsee's house is. Even my hole-in-the-ceiling, although it isn't much better, at least has tidy little piles for each thing: Trinkets, books... well, that's it, really. But anyhow, it's much better organized than this chaos. There's stuff all over the floor! This won't do at all. She really ought to clean up better. An image of me scolding Parsee and telling her to clean her room floats across my mind, and I have to hold back a laugh. Little me, scolding someone. Ha.
Still, I should do something about this. How does even she live in here? I mean, if I weren't floating around, I don't know what I could have stepped on and broken already. Seriously, It's not safe. I can leave her room for last, so I don't carelessly wake up the peacefully sleeping princess. I'd bet an eye she's not a morning person. Light one lamp: enough to work, mostly; then set about to collect all her stuff. It's kind of awkward bending over to pick up things, folding clothes and stuff inside a giant floating bucket, but thankfully I'm quite skillful in the air and can handle it fine. It's the one thing I think I can take some pride on.
Now, Parsee is richer than I thought. Not that she has gaudy gold and gemstone decorations or jewelery or anything like that, no, but what she does have is a lot of outsider stuff. These don't come by that easily, you know? Even her clothes: Aside from her customary, clearly gensokyo-made multi-layer dress, there are a lot with the characteristic elasticity and impossibly methodical, geometric craftsmanship that just couldn't come from anywhere in Gensokyo. Including some... fancy underwear. I feel my cheeks heat up; Parsee is pretty bold, isn't she? I—I mean, this certainly shouldn't be on the floor! That's just not hygienic.
And I didn't know Parsee was a reader too! There's some normal books, but some strange outside books too: they don't smell like books, the pages are the wrong colour, too. They're crisp with white pages. Covers shiny with flashy colours, flexible and covered in drawings. A far cry from my collection, although I think I like mine better. They're more booky, you know? And what's with some of these? “The Power of Habit”? “Cure Your Mind”? “The Road to Self-Transformation”? I don't get it. Some bad romance novels, I have a few of these too. Magazines with pretty women on the cover (dressed pretty women); even more outsider stuff. Weights for lifting, more sake bottles rolling around, stationery, a towel, pillows, a bottle of pills, a little statuette of a cat and... Eww, what's this? It's... floppy.
After maybe a tad more time than expected, I finish putting everything away nicely, even that... thing and a few other unidentifiable objects. If we include dusting the furniture that seemed like it'd gained a couple pounds from dust alone and sweeping the house, I'd say it took just about two hours or so. Not bad! Now it looks more like a proper home.
I'm halfway through considering what to do about breakfast given no ingredients, no kitchen and no cooking ability when I finally hear Parsee stir in her room. And by stir, I mean loudly swear. Not even we youkai are immune to the fearsome beast called hangover.
She emerges from the door looking like something chewed her up and spit her out. Stumbling, squinting at the puny firelight, blonde strands sticking out in all directions, her nightgown halfway down her body. I understand, though. Staying still while sleeping isn't my forte either.
“Th'hell's this?” she drawls, voice even hoarser than usual, if that's possible. I just smile: yeah, I knew she wouldn't be too happy about me rearranging and technically going through all her belongings, but this is the proper way! I look over the room: everything sparkly clean, clothes neatly folded on the table and all. I don't regret a thing. After giving me a look, Parsee makes a sound something like a cross between a yawn and sigh and zombie-walks back to her room mumbling something about getting dressed for work. Nevermind that her work is just standing around the bridge and harassing people.
Hmm, that was some nice morning exercise, but I'd better abscond before Parsee regains her wits. She'll probably be even madder than usual if I stick around. Giving the reformed house a last proud look-over, I make for home.
...I did say 'morning exercise', but the way back is the same torch-lit tunnel as it's always been. It's only morning for me because I happened to just wake up. Sometimes I envy the oni and their weird artificial day-night system. I wonder if it'd terribly hard to implement if you knew magic. I hoped to reach home with no bigger incident than silly thoughts like that, but it wasn't to be.
“Ooh, it's the cute one again, what a coincidence.” A painfully familiar, eternally sing-song voice echoes out through the tunnel.
I speed up. Today has barely started and it's already a busy day.
“Don't be like that, I only wanna talk this time, I'll swear over my sister's heart or whatever you like! Nothing else if you don't want to!”
[ ] Run [ ] Stay [ ] Write-in (?)
Update courtesy of the bolt of lightning that literally struck down my internet and robbed me of things to do other than write.
It has been brought to my attention (by a DICK) that my handle apparently resembles the word "areola". Since I'm now unable to unmake the association, it has thus been changed to another suitably random word. Cheers.
[x] Yes, Miss Komeiji, I'm sure you would. Keep walking.
>>12810 >Isolex But that's the same word! I apologize for nothing.
>>12814 Cannot unsee (despite the above). And for the record, like >>12816, my first thought was, and continues to be, Aeolus. "Aeolist" looks significantly less like "areola" than, say, "areology" does. I still apologize for nothing.
I speed up until I reach my limit. It’s quite different from physical exertion — and perhaps just a bit more draining — like something is constantly pressing against my mind, weighing on and dulling all my thoughts. The wind becomes rather intense and I have to squint, else my vision go all blurry. “Don’t be like that,” the insistently happy voice chimes out through the buffeting of air, alarmingly not sounding any further away or like she’s struggling to keep up at all. I was fairly confident in my speed, too… “Sister told me to apologize! I can’t very well apologize if you’re running away. Flying away.”
… It’s not like I don’t trust her, but… I don’t trust her. I know she doesn’t mean any harm, but that doesn’t make it any safer to be around someone with absolutely no impulse control. Y– you know, that stuff we… she did. You’re only supposed to do it with someone special, right? Not just anyone! Even I know that much!
“Pleeeease,” she whines, like a child. ‘Sister already scolded me for hours, if I don’t apologize properly she’ll do it again!”
Well… I attempt to consider for a second, but I’m already too late: the decision has been made for me.
A sudden and unexpected impact sends me reeling forward in the bucket. My head swings like a ragdoll’s and there’s a pinching pain on my lip as I slam into the rim of my old wooden friend. An instantly familiar taste spreads through my mouth: it’s salty and acid. It’s blood. Obviously. I’m tasting blood again. I don’t want any blood. Near me On me or around me.
No, no. I violently shake my head to clear my thoughts. No, now’s not the time.
I look up to the youkai girl who stopped me like it was nothing; a dopey smile on her face, apparently oblivious to the crimson rivulet now, running down my chin. “Sorry!” her mouth moves, and I notice the sound comes not from her, but the exact same position behind me as it seemed to be before. “Oh!” she mouths, and my head hurts from the incongruity. “Sorry sorry! I forgot,” she says, her voice returning to where it’s supposed to be. What, is that her power too? Or just ventriloquism? “And one more sorry! Sorry for anything I did. Sister says I shouldn’t be pushy, and people have the right to refuse things I want to do. So, my bad for all that.” she pushes a stray strand of hair from her eyes, only for it to be replaced by three others.
I stare, nursing my newly busted lip and staining my hand red. Does this girl realize the contradiction going on here?
“Anywho anyhow,” she sings, playing with the rim of her silken shirt. “You’re going to the surface! Right? I’m on my way there now.”
Why does everyone know I’m going to the surface? Not that I was planning to keep it secret anything, but did Miss Satori have to broadcast it?
Koishi freezes in her tittering and twitching for but a split second and brightens — even more so, somehow — “Oh, yes! Yes, yes, I’m going, you’re going, we’re both going. Why don’t we go us two? Together.” The featureless grey orb at her side twitches in the air – happily, I might chance. “Us both, together! Isn’t it great? Wouldn’t it?”
I do my best at a glare.
“No? Oh, why not? Won’t you come?” She makes some mockery of a pout. “We can play, I can make people not-think of you too, it’s great fun. Come with!” She reaches out her tanned hands — to do what, I don’t know — but hesitates midway through. “Right! No being pushy, sister taught me.” She adopts a serious look, which paradoxically looks no more serious than her usual grin. “I’m a good girl, so no being pushy. If you don’t want to go, you won’t go. I’ll go, then.”
She turns and unceremoniously marches away for a couple of paces before freezing and spinning on her heels a second time. “Good-bye, little one! I’ll call out if I see you upside!”
And she went, thumping the ground. My shoulders slump. That girl is exhausting to be around in more than one way.
I wipe away the blood on my dress without looking, staining the pure white cloth likely forever. Blood sticks. Even being a youkai, I’m not good with blood: I don’t like the taste, nor the smell, nor the look of it. Maybe it would’ve been better to stay put and obey the satori.
Now, now, what to do? It’s been decided — only half by me, I feel — that I’m going to the surface. Parsee mentioned she was going, Yamame sneaks out sometimes and tells me of it, Koishi… shouldn’t be a factor. I ponder, half-buried in my warm, raspy old blankets again. Is there something to it? I wanted to go in the first place more or less out of idle curiosity. I want to see the surface and find out what this thing is on my back, that’s it. But somehow, the way everybody’s been talking about it and pushing me along, it’s like there’s something else to it.
Maybe it’s fate? Yes, it’s a silly notion, but this is the Land of Illusions after all.
I dart my tongue over the recently opened gash on my lip. It returns a pleasant smart, but no more blood.
Come to think of it, I’m not actually stuck down here. Technically, I can go live in the aboveground whenever I want. In fact, there are many like me: the underground’s express purpose — to keep ‘unpleasant’ youkai out of sight and out of mind of humans — is really only valid for about a half of the ones who live here. The oni themselves are down here out of a mutual agreement, because they couldn’t bear the dishonest humans and the toady tengu. This much anyone could learn from just passing through the Ancient City in a lively day and listening. Many others, I’d imagine, are like me. They just ended up living here somehow, or perhaps the sun doesn’t agree with them: not all that uncommon a condition for youkai.
Then there are the ones that actually fit the bill. The ones of ‘unsavory’ powers. Yamame, Parsee, Satori, many, many others. Or just too bloodthirsty to be allowed in the surface, barely intelligent beasts. Most are rather less sociable than even me, and live skulking through the twisting tunnels down and down, all the way to the fiery lake.
Those can’t do much other than sneak outside, and they run the risk of finding a particularly moody shrine maiden.
Living in the surface…
Well, it’s a thought.
Since it’s decided, I suppose I should be proactive in this. Since I’m not quite mad enough to go empty-handed like the younger Komeiji, I’m going to need to gather some stuff before anything else.
Where should I hunt for it all?
[ ] The Underground City seems like a logical choice. [ ] Parsee or Yamame might have something or other I can pillage. [ ] I know a place. Quite morbid, but handy.
Aside from a mad satori chasing then wounding me, today has been a fairly good day. I had a pleasant dreamless sleep, got to see a rare unguarded Parsee and put myself to good use cleaning up. It’s only logical that I wouldn’t want to ruin it by fishing through desiccated, decayed human corpses or running for my life from angry oni. That just leaves the one option, doesn’t it? I was just at Parsee’s, so I suppose it’s Yamame first. She was kind of blue last time we parted, so it’ll be good to see how she is, too.
Before leaving, though, I search my own trinkets for anything useful. I come up with a compass, a half-filled notebook, a set of matches and a rusty tinderbox. Not much, but at least fire won’t be a problem.
I arrive at my friends nondescript hole-in-the-wall without incident shortly afterwards, but she’s not out stretching today. This is the problem with having no sun and no set schedule: you never know when people are doing what, and it’s not at all rare that the few times you do decide to go talk to someone, they’ve just gone to sleep. And I’ve been running around rather frequently, sleeping irregularly: I’ve no idea when is now. There aren’t enough time pieces down here and not enough people who care to keep them all set correctly. Well, either way, I’ll just be borrowing. If she isn’t around, I’ll leave a message. That’s okay, right?
As before, the entrance is too small to fit my bucket. Okay. That’s not so bad. I’ve been flying around with these huge, tall caves stretching over my head constantly now. It’s not open sky in here: I can handle this much. Plus, I’m going into Yamame’s lair, and she’s friendly. Nothing bad is going to happen. Even if somebody does come across it in these scarcely traversed tunnels, nobody is going to want anything with an old, dirty, empty wooden bucket either, so it should also be safe to leave it out here. I’m all set. I place a shaking hand on the rim.
… Come on, this is really not the time to be scared. I’m all set. I’ve been getting better, I can get through this too. Alright, let’s do it in one motion so it’s less painful, like stitching a cut with only ice to dull the pain. I don’t recommend that, by the way. Speaking from experience.
I didn’t even need stitches, I’m a youkai! What the hell was I thinking?
... Alright, alright, enough stalling. Out and into the crevice. And...
Oof. My bare feet impact the rocky ground with a pitiful tap. Having my feet on the ground feels nice, the cold stone feels refreshing, healing. I wish I could do this more often.
It’s not all good for long. As soon as I let go my legs start shaking, for more than one reason. I barely ever stretch them: I’m either sitting and flying or crawling around. They can support my weight, but not with a lot of surplus strength. It’s a good thing I have them hidden most of the time — they’re even skinnier than the rest of me and marked by decades of scrapes and bruises from shaking around in that wooden thing and crawling in a rocky hole. I’m used to it, but it’s not the prettiest sight. I trust I don’t have to mention the second reason.
I stumble over to one side of the uncomfortably wide corridor, both to have some support and for some cover on at least one side. I wasn’t quite of a mind to notice it last time I was here, but the workmanship here makes my own place look like a wild animal’s nest. Actually, it kind of looks like that even without any comparison, now that I think about it.
But anyway, Yamame: I faintly knew that she’s supposed to be an earth spider, naturally proficient in construction and underground living. But this is really impressive. I’ve no idea what kind of work could possibly have gone into excavating this immense volume of pure rock all by herself, and so smoothly too. But this isn’t exactly the time to marvel at architecture. Taking a deep breath, I sidle along the wall, likely adding some rips to go along with the fresh bloodstains on my nice new dress. Par for the course, unfortunately. Last time I was being a little dramatic — it’s not so bad here. Just really, really dark. But then again, so is the rest of the underground: being used to it, I can at least make out enough to navigate.
I risk a look sideways, and I’m already right in front of it.
Instinctively, I flinch back a full two steps, straining my unused knees with the sudden movement. It’s just as scary as it was before. I don’t know what it is about this place, it feels like I’m staring into the chasm when I look in there. A proper atmosphere for a youkai’s lair, to be sure.
But this time, I don’t panic. It’s just Yamame’s house. There’s nothing in here that will give me more nightmares than I already have, probably. I take a trembling step inside. My first impression was exactly right: this place is huge. The ceiling is even taller than the one in Satori’s palace, and I can’t even see the opposite side of the dome-shaped room. Where I assume would be the very center lies a tall bed: I better keep away from it. Wouldn’t want to wake her up if she’s around. The walls are lined with furniture and chests and all of her stuff: From what I understand, she’s been down here far, far longer than me. A lot more time to gather up belongings. It’s… a surprisingly normal place. Kind of cozy actually, despite the terrifying yawning darkness to one side. It might just be because of my poor night vision for a youkai, but it would probably be a lot more agreeable with some light. Thankfully everything other than the bed is next to the walls. I don’t have to go into the open, so to speak.
And that’s that. I’ll be okay this time. Better get what I came here for.
I sigh in relief as I sneak out the same corridor I came in, still glued to a wall. It's tiring being on high alert and trying hard not to make any noise for a long time, but I managed it. Yamame’s abode was more commonplace than expected; the only thing out of the ordinary was a well-maintained drawing table with strange, difficult looking technical drawings on it. Some kind of hobby, maybe. Not many books. The search bore fruit, too — A sturdy backpack, a nice length of thick water-resistant cloth and a stretch of rope. I don’t know why she has this stuff, but I’m not about to complain. With this I can probably make a tent.
Probably. ...How do you make a tent?
It’s an innocent thought, but it brings about a sudden, ugly realization. The realization that I’m an idiot. A complete idiot. Actually, it’s the realization that I don’t know how to make a tent. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s followed by more of them, one after the other: I don’t really know how to keep a fire going. I don’t know how to navigate, even with a compass, or how to tell when the weather is going bad . I don’t have any clue about the kinds of distances involved in traveling upside, or where these caves are in relation to the surface, or any of the undoubtedly uncountable things that could kill me up there. I don’t know which humans I should be wary of, and I don’t know the first thing about where the hell to find information on magic, which is technically the whole objective. In short, I don’t know anything at all.
I got too heated up. Somewhere along the way, I started getting excited rather than scared of the above world and it made me even dumber than usual. Hell, I was even considering in the back of my mind just going right now to the mouth of the cave like the idiot I am.
Damn it. At least I caught myself in time. “Travelling equipment”, what the hell was I thinking?
What I need is someone with me, more than anything else. The sooner I secure that, the better. Or at the very least, a very good instructional book.
But preferably the former.
[ ] She won’t come with, but Miss Satori will be the best source of information. [ ] I’ll wait for Yamame. Maybe she’ll take me the next time she goes upside. [ ] Parsee did mention she had some business in the surface. [ ] Write-in
I went to sleep without finishing the update not two hours after promising I wouldn't. I have the self-discipline of a spoiled 5 year old. Here's a longer update to make up (?) for it.
[x] Parsee did mention she had some business in the surface. -[x] But leave a note for Yamame, first.
If Parsee's already going, then we might as well ask her. I'm hoping to get both Yamame and Parsee, but if Yamame isn't intending to go to the surface for some time then it's best to just go with Parsee. We should leave a note for Yamame so she doesn't worry about us if we're gone for too long. She might even decide to catch up with us when she reads it.
Yet more flying later, I feel Parsee’s eyes on me again, before I’m able to make her out in the distance. All this flying around has to be good practice, I’ve probably done more of it in the past 5 days than in several months before that combined.
I’m not so certain why she came to mind first. I’ve got this feeling that convincing her to go up with me would be good for her too. See some new landscapes, you know. Maybe it was her amazing head rubbing ski— no, no. That’s not a real reason, and I’m not that simple.
As soon as I get close enough to see the colour in her eyes — farther than other people, since it’s Parsee — I realize she’s in glaring mode. More than usual, that is. The kind of look she gets when she’s about to start shooting to hurt. I’ve witnessed it once before. Right, I forgot. I rearranged her house just earlier. She’ll probably be mad about that.
We–ell. I’ll probably deserve whatever she says. I did go through all of her belongings without permission. It’s fine, though. I know how it goes with this girl. She’ll be mad for a few minutes (or hours), say whatever she wants to say when she has someone to listen, usually me, then forget about it. Doesn’t usually hold grudges, surprisingly enough. She’s fully dressed in her usual costume now, pacing back and forth atop the bridge railing. Still makes me terribly nervous, that.
“You—” she spins to look at me as I approach, the dangling red string on her skirt catching my attention. I shrink a little, even though I’m used to her glare. Just reflex, I know she isn’t any threat or anything. “Why’d you…argh.” She makes some noise like that. And… that’s it. She deflates, in a resigned sort of way. Wait, that’s it?
She drops heavily on the concrete with a dry thump. biting on her lower lip. That’s not how I expected this to go. Not sure what’s up with Parsee, but at least I didn’t get yelled at. Lacking much else to do in this situation, I settle next to her. I suppose it’s my part now. Maybe this will cheer her up… somehow.
I dig through the now rather crowded bottom of the bucket. Forgot to leave Yamame’s stuff back there when I left. Ah, here. Old bloodstained notebook, a crooked, rusty pen, more than sufficient to communicate.
But I have a thought as the first scratchy stroke crosses the aged paper that stays my hand. I shouldn’t write words. It sounds like an irrational thought, but… I shouldn’t write, probably. If I write, I’m going to lose something with Parsee. Something nice. She’ll… know about me. Parsee talks to me openly and likes having me around. As far as I know, I’m the only one, and I have a good idea why. I’m not so stupid, you know.
There’s a gradation of intelligence in youkai: generally, the more monstrous ones are nearer to beasts mentally and the more human-like, the more powerful and intelligent you’re likely to be. Most can’t fly, even, which comes completely naturally to me. Now, I know I didn’t exactly win the lottery when it comes to strength and power, but compared to the more beast-like youkai slithering these tunnels, I’m in a pretty good spot mentally, I think.
There are exceptions, however, and that’s where I’d lie. I understand how I look, the impression I give off. It’s likely that she thinks I’m of less than human intelligence, like a smarter pet dog or something. Either that or they don’t think about it at all. It’s more or less how I’m treated, a pet.
It might just be me being conceited, but I can’t think of Parsee doing what she does with me with anyone else. If she knew I’ve got an internal monologue going about her, that I could easily hold a conversation wit hher, would she really sit beside me like this? Rub my head?
Um, not that I was only thinking about that, but… That’s what I think.
I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t like to make sure just yet. I kind of like this, after all.
So, no writing. But there’s a good replacement. I’m [b]really[b] bad at it, but I should be able to draw instead. The surface has… A sun, trees, mountains… what else? I guess some clouds too. Now just draw a hole in the ground, and an arrow pointing out. This should do it.
Parsee’s been glancing my way. Good, it must distract her from whatever it is she had on her mind just now. I pass her the notebook. Her natural glare gives way to a look of surprise for a moment. “You were awake?”
“That was— I wasn’t exactly lucid at the time.” She brings a nail to her mouth. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the gesture from her. “I can’t just leave. I have work down here.” Work? I look around at the absolute dead emptiness. She means standing over a bridge nobody crosses? “Satori would…” She trails and we sink back into silence. The only sound is the cricking of Parsee’s nails as she chews on them.
“Satori would what?” It’s a question to herself. She continues attacking her poor thumb for a minute or so, deep in thought.
Then, a noise. Something between a crack and a snap that makes me cringe. Parsee spits out something small and red. I don't even have to look at her now bloodied thumb to realize what it is. She gets up in a huff, apparently ignoring the part of herself she just violently tore off.
“You’re right, why in the blazes am I still down here? Screw this place.” She sprints towards her cabin, slowing only to turn and yell a hasty “Wait here” at me.
Hm. That all went a little differently from my predictions.
Rest of the update in less than 36 hours. Probably. Hopefully.
Parsee flies — but not literally — out of her cabin an uncommonly short of time later, not even bothering to shut the door. Her thumb hastily bandage-wrapped and a simple leather pack off hanging off one shoulder, swaying along with her dress as she sprints. She’s half-smiling in that toothy way she does. It’s a look she usually only wears in exceptional situations.
And it’s quickly becoming clear the situation is exceptional. I half-expected it, but the backpack confirms it. As does Parsee herself.
“Let’s go, let’s go! I won’t stand another minute in this hole.”
The voice is unlike much I’ve heard come out of her mouth. It’s vibrant and clear of fatigue, although still retains the low hoarseness. It’s fresh and I can’t say I dislike the impression. She barely slows down as she passes me by, snatching the handle of my bucket and very nearly wounding me a second time today as I take a spill inside. She physically carries the huge wooden frame and me with no visible difficulty, lifting off into a hurried flight. I can only lug this thing around because I can make it float along with me; it’s a huge and made of solid wood. I couldn’t do more than tip it over if I had to use only my arms.
I brace against the rim; This ride is a lot bumpier than what I’m used to, although… Maybe I don’t mind too much. I do get a good angle on her smile from here.
That said, this isn’t good. Yamame would want to come with me, I think, but I’m not so cruel as to stop or abandon Parsee now that she’s like this. What to do? I did at least leave a message showing I was going to the surface, so maybe we can meet up somewhere. Throughout the years, Yamame has told me a good deal about the surface. She’s been to the long, long waterfall somewhere in the mountain, a goddess’ place in the nearby forest, even got close enough to see the human village, once. Lately, though, it’s been all about the gatekeeper at a mansion somewhere. If we were to meet anywhere, It should be there. It’d be nice if all three of us went together, but...
Parsee stops and puts me down. Turns out it’s much easier to get to places when you’re being carried, because I hardly felt the distance at all. Wait, if she stopped…
I look around. Here we are. Where the tunnel is narrowest, down to maybe where only I can get through comfortably, and a normal-sized somebody would have to crouch.
And a hole to the outside. The outside. A faint light pours through the opening: it’s bright out, but not sun-bright. I think they call it dark up there, but it’s still not even comparable to what it looks down here. It’s so close. A few paces away, just. But I freeze on the spot those few paces away from it.. I was so excited about the idea of going outside, that I forgot that I’d have to actually go outside. Face the vast open sky. There are no walls up there. No labyrinthine tunnels to hide in if something chases me. No safely hidden burrow made by yours truly. It’s a strange place, I don’t remember it at all. And now I have to go out there.
Parsee is already at the mouth of the cave, but turns back, noticing I’m not following.
“C’moon,” she drawls, looking up and out of the entrance. “It’s not the time for that, not when we’re this close to freedom. Come take a look.” I— I suppose. Slowly, slowly.
—Not so slowly. With a click of the tongue, she bounds my way. One, two long steps. Yanks on my arm. My arm!
I don’t get the time to resist. We’re out. This is... out.
It goes on forever. I didn’t remember this. I think nights were supposed to be dark, but this isn’t dark at all. It’s more like the sun fractured into a million little points and scattered. I mean, I knew about stars, but this is… Wow. The closest base of comparison I have are the lights in the ancient city, but comparing that to this would be a crime; they’re about as comparable as a pebble and the earth.
It makes me dizzy, but that doesn't stop me from looking. The sky is clear and there's no moon to be seen, just... This. These.
Along with the stars, a splash of light rips the sky in two and something like immobile smoke rises through it. I don’t know what that is, but it too looks amazing.
This is the open sky, then. No ceilings, no walls. Just air and black and light.
“Careful not to eat any flies like that.”
Ah! I close my mouth. Parsee, right, she’s still here. “No point in asking what you think, right?”
It’s only about now that I realize that I’m not scared at all of all this open-ness. Not any more than I was back underground, in any case. I guess the sight of it shocked me out of it, or something. The small cave entrance opens up into a small clearing surrounded by trees and flanked by a mountain. This should be the Youkai Mountain, if I’m not mistaken. I can’t see much other than that: I suppose we happened to surface in a moonless night. Convenient, too, since we can’t exactly be walking around in the daytime. I’d hate to come across a shrine maiden, like I did once in the tunnels. Danmaku may not be lethal, but it really, really hurts.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Parsee kick off her sandals far, far away and test the grass by… hopping. She still looks happier than I’ve seen her. She said she had ‘business’ up here, but it looks like she’s just enjoying it. Not that I blame her.
I think I’m looking for a mansion, then.
Now, where to start?
[ ] Fly up and have a look. It’s night, if there’s somewhere with people, there should be lights. [ ] Up the mountain a ways, I think there’s a few friendly goddesses in there. Although there may be more than that... [ ] Follow Parsee. Surely she has some idea of where she’s going. [ ] Write-in.
I just sort of assumed that the reader would want to meet up with Yamame, but if that's not the case, feel free to write-in.
>>12920 The first two threads of this story were devoted almost entirely to the relationship between Kisume and Yamame, particularly the fact that each has a deep need for the company of the other. I really don't see how you can justify saying Yamame is 'less important' than Parsee, who barely knows Kisume at all, and is basically using the bucket youkai as an excuse to break the monotony of her own life.
>>12926 >I see a tie and a bunch of updates where Parsee is the only option.
Now, that's just not true. There's only been one vote since the tie, and there was in fact a choice that would bring you closer to Yamame faster in there. I don't recall making any updates where Parsee was the only choice.
Anyhow, called for following. Don't worry, you won't go spiderless for too long.
>>12931 Here in Sweden we have an expression: "coal-black". That's not just because coal is black, but because when a torch runs out in a coal mine it's darker than anything you see overground. Even on a cloudy moonless night you might be able to see something, even if its just the lights of a city far away lighting up the clouds.
Nighttime tends to not be that dark, since even on moonless nights you get some light from the stars. Down in a dark mine, there just isn't any light whatsoever.
Even after the initial shock, it’s hard to put out of mind completely the fact that I’m finally in the surface. It’s mostly the lit sky that still draws my eyes every few seconds when it shows between the leaves, but I do wish it was daytime. My night vision is poor: in a moonless night like this, all I can see is a giant mass of black where there should be trees. I don’t even get to see the all-present green. It’s been so long since I’ve seen natural green; not little patches of it, planted and cultivated. It even smells different, kind of… earthy. Fresh, like wet plants, which I guess is what it is. Here I am, then, completely surrounded by lush green but being completely unable to even see any of it. I can only brush my hand against the delicate leaves, coarse tree trunks and imagine.
It’s even worse when we go under the canopy of the Youkai Forest. It may be better lit than the deep underground, but not by that much. It’s still a moonless night, and we’re under the cover of trees to boot. With my sight, it’s all I can do to glue myself to the vaguely Parsee-shaped shadow, who, unlike me, seems to be having absolutely no problems with the darkness. She moves with the same confidence as she does on the torch-lit bridge, not looking around except to check on me, not slowing down, not tripping. She has enviable eyes, in more than one sense. I don’t think we’ll be attacked by anything, however, so there’s not really much of a pressing need for her watchwoman qualities. Youkai rarely attack other youkai — at least in the underground — and I can hardly imagine youkai hunters prowling around at this time of night. Or morning, as it might be.
By the way, she seems to have opted for walking rather than flying. Back in the clearing, after shuffling around for a few minutes on the fresh grass with the last remains of a smile on her lips, she spun on her heels and set off resolutely in a direction that, to me, seemed as arbitrary as any other. Without retrieving her sandals, I might add. Flying is more efficient, but she seems to be enjoying the feel of ground that isn’t rock for once. I appreciate the feeling: a cave isn’t the gentlest of environment for your feet, as mine readily will attest with plenty of (painful) physical evidence. A change would be welcome, I should try it sometime.
She seems like she knows where she’s going at least, so it’s fine. Should be fine. ...I really left the underground without having the first idea of where to find the information I’m looking for. Stupid. Satori must have known, why didn’t I think of asking her? Well, no use crying over spilled milk. Gensokyo should be filled with magic and people who deal with it, hopefully finding information won’t be too hard. Or perhaps information on where to find information. Maybe I could even convince someone to teach me; a pipe dream perhaps, but dreaming is a right I reserve.
Speaking of which, I wonder what Parsee’s ‘business’ up here is. I turn over my mind: for as long as I’ve known her, she hasn’t seemed upset at any one thing in particular, just… generally. I know she’s come up here before: there are occasional events up here that even some oni and underground youkai are invited to. If it was something quick and easy, she’d have taken care of it before… I wonder if she’ll tell me about it eventually.
Parsee slows to a stop in front of me, and thank all the gods she didn’t stop suddenly or I’d have knocked something fierce against her head.
“Look,” she points to a spot on the ground.
Ah. I think I see it. It’s like… a forest trail, but quite a bit wider. It avoids trees and is quite well maintained for a trail in something called the Youkai Forest
“Only humans would have use for a road like this.”
I think calling it a road is a stretch, but sure. One end snakes towards the distance, and one seems to lead straight to the huge rock in the distance thoughtlessly obscuring a good stretch of the spread of stars. The Youkai Mountain, presumably. Now that I take a closer look at it, there are a few subdued flame-orange lights around the top. Tengu, I realize. Probably not the best idea to go up and ask for directions, though, if the oni are to be believed. Not the friendliest bunch.
“So, that way,” she gestures to the other end of the road. “Must be the human village, where we don’t want to go.” Even I understand that. “Which means we want to go this way. Come,” she sets off again in a direction perpendicular to the road.
Wait, does that mean she didn’t know where she was going before?
Oh well. In for a penny…
I keep following. She’s been to the surface more often to me regardless, so leastways it’s better than wandering on my own. This time she starts a conversation. Or “conversation”, as it may be.
“Nice up here, isn’t it?” She doesn’t turn to talk, so I’m left staring at the back of her head as she speaks. She heaves with a deep breath. “Much more breathable air.”
I try it out. It is kind of true… I think. It’s fresher. Maybe it’s just the atmosphere of the place getting to me.
She continues. The cheer in her voice from when we left the tunnels has run out — back to normal. Although she does seem to be in a better mood than usual. “Better scenery, and more varied. Food too. I missed this place.” Her head twitches, and I sense she’s scowling. Not a hard guess with Parsee. “Not the people. The people are the same shit. At least the oni know to more or less keep away. And there are no shrine maidens looking to exterminate you on sight.”
Yep. Good mood.
Parsee lets out a dry laugh. “People end up where they deserve, yeah? Hah,” she machineguns the words, as though she were afraid of stopping. “‘Cause I don’t deserve much better. You know how flustered I was when you came to the bridge? D’you know why that was?” She states more than asks, since I don’t even get time to think about an answer. “Because I was mad? Some serious affliction, you think?” She turns her head, and I think I feel her eyes meet mine for a second.
“It’s because I was trying to thank you, plain as that. For fixing up my house. Do you know how stupid I feel? Two simple words of gratitude and I couldn’t do it because of my useless...”
She stops, sighs a long-suffering sigh. I see her form slump ahead of me.
“So consider this, y’know… Um.” The words hang limply in the air, but I think I understand. I can’t see her blushing, but it comes easily to my mind. I really did think she’d be mad over it. Lucky break.
“See, there it is. I ought to learn to shut up sometimes. Gotta learn from you.” Her voice shakes just a bit, but she shifts gears in what has to be record time. Oh, she’s so shy. It’s… kind of cute. She goes back to talking about nothing as if nothing had happened, her quick burst of emotion didn't exist. I know better, despite her great poker face. “Here, this is a good spot.” She bounces towards a little spot little different from the rest of the forest in my view, except for maybe being a little denser in foliage.
As if reading my mind, Parsee responds. Actually, she was probably just reading my expression.“Day’s breaking, you see?”
Ah. I look up: sure enough, through the leaves I think I can see the black starting to turn a dark, dark blue. Slowly, slowly. Actually, how many hours did we walk? And we’re not even out of Youkai Forest yet? I mean, Gensokyo can’t be that much bigger in scale than the underground… can it?
“We shouldn’t be walking around in the daytime. I don’t feel too tired either, but we should rest and travel again at night.”
Now, I don’t know what sort of preparation I was expecting, but it was certainly more than this. About all Parsee did was throw off a piece of clothing, leaving her in the same old black undershirt, cover herself with a towel like a blanket and just lay in the grass, at the base of a tree. And here I was worrying about camping preparations. She catches my look. “What? You’re youkai same as me, you can handle this much. It’s not raining or anything, so what’s the problem?” I guess I should have expected something like this.
I lay across from her, and the sky is now a light enough shade of blue that I can see her sharp eyes, long ears raking the grass as she lies sideways.
No point in arguing, even if I could. She’s right. I tip my friend over and lay half on it, half on the grass. The texture does surprise me: it feels so smooth! And a little prickly. The cover of leaves does a decent job of dimming the sunlight: I’ve slept in far worse conditions.
I get a glimpse of the world before I slip into oblivion. It’s a darker shade of green than I imagined.
My night is mercifully dream-free.
[ ] Earliest bird [ ] Breakfast in bed [ ] Scout team [ ] Unfortunate Encounter
Meh update. Will strive for more interesting next one.
>>12931 Here's a related anecdote. When I was a kid, around 11 or 12, my mother would occasionally take me spelunking with her and a few of her work buddies. She worked with caves, mainly bat research or something of the sort. Once in one of these spelunking trips, we went a little deeper than I had before, being a kid.
My mother, being a 'zen' type, had the bright idea of having everyone sit down, turn off their helmet flames and be silent for a few minutes, for meditation purposes, or becoming one with nature, or some quackery like that. It lasted scarcely 3 minutes before one of the adults pussied out and started talking and fumbling with his carbide tube thing to turn his helmet back on.
It's no joke how dark it gets. There's not a single photon bouncing around, it's the most complete blackness. Your brain is very quick to start throwing up some colours, shapes, anything for you to see. Some crazy shit goes on.
All in all, I'd recommend the experience. Alone, if possible. I can get something similar locking myself into the windowless bathroom with the lights off at 4 am and taking a bath, but it's just not the same.
Because an unfortunate encounter sounds like it might be interesting.
>>12938 I've seen similar darkness once. (A closed room that doesn't let light in, barely even air, even through the cracks around the door. The door is actually harder to close and requires more force than regular doors because it's such a tight fit. Lights off in that room, and in the room outside, just because.) The darkness becomes so thick that you can "feel" it as you move around.
I'd like to try the world's quietest room once, as well. At -9dB it actually absorbs sound, so it's quiet enough for you to hear your blood flowing through your veins, or even your own ears working. The longest anyone have been able to be in there is 45 minutes, and by that time you are guaranteed to hallucinate so wildly that it can only be described as "trippin' balls".
Also: >sitting in a cave with no light sources or natural light >bright idea
It’s not yet night when I drag myself awake. Parsee is nowhere to be seen, but I’m not worried at all. Maybe because she’s left all her stuff behind, but even ignoring that, I don’t think she’d just leave me.
I’m in the middle of stretching, hearing my shoulders snap and pop when I realize somewhat belatedly that I’m fully outside my bucket — it’s a few paces from me, tossed on its side, painfully empty and neglected.
I only panic a little, though! Really, not enough to worry over. It’s over quickly enough after I scramble for it. It makes me wonder, though: I’m not usually that restless in my sleep, I don’t think. I wonder if something happened?
I finally get to get a good look at the Youkai Forest, and it’s much denser than anticipated. The ground is positively crowded with overflowing roots and shrubs, to the point that I’m surprised Parsee could walk on it at all. Or anyone, really. I know I’d probably be tripping every second if I was forced to walk.. The trees don’t look like I expected either. They’re all dark, knotted and twisted and if I stare too long, I start feeling deeply uncomfortable. That’s the ‘Youkai’ forest for you.
...I know we’re supposed to be keeping a low profile, but a little peek over the trees won’t hurt, right? I do so want to take a look at the Land of Illusions proper.
I pop my head out over the canopy
I expected it, but even so, I can’t stop myself from shrinking a few inches. It’s HUGE.
A whole bunch of green nothingness — just hilly enough not to avoid monotony, just flat enough to be pleasant to walk — expands out every which way until the edges of my vision. The point where the forest thins and thins into the real Gensokyo. A much more agreeable Gensokyo than the one we’re leaving, with fresh emerald grass streaked with lines and splotches of trees. The only feature marring the picturesque landscape is the one mountain and its smaller sisters far in the distance. I can see what can only be groups of fairies, little pirouetting dots here and there in the distance.
But it's way too much. It’s not long before I feel my chest squeeze in that familiar way for a second time this morning. Well, “morning”. Back down, then. I wish I could see the sunset, but things are what they are..
A while later, Parsee comes back looking mighty satisfied — to the exact same featureless spot in the forest, no less — with some sort of leather bag in hand.
“Look what I looted,” she says, flashing me her teeth. She sits against a tree and beckons me to sit near her, which I do.
“I found some humans crossing that road back a ways, pilgrims to some shrine or somesuch.” She snorts and dumps the contents of the bag over her lap. It’s not much: A loaf of bread, a chunk of salted meat, a small gourd of wine and a half wheel of cheese. “Got their livelihood, I did. I figured I’d hunt something alive to roast just for the feeling since we’re outdoors, but this is good too.” She gives a little hoarse chuckle that could only be described as “Parsee-like”. “I didn’t realize I missed that so much. Suckers were dead scared when I knocked their little bodyguard on his ass. Who goes into a place called the Youkai Forest only prepared for small fry? Got a priceless look on their faces, I tell you.”
Parsee takes a very healthy bite out of the meat. Seeing her talk like this and eat like this makes me feel like she’s very… youkai-like. I suppose it’s an odd observation since we’re both youkai and all, but it’s valid. I’m obviously not very in tune with my animal side, so to speak.
Her smile dies down a little. “I figured you might want some actual meat, but I got nothing.”
“I considered it, but after so long, eating something that thinks and looks just like you just feels wrong, y’know? Barbaric. I’ve joined the ranks of ‘civilized’ youkai in gensokyo,” she sneers. “Who would have thought?”
Oh. I see.
“Besides, raw meat doesn’t agree with me. It’s too soft and flappy. Ech.” Well, there’s that too. I’d agree, actually. It’s been a while, but it just tasted disgusting the one or two times my instincts flared up in that way. It’s been a number of decades since.
By the time we finish up our unneeded meal, the sun is a very good ways into his downward trip, which means it’s a safe time to move.
We set off in what should be the same direction as before, Parsee still refusing to fly. Not that I mind too much: we’re not on any kind of time limit. I, hoisting the lamp that was along with the stolen food (with a full can of extra oil, too. Lucky!). Leaving the forest makes me realize just how heavy and stale the air felt inside. Now, though, it’s full, clear, delicious night air, the perfect shade of chilly. Combined with the warm firelight, and it’s just right. It's more uncomfortable here than under the cover of trees, but with Parsee here and at ground level, I can stand it well enough.
“Say,” Parsee sneaks a sideways glance at me. “Do you— I mean, have you… tried to speak?”
What’s this all of a sudden?
“Because I know you can. Pretty noisy sleeper.”
O—oh. That’s, um… kind of embarrassing. I have done it before. Took a little chemical help, at the time. I hadn’t thought about it, but it makes sense. I need to try to improve myself if I’m going anywhere, and what better time is there than the now?
—So I say, but just the thought shakes me, tenses me all over. I shut my eyes on reflex. But that’s the whole point! To brace for it, take it, win over it. Parsee looks on, quiet now.
A–alright. I’m doing it.
That's as far as I get. A single tone out before I’m quite rudely interrupted.
“Oh my, what is this? Someone is trying to make a meal of themselves?” A lilting, rhythmic tone descends upon us. It goes up like mockery, then down to earthly levels. Yet I don’t feel like she was mocking us at all. It’s more like… a foreign accent that I can’t quite place, if that makes sense. Curves and pulls her ‘L’s, stresses her ‘R’s, flattens her vowels. Actually, I don’t know any foreign accents to place, so maybe it’s just a case of talking weird. Parsee spins around to face this new threat, but the wolf-girl looks neither surprised nor tense. So, either there is no threat at all or this is a psychological kind of thing. Show confidence and all that. I don’t think not moving or backing away slowly is going to work here, though.
My first impression is that she reminds me quite heavily of Satori’s pet cat. A beast-man, or beast-woman, as it may be. Her ears quite similar to Rin’s own, down to the twitching and rotating towards noises. I could possibly even find it quite charming, if I ignore the fact that their owner might possibly be fantasizing about bathing in my blood right now. But probably not: I know an aggressive posture when I see one, and this isn’t it. She does, unlike Rin, lack tails, but her outfit doesn’t lose in showiness to the green velvet dress: It’s long, flowing, ornate and multicoloured, like a ball dress. A considerably large bow features at the cleavage, a striking red gem resting upon the girl’s bosom, like daring you to look at it. Not that she neglects to show off: her outfit is still considerably, umm… Provocative? Despite covering most of her.
Now that I look at it, though, this is kind of… Ideal. It’s just right: Just the right amount of skin, just the right amount of cloth. Particularly emphasizes her, um, figure above the waist.
...Damn it. Why does everyone get this and that over me?
I take a look at my own: besides being lanky, tiny, bruised and weak, I realize now how awfully pale I am. It’s clear even only under the dim firelight. Looking at it like this, the hue reminds me of some of the animals back in the underground: lizards and other slithery beings.
Actually, that might be a fair comparison.
Wait. This is hardly the subject to be worrying over right now, isn’t it?
She clicks her tongue and frowns, her ears flicking. What is it with people who have these kind of ears moving them around while they’re talking? Do they not realize how distracting it is? “Well?” Correction, really pulls the ‘L’s “You are both planning to ignore me?”
I hold. The girl has those big wet eyes you see in the newborn, the innocent and the sheltered — although it’s quite clearly none of those. Seems friendly enough, perhaps too friendly for someone who’s approaching people in the dead of a moonless night, in an empty field miles away from any sort of civilization. If it did come down to it however, I’m fairly confident in my ability to run away. Just not against creepy mind-bending satoris. Ex-satoris? Those are bad news.
Really, what’s stopping us from having a nice relaxed chat? Maybe I could ask her about somewhere that deals with magic and magic accessories or how to not get killed up here if I found myself alone.
I would do all that, but the decision isn’t up to me right now.
“Piss off,” growls my pointy-eared friend, very predictably, and wastes no time in turning and leaving, clearly intent on ignoring the poor girl. Ah well, at least she isn’t picking a fight. I take a moment to give the wolf-girl the most pointedly apologetic look I can muster before scrambling to follow Parsee — which isn’t too good. It’s not an expression I have many chances at practicing. I’m usually running instead.
Of course, it couldn’t end that easily.
“Aren’t you the feisty one?” It comes from the side, not behind — she’s walking along with us, with Parsee posted between me and her. Oh dear. It’s a persistent one. Not that I mind, but I worry for Parsee. I won’t be able to do anything if they start fighting, except maybe speed by and bonk someone in the head.
“I’m just a concerned stranger!” She continues, heedless of how we’re still ignoring her. Well, Parsee is. “Figured you for either suicidal, stupid or too confident for your own good, waving that lamp around in the dark.” She hums an almost-laugh. It sounds strangely rhythmical. “I’d rather not see guts today, so I thought I might warn you.”
“Do we look human to you, woman?”
Parsee’s manner doesn’t seem to discourage her in the least. Maybe she hasn’t looked her straight in the eyes yet, because that really did it for me when I first met Parsee. “I figured!” Triumphant, like she’s announcing a great discovery. What a strange girl. “But what kind of youkai goes around waving fire in front of their faces? Neither of you much look like an ignis fatuus or a salamander from my eyes.”
Right, my night vision. I lit it because I’d like to see more than nothing on the go. My fault. Wait, what’s an ignu.. something?
“Even if you’re not humans,” she continues, in a lecturing sort of tone. “You’re drawing a lot of attention with that. Not everyone is as nice as I, and you might get some mindless beast following the light.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Curt. I see Parsee is going with the ‘ignore it until it goes away’ strategy.
“Dear me, so hostile,” she sings. I note with some apprehension that she looks my way with smiling eyes. And moves. “I think your little friend might have better manners than y—”
She doesn’t make it all the way. She’s was right in front of Parsee, coming over to my side when the sentence dies in her throat — or rather, is killed and pulled out by the root when Parsee quite unceremoniously smashes an arm against the girl’s solar plexus. Rather awkwardly from a standstill, a shove without much chance of actually damaging anything, but strength is strength.
Oh. Oh oh oh that’s not good. Parsee, please, that’s not a good thing to do.
“You won’t touch her.” The wolf girl is pushed back two, three steps, bends, and for the first time I see something like a shocked look come upon her. I go from ‘slightly jumpy’ to ‘decidedly nervous’.
The wolf girl holds still, alarmingly still for a beat, then two. Her longer ears pin back, and I’m sure that’s not a good sign. I know this atmosphere. Unfortunately. I’ve come across it while trawling through the Ancient City. Usually when one or two oni are drunk — not a rare occurrence — and one of them does something to another. Usually something stupid like spilling drink on them or accidentally stumbling on them while they’re lining up a snooker shot.
There’s that moment after the last insult flies and before the first punch flies. It’s only a second or two long, but it's always long, still and charged.
The third beat passes, and I’m about to move from 'nervous' to 'cowering'.
As it turns out, wolf-girl is neither drunk nor an oni. Thank all gods for that.
Like nothing happens, she relaxes again, stands tall. I just wish she’d done it a tad earlier: my poor heart has its limits.
“Fine! No need to be so brutish. I know when I am not wanted.” She dusts herself off, a smile already back on her lips. I have to say I’m impressed. “I’ll say this, blondie: Nobody likes a lover,” very specific stressing, there. “Who is too possessive.”
…Wait, wha—? Lover? Whaaaat? Parsee?
She winces visibly. You’re reacting to that part? Really?
Wolf-girl continues walking along with us. “I’ll leave you two to your little stroll, but you should know there’s nothing in the direction you’re going except for a dusty old house, a lake and the great barrier beyond.
I forget all about the tension at that. It couldn’t be.
Is it? But I remember her mentioning a lake specifically! I suppose it could be a coincidence, but… Oh, bless fortuitous coincidences. Parsee couldn’t have known where I wanted to go, could she?
“Well, here is it for me. Do enjoy, a night this clear two days in a row is rare and great.” Ah, now that she mentions it, the stars do look the same as yesterday. I’d forgotten about clouds. Wolf-girl has to work on her accent, though.
She walks back two steps into the darkness and is gone. That was interesting. She seemed like a nice girl. I do wish there were no complications, maybe we could have talked. Parsee resumes her march, a… complicated look on her face. Sorry, I’m just not good enough to decipher this one. I think it wasn’t there before wolf-girl said… that thing, though. Um, you know.
She’s just a little protective, that’s all.
Ah, ah! I almost forgot. I hurriedly remove the cover off the lamp and snuff out the whimpering flame. (And only burn myself a little bit!)
“It’s fine.” Huh? Parsee glances at me for a moment, then turns back. Did I see — no, no way, I didn’t. “You can light it. You’ll be fine.”
I… I see. But I hesitate still. There’s some reason in what wolf-girl said. She is right: this kind of is making a target of ourselves, isn’t it? Sure, a majority of youkai won’t attack other youkai, but that’s no guarantee. You never know what sorts are lurking in Gensokyo.
It’s her turn to hesitate, then. “I—” A pause. It stretches, stretches. “I’m here, so you’ll be fine, is what I’m saying.”
She clicks her tongue, and then I think I get it. “Don’t make me say it, damn it.”
... Ah— Ahh, I see.
Um. That’s… good. I guess.
I think the tips of her ears were a different colour when I lit the flame again, but I can’t be sure: she didn’t face me for the rest of that night.
It’s just as well, because I probably looked the same.
Two beet-red youkai walking silently, side-by-side in the night. Kind of poetic, really. Or the set-up to a joke.
It didn’t take much longer after that to reach what I imagine is our destination. My destination, at least. It helped that Parsee walked faster than before, tonight. I wonder why.
It gets noticeably chillier near the wide lake encircling the mansion, but I don’t even mind that much because of the spectacle. Another note to make: still bodies of water become the sky at night.
Because the lake is quite wide, I can’t quite make out details, but all of it fits with the descriptions Yamame gave me. Gated with tall black fences, striking red, ornate clock tower, looks really more like a castle than a mansion. There are also lights on the outside, for who knows what reason. They do make it stand out well enough in the night, maybe that’s the point.
It’s the middle of the night, so they might not exactly be thrilled at strangers knocking at the door. What to do?
[ ] Cross the lake now, they can deal with it. [ ] It’s only polite to wait. Nobody likes being woken up. [ ] Keep following Parsee. She's the guide here, and I don’t even know if this is her destination, after all.
Isn't it great when you write a new character and you can just make up whatever shit you want? I did so want to write Seija, but oh well. Them's the breaks.
I gotta say something to you guys. I know this often comes up in this site and it's always kind of a mine to step on, but I gotta do it.
I scrolled back, and it's been 4 full updates since anyone has said a single thing about the actual content of a story post. It's a choice and 1 line about it if I'm lucky. Now, I personally think the view that one shouldn't count a vote unless it has a comment is rather extreme, but it's true that even the littlest line about the update helps me. Discussion and comments are as much of an influence on the way the story is going as actual votes, even the littlest thing like "I liked X" or "This scene made me feel Y". If I get nothing, I'm flying blind, pretty much. It also doesn't do wonders for my confidence that I can't evoke a single reaction from my audience beyond votes without begging for it, but eh. That I can more or less deal with.
Of course, you don't have to if you really don't want to, but if you could spend the littlest effort to appease your poor, cute fanfiction writer in the future, he'd be much obliged.
>>13002 It has also been 4 full updates since you ditched the one character we've actually been interacting with and who had a great deal of depth and development, and started giving screentime almost exclusively to Parsee, who we barely know at all. And you did this based on a vote that was tied, that you never made clear would determine who would and would not with us to the surface, and which you ended up using a coinflip to decide.
I haven't been commenting for two reasons; the first is a lack of interest in the current content (which can basically be summed up as PARSEE PARSEE PARSEE PARSEE PARSEE), and the other is obviously bitterness. Honestly I'm considering dropping the story completely. I don't understand why you'd spend two whole threads building up the relationship between Kisume and Yamame, and then just cut her out entirely, despite at LEAST half your readers clearly indicating they wanted to keep her around.
>>13003 Aha. I think I understand the common worry about route shitstorms a little better, now.
I don't usually like the idea of 'defending' my story from anything or explaining it, but I'm sure at least a few more people feel the same as you, so let me at least assuage your biggest concern.
>I don't understand why you'd spend two whole threads building up the relationship between Kisume and Yamame, and then just cut her out entirely, despite at LEAST half your readers clearly indicating they wanted to keep her around. Note "at LEAST half": Parsee got a decent amount of choices going her way in the latter part therefore she is getting her moment of focus, albeit shorter than Yamame's. As I've said before, I haven't and don't plan on cutting Yamame off the story. Rest assured, your spider-waifu will be back before the end of this thread.
I don't want to say more than that on this subject: it's not very gracious to discuss your own story. I hope you'll continue reading.
Sorry. I'm often about to do something else when voting, so I hardly ever sit down to think about the story. I really should know better, being a writer myself. I'll try to comment more from now on.
For this update: Kagerou seemed kind of imcompetent. I like that you went with the canon nonviolent version, but I was surprised by her insistence. Made her seem less intelligent than I imagine her. Stage order suggests that she could be stronger than Parsee, so she also seemed weaker than I expected. I guess you could explain that with her more peaceful nature, though.
Parsee was cute, though, and I'm looking forward to the SDM.
Don't let the waifu-whining bother you. I'll keep reading, and I suspect the rest will as well.
>>13004 She's not my fucking waifu. It's extremely insulting to me that you think all my criticisms are based purely on which character I like better, just as it would be extremely insulting to you if I said Yamame was the only reason I was reading this story. She's not. I'm reading it for Kisume, and how she interacts with the characters around her. The fact that you assume otherwise is absolutely disgusting.
My feedback: This is a pretty well-written story about Kisume, Yamame, and Parsee being adorable. I enjoy reading it, especially Parsee. It's biggest flaw is that the pacing is pretty slow and a lot of the votes don't really matter, but that goes for most stories on the site. Very few get genuine discussion, so I wouldn't take that too hard.
>>13003 >>13007 You're getting way too worked up over this. Take a moment to relax and remember it's just some silly Touhou fanfiction.
...You are aware that we interacted with Parsee for a solid portion of the first thread right? And that Kisume has known Parsee for quite a while, being one of the only two people Kisume regularly interacts with and actually likes? That Parsee regularly cooks for Kisume, often enough to know her tastes despite Kisume's lack of communication? Not to mention that Isolex has been dropping hints all thread that we'd be meeting Yamame again soon. I really can't see where you're coming from at all, Parsee has always been a running contender every time we have a vote for who to visit. Let the second of Kisume's two friends have a little time in the spotlight, Yamame has already had a thread and a half as you already said.
>but I was surprised by her insistence. Made her seem less intelligent than I imagine her
Kagerou was just trying to playfully help us out, make sure we didn't attract the attention of someone or something we couldn't put down. She saw Parsee ignoring her and tried to talk some sense into her. Parsee acted like Parsee, but Kagerou, not knowing any better, thought she was just being stubborn and rude so she turned to Kisume who seemed more reasonable. How could she know that Kisume doesn't like being touched or that Parsee would just assault her out of the blue like that? That's my interpretation of what was going through her head anyway.
>Stage order suggests that she could be stronger than Parsee, so she also seemed weaker than I expected. I guess you could explain that with her more peaceful nature, though.
Remember that stage number doesn't directly equal power; it also counts things like motivation, general wellbeing, intelligence and handicaps. Yuugi could probably beat Satori in a proper all out fight (spellcard or otherwise) if she wasn't handicapping herself and Yuyuko, a sixth stage boss when she was serious, was only a first stage boss in Ten Desires when she was just fucking around. If I were to take a guess, Parsee probably didn't care all that much about winning or losing considering her reasons for attacking the protagonists in SA.
Pretty much everything this anon said goes for me as well. Only thing different is that I like Yamame and Parsee just about equally. I absolutely adore your characterisation for pretty much everyone so far.
With that in mind, consider that this story has more votes than 90% of all the others on the site. Add in that your story is on Underground, which isn't the liveliest of boards to begin with, and the results are quite telling.
As a closing thought, I wouldn't be against seeing more of Yuugi if you give us the chance. She was fun.
well I thought what was going on didn't provoke comment or need it. And what few comments would fall under "well duh", such as Parsee being protective of Kisume in her own way.
And while I'm a bit disapointed that Yamame didn't get to come with, I'm just going along and seeing the next big plot point.
As far as stage number goes, I'd say normal Kagerou doesn't really have it in her to really fight while Parsee if she wanted to, could do so easily. It's understandable for a peaceful under the radar youkai not to be aware of the underground residents.
Crossing a large body of water is more interesting of an experience than I expected. In the dark of the night and with nothing to disturb the surface, it’s a like perfect mirror of the sky. When you’re flying straight through the middle, it’s a void filled with stars and you. This lake must get fog frequently too, it’s a bit of a shame there’s none now. It’d look really spooky. The cool air also curiously makes me want to take a dive: the water looks awful refreshing from here. Freezing, too, so I think I’ll refrain. I wonder what season this is. Summer, maybe?
Parsee follows after me without need of any sort of coaxing. The mansion really is her destination, it looks like. What for, though, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out. We land on a little stretch of pure white sand, a simple but well-maintained wooden pier stretching out a few meters into the lake, complete with a lounging chair by the end and a charmingly decorated canoe...thing. It even has a figurehead! I’ve read a little something on Chinese mythology, this is a… shi, I think? It’s all very picturesque, although that may not be saying much: everything I’ve seen in the surface so far is picturesque compared to the tunnels. I mean, the underground can look good too, but…
I’m getting sidetracked again, aren’t I? Yamame could be here right now! The island the mansion sits on isn’t all that wide: The I can already see red splotches, just beyond a small grove. Just a short walk now.
And there it is. ...What a building.
I thought palaces were supposed to be higher on the hierarchy than mansions, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here. I recall the Palace of Earth Spirits underground: Rusted gates, mismatched design, tacky stained glass windows. About the only thing that looked like it belonged in a place called a ‘castle’ was the garden. Still, this. This is on another level.
The gate and fences must be almost thrice as tall as Parsee, jet lustrous black lances pointing upwards. Easily intimidating enough to discourage any earthbound intruders. Beyond, a garden that certainly wouldn’t lose to Satori’s, complete with decoratively pruned trees, lovingly maintained flower beds all throughout, all nicely displayed with some strangely white light coming out of… the ground? In straight beams. Ah, could this be an outsider thing? Or magic?
And beyond that still, the main feature, of course. I don’t know what kind of madman would paint an entire mansion a full, visceral blood red, but I can’t deny the effect is striking if nothing else, especially in the night. Loopy little metal decorations and small statues of… something I can’t quite tell at this distance adorn the very few windows the place has, and a tall clock tower rests on top of the roof. A wide balcony projects out of the very center, and I can sort of see a door behind it from here. With lights on inside. Nice! I suppose they must not be human, to be awake at this time of night. Actually, unless you happened to be a really capable human, living this far away from the village would probably be a death sentence in itself.
All that, but my friend isn’t here.
A flash of movement catches my eye, just in front of the gate. It’s a… fairy? I don’t get to see a whole lot of her before she darts into a little shed by the wayside that had completely escaped my notice. Wings and an odd outfit, I think. Well… we didn’t do anything bad, right? Parsee shrugs when I shoot her a look, so nothing should happen, probably.
Of course, as it usually goes when I think something like that, not even 5 paces later something very definitely happens. Or rather, someone. She — and it’s extremely evidently a she — bursts out of the shed, the door slamming with a thunderous sound wholly inappropriate for night-time. I take shelter behind Parsee this time around. It’s not that I’m particularly afraid of new people, I’m not! But this one looks a little too… exuberant for me. Even having clearly just been woken, what with only a nightshirt, shorts and a terrible case of bed hair to cover her up, she doesn’t seem at all like someone who has just been woken. She practically dashes our way — also making it clear in the process that she’s wearing nothing other than a nightshirt and shorts. You know, to… restrain herself. Have some modesty if you’re meeting other people, really! Especially in a chilly night like this.
I’d probably be running in any other situation a woman three times my size charged at me, but it just doesn’t have that feeling. For one, she has what seems to be a genuinely cheerful grin on, rather than a bloodthirsty one. For another...
“Guests, guests! Lily,” she shouts to the fairy from before, whipping her amazingly red hair around. I can tell even in the dark: not orange. A deep scarlet, like the mansion. “Fix us up some tea!” Parsee must have been as disarmed as me, because she offers no resistance as she’s grabbed and unceremoniously pulled by the hand. “I’m Meiling, and welcome to the illustrious Scarlet Devil Mansion.” She doesn’t stop pulling as she talks, and I don’t have much choice but to follow. She doesn’t look like a bad person, so it should be okay, I think. I’m just surprised Parsee hasn’t pushed her away yet. “You’re Parsee and the little one, right? Yamame told me so much about you two.”
Oh, right. I guess she’d have told Parsee too: they do chat occasionally, I think. Maybe that’s why she’s going along?
“Please excuse the mess,” she says, pulling us into her… This must be her ‘home’ then, not the mansion. It’s incredibly tiny: About all the furniture there is a bed clearly too small for its owner and a cupboard, and the space left over is barely enough for her Meiling to move around, much less two people and a half-person. At least it’s a lot warmer than outside: that’s good enough for me. The fairy from before twitches and nervously flits away, leaving the boiling water behind. Oh well, it’s a fairy. You can’t ask too much of them.
“Sit, please,” she gestures to her undone bed. Not like there’s anywhere else to sit. Parsee sits, and I have to say I’m a little puzzled. Normally she’d already have refused something. Oh, but she did say she had something to do here. From her face, it does look like it’s an awful effort to stand it, though. I settle against her on the bed as Meiling busies with the tea. “Oh, it was awful cold outside too, and it's a fairly long trip from the underground. Don’t you want some stew or something? I think I have what I ne—”
“Please.” She cuts her off. Reach her limit, did her? Still, she did say please. I’m kind of proud.
This conversation doesn’t look like it concern me. I better be a good girl and stay quiet in my spot.
“There’s someone I want to meet here.”
“Ah?” Meiling looks just a little down at being put aside. Can't say I don't understand.
“Yes — a miss… Patchouli, it was.”
Then it’s gone like nothing, and she’s back to cheery. “Yes! Miss Knowledge. She does live here, but she doesn’t always take visitors. I could go check, but...”
Parsee leans forward — “But?” Being awfully timid, right now. I guess you can’t exactly go around being snarky and insulting people if you want favours.
“Well, the thing is,” she passes us the tea. Oh, it’s done. “If I went through official channels, so to speak, I’d have to tell the Mistress about you. And if I do that, well…”
She takes a sip. “The Mistress is bored very often, and we don’t get many visitors. If I go and tell her, she’ll almost certainly want to see you, and then she’ll keep you for a good hour or two. So!” Parsee nods. I do too, even though there’s no need to. “We can just sneak over there! Miss patchouli is weak to persistence, so I’m sure she’ll see you. How about it?”
Well. I won’t question the propriety of a servant flagrantly disobeying her master like that, but okay. Neither will Parsee, apparently, because her response is immediate. “Sounds good, let’s go.”
Wait, wait, now? Parsee gets up, putting her full cup of tea aside, then Meiling does. I wanted to finish this… And wasn’t there something else? Oh, right! I pull on Meiling’s shirt as she shoves past me. How did I forget?
She looks surprised that I addressed her at all, but crouches to talk to me at eye level all the same, a kind smile on her lips. “Do you need something, little one?” I dig around the stuff pooled around my legs for my notebook and pen. Should have kept things tidier around here. Here.
How do I draw a Yamame? Damn it, I’m so learning to draw when I get back. Here — and like this… Her dress kind of flares out at the hips, right? Ribbon, there.
It looks awful, as expected, but hopefully good enough. I hold it out so as to cover my face. What? It’s embarrassing showing this awful thing to someone. Leave me alone.
“It’s… Yamame?” Yes! I nod vigorously behind the notebook. At least that much got through.
“What about her?” Crap, there was that too. This part is easy, though. A little house and an arrow. And the island, for good measure. “She’s coming too? Here?”
Yes! More nodding. Parsee is right: I should start practicing talking. This is all terribly awkward.
“She is?!” Oh, she was still here, at the door.
I nod again.
“I… see.” She looks uncharacteristically antsy at that. I really am curious what she has to do here. “But I’d really like to get this done with as soon as possible.”
Hm. What to do?
[ ] Parsee clearly has something important to do: I can wait here alone. There’s a fairy at the gate for company, right? [ ] Take directions and go along with Parsee to see this miss Knowledge for now. Meiling will be here, so she can guide Yamame to us when she shows up. She can’t be too far behind. [ ] Wait here with Meiling. Parsee should be able to find her way with some directions.
It’s kind of a meta-choice that doesn’t take place in-universe because if the characters had to explain it all out in the post it’d be like 200 words of nothing. Hope nobody minds.
Thanks everyone for your kind words and impressions on the story. I've clearly got way more and better readers than I deserve.
However, I think some of you may have slightly misinterpreted what I said. It wasn't my intention to demand general story feedback or plot discussion every post or anything, that'd be unreasonable. I'm well aware that my story isn't exactly plot-focused or fast paced enough to warrant much discussion outside of specific plot-heavy points. What I meant to do was encourage you guys to comment on anything at all that draws your attention. In any update, if you get a reference I made, something in the story reminds you of something that happened in another story, if you think something is inconsistent or a plot hole, if you find a typo, anything at all. Just put it along with your vote, even if it's five words. That's plenty to satisfy me. Or, well, if nothing draws your attention that's fine: just means I have to work a tad harder. It might be a selfish request, but I think I can allow myself this much.
Also, Kagerou couldn't do much because it's not a full moon, along with what >>13016 said. Stages are only very, very general powerlevel guidelines. Actually, I like to think that anyone in Gensokyo can be extremely powerful but still bad at danmaku and vice-versa. Maybe it requires a specific skillset, maybe someone doesn't have very good imagination to come up with good patterns and so on. It was designed as an equalizer between common humans and youkai, right? I think that makes sense.
[x] Take directions and go along with Parsee to see this miss Knowledge for now. Meiling will be here, so she can guide Yamame to us when she shows up. She can’t be too far behind.
I'd like to see what Parsee is here for.
>I thought palaces were supposed to be higher on the hierarchy than mansions, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here. I recall the Palace of Earth Spirits underground: Rusted gates, mismatched design, tacky stained glass windows. About the only thing that looked like it belonged in a place called a ‘castle’ was the garden.
Poor Satori, you just can't win. Your hair is too messy, your smile is too smug and your home is too rundown and tacky. No wonder why you hate having guests if you have to hearsee(?) things like this all the time.
[x] Take directions and go along with Parsee to see this miss Knowledge for now. Meiling will be here, so she can guide Yamame to us when she shows up. She cant be too far behind.
Staying with Meiling might be cute, but we'd be a big third wheel if Yamame showed up, especially if she's as intimate with Meiling as I suspect. I wonder if this Meiling will get to be a major character?
I pictured the Palace of the Earth Spirits as grander than Kisume described, but I guess I don't have any evidence to support that. Also: >5 paces For prose, I've been taught that you should usually write out any single-digit numbers.
>>13033 I'm glad you asked. Put simply, it's according to content. That is to say, I arbitrarily decide based on how much a line has to do with the previous one. I kind of like the spaced look it gives the posts, even though it's an incredibly inconsistent system.
>>13034 >I wonder if this Meiling will get to be a major character? You know, I wasn't planning on it, but...
I missed the voting, but I can get in on the comments. I usually try to write some sort of minor (usually pointless) comment along with my votes anway, because I hate how it looks when five different people in a row have posted nothing but the vote. It always invites accusations of samefagging which leads to shitstorms.
As for the power level thing, it pretty much literally works like that. In the official danmaku rules, it is stated that the winner is not the most powerful danmaku, but the most beautiful. (So e.g. Meiling is pretty low ranked on the Stage Boss scale, but in the #.5 fighting games which are based on a combination of danmaku and modified martial arts she can beat up just about anyone.)
The gates give with a loud creak, which seems odd given their otherwise perfect state. On purpose, perhaps? It would certainly be thematically appropriate. Really missing that fog right about now. Could use a full moon, too. The front garden is livelier than it seemed at first glance. Here and there fairies flit by in the corners of my vision, making long but short-lived shadows in the great beams of light bathing the mansion. I look back: Meiling is still back there waving at us energetically. Nice girl.
Now, we should go in, right. Yeah. This door is awfully tall and imposing.
At least it isn’t red.
Parsee rudely ignores my internal dilemma and just turns the handle. Pushes the door.
Yeah. That’s pretty much what I expected.
Clearly the same person did the external and internal decorations: red, red, life-red everywhere. Red velvet carpet, an honest-to-god red chandelier, the walls patterned it too. The steps on the dual circling staircase up to the upper floor. It’s a tad overwhelming, even. Thankfully whatever madman came up with this stuff was kind enough to throw out a few non-red things around so as to soothe the eyes: Paintings, the banisters, the high, high ceiling. The little furniture in the foyer, seemingly placed for presentation rather than practicality: all that deep wooden colour that I’m used to for obvious reasons. Probably much, much, much more expensive, though.
Oh, and after red comes that, doesn’t it: Expensive. Everything looks painfully luxurious. There, a lamp over a little desk in the foyer seems to be made of crystal. Over here, a drawer’s handle seems to be made of gold. Everything is clean, beautiful, well made.
I’m dirtying the place just by being here, aren’t I? I lower myself just a bit — but not enough to touch the floor. Don’t touch anything, don’t even breathe on anything. You’ll surely be killed.
Something pulls me along. “Come on, we can’t spend time gawking.”
Ah, right… Right. Focus. She looks just fine. Unrattled. I can be courageous too. Coming along, now.
Meiling was kind enough to draw out a map for us, but that doesn’t make the trip any shorter. Not that the mansion looked small from the outside: it'd take up at least one city block in the Ancient City, but it feels even larger from the inside. Corridors go on and on and on, with rows upon rows of what I can only assume are empty rooms, because what could possibly fill this place up? ‘Turn right at the sixth corner,’ it says. Why are there six crossroads inside a single house?
I grab a corner of Parsee’s skirt, stick as close to her as I can. I don’t exactly feel comfortable in this place. Well, leastwise it’s not boring: It’s surprisingly lively inside, even at this time. I'd have expected a mansion like this to be deserted, just seems to fit the atmosphere. It seems like every minute or so we come across a gaggle of fairies in that same strange servant’s outfit. Some pointedly ignore us, some stop and stare or slow down and whisper at each other, some turn 180 degrees and bolt as quickly as possible. I get the feeling we might even be approached if it wasn’t for Parsee, well, looking like Parsee. Most fairies aren’t that brave.
Many paintings, portraits of what I can only guess is the mistress of the house and at least one decorative armour, we get to our destination. Well, kind of. More of a halfway point. Parsee halts at the stairs, so I do too: hidden quite out of the way in what must be an actual corner of the mansion, a set of stairs that, quite differently from the rest of the mansion, are an unflinching stone grey, as are the walls. In fact, there’s nothing red leading down there whatsoever, unless you count the uninviting torch glow coming from down there, as opposed to the candelabras that lit the rest of the place. I recall Meiling’s words, absolutely not to meander in the basement. Then again, then seven more times.
Then she moves on, and so do I.
Different from the rest of everything here, there are no extraneous decorations here. It’s purely practical: the walls, the floor are all bare stone, there are nearly no doors: it’s just a long corridor. The sconces are free of anything superfluous. It’s all pretty eerie.
I clutch the skirt a little tighter. Thankfully, we don’t have to stay here for long. Before long, a set of double doors comes to view, tucked to a side. They’re rather simple, but look sturdy. This should be it.
Parsee stops before them for one, two long moments. Puts one hand to a handle. Stops again, pulls it back.
Ah. I see. She’s just nervous.
Well, it’s my turn to help her now.
Turn and a strong push! I smile when I hear a gasp beside me.
They open, these without a creak, and there! It’s a…
Hey guys, I've been taken by the strange and sudden craving to write something lewd. What do you think? Maybe characters from this story in a non-canon interlude kind of thing? Some other unrelated touhous? Just bear it save my time and effort for updates? Have Koishi show up again?
Taking suggestions. That last one was a joke, by the way. As far as you know.
http://www.touhou-project.com/at/res/34221.html Anywho, I did it. It's a rewrite of that bath scene with Koishi. Ended up not taking any of the suggestions, even though they were great. I can do it once the story is over, I suppose. Writing smut from the perspective of someone relatively innocent is pretty hard. I can't use any explicit wording or it breaks the character.
It hurts. It stings. The palms of my hands, along my arms, through my chest and into my stomach. A sharp, insistent pain that shuts everything else off and away as it goes: it drives black stakes into my elbows, my solar plexus, my neck, my stomach and soles of my feet. It kills them all. I feel stagnation spread through my corpse like a horrible mist.
My body is dead, sure as the sun is in the sky. Dead but still attached, moving, feeling and working. Useless. The current that used to run through me, fiery and alive, is locked in place and stopped.
It hurts. It hurts more than my body, and it hurts immensely. It keeps going: a carpet of fire is laid across my back, and it feels as if I could look back right now and see those ropes of red being pulled from my body through a giant wound, like common string. Lines and holes and spirals being punched through my skin. Actually, that might be it: they might be skinning me. The thought comes strangely clearly to my overloaded mind.
It doesn’t last long. The twenty-legged pain crawls upwards from my back, every step like a whole-body branding iron stabbing at me. It stops on my neck and squeezes, cutting off my air, pressing a rod into the back of my skull, all the way through. I want to hold my head, cut it off, blast it into pieces just to end it, but I’m powerless. The fire on my back enters my arteries, and with growing horror I realize it’s directing itself to the stakes immobilizing me. I realize what it’s going to do. What it’s already doing.
No. No, no. They can’t do this.
They do. They wrap and immobilize, and the fire turns into something like vines. Then steel. They’re stuck. They’re NEVER going away.
I cry. How could I not? It’s the only thing I can do. There’s not a single soul here who will take pity on me, but I’m out of options. I give it a try, but it’s a thorough job. Nothing moves as I want it to. I’m well and truly dead, as good as an empty wooden doll.
With a tug, the glowing hot iron rod lodged in my head is ripped out the wrong way, surely taking with it brain and bone and every other obstruction. Although, perhaps it was the right way: I’ve never been more thankful for losing my consciousness than that moment.
Ow. Ow, ow, ow. My head is pulsing. Ack, feels like I saw something really unpleasant just now. I don’t feel too good. Kind of woozy and heavy. I open my eyes a sliver and… ah, it’s way too bright in here.
What the hell happened? Where am I, even? Okay, okay, let’s take stock. I’m lying face down on something awful hard and kind of cold, I hear some scratching that might be pen on paper, but not writing: it’s long strokes with long pauses in between, not that characteristic constant scratching. It’s fairly cold too, which might mean it might still be night, I think. Most of all, the air is kind of… heavy? I don’t know if it’s something wrong with me, but it feels like I’m immersed in water. It’s not at all unpleasant, however. It’s more like the air is rich, if that makes sense.
But, wait. Something pushes its way through the horrible fatigue and the terrible headache. It’s… a smell. Not an uncommon one, but one I know and love.
It’s again the unmistakable smell of accumulated knowledge. Like wet grass, vanilla, oldness and love mixed together. Right. I remember now what I saw before I blacked out.
It was only the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
I try to bolt upright, only to find that I must have severely overestimated the condition of my own body, because I only manage to lamely topple onto my side and groan. The scratching noises halt, leaving behind the kind of silence that makes your ears buzz and hurt.
“Mistress, she’s awake now.”
A clear, womanly voice. More importantly, a voice I don’t recognize. That’s right, I have different priorities right now. I’m in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, in addition to being rendered immobile and defenseless. Also, my dress seems to be bunched around my waist, for some reason. None of those are good omens. At all. I really ought to get going as soon as possible.
Like right now.
“Open your eyes, if you would.”
No, I have to… Oh.
W̡̕o҉w͝.͡ S͏h̢e̷͢'̵͘s̨̨ ́r҉̢҉a̡͠t̷͟ḩe͢r̵̢ ̀͞p̕̕r͢e͡t̢͘t̷͞ý.̵̧ Looks like Meiling, but less happy and with more wings. The eyes, especially. They’re kind of red and dark and… yeah. Really pretty. She smirks.
“Good, are you calm now?”
Hmm. I slowly nod.
A whisper interposes itself, barely heard. “That’ll do fine, Koakuma. Are you just about done?” She bows a “Yes, mistress” and takes a step back.
“Now,” the whisper continues. “Here is your transport.” My old wooden friend knocks down on the table — it’s a table I’m on, apparently — so I climb in, struggling with my sluggish limbs, only realizing after I’m back inside that I could have just floated over. Duh.
And then I see it. It’s been sitting in front of my eyes but I only see it now. The library. No, the Library.
It’s… It’s — Wow. I lack words. A single of these bookcases must hold more than Satori’s entire library, they’re so tall and full, and they don’t end as far as I can see. And they’re clean, well organized, so… perfect. Perfect, that’s the word. The only thing other than books and bookcases I can even see at all are the floating balls of reddish light lazily drifting along. The corridors are empty: nobody walks or flies along them. The silence is one of those that becomes painful as soon as you take notice of it, by way of the annoying constant beep in your ears.
Then, a dry cough breaks it. Yeah, there was someone else here, wasn’t there?
“Why, thank you for noticing me.” It’s — a woman, I believe. I’m not surprised I missed her at first time. She’s small, and the only volume in her body is the puffy dress-thing she wears and her long hair. It becomes clear that she neither eats nor sleeps very often, with the bony hands poking out from her sleeves and her abnormally pale face, like mine, marked with deep black marks under the eyes and grooves along her cheeks. One could easily get fooled into thinking this is a dying girl. But then again, this is a youkai mansion, so she’s probably a youkai herself. Youkai don’t die gradually, generally. But the circumstance that impresses me the most was that she seems to have no voice at all: she only speaks in a whisper, and the exertion seems to leave her breathless for a second or two while she takes a deep breath. Nevertheless, the whisper carries clear through the dead silence of the library, and I’m thankful for it: it soothes away the painful and constant ringing.
She seats at the same set of tables I was sleeping on, in the middle of a bookcase clearing, a book in her lap: it looks as home there as a bottle in an oni’s hand. Her half-lidded violet eyes fix on me. “I’m glad you like my library. I am Patchouli Knowledge, and you…” she breathes, “...should fix your clothes, I believe. I keep it cold here, for the books.”
O—oh. I feel my cheeks burning up. Right, um. Dress straps, dress straps.
“Now that that’s all settled, I’d like to run a few further tests while you’re conscious. Do you mind?” With the corner of my eye, I catch this Koakuma’s stare again, standing in the sidelines. It doesn’t look like her smirk goes away. Well, okay, I suppose…
Wa̛it͟. ́Wh́a̢t ̨am I̸ doi̵n͝g̀?͡ I shake my head. No, it’s not okay. There’s way too much I have to ask right now. I pull out my trusty notebook.
[ ] Where’s Parsee? [ ] What’s with the creepy bat lady staring at me? [ ] Why did I collapse? [ ] Why the hell was I half-naked just now? [ ] What do you mean by “further” tests? [ ] Why do I feel… weird? [ ] Write-in
I intended for a write-in only choice, but everybody hates that. Still, consider the options only sample questions. You’re encourage to write-in if you think of some better questions than me. And I’m arbitrarily limiting you to three questions otherwise we all know what happens. Walls of text, bah.
There we go. Underline it a couple more times, perfect. Takes up a whole page, but you need impact, you know? She can’t just go around trying to mind-control people like that! Have some consideration. I put on my best mean face.
...To which devil-girl over there immediately starts snickering, not even sparing me the common courtesy of covering her mouth. Patchouli just raises a lazy eyebrow at me. Right. Trying to intimidate someone is probably a little out of my league, isn’t it? Damn it, how many times am I going to embarrass myself today?
“Koakuma?” The librarian shifts her questioning stare to her servant who, to her credit, transitions so smoothly from snickering to polite coughing even I doubt she was ever really laughing.
“I apologize, mistress.” She bows. Smile’s still there, though. “This one was beyond my ability.”
Patchouli sighs, which strangely feels like a natural expression on her. “Fine. We can do it the slow way. I suppose you have some questions then.” Then a mutter that I only catch by luck. “Everyone else does.”
Ah, whatever. I’ve already set a foot in, might as well take the dive. Pretty sure I’m already blushing by now, but let’s just go ahead with it. If I keep looking mad, maybe it can pass for an angry flush. Time for more (angry!) writing. “Where’s Parsee?”
“Parsee? Hm…” she ponders for a moment, then her eyes widen: the first time I see her eyes move from that ‘sleepy’ kind of posture, and I have to say, it doesn’t fit her at all. It’s gone in less than a second. “The blonde one, was it?”
Yes! I nod.
“She ran in here quite panicked carrying you, then looked like she was about to attack Koakuma here,” she gestures at the slyly smiling redhead, “when she started examining you.” And a pause. “Medically.” The winged girl winks at me.
Oh. I think I see what happened.
“So,” she pauses to take a few deep breaths, fixing her hair. This girl needs some exercise. “I had her escorted outside of my library. She should be outside somewhere. Then there was the other blond stray Meiling brought in, but she was gleefully radiating death at me, so I couldn’t let her stay either.”
! She’s here! There’s only one person I can think of who fits that description. I get the notion to just bolt right now to see her, but there are other things I have to ask first. I note again the general sluggishness of my movements and… pressure on me, although I’ve already more or less gotten used to it. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like I’m deep underwater, except with less ear pain and more headache. I wish I could be a little more eloquent here, but it’s hard enough writing this out while two people wait for me in total silence. At least they’re patient enough for that. “Why do I feel so weird?” My attempt at handwritten italics comes out a tad butchered, but I think it’s readable.
She nods to herself. “Weird, you say? I suppose it began when you entered the library?”
That sounds about right. I nod too.
“Then it’s consistent. This is also likely the reason you collapsed in the first place. You see…” She attempts to get up, but nearly falters and falls. Koakuma is beside her in no time, taking her arm and supporting her. Well. I thought she was just mischievous, but… what a nice sight.
“You see,” she continues after properly getting up. Not sure what she got up for, though. “People who enter my library sometimes suffer little symptoms like that, especially the untrained in the Arts. There have been headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and mild fevers.”
Wow. I suppose “The Arts” must mean magic, which would certainly mean I qualify as untrained.
After her periodic pause, she continues. “I haven’t bothered to look deeply into the cause, but it’s probably simply the ambient energy. I have so many enchantments and charms littered about the place that the concentration of magic is many times higher than most of Gensokyo, which disrupts those magic-affine but unlearned. Although…” She fixes those half lidded firmly eyes on me. “I’ve never seen anyone actually faint from it.”
“So,” She steps towards me as resolutely as I suspect she can. Which is not much. “That’s the gist of it. It was nothing serious and your friends are just fine, see? You just sit quietly and let me finish up.”
Well, okay… It doesn’t seem like she’s lying. One thing bothers me, however. I hold out a palm and she stops dead with a second long-suffering sigh. Here we go. This is a longer sentence, but let’s try to make it quick.
“If you know why I fainted and it's nothing serious, why do you need ‘further tests’?”
That gives her pause. Or, makes her blink and look slightly put off, which is close enough for me. “That’s… I just...” Her eyes wander for the first time. Koakuma giggles again, behind her.
“I… Ah, right. You collapsed, right?” her eyes refocus on me. “Which no one else has before just because of my library. So I have to make sure nothing else happened, that you're okay." She says it more to herself than me. "Yeah.” “I promise I’ll be done in a few minutes, then you can go back to your little friends.”
She extends a hand, the sleeves, too wide for her skinny arms dangling below.
Now, if that’s not suspicious, I don’t know what is. A quick look at the assistant finds her smiling that crooked smile at me again. If they really wanted to force me into something, I’m sure they could have easily done it by threat or intimidation. So, why is Patchouli trying to lie? What’s she hiding?
Hm. At the very least, it doesn’t seem like she wants to harm me, I don’t think. They did even take care of me until I woke up.
What to do?
[ ] Comply. If she wanted to do something to me, she’d have done it already. [ ] Get out of here. I have people to meet! [ ] write-in
God damned dialogue updates, I tell you. Ended up not being the big exposition dump after all.
[X] Comply. If she wanted to do something to me, she’d have done it already. - [X] But she has to explain what she's doing.
Because even if it was a lie that she wanted to make sure that we're okay, there's obviously something interesting enough to warrant "further testing", and with a bit of luck it's something we also want to know. (Like something about the tattoo, for example.)
>>13117 > I'd have expected her to talk a little more formally. That was because I was sleepy when writing and forgot to go all Patchouli with the words. I realized it a few minutes after posting and just decided to go 'fuck it' and leave it as is.
I'll fix it next update. You can pretend the Patchouli in this update is the one who's chill and listens to hip-hop and stuff.
Scribble, scribble. I get halfway through writing something along the lines of “Tell me what you’re doing and I’ll let you” when I feel something stop me. A pinprick kind of feeling, a natural alert. I l peer over my notebook:
While Patchouli looks like the same half-asleep starving girl, Koakuma is…
I’ll be honest. She was kind of unsettling before, but now that I take a good look at her, this girl scares me. Being a devil, it must come with the package. She’s just sitting there in the sorceress’ shadow, staring fixedly. That creepy smirk still on her and aimed directly at me. I’ve seen the stare of angry oni and of man-eating youkai that the surface abhors, but this is just creeping me out. They’re gorgeous and all that, but… there’s something in there, Something I don’t feel very at ease being around, like a vicious animal full of teeth and claws in a rickety wooden cage. I’m suddenly very glad that I hadn’t met any devils before now, even living near Old Hell. Gladder still that this one in particular seems to be bound to someone’s will. She’s calling Patchouli her ‘mistress’, but it definitely doesn’t feel like she’s the servant here; her presence is many times greater than the scrawny magician
With her stare, she gets this across as clearly to me as if she’d shouted it out loud: one way or another, I’ll be made to do what they want, and no resistance will help me. More accurately, what she — the red-headed one — wants. They may not hurt me for it, but I don’t believe I’m going to be able to just walk out of this library.
I scratch over what I was writing. Vigorously. Koakuma just blinks for what feels like the first time in a while and relaxes her smile. It doesn’t make me feel any better.
Yeah, nevermind that. I don’t want to be seen as hostile here. Instead, let’s go with…
“Would you at least tell me what you’re doing, exactly?”
“I don’t believe that’ll be necessary, you’ll be seeing it for yourself in just a moment.” The magician doesn’t show any kind of surprise at my response, taking it as if it were a matter of course from the beginning. Ah well, it probably was, so I can’t get too upset. “Before that, however, I’d have you answer a number of questions, if it doesn’t bother you terribly,” she says, clearly intent on asking whether it ‘bothers me terribly’ or not. “First, are you familiar with what the seal engraved onto your body means?”
Wait, seal? So it’s really a seal? I shake my head — and she doesn’t clarify, of course. Just nods and keeps going. I note she’s started floating as well, at some point, and looks far surer on her feet that way, paradoxically.
“You are unable to perform any variety of spell, correct?” Nod, nod, and she does as well, afterwards.
“Were you always able to fly?” I think back on it. In the beginning I was earthbound and I only ran, I’m fairly certain. I ran, and I had nowhere to hide. I ran and clawed and bit gods don’t hur——
Ack, there it is again. Shake, shake it off, literally. Early years in the underground were really not at all an experience I’d like to repeat: I’m sad to say that the agreeable youkai like Yamame and Parsee are the exception, rather than the rule; people who choose to live in a cold rock tunnel when a perfectly good city filled with drink and merriment is lying right nearby tend not to have their heads on straight. I’m proof enough of that.
Back to the question. No, it took a lot of time and effort to learn to fly and to find somewhere good to hide, I’m fairly certain.
I don’t get a chance to actually answer, though. She took my memory-chasing-off-ritual of shaking my head for a no. Raises an eyebrow at me, too: the only expression she’s comfortable making, judging from the few minutes I’ve known her.
“One final question before we begin.” Patchouli closes her eyes for a spell, and I’ve a fancy that she was just asleep for that time, while floating. Dunno why, just pops into my mind. What kind of youkai are you?”
Er. What kind of question is that? I cock my head at her.
A second or two passes in tense silence — confused silence, for me. “Are you refusing to answer?”
Sorry, what? I draw a massive “?” in my notepad, then add in two more after a thought.
She’s prompt. “Genuine, mistress.”
“...Hmm.” That kind of sounded like a worrying kind of “hmm”. What’s going on? Should I be a specific type of youkai? Is there something wrong with me?
She sighs like a tired parent. I think I better pay attention to this.“...As I’m sure you’re aware, any youkai above a certain threshold of power are manifested, with few exceptions, in a human-like form.” Yes, I knew that much. I nod along. “Additionally, in contrast to the beast-like lower youkai, we possess higher intelligence: consciousness, self-awareness, the capacity to abstract concepts and so on and so forth. Again, with few exceptions.” Ookay, Following so far. “Finally, there is a third major distinction between us and any old beast youkai, which you seem to not be aware of. I believed it to be common sense and common knowledge.” Ah?
“That is, of course, classification. While lower youkai can form as simple manifestations of formless, undirected fear, we are more solid than that. We live long and do not expire easily exactly because we’re definite entities as visualized by humans.” I’m... not sure I quite understand, yet.
There’s a second sigh by the magician. “To sum it up, there is no strong youkai that lacks a specific ‘type’, be it vampire, oni, tsukumogami or what have you. You take a human form and have higher intelligence. You are able to fly, which indicates at least some kind of power. Yet, you aren’t even aware of what you are. And that,” she finishes up, apparently having spent all of her breath in one go. “That should not be possible. You are an apparent contradiction.” Finally, she sits back down — more like crashes back down, really.
I… well. That’s certainly news, I suppose. I’ve no idea how to feel about it.
“Closer if you would, so we can begin your examination proper. It’ll be done in a minute.”
It actually takes quite a bit longer than a minute, but my mind isn’t even near here. I am told to strip at least once, lots of magic circles are drawn several times, and Patchouli seems to grow slightly graver with each passing ‘test’. I’m asked to do some weird breathing exercises, try to ‘channel’ and at one point she plucks a few of my hairs and holds them over a flame, for who knows what reason.
By the time she finishes up, she looks a lot more grim than when she started, even muttering to herself. I’m just floating around, thinking about… stuff, still, when she seems to make up her mind.
It doesn’t look good. “I apologize, but it doesn’t seem like I can just let you leave for today. I’ll have to ask you to stay for a while longer.” ...What? “Not to worry,” to her credit, she looks at least somewhat apologetic. “I have a number of very comfortable and spacious rooms installed in this library. We can provide as many meals a day as you like, as well as reading material and other amenities.”
No. She’s not saying what I think she is, is she?
“Koakuma, if you please.”
No, no, no, no.
“With pleasure, mistress.” She steps forward, looking just a little too pleased.
[ ] Run — The old standard. [ ] Scream — People might be near the door. My people. [ ] Hide — This library is awfully big and labyrinthine. [ ] Attack — Not that I can do more than give her a nasty bump to the head, but she won’t be expecting it. [ ]Desist — I only know too well what happens to captives. [ ] Write-in.
Happy 50th update.
Sorry for the deletion, had some trouble with some editing I had to do. You don’t have to revote or reread or anything.
>>13145 Look at the few posts above the update. Everyone got about 14 hours to vote. Should be plenty.
>>13142 >Parsee halts at the stairs, so I do too: hidden quite out of the way in what must be an actual corner of the mansion, a set of stairs that, quite differently from the rest of the mansion, are an unflinching stone grey, as are the walls. In fact, there’s nothing red leading down there whatsoever, unless you count the uninviting torch glow coming from down there, as opposed to the candelabras that lit the rest of the place. >I recall Meiling’s words, absolutely not to meander in the basement. Then again, then seven more times. For a bonus, it's also canon! Says so in PMiSS, SDM page in the dangerous locations guide section.
>>13147 Certainly not, sir. I deeply resent your scandalous, baseless slander.
Patchouli turns away and sits back down with her book, apparently already deeming the matter resolved. Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I’m out. Without even checking if devil-girl is making to chase me, I turn and do what comes naturally: run, of course. A plan forms in my head, although calling it a ‘plan’ at all might be giving it undue honours.
As soon as I rush out of the ‘clearing’–like area where the reading tables rest, I realize that I’m clearly lacking in homefield advantage, here. The shelves stretch from floor to ceiling, such that it’s impossible to fly over them at all. They also seem to have been arranged by a madman: they curve, form long corridors, branch out and split off with apparently no rhyme or reason. And then, there are stranger things than that: ‘wedges’ of bookcases, zig-zags, spirals, shapes that no man has named. Thanks to all of this, I can’t tell at all where Koakuma is, or if she’s even chasing me at all. Not that I’m stopping to check, though. Thankfully, however, dead ends don’t show up horribly much: it’s an all-interconnected, ‘open’ kind of maze. All I have to do is head one way until I hit a wall, then circle around find the door.
The cool air of the library whips past my loose hair. Keeping in flight, twisting around in the air to avoid all these bookcases puts pressure on my already aching head. It pulses and it hurts, hard enough that it feels like my eyes water and try to close by themselves with each beat. I’m thankful for it, actually. It’s a very easy focus point: everything that isn’t pure reflex and muscle memory fades to a far away background. It makes it easy to not think.
Thinking is bad right now. If I think, I’ll— I won’t… I mean, when if she catches me...
“I smell a little wayward cub~”
That sounded much closer than I thought it might. Right. Running.
After entirely more time than I’d like I come to what looks like a wall, kind of: It’s curved and as covered in colorful book spines as the rest of the library, but there aren’t any further openings on it as far as I can see. I guess the library is circle-shaped? Not that I have time to ponder it right now. I face left and follow along the wall, putting on as much speed as I’m able and praying that there aren’t any magical shenanigans here: just a door. The poor unread books fly past me. Sorry I couldn’t give you any time, girls. A series of impacts tap–tap on the bookshelves behind me, and I don’t have to see it to know what it is. The hot prickling in my skin tells me what it is better than my eyes could: danmaku. It’s good to know she isn’t trying to kill me, but even that’s not much comfort: those still hurt horribly and burn away cloth and hair and most flimsy things like that, and not just a little bit.
But that’s fine, because the door is already in view. An intense heat singes my face — I have just enough time to duck before what feels like a mini sun blazes over my head. The tapping sounds ring all around and on my bucket like the most unpleasant rain. Yeah, I’m not getting up again. Hope it didn’t get scorched too badly.
Hell with it. I know more or less where my target is. Brace, flip and...
With the flat side of the bucket at full speed, to make as much noise as possible — and succeed, I think. After the thunderous noise, the doors rattle frightfully in their sockets, and I’m sure that it echoes well in the corridor outside. I stabilize and prepare to carry out my ‘plan’. Now I just have to call for help. Just that.
“Are you not familiar with doorknobs?”
tap, tap, tap, she approaches from behind. I breathe in deep and — A bolt of cold and a shiver run through me. I Clench my teeth, ball my fists and flinch instinctively from a blow that never comes. But I can’t make a sound.
tap, tap, tap, tap… tap. Right behind me, now. “Well, are you done or shall I have to get drastic?”
Come on, come on. I’ve done something like this before, kind of. Just a deep breath— No, wait. There was a trick, wasn’t there? Yeah, Parsee did something like this, just before we left the caves. I grope with my tongue for the rough, not yet faded cut on my lip, still jagged and red. Place it between my canine teeth: sharper than a human’s and with a stronger bite (although not by much).
“Helloo I’ll have to pick you up by force if you don’t co— ”
———The horrible salty taste of blood spreads through my mouth again and the rest of her sentence fades. I feel in detail my flesh get shorn through as cleanly as if I’d used actual scissors. Pierced from above and below, first a small hole on the sensitive scar tissue, quickly widening and ripping through my lip like wet paper. A strangely clear thought comes through the pain: this is going to take a lot longer to heal, now. I focus entirely on the it, and the cold feeling when I open my mouth to scream stops at the stomach, weakened. I scream. I scream like my life and guts are being torn from my body by clawed hand. It’s not much of a musical sound sound to say the least, so I’ll spare you the actual details of my voice. I can hardly hear myself anyway, but it must be terribly shrill, terribly shaky and not at all dignified; people screaming hardly ever manage to look dignified. Once I get it through the initial block, it’s more like I can’t very well stop. The warmth from my mouth throughout spreads throughout, and I must be flushing a deep red right now. It actually feels great, except for the taste. It’s release. I can’t do it for long. Before long, I run out of breath and out of will, feeling too drained for such a simple act. Feels like I just pulled years worth of stress out of me through the mouth. “What the hell was th—”
She gets cut off again by what is, at this moment, the best sound I could hear: a solid WHAM from the other side of the door.
“A–ha, I see.” Ah. That’s right, just calling for help doesn’t do anything, does it? I should keep running. And I would, if miss demon hadn’t already gotten a death grip on my transportation. Oops.
She spins me around by force — and she’s way too close, and smiling still. Which isn’t good. “However, that door doesn’t break so easily. None of your two little friends are strong en—“
And a third time. Sorry, devil-girl. She doesn’t get to finish her sentence: there’s a tremendous crashing sound and both of us get showered by splinters and debris made from ex-door.
I poke my head out of cover, brushing dust and wood out of my hair, and in the next three or four seconds, the scene freezes, and one by one, a number of troubling realizations come into my head like they were lined up and waiting.
I realize that Parsee and Yamame are just outside, and I’m very glad to see them. They must've been just outside waiting, to be here this quickly. Meiling is there too, in front of them, frozen in a kicking pose, foot in the air. I realize that I’ve got a very nasty-looking busted lip that happens to bleeding all over me, and the front of poor new white dress is thoroughly soaked in fresh redness. My bucket has soot marks on it, and I’m covered in dust from the door. In short, I look like a complete mess. I realize miss Koakuma is still holding tightly to my bucket and standing over me in a rather menacing kind of posture. I realize Parsee and Yamame, in perfect sync, shift their eyes in what seems like slow motion; from me, to Koakuma, then back to me. Parsee in particular immediately tenses up — in fact, she's already starting to move and doesn't look all that happy, to put it mildly. I realize Meiling, just as Parsee starts to break out into a run, suddenly looks right — the direction that leads deeper into the basement — with a worried look on her, and that she never did tell us why she was so insistent that we don’t meander in the basement. And finally, I realize that just to the corner of my vision, in the direction Meiling is looking, there is a shadowy form and flashes of colour, though it’s too dim in the hallway to see any more than that clearly.
Thus pass the slowest seconds of my life.
Now, then. I can totally think about this calmly. What to do?
[ ] Nothing. [ ]
I heard we have a write-in expert in the house. disclaimer: I reserve the right to veto write-ins for any or no reason, purely at my discretion.
[X] And in the crystal clarity of those few seconds, I came to epiphany. All the jagged edges in my memory were made straight, the rough places were made smooth; and the blinding light of realization brought new meaning to all of my suffering up unto this point. -[X] The repressed desire for interpersonal contact, combined with the intense aversion to such. The desperate need to communicate, stymied by the inability to do so. I can see it so clearly now. -[X] I am Kisume, the youkai of loneliness. -[X] Just like Miss Satori said, pulse all the magic I can within the Pentagram on my back and shatter the seal holding my powers back. I may not be the strongest youkai: I may not be the smartest youkai. But at least I know; I was one willing to sacrifice everything to help the ones she holds dear.
Know, Isolex, that I did not ask for this. I would have been content to stick to sub-par write-ins and copy/paste just like everyone else. But you, sir, have called down the thunder, now reap the whirlwind.
I don't think it does make sense. The whole Loneliness part? She was a Youkai beforehand, yeah? She seemed pretty sociable with the human children before she got caught and all fucked up. Plus i'm unaware of any 'magic' that she could use to break that seal. She can fly and that's it.
>>13157 Sorry man, shounen powerups are the domain of the writer. If it makes you feel any better, i totally would have ran with that if it didn't make everything I've planned and foreshadowed null. Also if it won.