Really, really odd. There's a weird itch in my brain. Feels like I’m forgetting something, it really does. Or that I’m forgetting something about the fact that I’m forgetting something. No, I don’t know how or when that particular thought came up, either. I turn back at the door, giving the room another look over, just in case. Nice and tidy, Parsee and Yamame really cleaned it up from how it was yesterday. Nope, nothing out of the ordinary here.
...Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe being out in the sun baked my brains, since It baked my skin well enough. I’m surprised I wasn’t lobster red the first day out. Anyhow, I’m getting off track. Since there’s nothing going on, I’ll just be going. Don’t want to be left behind. Still scratching my head, I turn back to step outside—
Or, I would have if my way wasn’t being blocked. Yamame and Parsee are standing on the doorway, staring at me. Um, is there something wrong? Did I do something wrong? I tilt my head at them. Oh, is it bed hair? I bring my hands up to fix it, but it doesn’t look like that’s the problem. Yamame looks sort of worried, though I’m not sure why. I’ve still got a bit of a headache and I’m still in just-woke-up mode, but that shouldn’t be cause for worry, right? “Are you okay?” she asks tentatively. Um, I feel okay enough. She shoots Parsee a sideways glance before looking back at me.
“If… If you’re feeling alright… I suppose it’s okay.”
She moves, finally making way. Geez, what’s the deal with them today? Ah well. Doesn’t matter, really. I step past them and set foot into the verdant, wide grounds of the temple.
Set foot? That’s weird.
I wiggle my toes a bit, finding a curiously tingly feeling in place of the usual. And then I look back up, at the very wide open field with the sparse building here and there outside. Wide open. Wide... open.
Half an hour later, I’m following my companions along through the shrine grounds, maybe trying to hide in my bucket slightly more than usual. Now then, that was really embarrassing. I’d rather not dwell much (or at all) on what happened, but it basically involved just a little bit of panic and a half-hour of hiding inside the cabin’s closet before Yamame managed to coax me out.
What’s wrong with me, forgetting something like that? That shouldn’t even be possible. Worrying about it won’t do me any good, though. There’s already enough wrong with my head that a little extra dementia won’t be that much of a problem. At least nobody else made a big deal out of it.
The shrine in the morning is very lively, with monks hurrying back and forth doing whatever it is you do in a shrine (and more than a few lazing about). Reminds me more of some kind of vacation camp than a shrine. At least a... fifth, I think, of those monks seem to be actually working, though, so that might be good enough.
We head back to the same little administrative building looking place we went to yesterday. The only thing of note that happens in the way is that some weird blonde with a heavy colourful robe waves at me. Do I know her? Ah, here we are. Parsee knocks after a moment’s hesitation. The building is really pretty plain compared to the shrine proper. Must be an ideology thing. If I recall correctly, the boss-lady of this place is supposed to be some sort of mage too, right? Maybe I too can get something out of this meeting. Ah, and here she i—
...Wow. I expected a wrinkled old witch lady something. Which is stupid when I think about it, considering the amount of youkai in the temple. She opens the door with a full-faced smile. The word ‘full’ is well placed with her, I think. She’s taller than any of us and seems to almost shine, kind of. The weird gradient-colour hair even makes it look like she has a halo thing going on. Doesn’t really give me the image of the head of a religion, and neither do her clothes, what with the zig-zagging black and white ribbons. Circus show-woman, maybe?
Of course, ‘full’ also applies to her figure. I don’t think she’d even lose to Yamame at all.
...I’ll grow up yet, just you wait.
Byakuren, was it? Byakuren scans us for just a second, and I duck on reflex. This kind of person is just too shiny, you know? It’s like she’s shining a big spotlight on me when she looks. Parsee and Yamame don’t seem so affected, however.
“Visitors!” She seems more surprised than pleased, but ushers us to sit down anyway. The room seems to have been engineered for simplicity and pragmatism, and the Byakuren’s wooden desk is filled with scattered paperwork. I would have thought managing a shrine was a more hands-on kind of job. “I apologize for the wait. Things have been hectic around here. Now,” she sits across from us, all businesslike. “How can I help you?”
Right. How can she help us? Parsee still hasn’t told us why she’s dragging us about the overside. Now has got to be the time, right?
Suddenly very sheepish, she uncharacteristically fidgets about a bit, looking around, back at us, then back to Byakuren. Oh, no. She’s not going to, is she?
“Um, would…” Ack. I think she is. “Would you guys mind leaving for a second…?” Yamame has her arms crossed before she words are out of her mouth.
“You’re kidding, right?” Uh oh. They’re not starting, are they? I know Yamame isn’t too keen on arguing like this, but even I can tell how unreasonable Parsee is being. Maybe I can force a quick conclusion to this just by taking a side…? It wouldn’t do to air the dirty laundry right now, not in front of our host (who’s doing a remarkable job of looking politely disinterested, at the moment).
[ ] Leave? Alright, then. Of course, I intend to eavesdrop. [ ] Leave and respect Parsee’s wishes. I don’t think so. We’re being led around by her, so we should at least know what the hell for. [ ] We’re not going anywhere. It’s time for Parsee to spill it.
Really don’t like where this update went, but I need to get started somewhere to get back into the swing of things. Also fuck re-writing.
If you need a quick refresher on what in the hell everyone is doing and why and don’t feel like re-reading a buncha crap: Our main character left the underground more or less on a whim with Parsee who has been, until now, unclear on what the hell she’s looking for in the aboveground. Yamame came looking for them and refused to just go back and leave them alone because that’s just how she is. That’s the gist of it. At the surface level, anyway.
Oh, and hello again folks. Previous thread: >>13175
I mimic Yamame’s pose, crossing my arms at the strangely meek-looking Parsee. I know I’m hardly very good at looking imposing, but it seems like the right thing to do right now. I mean, surely it can’t be THAT serious, otherwise she’d probably have been a little more careful about dragging us around with her. It seems more like she’s just waiting for a push to tell us. So, that’s what we’re doing. I just hope we’re not screwing up horribly doing this. Parsee will be sulky for a few days, no doubt, but that’ll be the worst of it.
Or so I pray.
“Parsee…” Yamame’s tone switches to something like pleading. Our bridge guard bites at her nails, a familiar tic of hers. “Look, I won’t try to force you if you really don’t want to say anything, but…” here she takes the time to shoot Byakuren an embarrassed look, flushing just a tad. “We’re… we’re friends, right? So, whatever it is, we’re just going to try to help you. That’s all. Right?”
Uh. Oh, me! I’m being included! I nod hurriedly too, bobbing in the air.
Parsee thinks for a moment and finally sighs deeply. That’s like an ‘I give up’ kind of sigh, right? She turns to the nun lady without saying anything, but that’s what I’m getting. Oh, right. Byakuren was watching everything. That’s… embarrassing. Oh well. She seems to just be midly amused at our lame exchange, so it’s not a huge deal.
“Byaku— Miss. Miss Byakuren,” Parsee forces out, still not comfortable looking her in the face. It's kinda cute. She forges on. “The thing is… I– I heard this temple was headed by someone who has some knowledge in… you know, the arts” Hm? I don’t really see the need for the euphemism, but I suppose she’s just flustered.
Byakuren’s smile crooks, almost imperceptibly. Yeesh, that’s kind of weird, actually. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t let anyone know about that. We get nearly no humans around here as it is.”
“But it’s you, right? You can, can’t you?”
A sigh. “Yes, I suppose so.”
“Then, I’d—” A pause. Fidget, fidget. She’s even making me kind of nervous now. “There’s a favour of sorts I’d like to ask.”
“I guessed as much.” Ah. Is Byakuren… annoyed? It’s kind of hard to tell. Something about her expression, I don’t know. Parsee looks nervously at her, then at me and Yamame.
At length, she finally speaks, still not sounding certain of herself. “I need to… I want to, er… become… that is…
For some reason, Byakuren brightens up at that. “Yes, of course! We encourage integration and harmony with humans, and if you’re having trouble… holding back certain instincts, we have programs and—”
“That’s not what I meant.”
I was much too stunned to react to it at first. Become human? The same ones she curses all the damn time? Granted, I suppose she does curse nearly everyone all the time, but still.
“I mean… really. Literally..” Parsee’s still not quite making eye contact.
I don’t still don’t get it. I chance a look at Yamame, who looks like she’s had any facial expression wiped clean. She’s unreadable, which is fairly unusual.
Byakuren follows along, also going somber, sort of. “You want become an actual human?”
A heavy silence hangs in the room while Parsee nods, slowly. Byakuren frowns and seems to consider for a moment. It’s not a long moment.
“Even if I knew how to do such a thing, which I don’t,” she begins, gravely. “I’m afraid nothing in the land could convince me to. You understand the consequences, don’t you?” she speaks, as if admonishing a child. “It’d be akin to murder, not to mention incredibly adharma. Nobody is meant to violate the natural order in that way.” Ad-what? My brain might not be working very well right now, but what consequences?
“And if you don’t mind some advice, please consider giving up on this. I don’t know what it is you’re facing, but there has to be a way around it other than cutting down your own life span to a hundredth of what it should be.”
Oh. Those consequences.
“Life is a precious thing, youkai or human. And to add to that—”
“That’s alright,” Parsee interrupts, barely audible. Byakuren politely stops the lecture she seemed to be on the verge starting, though. “I’ll be going, then.”
She quickly scoots out of the building before I can even tell what kind of expression she has on. Yamame files behind her after shooting me one of those looks and mouthing ‘I’ll take care of her’ or something to that effect.
Well. That was… unexpected? I’m not sure. My mind hasn’t caught up yet, I could say.
“Well?” Oh, right! Byakuren is still here.
[ ] Right, I did have something to consult as well, didn’t I? [ ] I better go check on Parsee too.
You don’t like waiting 2 weeks for 800 words? WELL, TOO BAD. This Byakuren is rather uninteresting if I do say so myself. Wasn’t in the best creative mindset writing her. Will try to make up for it in the future.
I couldn't decide if I wanted to write something erotic-ish or continue the Seija short, so I did something that was both. The short about making out with Seija should be up today or Thursday after a bit of rewriting and finding someone to proofread if I'm lucky. Then you get your update.
If you don't like that idea for a short, I'm afraid you're HOMO.
Right, Parsee doesn’t need babysitting from me. Although, that thing about becoming human does worry me. If she becomes human, she’d die really quick, right? 30 years or thereabouts, if I remember right. And if she died… she wouldn’t be around with us.
And that wouldn’t be good at all.
That said, it’s not like it’s an emergency. I’ll get whatever silly idea she planted in her own head out later. For now, I have myself to worry about.
Ah! But before I ask anything, there’s an issue here, isn’t there? I recall the sorceress girl, Miss Violet? Something like that. She didn’t exactly react very well to my questions, did she? Uuu… now I don’t know. Neither Byakuren nor nobody else I’ve personally met in the temple seems like a bad person, but… Violet also seemed like a nice enough girl when I first met her. Kind of. Not really, but still. Byakuren looks over the door, making sure my travel partners are gone before she talks to me, in a rather different tone than I expected. Less mother superior and more like an opponent, I think. I’m not quite sure.
“There, they’re gone. You can talk now.” … ?
She taps the bridge of her nose, smirking. “It’s obvious you’re hiding yourself from those two, but you can’t fool an old wolf like me.” She closes her eyes and concentrates, like someone trying to make out a faint noise. “You’d be…” she raises an eyebrow for a moment, looking doubtful. “Yuuka?”
Errr, what? Who? When? I’m thoroughly confused right now.
“No, that’s not right. Disguise isn’t that old witch’s style. She’d say something like ‘that’s too much work’, I’m sure. Then, a newcomer? I suggest dropping whatever it is you’re planning before the Hakurei shows up.” I have no idea what this woman is going on about. Maybe it’s some sort of a prank? I glance around the room restlessly. I think she finally realizes I’m not whatever it is she thinks I am from looking at my utterly lost expression. She widens her eyes and brings one hand to her mouth. “Oh, have I gotten something wrong?”
I suppose so. I nod slowly.
“That can’t be right.” She frowns in concentration, staring fixedly at me. Maybe a little too fixedly: I sink back into my bucket. Just a tad. “I’ve been around too long to make mistakes like that.” She closes her eyes for a short moment again, this time putting a bit of force into it. “No, it’s definitely there. You are a mage, aren’t you?”
What the hell? No I’m n—
… ……...Oh. Ooooh. Is that what’s going on? I think I see now.
But I do need some confirmation. I turn away from Byakuren and let my robe drop in the back, showing off that… thing. Ugh. It feels like I’m offering myself or something, I don’t like doing this. I hear a muted ‘Oh’ from behind me. So, she does know what it is.
“So you weren’t hiding on purpose.”
I don’t bother to answer: too busy scrambling for my little notebook, then scribbling furiously It’s — it’s a bit awkward to ask, my handwriting is terrible and I feel rather silly, but it’s necessary. I hold it up to her.
‘WHAT AM I?” No… I know that much, now. I think. I hurriedly add ‘EXACTLY’ under it.
“Oh.” I think she finally gets it. Her expression shifts into a genuine concern almost immediately. I think I can see how this woman can lead a temple. “Oh dear. If you don’t mind me asking, how long have you been around?” How old I am, is it? I start sketching out a 3… but no, 30 is a tad too little, isn’t it? I scribble over it. Damn, I actually have no idea. Maybe like 60?
“That young?” Her eyebrows furrow further. “And you’ve been sealed since...?” ‘Sealed’, huh? I just shrug. As far as I know, it’s been there since always.
She gets up and gingerly steps around the desk and towards me, concern still plain on her face. I recoil on reaction. “May I have a closer look?” I fidget for a moment, but I don’t think there’s a real reason to turn her down. Besides, I really want to get this thing off me now. I turn and undo my robe once again, holding it at my waist. I jump when she unexpectedly lays a finger on my back, but thankfully she takes the hint immediately.
“I see. This is about half a century old, I’d say, and slightly corroded.” Corroded? That gives me pause for a second, but thinking about it, it matches up exactly with what happened. In the beginning, when I was more wild animal than youkai, I couldn’t fly or shoot any danmaku at all. It took lots and lots of painful practice and time, and although I never bothered practicing danmaku more than the basics, I was basically practicing flying nonstop, and it got easier and easier. Looks like use over time slowly, partially broke this seal thing.
Ah, but she didn’t answer my question! I fix my robe and turn, waving my notebook around at her.
After a pause, she sighs like a tired teacher, which, come to think of it, she kind of is. I settle in, making myself as comfortable as I can. “Very well. I don’t think anyone else will if I don’t, will they?”
“Magician youkai,” she begins, clearly entering lecture mode. Feels like she’s used to it. “Is just a blanket term for any youkai with an intimate relationship, acquired or otherwise, with the Earth’s energy. As a general rule, every entity, living or not, has some essence of magic in them. Around the world, this energy has gained too many names to list: Qi, mana, vodun, life force, whatever it may be, and each school of magic manipulates it in their own unique way.”
There’s a sudden multicoloured flash and woah. A flashing, rainbow-coloured… thing appears. Scrolling letters — runes, looks like. The light reflects off her also multicoloured hair, making quite a spectacle. I forget myself looking at it. Just for a moment.
“I, myself,” she continues, putting the scroll away as quickly as she took it out. “Am a magician, although I used to be human. I am, in fact, part of the majority.”
I tilt my head at her by way of asking. Majority?
“Most magician youkai were originally humans, or more rarely another kind of youkai, who either through constant contact with the Art and the natural forces, one of several rituals to that purpose, a contract with a higher entity or any of several methods; simply became something else. Me, Alice and Patchouli would fit there,” here a small smile breaks through teacher-mode, “and I believe that daring young lady is well on her way.” Doesn’t last long. She goes back into serious-mode.
“And then there are natural magicians, who are very rarely born out of the pure will of the Earth, inseparably entangled with magic from the beginning. Or,” she interrupts herself, shooting me a pitying look for a fraction of a second. “Perhaps not inseparably.”
Oh. I see.
“These are classification someone just made up long, long ago so of course there’s some contention, but the only other natural magician I’m aware of existing in Gensokyo is one Kazami Yuuka. Have you heard of her?”
“She fancies herself a flower youkai, but I suppose when you’re pushing four digits and can fight a Yama on even ground, you can style yourself anything want.” I didn’t catch a word of that. “Anyhow, it’s said that this particular type of youkai is far more powerful than ones who have to learn from scratch. Allegedly, if they learn how to properly control and channel their already naturally high abilities, they can become nigh all-powerful — and I’ve seen nothing to disprove that theory. In addition, and this is the part that concerns you the most,” she adds, tapping the table. “Is that they’re supposed to have extremely useful properties — as materials. Your body fluids alone are worth ten times their weight in gold, to say nothing of body parts.”
My exchange with Patchouli (That was her name!) comes to mind, and that devil-girl’s grin. Yeesh. Let’s not think about what would’ve happened if I stayed there.
“That’s the gist of things.” Byakuren takes a long, satisfied breath and sits back down. “Any questions?”
[ ] Write-in [ ] Can you take this thing off me?
Thoroughly dissatisfied with this. I really wanted to erase this update and start over, but all that does is delay everything for no reason, so here you go.
[x] Can you take this thing off me? [x] What can people do with my body (mention how koakuma seemed to have been salivating heavily when she knew what Kisume was) [x] Can I borrow a few scrolls of magic or, can you teach me the arts? (if the surgery is a success)
[x] Can you take this thing off me? [x] What can people do with my body (mention how koakuma seemed to have been salivating heavily when she knew what Kisume was, and Patchouli's attempt) [x] Can I borrow a few scrolls of magic or, can you teach me the arts? (if the surgery is a success)
‘Valuable’? ‘Useful’? Most importantly, ‘nigh all-powerful’?
I look down at myself. My already dirty robe, my perpetually bruised knees and elbows and my bony, scrawny knees. My bony, scrawny everything, really. I can’t write so well, my danmaku is barely above a fairy’s, I’m kind of… small and, um, not attractive, to say the least. Can’t really do anything well other than fly around, and even then…
Anyhow, I can’t see myself being anything even close to what she says I am. The polar opposite, maybe. In any case she must be mistaken, there’s no way I’m some sort of super-powerful crazy spell-flinging mage. Maaaybe some lower-class weakling, if we stretch it. But none of that matters too much right now, the fact is that I want this damn thing off me, whatever it’s doing.. It is pretty cool looking and all with the fancy magic circles, but it has to go all the same. I’m not about to tell her she’s mistaken, though. Probably better that way.
Byakuren fixes her hair up, settling herself in her chair. She doesn’t seem to be in any kind of a hurry, so it should be ok to ask about a couple of other things I’m curious about. I get back to my notebook again. Feels quite awkward scribbling this in silence while she just watches, but it’s not like I have another option right now. So, I just make it short.
It’s not like I really want to know what the hell someone would do with my body parts after hacking my apart, but I feel like at least knowing something would give me a a bit of an advantage. You know, if someone starts chasing after me with a big butcher’s cleaver. Thankfully, Byakuren doesn’t hesitate a moment to answer. “I’m sorry,” she looks down for a second. “I may technically be a ‘magician’ youkai, but my knowledge is very limited. I just know that, in general terms, every part of your body is like a natural focus and it all has many uses in potions, magical circles and things like that. It seems like the blood is especially prized.”
Ah, she’s gone quiet already. That’s all, then? I shouldn’t waste her time.
‘COUD’NT’— Wait, no. Damn it. ‘COULDN’T YOU GET RID OF IT?’
She stares at her feet for a second again, looking strangely guilty. She doesn’t really owe me anything, but… I suppose this is how good people are supposed to act. “Again, I’m sorry. The only reason I even knew what that seal was is,” she hesitates for an almost imperceptible moment. “I was stuck for a while too, if you follow, so I had to do what research I could under the circumstances.” She smiles weakly. “I ended up being rescued by someone else, so it didn’t help much, if at all.”
I’m about to start writing down the obvious question down when she forestalls me.
“The Hakurei. I know for a fact she can solve your problem with a wave of her hand, although even if she doesn’t realize exactly what you are, I highly doubt she’ll be too keen on doing free favours for a youkai.” The red and white? Ugh, I’d rather not meet her at all if possible. Last time I did, I needed weeks to recover. Besides, we’re not exactly supposed to be up here.
Byakuren counts down on her fingers. “There are the three witches: Patchouli, Alice and Marisa.” Well, I blew one of those chances already. “Marisa is incredibly young but also incredibly talented. She might be able to do something, and there’s the off chance she won’t even ask for anything in return. Alice can certainly do it, but she’s the kind of person who will try to strike some kind of deal.”
Deal? I don’t really have anything to off— Oh, right. Blood and stuff. I shiver a bit: really rather not deal with blood at all if I can help it. Or anything worse than that, for that matter
“There’s also the other shrine maiden, but I really really wouldn’t recommend going to her. That girl is just… weird.”
Oh, from the shrine in the youkai mountain? We just came from there. I can deal with weird, but I’ll trust Byakuren on this one. “That’s all I can tell you. I wish I could be more helpful. Of course, you can stay as long as you want.”
Ah, well. I do consider asking her what would happen if I took off the seal — other than the obvious — but she did just say she doesn’t know that much about this kind of thing. I recall Satori saying it was completely unpredictable, too, and I don’t want to waste too much more of Byakuren’s time if possible. She looks like a busy woman.
After much bowing and thanking from me she finally shows me out, but not before giving me a little bag with a nice amount of food in it, some spending money (she didn’t let me refuse it) and directions to ‘Marisa’, ‘Alice’ and finally the Hakurei Shrine. I write it all down diligently. I don’t intend to go to that last one, but doesn’t hurt to know where it is, if only to avoid the spot completely.
I leave the little office to a pretty unexpected scene. Parsee and Yamame sit on the floor by the door, pretty close together.
Very, very close together, in fact. Are they… hugging? “AH!” Aww. With a strangled noise, Parsee suddenly bolts up and away from Yamame as soon as she realizes I’m here. Blushing, too! I can’t stop the little smile that comes to my face. Yamame, for her part, calmly gets up with a self-satisfied smile while dusting herself off. Looks like I missed a nice moment. I want to tease her about it, but I wouldn't know how.
Parsee storms off in what looks like a random direction. She’s a little too easy to embarrass. ...Actually, now that I think about it, she doesn’t know where else to go, does she? Not that she’s told us, anyway. I think it’s my time to lead us.
[ ] Go through the village. It may be a tad risky, but I wanna see! Also, we can buy good food, drink and sleep in real beds. [ ] Go around the village. Not worth the risk, and I like the outdoors better than that awful mass of people.
[X] Go around the village. Not worth the risk, and I like the outdoors better than that awful mass of people.
Maybe we can get Reimu to remove the seals for a donation, best avoid temptation and save money so we can write "This is all the money I have, please help me!" Just being mute helps all the more, she would feel obligated to help to not be labeled a complete asshole.
The sun isn’t yet at apogee, and the temple’s activities are in full swing — which is to say, I’ve never seen such a big concentration of youkai in monk outfits slacking off in a single place. No wonder, really. Where else are you going to see something like that? It’s even kind of exciting! You know, in that way where it makes my stomach feel kind of cold when I imagine myself in there. There are people chatting and laughing and running about, like the oni but with less alcohol.
...Unfortunately, it’s still not really my style. Too many people, you see? I mean, I’m getting better, but that doesn’t mean i’m going to change my whole personality. I kiiind of want to go between them too, but just thinking of going there with people and talking and all that stuff makes me… eh. I’m not making any sense, am I? Nevermind me. Anyway, for now the village is the objective, not this place. I guide Parsee and Yamame — without them really noticing they’re being guided, it looks like — away from the temple, through an orchard parallel to the main road to the village. The noise the crowd makes pulls my eyes that way: even this early on in the day, the road is already healthily flowing with people and carts moving goods around. It’s really lively! Really makes me want to see how the village itself is. Could it be even more active? The last one had lots of youkai due to being so close to the tengu’s mountain and the kappa, but this is the human village, so it should be stuffed with humans, right? For a moment I fear we won’t be allowed in, but thinking about it, the other town seemed ok with us and that had some humans too, so there shouldn’t be a huge problem. Hopefully.
Parsee halts, scrunching her nose. “Hey, where are we going?” Ah, she finally realized. I suppress a snicker: you were the one who stormed off, silly. I gesture the way of the village. It’s not quite visible in the horizon yet, but with each pace more and more evidence of human habitation springs up: farmhouses, denser and more varied fields, some windmills, fenced pastures and so on. It’s kind of funny-looking how densely-packed and clearly defined different farms’ territories are with the different crops and stuff. Like a big painting. Oops, I’m getting off track. In any case, it’ll just be a short walk and we’ll be there. Short flight, in my case.
However, it looks like my companions aren’t as keen on the idea as I am. Or very keen at all, in fact. For a second, Parsee gets the same kind of look she did just before, when we were talking to Byakuren. Yamame, for her part, stiffens almost imperceptibly. Almost. I’ve been around her long enough to know that the pressing of her lips and narrowing of her eyes mean she’s not pleased about my suggestion at all.
"I'm not sure..." Parsee begins haltingly, sounding very uncertain. "I'm not so sure that's a good idea." Aww, why not?! I look back and forth between the direction of the village and her. It's right there! And it must be fun and full of people! Good food, all of that! I fidget, trying to think of more stuff. I know it's silly since I'm not actually communicating anything, but still! Oh, oh! Parsee was looking to become human, right? The village is the biggest concentration of people in Gensokyo, which means it should have some kind of information on that! I'm certain of it.
Parsee holds on to the dispirited's Yamame's hand, not disconcerted or embarrassed that I can tell — and that gives me pause. It's very unlike her. Um, were these two always this close?
"We're not very good with humans."
Yamame gives me a painfully meaningful look, and a disturbing image flashes through my mind, and disturbingly familiar at that. Red criss-crossing veiny-looking lines over my skin, and the terrible fever that came with them. It's what happened when I got just a little too touchy with her. Oh.
I'd completely forgotten. We can only hang around Yamame because we're youkai too, and even then, there's a limit. With humans, a single careless touch has them afflicted by a near incurable, possibly deadly disease. I don't remember precisely who I heard this from, but I have little reason to doubt it after what's happened to me.
...Well. I can hardly ask Yamame to come with us and put a whole village of people in serious danger.
But then again, I really wanna go!
[ ] I... I suppose we can just stay around the outskirts where there should be less people. That much is okay, isn't it? [ ] Pleeeeease? Attack with puppy dog eyes! [ ] Leave it up to them. It's not my place to make this kind of decision.
Screw safety! We came to the surface to have some fun! Let's shop, see some sights, meet new people, and gather valuable information. And if something does happen, we got each other's backs, we can overcome anything if we work together!
>>13762 I think he meant leave Yamame behind and go to the village with Parsee. The problem with this idea is that it would probably make Yamame really sad and Kisume would feel guilty for leaving her all alone while she goes off and has fun.
That's... That's a problem, then. I sigh, deflating a bit. Aww, that's too bad. I really wanted to see how the humans live all clustered together, too. That last village didn't really count. And food, and all of that. But then again, I was probably setting myself up for disappointment. There's no way every day is like a festival in there, people have to work. Yeah, it's probably better this way. If we'd cause that much trouble just by being around... there's no helping it. We'll just have to go around.
I turn away from the main road and the quickly mounting mass of buildings in the distance when Yamame finally decides to pipe up.
"It's—" And a pause. She has her head lowered, and it sounds like she's struggling to get the words out. It's not like I don't understand how she feels, so I keep quiet. "It's fine." She looks up, brushing her hair from her eyes to look directly at me, then at Parsee. "A–as long as we aren't in a real crowd with people pushing each other aside to move, we'll be fine.” She looks down and mutters. “I'll be fine."
Oh. Really? Really, really? Excited, I glance at Parsee, but she just shrugs at me. We can! I twirl in place and start happily flying back towards the village.
I wonder if we can find some fried food.
I think what surprised me the most was that the village wasn't gated or walled at all. Although they did wander around and we got more than a few odd looks, no sour-faced, armour-clad guards asked us what our business was in the village. We wandered for a good bit, and still weren't even close to the center. You have your bars with chubby family men drinking in the mid afternoon, your multicoloured brick houses clustered around each other, your children horsing about like children do, bored housewives leaning on window sills looking for the newest hot piece of gossip, craftsmen working out in front of their shops and everything else I'd about expected.
In fact, the sounds are kind of— There's hammering of metal, yelling, talking and, and... It's kind of familiar? I'm assaulted by a sudden dizziness, but I tell myself it's nothing, shaking my head. Yeah, nothing here is familiar. Just me being silly again.
I think I understand why some people moved to the Youkai Mountain. Flying upwards a tad and looking towards the center of the village, things look like they get incredibly chaotic up there: there are more buildings than I can count, throngs of people, even smoke rising up in a few places. That's not fire, is it? No, no, probably not. Must be the humans' smiths or weird machines, things like that.
Unfortunately, it seems like I'm the only one excited about our excursion. Parsee seems too busy trying to glare poor humans to death to enjoy it, and Yamame is doing her best to not be within a stones throw of any of them. I don't think it's that necessary — she found some kind of topcoat that covers her up nearly completely, if her bulky dress didn't do enough of that.
Hm. It's not as fun if these two are just following me around just because they have to and not enjoying anything at all. I wonder if there's anything at all I can do. I take a good look around me.
There's... food! I still have the little paper package Miss Byakuren gave me, but I mean... She's a monk. It's bound to not have any meat. I don't crave human meat or anything, but just vegetables is rough. Looking about, it seems we found ourself in some kind of street vendor hotspot: Most popular are a cheery looking girl selling udon noodles and a bored smoker girl selling yakitori. In fact... is she smoking two cigarretes at once? Geez.
There's also a stocky dark building with a simple 'BAR' in bold letters hanging above the small entrance. A plaque saying 'youkai and humans welcome' hanging underneath. Well, that's nice enough. From past experience, I know that Parsee isn't all that good with alcohol, but it's tempting nevertheless.
We could also call it a day early and find an inn of some sort. Or just check in, rest for a bit and leave later at night when it's hopefully emptier. Check out the village nightlife, you know!
And there's some sort of small, weird looking building. How does that read? Rin... suzu... what? Damn, I can't read those kanji. But I do see books in between the curtains at the entrance. Books. Maybe even books I can read! And it'll be a quiet place for Parsee and Yamame too! Places with books are always quiet.
Decisions, decisions. I take a little look at the map Byakuren drew for me. There's so much to do here, we can go tomorrow. Yeah. Now then, where to first?
[ ] Rest for now. Surely the night in the village will be even more interesting. [ ] Rest for tomorrow. We'll need our strength to walk all the way through a weird forest. [ ] Udon! I can't even remember the last time I saw that. Too much work for the oni down underground — they like fast to make food. [ ] Delicious juicy grilled chicken, we must have it. [ ] Neither Parsee nor Yamame look like they're having much fun. Some drink would do them good. [ ] Books! Information! Isn't that what I'm looking for? Go, go!
It’s a curious thing, this Village — or is it village? Staring at the yakitori stall-cart-thing and its small herd of humans standing about, something about the whole scene strikes me as innocent, I might say. They’re all as young and unconcerned as does, it’s all very quaint. Yes, I realize me of all creatures on this green Earth calling anything or anyone quaint is no small irony, but I don’t know what else I could call it. It’s so… calm. I think I wouldn’t completely dislike living some way like this.
But that’s just a passing thought.
I gingerly float into place behind the others in line. I did mention the place seemed popular, but that’s only considering we’re barely inside the village, only in the outskirts. I count one, two, five people waiting to get their fill in front of us: one child, staring at me wide-eyed; a young couple, arms linked and clearly unable to pay attention to anything other than each other; a well dressed youth leaning just a tad too much towards the clearly uninterested, gruff smoking shopkeeper; and finally a bearish, rough-bearded man incessantly cracking his calloused farmer’s knuckles (and younger than me!).
A jolt runs through me and I hide behind Yamame as that last one angrily furrows his brows at me. I nervously pull at her dress. Men are still a little… well, you see what I mean. I wish they wouldn’t make that kind of face at me just because I’m flying, at least.
I feel Yamame’s hand brush my hair. Mm. I breathe in deep without realizing it.
A-anyway, food! Delicious, delicious meat cut into convenient little squares and shining with oil. Chicken is a kind of bird, I remember that. Edible meat isn’t terribly common down in the underground outside of the Ancient City, and bird meat especially. I guess there are the hell ravens, but I wouldn’t try to eat those: they fly in packs and cleverer than half the youkai living down there. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve even ever eaten bird meat. Ah, I’m kind of excited to try it now. Even the grill is interesting: The little cooking I’m used to seeing is either done over open fires, over hearths in huge cauldrons or in those big ovens with chimneys on them. The smell reaches strangely far like this, plus the line marks on the meat look oddly appetizing. Every so often a drop of… something falls down into the gently glowing coal, making a tssss kind of sound and the unmistakable aroma of something to be eaten ravenously becomes much stronger for a few moments.
I’m suddenly pretty hungry.
Ah, I’m sorry, really sorry! I wasn’t thinking about stealing anything, swear on my soul.
...Nevermind. She’s not even looking at me — which makes sense, since I never stopped hiding behind Yamame. It’s fine, anyhow: this girl doesn’t precisely look like a gentle, domestic kind of lass, if you follow.
She juggles three (!) lit cigarettes, making sure to tap the ash far away from the cooking space every few seconds while also taking care of the cooking, as swift and efficient with her working arms as a decades experienced craftsman, which come to think of it, she probably is. For sure she doesn’t look twenty in human years, but — well, call it a feeling. Her eyes have too clever a shine for someone who only makes food for a living, and the way she looks patently bored while doing it so skillfully also helps. Although, she does look a tad unkempt, the bags under her eyes telling me that she must not have slept for a long time. Even there being no other evidence of that. Her long, long silverish hair is done up in a ponytail and adorned with a simple, kind of dirty red ribbon, probably just to keep it away from the food. It looks like she’s worried with cleanliness only when it comes to her customers: the simple white dress shirt under the apron she’s wearing looks like it may have been something like white one day — a day that has clearly seen its sunset a long, long time ago. Even the space where she cooks and the counter are sparkly, shining clean, and becomes gradually less cared for the further away from there it gets. Odd priorities. Not that I can lecture anyone on the subject, but still.
She takes notice of me and her eyes widen just enough to show she noticed, then shifts her attention back to my travel companions, cracking a crooked smile that leaks smoke. “Alright then, we have some courageous ones! Very nice, very nice.”
She quickly kills the smile and pulls out a fourth cigarette from somewhere… which is already lit, somehow. “Nevermind, me. How many will you have?”
“Three will be fine.” Parsee is ordering, apparently. I’m a little surprised she’s volunteering to talk to people. “You don’t happen to have beer, do you?”
I didn’t think she was the type, but that gets a dry chuckle out of her. “I think I have a little here, yeah.”
She points to a stack of giant wooden casks near the cart, each taller than me by a little and fatter by a lot.
Well then, I suppose we’ll be drinking some.
“Sit on the counter, I need a break anyhow.” She flips a little ‘open’ sign over and slams down three flagons, each of which looking like it'd fit more water than what I’m using for travel supplies.
Who invented alcohol? Please tell me, so I can go punch them. Actually, why did I even drink? I know how it tends to end up. Sure it is kind of fun and went well with the yakitori, but… ugh.
Worst of all, everyone else is chatting all friendly-like, completely unaffected. I think I’ll just rest my head on the counter a little bit.
Mokou — That’s the smoker’s name — was talking about how she’s some kind of youkai, mutant or something else, somewhat unsurprisingly.
Even Parsee was feeling sociable, it seemed. Partly because of the beer, I’d bet. Or mostly. She drained the rest of hers. “So it was true. I’d heard in the new village that youkai were okay to live here now, but I didn’t quite believe it.”
“Times and people change, ya know. Even in a hole like this.” Mokou nods as sagely as only someone who’s in some stage of insobriety can, like she just said something worthy of being passed down. “I don’t get how these people think — youkai make a show of pretending to disguise themselves and the people make a show of pretending not to notice anything.” She drains the rest of her drink. “Not that I care for it.”
“Is that why you said something about us being courageous, or…” Yamame gently prods the conversation forward. Why is she this far away from me? I scoot over, dragging the high stool along.
“Yeah, with the flying about openly. There’s general acceptance, but you know how it is. Lots of people aren’t so accommodating.”
Parsee ‘mm’s in agreement and looks thoughtfully into her glass. I cling onto Yamame more — she’s warmer than the counter. And softer. And kinder.
“Does she speak, by the way?” Is that about me? I think it is. I awkwardly turn to Mokou and give her a look.
Yamame is the one to reply. “When she feels like it." Oh, come on, that’s SO not true. I headbutt her in protest, although it likely ended up more like nuzzling, considering the state I am in right now.
Maybe sensing that no further answers were forthcoming, Mokou shifts subjects. “Headed anywhere in particular?”
Parsee makes a face. “Not in particular, no.”
“And in general?”
“Ah.” Mokou tosses one cigarette and smiles. “I think I see. Wanderlust does settle, doesn’t it?”
You’re waaay off, miss. Kind of. Isn’t she?
...Wait, is the sky dark? When did it become night? Did I end up napping in the middle of the conversation? Enough already, I want a corner to sleep in. Or a bed. I tug on Yamame’s sleeve and stare up at her, doing my best to communicate it telepathically. I. Want. To. Sleep. Sleeeeep.
Someone else speaks. Oh, it’s Parsee. Right, she’s still here too. “Either way, I think it’s time we leave. We still have to find somewhere to rest.”
“Won’t you sleep over, then? My house is a ten minute walk over, and I should have futons for everybody.” Ah? She didn’t hesitate in offering at all. And did I catch an odd look in her eye right then?
[ ] Yeah, sure. Wherever I can pass out at works. [ ] No, I don’t trust this girl. She was curt with everyone else who was on the line but not us. Why? [ ]
One of the two things I was planning fell through because of reasons, oh well. Maybe I’ll rethink it later.
There’s still good news, however: From now on, I’m going to make a concerted effort to write at least two updates a week. Because let’s be honest, once a week is as slow as snails fucking: I’d like to get this story done with before christmas. Besides, writing isn’t THAT hard to find time for. I’ll probably miss an update every once in a while, make sure to yell at me when I do.
I would love more frequent updates. The sooner we end with Kisume unlocking her omnipotent bucket powers, fixing Yamame and Parsee's problems with them, and retiring to live with her head-scratching harem, the better.
For some reason, Yamame glances down at me like she’s asking me if we should go. I don’t see why not (or why she’d consult me, for that matter). This girl seems like a nice enough person, right? Besides, if we don’t have to spend money on accommodation, we’ll have more money for other stuff, which is good. I suppose we could technically just sleep outside, but I doubt that'd go over well with the villagers.
Speaking of which, it’s already really empty in here. Maybe humans aren’t much for the night life? I see more lights further into the center of the village, but over here in the outskirts most people go to bed early, it seems, other than the people sitting at their porches. Smoking, finishing up the day, I guess.
Mokou joins in with them: she stretches and starts closing up shop, putting away ingredients and such. “It’s just a quick walk from here, further out. Ah, I can’t wait to get home and relax for a bit before sleep.” She pauses and narrows her eyes at us, smiling. “In my own private hot spring. Are you coming?” !
I think I heard something that interests me just now. I pull on Yamame’s sleeve. Hey. I wanna go. Can we go? Can we go? She sighs a contained “Oh dear,” not actually sounding upset or anything. Thankfully. “Now you’ve gone and woken her up again.”
Mokou grins and throws away her last cigarette. “Let’s go, then.”
So, when she said short walk, she really meant short flight. I have my doubts about the wisdom of just covering your valuable shop cart with a big flimsy cloth and leaving it out in the open unguarded, especially considering the presence of a lot of beer. But then she said something like “Don’t worry, the people stupid enough to steal from me aren’t around anymore,” so I guess that angle is covered.
Flying straight as I am proves a much harder challenge than I’m prepared for. After the third time having to stop and look around for my travel companions in the dark, I decide to just attach myself to someone’s clothes and follow without thinking. Not sure who it was, but does it matter? Mokou’s home is apparently further away from the village. We head for a foggy forest that seems to stretch out beyond the horizon, but simultaneously… not really? Somehow I failed to see it before, so it can't be all that big. Every time I look directly at it, it’s like looking through thick fog, or a broken mirror, or… something. It’s odd and I don’t quite know how to describe it, kind of like when I talk to the younger Komeiji. Although to be honest, everything looks blurry to some degree right now, so that may be contributing.
Thankfully nobody makes much conversation during the small trip — the silence and crickets feel nice right now. I think one of us asks Mokou why she can have an onsen near her place, to which she responds “What do you mean? It was there, so I built my house near it. That’s it.” But that was it — probably. I may or may not have napped while flying, which is apparently a thing that can happen to me.
We thankfully land only in the outskirts of the forest. I think even I would have claustrophobia attacks going deeper into this place. Speaking of which, doesn’t this forest look kind of off?
Oh, oh, it’s bamboo! I read some factoid about it, specifically that it’s supposed to be stronger than steel, or something along those lines. I don’t know about that, but it sure looks surreal: a giant foggy field of leafy tubes with rings on them. It’s like I just walked into an abstract painting. I’m getting kind of excited again.
“Right over here.” Hm?
Woah! How did I fail to notice that?
Not very hidden between the thin bamboo at the edge of the forest is a giant pile of wooden debris — or that’s would I have assumed, if I didn’t have someone telling me this is supposed to be their home. Even in a second glance it still looks more like a long abandoned japanese-style inn than a place someone would live. It’s built from really dark wood, too, so it blends into the darkness. Cool. Looks tailor-made to be haunted.
Mokou guides us inside through empty room after unfurnished room. I won’t lie: it’s not exactly in the best state, this place. Not a little dirty, smells kind of moldy — not terribly so, but still. It’s also far larger of a home than I’d think necessary for a single person to live. I keep expecting one of those floating shiny spirits to show up past every corner. Parsee echoes my thoughts, raising an incredulous eyebrow at our host. “You said you built this place yourself?”
“There were circumstances. It’s not important — Ah, and here we are.” She opens a sliding door into the only room with a lived-in feel I’ve seen so far. Two lamps light up on their own, and I decide not to think too hard about it. It’s actually… very normal. Lots of books and random stuff laying around, a writing desk, unmade futon on the floor and even a kotatsu. Makes sense, it’s fairly chilly in here. She drags and quickly arranges 3 more futons for us. In the same room? The house is pretty big, I think we could find another. I don’t say it, though. It’s not like it’s a bad thing.
Oof. I collapse onto one of them like a corpse, bucket and all. Mokou says something about taking her bath outside and I remember the hot spring thing. Right, I wanna go too. Just… I’ll just rest my head for a few seconds before heading out.
I groggily bring my head up and look around. At least it’s not morning yet: it’s still dark outside. Besides Parsee snoring nearby, already deep asleep, there’s nobody else here. I wonder how long I slept. I suppose I’ll go check outside, take a bath too if I can. Must feel amazing to sink in the relaxing hot water in the chill of the night, under the starry sky like this.
After a couple of minutes wandering around the house completely lost, I finally emerge out in the opposite direction we came from, facing the dense bamboo forest. We’re really in the very edge of it, here. There they are, but something’s not quite right. I’m seeing this correctly.
I hide behind one of the rocks that make up the hot spring and rub my eyes for good measure. I must still be drowsy from sleep and not seeing things right. Just another little look over…
Kya! I draw back quickly, putting my hands over my mouth and going bright red from more than just the warmth of the steam. Okay, calm down. I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation why they’re both completely naked and sitting so close they’re actually touching. M-maybe Mokou doesn’t have any spare towels? It’s a custom to wear them but it’s not like they have to do it, right?
I-I mean, they just met!.
Koishi’s face flashes through my mind for a second.
Augh. What do I dooo?
[ ] I’ll just watch for a little while to make sure they aren’t doing anything. J-just for a little bit! [ ] I don’t think I should interrupt whatever it is they have going. Better go back to the room. [ ] Waltz in and take my bath. That should put a stop to them.
[x] I don't think I should interrupt whatever they have going. Better go back to the room.
As curious as I am about what Mokou and Yamame are doing together in the onsen, I'm more curious what will happen if we just bolt. Will we bring Parsee back with us? Or just fall back asleep? Either way, don't want to be an annoyance to them or be embarrassed when we get caught.
Alright, I’ll have juuust a small little tiny look. Just to make sure she’s not in danger or anything! She’s my friend, so I’m just checking if everything is okay. If I see something I shouldn’t, I’ll leave and make like I never saw a thing. Honest. I place a trembling hand on the rock. Okay, maybe not so honest. But still! I’m only peeking looking out of genuine concern, I swear!
Geez, why did they have to be naked? Like this, anyone who looks from the outside will think I’m doing something enormously immoral rather than just trying to protect my friend! Which is what I’m doing. Clearly. That tugging, prickly sensation like someone is pulling a rope through a hole in my stomach when I saw those two that close together was nothing, nothing at all.
… I may be spending too much time close to Parsee.
The hot spring is fairly small for a natural one, more like a hole in the ground with rocks than something you’d actually call a ‘hot spring’, meaning I’m nearer to those two than I’m comfortable with. Thankfully there are convenient rocks to hide behind and, due to the cold, enough steam for this place to double as a sauna. I don’t think there’s much danger of being found out, or so I should hope.
After a few seconds of tense courage gathering, I finally get enough of it to peek out over the rock I’m hiding behind. —And nearly back out immediately. Damn it, I have enough to deal with without these two making me feel this inadequate. Feeling my cheeks burn up even more than before, I look on.
Yamame is, well, Yamame. I’d gotten used to it due to traveling with her all the time, but it’s hard not to notice how, um, grown she is. Even sitting down, she’s almost a full head taller than Mokou beside her, and noticeably fuller. No ribs showing, unlike me or Mokou over there. Even her hair, when loose without her ribbon like this, darkened by the water and neatly straightened along her back, makes her noticeably more adult, in some way. Along with the unnecessarily upright posture, I imagine a respectable teacher would look something like this — that’s the image that comes to my head, don’t ask me why. W-well, except for one part — two parts. Those look so heavyI imagine those would be pretty inconvenient in a job where you have to stand around the whole day, not to mention very distracting to male students. Hell, they’re distracting to me, and I’m a girl.
Mokou doesn’t compare unfavourably, although she’s more of a slim type, like Parsee. Her hair turns a much darker shade of silver when wet, making her look more… regal? That’s a fitting enough word. Reminds me of those storybook princesses in kimonos with long black hair.
A-anyway! I’m not here to ogle at girls.
They’re just sitting waist deep near one another, rather more quietly than I’d have expected given the situation. Mokou has a slight content tilt to her lips which doesn’t come across as a promising sign. Then she speaks. “Well?”
There’s some movement under the surface of the water and they bring up their hands together.
I… What?! I feel the telltale tickly feeling of going even redder, if that’s possible. I, ah, not that it’s any of my business, but… I mean, Yamame, what are—
I think I can feel steam coming from my ears too, not just the hot water. I feel one of my nails crack a tad from gripping the rock. Just, what?
Mokou continues, smiling perfectly pleasantly. “Doesn’t it feel nice?”
Yamame twists her face “I didn’t say it wouldn’t, it’s just...,” she trails off, pulling her hand away from Mokou’s. There’s a short pause. “It’s not like I’ve never held hands with anyone, but it’s — a mite difficult usually, that’s it. Do you really feel okay?”
“‘A mite difficult’ doesn’t begin to cover what you just explained. Besides, I wasn’t kidding when I told you that you couldn’t harm me even if you wanted. Not that I’m bragging, but, you know.” Mokou hesitates for a short moment, then gingerly puts her hand over her own thigh again, palm up. “Come on, once more?”
I feel like a child hearing adults talk amongst themselves. I’ll just watch for a while longer, just, um, to understand what they’re talking about.
After Yamame spends another indecisive moment, Mokou continues, voice soft. “I understand how it is. Look at me,” and she pauses, eyes shining, until Yamame actually does. “I’ve lived like a hermit for a few hundred odd years and been mostly alone for another half-dozen hundred before that, and even I,” she punctuates by moving closer, so they’re actually touching shoulder-to-shoulder, thigh-to-thigh rather than just uncomfortably near each other. Yamame breathes in suddenly and widens her eyes in surprise, but does no more than that. “Even I need a dash of companionship every few years. The complete lack of love — at least make-believe — can drive people crazy. You should know as much.”
Yamame visibly wavers, her eyes darting from Mokou’s eyes to her hand. So, she has those kinds of thoughts too. W-well, they’re not really going to do anything out here, right? Riiight?
“You’re not in that kind of a relationship with either of those two, I can tell that much, so what’s the problem? Just a bit of fun — there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?” Mokou daringly places a hand on Yamame’s knee. She twitches, but doesn’t resist. “Think, when’s the next time you’ll find someone like me?”
Yamame bites her lip and lowers her eyes, looking down at her lap.
“Y–” she stutters, voice low. “You won't tell, will you?”
...They’re actually going to go through with it.
I don’t want that. It’s not any of my business, and everything she’s saying is right. It’s rough living without any sort of contact, even as a youkai: I’m reminded of my own years isolated, and the time when Koishi hugged me. It was so warm and nice, and even lately I’ve gotten a lot better about it. Mokou is supposed to be some kind of immortal or something, right? I vaguely remember her telling us about it on the way back. Even if Yamame didn’t have her unfortunate ability, I don’t think I could do that sort of thing with her. She’s kind of like… Like...
Okay, I don’t know what, but it wouldn’t feel right! Hugging, sleeping together and getting my head rubbed is okay, but more than that would be weird. Really weird. Yamame has her needs too, but it just feels wrong like this. Am I just being immature?
I fidget in place. What do I do?
[ ] Keep watching. It’ll be, er, informative. [ ] STOP RIGHT THERE! [ ] Go back to the room, I don’t have any right to stop her. Voyeurism isn’t a wholesome hobby.
Tip of the day: An unreliable narrator is just that!
This whole situation is kinda weirding me out, and I think I figured out why, after reading things through again. Never mind Kisume feeling possessive. First of all, we have the physical descriptions of Yamame which draw obvious comparisons to Keine. Then, there's Mokou's words when she invited everyone to stay over; the "odd look" in her eye, and how she should have enough futons for everybody. Assuming that for some reason Mokou doesn't have a shot at Keine in this story(Keine's already involved or strictly heterosexual), she probably took one look at Yamame and figured her a decent replacement for a night. She's been planning this from the beginning, hence why she was actually being friendly instead of curt. Basically, if I'm reading this right, Mokou was never interested in Yamame, she was interested in this woman that kinda reminded her of someone else; something which personally doesn't sit right with me.
Then there's Mokou's actual seduction itself. She's reasoning away Yamame's objections one by one, while also holding out a vague threat: if Yamame doesn't get it on with Mokou, when's the next time she's gonna have a chance with someone? One time only offer, baby. Mokou's approaching an emotional situation with cold logic to get what she wants, and also using just a bit of emotional blackmail, which is unsettling, to say the least.
Yamame herself is clearly a bit uncomfortable with the situation, otherwise she'd probably be a lot more responsive to Mokou. Note how she asks Mokou to not tell anyone, as if she herself considers the whole situation wrong, but Mokou's logic is getting through to her. She's also a bit tense, carefully pulling away, but Mokou won't let up. Yamame wants companionship, yes, but she doesn't like this situation. But again, Mokou is one hell of a seductress here. Wow.
In short, the whole scene is really striking me as creepy and wrong. Though I could possibly just be channeling Kisume here. Either way, nice writing, Isolex!
Not sure. You're making fair points, especially with Mokou having ulterior motives from the start, but I voted to leave because one way or another, this IS her chance for companionship, and I feel like we shouldn't have a say in it. You can rightly say that maybe she doesn't really want it, but damn, she should be able to figure out for herself what she best wants, and be able to take care of herself. My main reasoning for going back to the room is that I don't think we should have any say in what she wants or doesn't want whatsoever, but that's just my personal opinion. Who knows, maybe Yamame will be grateful to be stopped, or maybe she'll just be rather disappointed, I don't know.
>>13812 Who do you think it is? The descriptions and dialog are kind of vague and could be misleading, but parts of the scene give the impression Kisume can see enough of their faces to be sure of who they are, so I would be pretty disappointed if Isolex was trying to put one over on us. If he did, he cheated in order to make it convincing enough almost nobody caught on.
And you may very well be right. I'm voting to stop them because I honestly feel that Mokou is, intentionally or not, taking advantage of Yamame, of her loneliness and desire for companionship, all to fulfill her own desires. I feel that Mokou is brushing aside Yamame's feelings as being just an obstruction to what she, Mokou, wants.
Basically, I feel that Yamame is vulnerable, and Mokou is taking advantage of that. That's why I'm so bothered about the whole thing.
>>13818 Can you really call it taking advantage if Mokou is making no effort to conceal her intentions? It's not like she's is saying she's in love, pretending to have an emotional attachment or anything. Can't one assume Yamame knows what's up and can make her own decisions? Even if the intentions are impure, the outcome is the same. A bit of healing for someone long neglected. From what I can tell, it's more like a mutually beneficial arrangement than "brushing aside Yamame's feelings as being just an obstruction".
I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Yamame wants companionship, yes. Mokou isn't offering that. She's offering a single roll in the hay, and Yamame's "unnecessarily upright posture" and hesitation says to me that she knows exactly what's up, and really isn't into it. But she's vulnerable to this kind of thing, and Mokou's logic is wearing her down. It's an entirely emotional situation, one that Mokou is trying to conquer with pure logic, and my emotions tell me that this is wrong.
Yamame doesn't need sex, she needs honest love and affection, and that is absent here. I just can't go along with this.
>>13820 I have to agree with this. It doesn't feel right. And whether or not it's our business, a friend doesn't just let their friend go along with a situation where they might get hurt. Being a good friend means interfering when there's a chance they could get hurt, not looking the other way like it has nothing to do with us.
>>13824 My, 13822, reasoning is that Mokou appears to be taking advantage of Yamame's insecurities; namely her nature keeping her from forming strong bonds, like love, with anyone. No way am I letting Mokou, or anyone for that matter, pull that shit with either Yamame OR Parsee. Love interest or not they're both our friends, the only ones we have, and you don't let a friend that close to you make those sort of mistakes in moments of weakness. So I'm voting to stop them because that's what I'd do and it's what I'd hope my friends would do for me if I was in that spot too.
“Just–” Yamame stutters, also fidgeting. Like me. “Just a kiss, then.”
Sure, ‘just a kiss’. Come on now, not even I would fall for that one. Even through the thick steam still hanging in the air, I can see Mokou slide a hand behind her back, her grin widen in such a way that could be described as predatory — although I’ve never seen a ‘predator’ look quite as pleased with themselves over a catch as Mokou does.
That’s an apt comparison, isn’t it? It’s all she sees Yamame as right now — just a piece of meat. An easy, pretty, vulnerable lay for a night with no questions asked. Regardless of her feelings on it — regardless of anything else, really. Just a plain selfish act. And she’s falling for it.
I don’t like that. She has us. I won’t give away my Yamame that easily. Yes, it’s obvious that the situation is more complicated than just that: if I stopped to think about it, I’d probably just come away with more questions and more uncertainty. I wonder if I can help Yamame when it comes to this — this kind of problem. Obviously not, um, in the carnal sense, but if making the effort to cuddle every once in a while will cheer her up, it’s easily worth the low, low price of a bit of a fever and feeling crappy for a few hours.
Ah, I’m getting off track. It doesn’t matter: now isn’t the time for logic! The fact is that she’s is doing she’ll likely regret and I’m the only one around to help her.
Which is all well and good, but how do I accomplish that? I could go back and drag Parsee out here, but–
A muffled moan — yes, that kind of muffled moan — comes through from the other side. I don’t bother to pop my head out and look. It’d only be unpleasant, I’m sure. No, Parsee would only make the situation worse, if that business back at the mansion library is anything to go by. Besides, these two will be engaged in a little more than kissing if I take too long. The thought makes me shiver.
Aw hell, it’s looking like I’ll have to do something myself. It’ll be super awkward, but better than the alternative. In one movement, my poor abused robe is in the air, tossed somewhere suitably dry. Have to get it off quickly, before I think better of this plan (if you can call anything this stupid a plan).
So I do. Closing my eyes hard enough to see the colourful spots, I launch myself into the air above the hot spring and let gravity take over. Which it does, with the full force of nature’s gleeful indifference.
It feels like I’m flying, for a second. More than when I’m flying, for that matter.
No, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
As it turns out, hitting water at high speed is much like hitting rock. I didn’t know. The impact knocks me about in the bucket and there’s a suspiciously loud thump noise that happens to occur at the exact same time as a sharp pain on my forehead. I wonder if they’re related? Then I’m flooded with water. At least it’s nice, healing hot water.
I think I could’ve done that without injuring myself, but it seems to work anyhow. With more difficulty than expected, I scramble back into my bucket and resurface. Both our spectators look like they’ve just seen — no, not a ghost. Ghosts are everywhere, they’re common. A dragon, maybe? Anyhow, it lasts for a split second before Yamame is on me, saying something that I’m unable to understand, since she’s mumbling. Can’t see her very well either, in fact. Or anything else — it’s all suddenly very dark. Did the lamps on the outside of the house go out?
Oh dear. They didn’t, did they? Yamame doesn’t look like she’s mumbling, either.
Damn it, not again. I bring a hand up to my stinging forehead, feeling a familiar kind of warmth. Yep, the sickening vivid shade of life-red that’s annoyingly insistent about popping up in my daily life. Sometimes I wish I belonged to the category of one of the more bestial youkai: at least their skin doesn’t rupture as easily as rotted leather, like mine does. I swear, any old bump and it’s this all over again.
While I’m busy thinking about irrelevant stuff like I usually do when I’m in serious trouble and not too busy having a panic meltdown, I’m late to notice that I’ve apparently gone blind in my right eye. Looking down, I notice the worrying amount of blood flowing from my chin and into the water, which curiously, doesn’t worry me even a bit. Ah, but it’ll get the hot spring dirty, won’t it? That part is worrying. We’re only guests, after all.
I lift my head to look back up at Yamame, and although by now it feels like I’ve got an anvil tied to my ears, I manage the feat. I’m so dizzy. Having an annoying amount of experience in this matter, I can more or less safely say that I’m about to pass out. Still, I take a good look at the startlingly naked, panicky Yamame, fussing over me. Mokou is completely out of her mind. Oh, relax. I heal quickly.
Hey. I accomplished what I was going for. That’s good. I smile.
Ow. Ow ow ow. My head is killin’ me. What happened…?
Right, I remember now. I did something stupid and it led to smashing my head into a piece of wood. Just the usual sort of situation I get myself into more times in a month than would be safe in a lifetime. Good thing I’m not human, else I’m betting I’d be incredibly dead many times over. I find myself in Mokou’s room, which looks mostly the same as before except for the smatterings of blood here and there, plus a washbowl filled with red-tinted rags beside my bed roll. I hope that wasn’t a lot of work, just leaving it alone would’ve been fine. I’d heal. I somehow get myself up and about without making this awful headache worse. At least someone was thoughtful enough to put me back in my bucket while I was out. Before leaving, I check out the wound on a mirror left laying on our hosts desk — which I quickly realize I shouldn’t have done, I note with a cringe. It’s thankfully no longer bleeding and is already bright red all around, a sign it’s already beginning to heal, but Gods, it looks worse than I thought it would by a large factor. An enormous red gash going from one eyebrow all the way to the top of my forehead on the opposite side. I must’ve hit a big splinter, or a bolt. Now, I’m not finicky about blood and guts by any means — I am an underground youkai, after all — but seeing your own meat in such detail can’t be very comfortable no matter your background. I get the feeling if I just grabbed and spread it, I’d be able to see my skull without much effort. The bone part.
But let’s not do that. Leaving my hair ties out for today, I carefully wrap a leftover piece of fabric around my head like a bandana — only stop to wince in pain twice! — so as to not go around displaying the inside of my head to everybody. That’d be disgusting.
Anyhow, enough of gross stuff. I’m pretty hungry! The fact comes to me with a vague sense of surprise, and a small sting of distaste: I’ve been completely accustomed to eating regularly now. Going back to the usual lifestyle is going to be seriously painful. When it happens.
…There’s always the chance I won’t go b No. Hoping for magical change never ends well.
I’m spacing out again. Nevermind the philosophical, I was going for food, right? I follow the smell of something tasty frying back out to one of the previously vacant rooms, and sure enough, everyone is sitting nice and quietly around a 4 place dinner table. ...Everyone.
Oh. I’d forgotten about the… thing. The thing that happened. I silently curse my own dullness: should really learn to remember important things all in one go, instead of in inconvenient parts. Severe head trauma shouldn’t be an excuse. Yamame hurries to get up as soon as she sees me, but I gesture her down. No sense fretting over nothing. I also get the feeling Mokou shoots me a truly acid look, but it’s gone in less than a second. Understandable. I can’t exactly blame her for resenting me now, can I? I did get in her way.
But apologizing seems like a pretty futile effort, so holding my peace is probably the wise choice here. Yamame barely resists running over and fussing over me as I set down across from Parsee, who, for her part, is nearly falling over asleep on the table. “Are you sure you’re okay?
Am I okay? I do have an enormous exposed wound running through my forehead, but all circumstances considered, I’d say I’m doing as well as I could. At least I’m not in a coma or anything. I smile at her as pleasantly as I can without moving my face muscles. You know, reassuring-like. I don’t think I succeed at it, but at least she reluctantly settles down to eat properly.
And sinks into silence. Along with everyone — everything else in the room. Without me to focus on, Yamame looks anything but comfortable being near Mokou. She darts her eyes between me, Mokou and the food — little more than sausage, rice and vegetables in a bowl — looking painfully restless. This is one of the few times I can say being unable to talk has its perks. I don’t have to talk… because I can’t! I’d laugh, but that’d be cruel to poor Yamame. I’ve known the feeling: right this moment, she’d just like to get up and leave. I know I shouldn’t be amused by this, but I don’t care. I’m allowed some schadenfreude too. Mokou isn’t helping the case either, quiet and stony faced, glancing up at Yamame every so often and expressly saying nothing at all.
The dampened clinking of chopstick on bowl and the unexpectedly quiet wildlife are just about everything that there is to be heard. It’s fairly relaxing: every other spot we’ve been through here in Gensokyo has been vivid, to say the least. This is a nice break. Clink, silence.
Clink, clink, silence.
I think it’s comfortable, at least.
Ah, she’s gotten enough courage to talk! Barely, if I’m any judge. I rest my chin on my hands to watch: Yamame is cute when she’s embarrassed. “D-do you…”
Mokou makes a point of putting down her chopsticks and stare at her over the table. Markedly unamusedly, I might add. I’m in much the opposite state. For the rest of the meal, Yamame just blushes and lowers her head, keeping quiet for the rest of the meal. I feel bad for having fun at her expense, but not that much. Nobody got hurt, after all.
After our meal, Mokou (at last) rather forcefully suggest that it’s time for us to go. I’m grateful she was a graceful enough host to give us some food beforehand, circumstances notwithstanding. Someone else might have literally tossed me out, wound and all. She even let me keep the head bandages!
I take out Byakuren’s map. Now, we’re supposed to be going… North? To the village, then further north still, which is actually pretty damn far away. We were way in the southern tip when we arrived, and Mokou took us in the opposite direction from where we need to go. Augh, it’s complicated. Good thing I had some maps back home I enjoyed looking at. To make it all worse, I can see the tall hill where the Hakurei Shrine is supposed to be right in our path. If we want to go around it completely, it’ll be at least a couple of extra days traveling. Let’s see, we have a few options.
[ ] Nearer the Hakurei Shrine, on foot. It’s the way to avoid going through the village yet again. [ ] Nearer the village, on foot. It’s safer this way. There are also some things I haven’t done there yet. [ ] Tale the long way around. We’re not in any hurry, either way. [ ] Just fly over it all. We’ve taken long enough.
[x] Take the long way around. We're not in any hurry, either way.
Now that we've fulfilled the awkwardness quota, taking a long walk free from distractions is a good chance to sort our thoughts out, as well as have a bit of one-on-one time with Yamame and Parsee (and Koishi if we're lucky).
[x] Just fly over it all. We’ve taken long enough.
I think we should take our chances with Reimu. How could she refuse to help someone even worse off then her? She at least has a house, we have a hole in the roof of a supercave, total minecraft status...
My fears about being topside must have been unfounded. It makes enough sense if I think about it: from what I understand. it must’ve been decades since underground youkai were told to stay put down in the caves. The few humans from those times who are still alive probably can’t even walk on their own by now, much less go around hunting rogue youkai — of which there are nearly none, since most of us in the underground are there by choice. If that weren’t enough, there’s also the fact that Gensokyo is huuuuge! Like, leagues upon leagues upon leagues. Even if someone were actively looking for us, odds are it’d take them at least a week to track us down. Maybe less, maybe more depending on the exact ‘them’, but thereabouts sounds right.
Those are my justifications, anyway. I’m sure I’m still going to feel silly if the shrine maiden shows up with a surprise drop-kick and effortlessly punts us back to the underground. Or something. I don’t know how shrine maidens work. I shoot Parsee and Yamame a look to confirm they’re coming along, and they just take off after me without a second thought. They’re either thinking like me or, from how unconcerned they look, they’ve forgotten this place is even supposed to be dangerous for us. Better this than to worry endlessly over it, I suppose.
Ah, I have to hold on tighter than usual. Wow, I’d forgotten what it’s like to fly this high up — I can only go this high up in the underground at the plains where the Ancient City is, and that was mostly complete blackness on all sides. This, though, is pretty damn scary. The Ancient City is, of course, with it’s dozen hundred inhabitants, is only a city in name. In much like the Human Village may as well be called the Human Metropolis. The effect isn’t diminished seeing it up here: so much movement, even this early on in the day. The streets look like… ever seen a clear, shallow stream with lots of tiny fishies in it? Kind of like that. I saw that one just the other day.
Unfortunately, I have to stop looking now, since it sounds like my heart is about to fight its way out of my chest looking at all this nothing. Waaay too spacious for me, up here. I quickly check my map and set out in the right direction, only looking down occasionally to make sure we aren’t going the wrong way. After a while, I end up following Parsee and Yamame, rather than the other way around. Don't know how it happened.
“Say, Parsee.” Oh, we’re talking now? Parsee was still sort of recovering from sleep and Yamame seemed content enough following along and taking in the scenery. I’m fine with silence, myself.
She answers mid-yawn. “Hmmm?”
“You said you wanted to become human, didn’t you?” She asks as simply as if she’d been talking about the weather. That handily shocks our bridge guard awake.
She flinches, grimaces. Settles quickly into something that's not quite her old familiar look — not aggressive enough — but close. “What business of yours is it?” she snaps, but even I can tell her heart isn’t in it.
Yamame smiles at that, and I half-do too. Oh Parsee, when will you learn? “But it is my business. You’re half the reason I’m even up here at all.” Parsee’s eyes widen — as do mine. I’ve been noticing that these two seem much closer than I originally thought. Not THAT huge of a surprise, but still. “And you know as much. You’re not stupid,” declares Yamame. Well, I am. Sorry.
Parsee says— No. Actually, she doesn’t say anything. She opens her mouth as if to say something, but no sound comes. So Yamame continues.
“You’re not actually planning to go through with that, are you? Because I have to warn you,” she continues, shooting a stern — well, as stern as she can make it — stare at Parsee. “For a problem as simple as not getting along well with people, that’s a dumb solution. Incredibly dumb.”
“I know that, okay?” she blurts out, grinding her teeth “But I don’t know what else to do! I—” But she stalls herself right there and says no more. Poor Parsee.
“You say that, but there’s plenty you haven’t tried.”
“I…” She starts saying something, but halts there. “What?”
Yamame smirks. “I’ll leave it at that for now. But don’t do something stupid, okay? I'm always around and happy to listen to whatever you want to talk about. We'll find you a solution.”
“...Fine.” She almost pouts. So sulky. Kind of cute, actually.
“Aww, don’t be like that.” Well, Yamame's mood improved remarkably quickly, at least. “I’d hug you, but, you know.” Her smile widens, and I can practically see a lightbulb pop up over her head. “Unless...” She looks over her shoulder at me.
What? Then back at Parsee, and back to me.
Oh. Parsee colours, as do I. No way, I can’t do that! That’s just impolite. “N–no, thanks. I’m fine.”
“I hate to interrupt a happy family outing.” An unfamiliar voice from behind us— thundering while quiet, as tremendously imposing as if it had come from an emperor's holy will, while simultaneously sounding majestically bored and uninvolved. It tears through the nice fluffy atmosphere we (sort of) had going. All three of us freeze in the spot. Of course. It’s what I was half-expecting, but certainly not hoping for.
Thankfully, I don’t see Yamame or Parsee move to attack or flee. I suspect they know as well as me that it would be like trying to escape air. Let’s not even consider the ‘attack’ part. “Honestly, you people. Do you enjoy giving me work?”
I turn, making sure to make absolutely no sudden movements. Yep, it’s her. I did come across her once, and came out of it richer only by many bruises. Getting hit by danmaku is no joke. She barely looks different from then, aside from somewhat less of a scowl on her face. The impractically elaborate miko clothes and all, and no less haggard. Bags under her eyes show that she hasn’t the easiest time sleeping, and she looks about as scrawny as me, which… isn’t good. In fact, I think those are positively dangerous levels for a human. Even so, her reputation is heavy enough that it would hardly matter if she were in her death bed: this is a dangerous woman. I can just sense it, somehow. I think anyone could. Most alarmingly, she has her paper amulets out — the ones that burn horribly. “Ah, yes. Feast your eyes on the terrifying shrine maiden of paradise,” she says sarcastically, in what I think was supposed to be a ‘grandiose’ manner somehow. “Watch out, I’ve heard she eats youkai children.”
No reaction from any of us, so she just sighs, dropping her shoulders. “Very well. Does any one of you have an excuse for why you decided it was a great idea to not only blunder into the village without making any effort to conceal yourselves, but also fly directly overhead the very day after that?”
“Because I'm very liberal, I’m happy to let anyone wander around, but for crying out loud. What will the people say of me if youkai just have completely free reign to go wherever they want? Do you realize what happens if the people get used to your sort? At least put a hood on.” She looks at me. “And don’t fly around in a town filled with ignorant hicks, please. I don’t think I’m asking for anything unreasonable.”
Um. My bad.
The Hakurei furrows her brows suddenly. “...The three of you look familiar. Have I seen you— actually, you know what? Nevermind. It doesn’t matter. If any of you have anything to say before I blast you, now’s the time. Keep it short, though. I'd like to be home before my tea is cold.”
[ ] Flee! [ ] ...I’m sorry? [ ] Fight, for what it’s worth. [ ] Hide in the bucket! This strategy hasn’t failed me yet.
aaa I think I might make something for that shorts contest. I've been frustrated with my writing lately, maybe it'll help me refresh.
That’s my first instinct. Of course, actually doing it would be less than smart to say the least, for a couple of reasons. Partly because I can’t leave everyone else behind, but also, if I started speeding away now, the Hakurei could probably declare a card and have me break my nose on the newly erected border. I think. I don’t use danmaku often enough to know how it all works in detail, but last time I met her, I remember trying my hardest to run away and being unable to — then there were the needles... I squeeze my eyes shut and chase the memory away, along with the thought that I might be facing those again in a matter of minutes. ‘Facing’ being a nice euphemism for ‘being horribly impaled on’. I’m thinking of it again.
“Well?” Right, and on this side I’m trying to escape reality. Reimu, looking thankfully more bored than angry, finally pulls out a bundle of her little rectangular death papers. The ones that don’t seem to ever run out once she starts throwing them. I bow deep enough to almost tip over in what I hope is a sufficient display of regret. I’m lacking in ideas, so this will have to do. I’ve heard the Hakurei is proud and sort of petty, so this should work, right? But maybe I don't need to.
“Alright, then.” An unexpected voice. Parsee cuts in, pushing past me. For some ungodly reason I can’t decipher, she has a plain unpleasant smile on. Reimu raises an eyebrow. “Will five cards each do? I’ll go first.”
“Whoa, hold on there.” Ah? Reimu makes the universal ‘calm down’ sign. “Can’t you all just come at me at once? You don’t wanna be here until sundown, do you?”
Parsee still has the smug shadow of a smile on her when she replies. “It’s okay, we have time.”
Oh, I think I see her angle.
It’s interesting to see Reimu’s face contort into something almost approaching horror as she considers having to exert herself out here for what amounts to nothing. It’d be kind of funny to watch, if it weren’t my fate being decided right in front of me. “Oh, for…” is all she has in response. She goes quiet for a moment, pensive. Fiddles with her weird detached jacket and bites her lip before finally coming out with a frustrated “Fine!”. She does a stomping motion with one foot, which is wholly wasted by virtue of being done in mid-air. “I didn’t even want to be here, anyhow... Hold on.”
While still mouthing something about ‘sneaky goddamn youkai’, she turns to look down: we’re still more or less over the outskirts of the human village here, over a lonely, overgrown, empty northern road and a handful of farm homes scattered through. She stretches a hand out in the vague direction of the village and — *BANG*
Well, no, not ‘bang’, but that’s the closest approximation I can come up for the incredible amount of noise the shrine maiden makes — nothing like normal danmaku, I can tell that much. And much brighter, too: she shoots much brighter, much more varied, much denser bullets in the air then what is usually used, and not towards us, but the village. The air over the village, to be precise. Giant energy ying-yang balls, normal arrow-shaped bullets, her own paper charms fill the air, along with some things I don’t think I’ve ever seen. It’s like she’s just throwing out everything she’s ever seen. I’m sure the cacophony of showy magic materializing in the air can be seen and heard for miles around.
Which was the point, I do realize. She keeps the barrage for a solid minute or two, and I have to admit I’m pretty much hypnotized throughout.
What? You don’t see this stuff every day, you know?
Reimu then stops suddenly and unceremoniously and huffs towards us. “There. Happy? Now sod off, and if you approach the village again, I’ll seal all three of you for good. Here, for good luck.”
Ow! Where did that come from? With a yelp, I rip off the white charm off my now burned red arm as quickly as I can manage. Geez, that’s just mean. A hiss and another surprised cry like my own from nearby inform me I wasn’t the only one to get Reimu’s parting present. It’s all we can do after that to watch her float lazily back to her shrine.
“What a bitch.” Parsee is, of course, being herself. I don’t know, Reimu could’ve been a lot meaner, couldn’t she? I’ll just be glad I’m not nursing newer wounds right this moment other than a slight burn on an arm. I’ve still got a hole in my forehead to worry about. I think she wasn't planning on fighting us even if Parsee hadn't said anything, but we're saved, anyway. It’s a good thing she wasn’t in a fighting mood. Yamame just sighs deeply, clearly relieved. Yeah, if she remembered who Yamame was, she probably wouldn’t have just let us off with a slap on the wrist for going into the village.
The witches. Which are impossible to find, apparently. I haven’t any idea where they live, other than ‘in the middle of the forest’, and that’s not even near enough to locate anything. Fortunately, Miss Byakuren helped me out with this. She told me where to go to get proper directions — how I’m going to get directions to something in the middle of the Magic Forest, I haven’t the first clue, but if Byakuren says so, it must be right.
Ah, and here it is. Very easy to find, this place — following along the road north of the village, there’s a modest little building tucket to the side, comfortably resting between the dense forest and the unused road. Seems mostly unremarkable aside from the lettering up front with a strange name on it. Something… Something-dou? I don’t recognize that middle kanji. Oh, there are also the piles of assorted junk resting outside. A handful of odd, large outsider built machines and a couple of scary wooden statues. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this — some sort of kami? It’s not the buddha with those teeth, that’s for sure. I’m not sure what to make of this place, it has a kind of ‘abandoned’ air about it.
“What is with this dump?”
Parsee’s feelings echo my own. But it does look interesting, I’ll give it that.
We open the door to a similar scenario to the one out front, except much, much, much worse. Dear gods, what is this? Have I stepped into another dimension? I’d have trouble moving around if I couldn’t fly.
There’s so much JUNK everywhere. Like someone tried to put them in neat little piles where they could be walked around, but it kept getting bigger and bigger until it avalanched into what little free space there was. And so much I can’t even identify, too. Just in one sweep of the eyes shows me: a piles of terribly neglected books in the corner, an actual pile of weapons just sitting in the middle of the room — I can even see an actual flail! A shelf full of shiny, suspiciously colourful square things. Another shelf with large rectangular boxes full of studs. A pile of magical paraphernalia, I guess? And a wall so stacked with clocks you can’t see the wall. The entire place smells like… old. Moldy old Like the purple girl’s library, but less pleasant and weirder.
Ah, and a person! She was camouflaged in the piles of junk before, so I couldn’t see her. It doesn’t help that the silver-haired she is hunched over what I think might be the store counter, paying veeeery close attention to something that is not his customers. Er, if we were customers, that is.
[ ] …….Hehehe. BOO! [ ] He can’t live here, right? There must be more stuff in the back! [ ] Try to gently get his attention. [ ] PILLAGE! I mean, er, explore. Explore for something interesting. We do have some spare money.
The mischievous part of me flares up something awful, which can never be a good thing. This must be what remains of my youkai instinct. You can’t exactly blame me, can you? I’d think any living, thinking being with the chance to sneak up this perfectly on someone would feel the very same urge to startle them. It’s not just me! Unfortunately, I’m not strong enough to go against it. Even with the bell on the door ringing, she doesn’t seem to notice us at all. When else are you going to get a chance like that?
I go into skulking mode. I don’t see them, but Parsee and Yamame must have dispersed in what little space the store has, because they don’t call out to the owner or anything. Slowly, slowly I circle around, navigating piles of scrap metal and too many things that look like they’d cost more than I could pay. Ah, but the shopkeeper! I carefully maneuver behind her hunched form and pause for a second before doing something I’ll likely regret.
This lady looks kind of… exotic? Her hair is a strikingly brilliant silver and way short — almost like a man. Most girls I’ve seen elect to keep theirs a tad longer. The outfit is not something you see every day, either: some sort of elaborate blue-black-white traditional looking clothing, with a sash and everything. Not dissimilar from mine, actually, except for the degree of detail. Also, it’s clean. In this outfit, she looks like she’d be right at home sweeping the courtyard of some obscure branch shinto shrine.
And that’s all I can ascertain from this angle. She’s still fully concentrated on… something. Doesn’t look like writing: I don’t hear the telltale scribbling. She doesn’t really let out any kind of atmosphere, you know what I’m saying? The store does: I get a definite feeling from the place, from the clutter, from the lazy sunlight filtering through the windows and showing on the suspended dust. Odd time for lazy sunlight too: it’s what, noon? This is a Gensokyoan store, for sure. But not the shopkeeper. Exotic as she looks, with all this junk around, she’s just as buried and invisible in all this junk as any of the other merchandise, unless you’re specifically looking for her.
It’s a lonely spectacle, of sorts.
Oh well. Doesn’t matter, does it? I raise myself off the floor by a few feet, and the grin I have on, evidently unpleasant, even I can realize, slowly forces itself wider and wider. But what the hell.
I put as much strength as I responsibly can into my descent. The SLAM resonates like the floor was hollow, enough to make me want to cover my ears: everything vibrates, and here and there more dust rains from the ceiling. You know when you do something, and the exact moment you can no longer go back on it, you fiercely regret it? Yeah, this is precisely one of those moments. Of course, regret doesn’t stop me from letting out a giggle when she bolts upright like a scared rabbit.
“MARISA!” ! But that’s definitely not a woman’s voice. And that’s a bad thing. “I’ve already t—”
He halts mid-phrase after seeing me, but his bespectacled stare doesn’t soften at all, cutting into me from above.
He holds it for a moment. “And you are?”
A-ah. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were, um. You know. I shrink under his gaze. What am I even saying? Well, thinking. Obviously scaring someone is a crappy thing to do regardless of what they are, but, you know… he’s not very tall or broad shouldered, as men are. The ones I’ve seen anyway — the oni, the human villagers and all of that. My suspicion that he’s an unique sort of specimen is confirmed. From the bright gold eyes to the too-bright, messy silver hair, this one very probably isn’t human from what I can tell. He looks right at home in this giant clutter of stuff, and just from the way he stands, I get the feeling that he’d be able to effortlessly find anything in this building, looking like a bored librarian. I guess the feeling he was lacking was on his face.
He sighs after a few seconds of a tense silence, setting his glasses down. “Oh, what does it matter? One more pest to bug me, no big difference.”
I recoil at the word pest, but… well, I can’t actually say anything against that. “I imagine you won’t be spending money here, since nobody does. Try not to break anything that looks expensive.”
Grumbling, he turns to go back to whatever it is that he was doing, but I still have to ask him where to find whatstheirname. Maria and Alice, I think. I look around for some help, but it looks like Parsee and Yamame have already snuck off together. What’s up with those two lately?
Either way, it looks like I soured his mood. Oops. What to do?
[ ] Find something to buy. I have some money, and it’ll hopefully make it up to him a little bit. [ ] Try talking to him? It’s unwieldy because I have to write everything out, but this is a chance. I’m not so scared of this guy, so it’ll be progress if I can carry a conversation. - [ ] Who are you? - [ ] What’s this place? - [ ] What do you mean, “one more” pest? - [ ] Something else? (write-in) [ ] We have no time to waste. Ask him for the witches’ locations, collect Yamame and Parsee and go. [ ] Write-in
fuck looking for a picture just imagine rinnosuke, i know you can do it
[x] Find something to buy. I have some money, and it’ll hopefully make it up to him a little bit. [x] Try talking to him? It’s unwieldy because I have to write everything out, but this is a chance. I’m not so scared of this guy, so it’ll be progress if I can carry a conversation. -[x] "I'm sorry."
[x] Find something to buy. I have some money, and it’ll hopefully make it up to him a little bit. [x] Try talking to him? It’s unwieldy because I have to write everything out, but this is a chance. I’m not so scared of this guy, so it’ll be progress if I can carry a conversation. -[x] "I'm sorry."
[x] Find something to buy. I have some money, and it’ll hopefully make it up to him a little bit. [x] Try talking to him? It’s unwieldy because I have to write everything out, but this is a chance. I’m not so scared of this guy, so it’ll be progress if I can carry a conversation. -[x] "I'm sorry."
Here's a week's (maybe two) advance warning, I'm writing again. I'm sad that this is the fourth thread in the board even though it hasn't been bumped in almost two months, but that's just how the site goes, I suppose. Cheers.
...Okaaay. I shuffle awkwardly away from the frowning shopkeeper, feeling like a scolded puppy. What I imagine a scolded puppy would feel like, that is. A sideways glance confirms that his brows are still locked in a frown even as he goes back to his… thing. Ah, it’s one of those outsider boxes, it’s flat, bright green guts out in the open.. It was the obvious outcome. Still, I should apologize by buying something. Since he said nobody ever buys anything here, that should cheer him up, right? I already felt like checking the store out, and it’s not like I have anything else to spend this money on, so it’s no sweat. Assuming I don’t die from a junk avalanche while I’m browsing, anyway; these old shelves are so overloaded the poor wooden legs are actually bending. Just a loud noise would be enough to turn this into a disaster zone, I’m sure. No biggie, though. Just have to maneuver around it: no trouble for me. Actually, now that I take a better look at it, the store is fairly spacious, it’s just the excess of clutter that makes it claustrophobic. In fact, it looked far smaller from outside. One of those magic thingamajigs, perhaps?
Parsee and Yamame have dispersed around the store and are off on their own, also looking around. I guess I should pick something, too. Unfortunately, I can’t even tell what half the stuff here is, and then there’s all the random crap that doesn’t look like it even belongs at all, here or in any store: I spot a whole section of one shelf that seems to be dedicated to rusted silverware. But hey, all that is what makes it interesting, right? I slowly edge through what space there is, trying not to touch anything. Let’s browse.
Without even making an effort to dig around, I find an armour stand, a… what is this, an icepick? A stack of old paintings, a bowl full of weird foreign coin, a ball made of mirrors. A whole wall dedicated to masks: oni, tengu, a hannyah and even a few that don’t seem japanese at all. Sitting on the top of a shelf is a couple of glass jars full of something I don’t think I want to take a better look at. Maybe it would be more accurate to call this place a storehouse: who would buy any of this? I mean, the top half a torii? Really, why is this even here? I wonder how many abandoned tsukumogami this place must’ve produced already.
Ah, but there it is! One corner of the store with stacks upon stacks of books. Not orderly like Satori’s library or the one in that mansion; reminds me more of my own place. In fact, the whole store sort of does. I feel a strange pang of nostalgia for my little hole in the ground. Well, hole in the ceiling, to be precise. In any case, I beeline for the bookshelves, flying over the rest of the mess. The smell of old and mold is superseded quickly by the not much different, but at the same time vastly more pleasant smell of fading ink, old paper and leather. Feeling the familiar stab of reverence for knowledge (that seems painfully out of place given how awfully uncared for these books are), I carefully run a hand along the spines, enjoying the texture.
You know, I just thought of something. Miss monk told me I was supposed to be some super strong magician youkai or some such nonsense — not that I don’t believe her, but it doesn’t feel real for a second. Now, I wonder if that’s the reason I’ve always been so attracted to books. Magicians are supposed to be studious and all that, right? And from my earliest memories in the cave, I pilfered them along with food, even before I had the first clue how to read. Mm. It's a little odd, thinking like that. Kind of comparable to a compulsion, maybe.
Either way, I think I’m gonna take my souvenir from this side of the store. They’re rare, but I wonder if I can find a book about magic? Since I’m gonna be able to learn it soon, apparently. I busy myself looking through the spines: A good quarter of them isn’t in japanese at all, while another quarter is faded, burned or otherwise destroyed beyond readability. The poor little things. It’s okay, you’ll find peace and someone to lovingly read you in the great hereafter. Even with all that, it still leaves me a good half of the books to browse through, and there are quite a few of them. That’s not counting the stacks on the ground, either. ...I hope Parsee and Yamame don’t mind waiting for a bit.
I’m just about to start going through them, when there’s a noise. A barely discernible, quiet little noise, probably would’ve gone unnoticed if the place weren’t so quiet. I freeze and look down, at… an equally frozen girl, looks like. She’s on her stomach on the floor, peering over a book at me, legs still in the air mid-swing. She’s barely bigger than me, a big blanket of an oversized, stuffy black dress covering most of her up, except where it’s ridden up her thin legs from the rolling around she’s clearly been doing. A little island of books surrounds her prone form — mostly thin one with, uh, questionable covers. Few too many shirtless men for my tastes. Which is to say, there is a non-zero amount of them. Her bright red wings, too small to be functional, still give a little flap when I look over them.
She presses the book against her face a tad, still only looking at me over it. Unfortunately, that only makes the uh, rather muscled male on the cover be more apparent. Now that. on the other hand, is not so cute.
“H–” Ah, she speaks! The soft whisper is barely audible with the book muffling it. “Hello…?”
[ ] “Hello.” Try for it! She’s not scary at all. It’s practice for apologizing to shopkeeper man. [ ] Whatcha reading there? [ ] I should just find my book, actually. Let’s not pay her any mind. [ ] I didn’t know this was a private area. I’ll find something elsewhere in the store. -[ ] Get help from Yamame. -[ ] Get help from Parsee. -[ ] Find something by myself.
This must be the ‘pest’ the guy told me about, but she doesn’t look all that much like a pest. I mean, she’s some sort of bird youkai — birds aren’t pests, are they? I mean, maybe some are, I wouldn’t know. If she were a cockroach youkai, I could see it. Who could call this tiny cute thing a pest? She even has tiny flappy wings. Ah, but I’m stalling.
I take a deep breath and make an effort to maintain eye contact. Deep breaths, deep breaths. Come on, she’s just as scared of you as you’re of her, probably!
Okay, here we go. “H–” —And I already botched it. Come on now, I can't whisper for the rest of my life! I'd like to hear what my own speaking voice sounds like sometime in the next decade. Put some will into it, girl! Miss bird youkai has gone from looking apprehensive to faintly curious. Having an audience doesn’t make this easier, but it’s not that bad.
“H–Hi.” Close enough. At least I said it properly. She looks confused for a second: I suppose she was expecting something more, what with all that build-up. I can see this heading in an awkward direction fast unless I do something, so in search of a subject I reach a hand out of my bucket and point down at the book she's still half hiding behind. Which is, of course, still awkward, but more on her end than mine. That I'm fine with. She goes red and tries to hurriedly toss away the book. Too hurriedly. As expected, her hand slips, and instead of placing the book on one of the teetering piles of books strewn nearby, it hits one of them at full force instead. I cringe at the awful amounts of noise it makes as it falls, breaking the nice quiet atmosphere of the store. And then it hits another pile. And another.
When I pop back out of my bucket a few seconds later, the formerly comfy book corner looks like a tornado has been through it. These poor books, I hope they haven't been damaged too badly. Or the girl, for that matter. The shopkeeper yells something at us about destroying his house, but I’m too busy digging a girl out of a book landslide to pay much attention. A bookslide?
We retry the conversation after she’s safe and not buried beneath a ton of paper. She dusts herself off. “Um, thanks for helping me out,” she says, still somewhat flushed. It’s my fault she needed help in the first place, but let’s not bring that up. “I’m Tokiko.” Now that I get a better look at her, she is actually fairly unusual for a youkai in that she’s so… well groomed. It might sound odd, but this is actually the exception rather than the norm, even for intelligent youkai: there are more youkai that look and dress like me than like, say, Parsee or Miss Satori. I guess the closer you are to a human, the more you care about these things? Ugh, now I feel bad about my state after traveling so long. Thankfully I took a bath not long ago, sort of.
A-anyway, back to this girl! Er, Tokiko, it was. Like I was saying, nice and well-dressed: Surprisingly, being buried in books hasn’t made her all that disheveled: her dress, although it shows that it's not new and I spot a couple of spots where it’s been sewn back together, is clean and obviously dearly cared for. Being a complex outfit with layers and a ton of frills, it must be a good amount of work keeping it in this shape with daily use. Her hair is multicoloured (odd, but not totally unseen) and also dutifully done up. The neat, bright red ribbons around the neck and arms and the sturdy long black boots disappearing down her dress complete the ensemble. ‘Dignified’, if I had to put it in one word. She looks so prim and tidy it’s even easy to ignore the fact that she’s red in the face and that she was rolling around on the ground indulging in... questionable literature until just now.
I kind of like this style. I think I’d want this kind of look, if I had a chance. In a long dress with the black boots! Maybe I could grow my hair out too. Ah, but this isn’t the time for that.
She bows, likely more out of habit than anything. “Sorry, I’m not used to other people coming by too much. It’s usually just me and Rinnosuke here.” The shopkeeper, I’ll assume. In that case… “You two…” I still have to make kind of an effort to speak, but just tensing and clenching my teeth for a second is enough to get past my natural revulsion. My voice is… well, decades not using it hasn’t done wonders on it, to say the least. But I do get it out, and it’s probably even intelligible. “Live together?”
“...Sort of.” She looks around, fidgets and sort of taps her feet around as she answers, almost tittering. I won’t ask how it’s possible to ‘sort of’ live with someone, but still, even being youkai, a woman and a man living together can only be — that sort of thing, right? Oh my gosh, should I ask? I’ll ask.
“Then, y–” “No!” She interrupts me before I’ve even said anything, pressing her hands against her cheeks. But it’s not an angry interruption. She’s trying — poorly — to hide a grin. “We couldn’t! We aren’t, we couldn’t, we haven’t!” She bites down on a nail like it insulted her ancestors. “Ah, but lately — I mean, we haven’t done anything yet, in that way. We haven’t really, but– Ah.” The flustered Tokiko realizes what she’s doing and calms herself down by force, pressing on her chest. “I’m sorry, I just don’t get to talk about these things very often. Nevermind me.” She takes a deep breath. “A–anyway, what about you? Are you here alone?”
Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind listening to this stuff. It's an exciting subject, isn't it? Anyway, I shake my head at her and look towards Parsee, who’s nearer the front of the store, looking around and chatting with Yamame.
I clear my throat, knowing it’ll do no good at all, and point back to the bookshelves “Book.” Oh, I forgot to form a full sentence. It’s okay, I can remedy this. “Looking.”
… Damn it.
Tokiko pays my broken speech no mind, thankfully. “I can help with that! I know the books back here very well.” So she does: I spend quite a bit of time with her, looking at books — reading, talking (mostly listening, in my case). She doesn’t talk about her, um, personal affairs, though, which is too bad. And we talk, and talk, and read, and you know, this sort of thing gets you pretty tired. This store also happens to be comfortably darkened. So, you see. Just resting my head won’t hurt — just a little bit.
... Clink, clink. I wake up to the clinking sounds of tea from the back, unmistakable even to me. Tokiko is gone, my neck is annoyingly stiff and painful, and the sun is already making long shadows outside. Did we just spend nearly an entire day just lounging here?
I groggily float up, barely keeping balance, and stretch. Oh, but that feels nice. Mm.
[ ] We should be leaving now, shouldn’t we? I did decide on what to buy. [ ] Some tea wouldn’t hurt. [ ] It’s almost sunset, I’ll just take a step outside to watch. I still haven’t gotten tired of it. [ ] Tea means talking, and talking means I can listen in! Time for a sneaking mission.
[x] Tea means talking, and talking means I can listen in! Time for a sneaking mission.
It was my destiny to be here, in this bucket. When I put it on, I suddenly got this feeling of inner peace. I feel...safe. Like this is where i was meant to be. Like I'd found the key to true happiness.
How did sneaking end up last time I tried it, again? A large gash on my forehead, was it? I put my hand up there and wince. Yep, still hurts. I’m surprised Tokiko didn’t even seem to look at it: maybe being injured is normal around here? It’s healed up nicely for only being a day old, but it’s still undeniably there.
But, but, but it’ll be fine! They’re not doing anything dodgy this time around: just chatting normally and not secretly in the middle of the night. Also, nobody is going to be trying to seduce anyone else, so I won’t have to take any drastic action. Hopefully. Oh, actually, maybe Tokiko and the shopkeeper? In front of everyone?! So daring!
Alright, that’s enough goofing around. I move around over to the counter, behind which there’s a door to what I assume is the shopkeeper’s actual home, and where the sounds of food and conversation are coming from. What is this now, the delicious sweet smell of cookies? Some sort of cake? Whatever it is, it nearly forcibly aborts my sneaking plan in favour of just going in there and swiping the food, but I control myself. I’m no longer a wild animal, swear.
“No way, you must’ve seen at least the cat around. Velvet dress, cute cat ears, red hair, twintails? I know she spends time roaming around up here.” It’s Yamame.
“Gensokyo is enormous. It wouldn’t be odd if I didn’t see another underground resident for half a century — They do tend to stay down there, don’t they?” And that’s the shopkeeper. His voice is soft and low. “Although now that you mention it, there was a cat. Reimu did bring someone like that along, once.”
“R… Reimu? Does she come around often? And you’re alright with it?” Hehe, I can practically see Yamame nervously looking around for her. ...She’s not nearby, is she? Okay, good.
“Oh relax, it’s not like she goes around exterminating everyone. Not outside of incident season.” He sounds relaxed enough, so it must be the truth. I allow myself to relax too. “Then, this makes 5 underground residents I’ve met, counting the oni living in the shrine. You’d better hope Reimu doesn’t find out or she’ll show up to ‘enforce the order’, as it were. It’s technically still supposed to be sealed off.”
An ‘ugh’ leaks from the room, which I’m going to guess was made by Parsee.
“Who cares?” And now Tokiko. “What’s the problem with coming up here? It’s not like you guys have done anything wrong, have you?” We may have snuck into a mansion and Parsee may have mugged some people out of their food. But that’s peanuts for youkai! We’ve behaved more than well enough. Right? Tokiko continues. “And such cute visitors! I thought underground people were all supposed to be crazy and monstrous. Or oni.” This girl doesn’t know much restraint, does she? “And what about the little floating one?”
I was about to start feeling silly for eavesdropping on common small talk, but I wanna hear this.
Parsee comes through now, her voice strained. “What about her?
“She’s pretty weird, isn’t she?” Whether she’s failing to notice Parsee’s hostility or simply doesn’t care, she goes on. “Is there something wrong with her?”
...Ugh. Okay, I know I’m off, but hearing it again like this kind of hurts. I’m sure I’m making progress. “Oh, and is she alright? That cut in her head looks serious.” Oh yeah, and there’s that. I should have asked for some sort of first aid, but Mokou wasn’t exactly approachable when we left.
“It’s a long story.” Yamame’s gentle voice rings out again, sounding perhaps just a note reticent. “I wouldn’t want to bore you.”
“Whaaat, but I wanna–” “Tokiko.”
It’s the shopkeeper. His voice is firm, like he’s scolding her. It doesn’t appear to get through, though. “Okaaay, if you say so, Maaaster.~” She drags out another couple of vowels, playfully.
“And don’t call me that.”
And that’s the end of that. There’s a short break in conversation, and I take the chance to slip into the room. It’s true that playing spy and sneaking around is fun, but eating tasty sweets is even more so. There’s thankfully not much fuss. As I enter, Shopkeeper raises his eyebrows at me and Tokiko excitedly waves me over to the chair next to her. The inside of the house is different from the store part: western in design and significantly less cluttered. And cleaner. The smallish western-style table everyone is sitting around stands right next to the building’s hearth, complete with a gently steaming tea kettle.
What a warming, homely scene.
I listen to everyone chatter on about random things while I absent-mindedly pick at the cake. About Reimu, about the shop, his clientele, a weird maid, outside world stuff, the magic forest and so on. I say everyone, but Parsee’s role is only chipping in with random tidbits every once in a while. And for me, watching. Still, this is comfortable.
We go on like this for some time more. At some point, it gets dark enough that a lamp needs to be lit. After a small lull in conversation, Rinnosuke (Got his name!) sighs. “So, I don’t suppose you’ll want to trudge through the forest at this time of the night.”
Oh, is he offering to let us stay? I’m surprised he did, he was acting kind of grumpy when we came in here. They must’ve gotten friendly while I was asleep. Nice guy, this one. “But,” he continues, “I’m afraid sleeping arrangements will be difficult.” Sleeping? But I just slept through the whole day! “Except for my own futon,” he gives Tokiko a pointed look here; “Which I will be sleeping in alone in my room, there are two double ones: One spare, and one she’s using. you can choose who gets to stay with this annoyance over here.” He places a hand on Tokiko’s head. The bird girl excitedly gestures and flaps her wings my way.
I’m going to stay awake either way, but we’re being urged to choose, it seems.
[ ] Share a bed with Parsee. [ ] Share a bed with Yamame. [ ] Share a bed with Tokiko. She seems to have something in mind. [ ] I can just stay in my bucket and read a book...
I gingerly float over to the still excitedly waving bird girl. Odds are she’s probably not gonna sleep, either. Not with how hyper she seems. Parsee narrows her eyes at me, but she doesn’t actually look that upset, considering her track record. I’ll take her lack of an outburst as consent, then. It might be that the target for her jealousy has shifted recently. I’m not sure that’s a positive thing.
“Now that that’s all taken care of, I’m retiring for the day. It’s still early, so feel free to do whatever you like until you feel like sleeping, as long as you don’t destroy my place or eat all my food.” He reaches over and pulls on Tokiko’s ear. “Especially you.”
She seems unfazed. “But of course! When have I ever done that?”
Rinnosuke lets go with a “Hmph,” and continues. “I’d advise against leaving the house as well. I know there are no humans here, but there are all sorts of eerie creatures out there, you never know what could happen.” He finishes his unnecessary speech by wishing us goodnight, turning and walking to his room. It looks like besides this little ‘living room’, there are two rooms back here: one for the master of the house and a spare room where Parsee and Yamame are supposed to go. Wait, if that’s the case, where will Tokiko and I stay?
By way of answering, she grabs my bucket and pulls me along, barely giving me time to wave goodnight to Parsee and Yamame. I also almost fall: it’s not easy to keep balance in the air with someone pulling you like a scared pack animal, but I manage, somehow. She takes me back to the store part and then… upwards? Ah, there’s a hatch on the ceiling. “Here! Hurry up, we’re gonna miss it.”
Miss it? Miss what?
Oof. She pulls hard — by the bucket’s handle, this time — and I’m through. It’s dark, as in ‘can’t see a thing’ dark. After a few moments of Tokiko tumbling around looking for a candle, we can finally see the attic. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting this place to have one. Maybe it’s because it’s eastern-looking at first sight. But then again, the home part also looked western, with proper walls. It’s just a rare sort of mish-mash. And this certainly… an attic. Used for storage, nothing special, the candlelight lighting would be kind of creepy if I weren’t used to it. This makes me even more nostalgic for my own home than the store below us: It’s just about the exact same, except of wood instead of stone.
I can’t even imagine what kinds of things have been deemed unfit to be sold when the store is what it is, so I’m not even going to risk looking. Instead, I follow Tokiko through a corridor of hastily pushed out of the way crates and other unidentifiable stuff to a little clearing in the junk where she’s made a nest for herself. Futon, books, candle holder and a handful of scattered stuff. Is that a diary? She beams at me. “I don’t spend a whole lot of time here, but I like how cosy I managed to make it. Isn’t it comfortable?” I smile awkwardly back. It is, actually! There’s just about enough space for her and I to sit besides each other with a little bit to spare before you start bumping into stuff, but this is just how I like it. As a matter of fact… Fumbling perhaps more than I should, I clumsily climb out of my bucket and set it aside, floating it upwards, on top of a large box. I set down, feeling the unfamiliar cold wood on my legs. Yeah, this much I can do. I’ll probably end up looking longingly at my home all the time, but this is progress, too.
“Over here! He hasn’t started yet, I think.” Again with that. What is it? Tokiko picks up one of the random books lying on the floor to reveal a hole on the floor. Oh dear, I hope this isn’t what I think it is.
She silently but enthusiastically claps her hands together and leans down — to peep. As I thought. We can’t do that, it’s just not cool! Peeping is bad, and I certainly wouldn’t do anything like it!
… I haven’t done anything like it for almost a whole two days! I poke Tokiko and try to give her a mean face, but she just gets up and pushes me down by the shoulder, towards the peephole. It makes me jump and I shake her off quickly, but fine. I wouldn’t want to be a buzzkill. Let’s see here… Actually, let’s not. He’s in the middle of undressing. I only see a flash of candle-lit skin before I recoil, frowning at Tokiko.
She doesn’t notice my expression, instead diving back into the peephole. “Isn’t he cute? He’s not large and muscular and tanned like all the humans,” she whispers. “Nice to hug~”
“W–what did you two—” “Fine, fine, I’ll tell!” I’m rudely interrupted. I don’t mind, but still. “You don’t have to be so pushy, you know. Anyway,” she finally looks back up at me, smiling. Must’ve been eager to tell the story. “It was just after a party of sorts, the witch and the shrine maiden came over to drink, and he drank juuust a little too much.” That’s not a good start. He has to be drunk? “Anyway, after the nosy humans left, I helped him along to bed and snuck a goodnight kiss! And at the time he even, you know,” I can see her colour even in the dim light. She snakes the tip of her tongue out of her mouth. What does that even me—
Oh. I feel myself blushing, thankfully it’s mostly invisible, probably. Well, that is a step forward, I think. Sure he was drunk, but Tokiko seems satisfied enough, so it should be okay.
“And that was just last year.”
What. “A year?” It’s still rough on my voice, but alone with Tokiko in this place, I don’t feel too bad talking.
“Yeah, what about it?” Is that really worth being excited about? If nothing has happened in a whole year? “Oh, don’t look at me like that. It’s not like we’re on a clock here, ” she narrows her eyes. “Although now that you mention it, it’s true that witch has been giving him the eyes every time she pops by lately, a few times a month. But!” Her eyes widen. “It’s no problem, he doesn’t even look her way.”
I raise an eyebrow. “And he does yours?”
“Of cou…” She trails off. As I thought. “H–he’s just been acting coy! He’s shy, that’s all”
Staaare. Tokiko twitches, then folds (so quickly!), sighing. “Damn it, you’re right. He’s way too passive — but I know he’s got normal needs like any man! I’ve seen his stash of dirty magazines and everything.” I don’t think I needed to know that, but okay. I shrug apologetically at her: I don’t have any useful advice. This isn’t my area of expertise, you see.
That doesn’t seem to stop her. After contemplating for a few seconds she bolts upright, coming dangerously close to knocking over a bunch of boxes nearby. “You’re completely right.” I am? “I need to be more assertive! You know, go on the attack!” Mm. Wait, you mean right now? Before I realize what's going on, she thumps across the attic, headed for the hatch downwards. “Thanks for the advice, little one.”
The thumping fades as she leaps down to the store. Oops. Am I responsible for what happens now?
[ ] I’ve fulfilled my peeping quota for this year. I’m sure I can find something to do up here. [ ] Watch over her for a bit. Just to make sure everything goes okay. [ ] Get some air. Just outside the door, no wandering out into the night, of course.
>>13962 No, I was worried about Tokiko going too far. If she tries to, I want to drag her away kicking and screaming so poor Rinnosuke can get some apparently much-needed sleep, since it sounds like this is a recurring event.
If Rinnosuke does in fact make a move... I'm all for letting Tokiko thoroughly enjoy her evening.
>>13964 The way Tokiko talked about it, I got the impression that she's going to try to go much further than any previous attempts. Also, she did say that the last notable thing to happen was a drunken kiss a whole year ago. I doubt she's been causing him to lose that much sleep.
I hear her land downstairs with a louder ‘thump’ as well as the crash of what I assume is a pile of ‘merchandise’ tumbling down. Something tells me Tokiko wouldn’t be very good at sneaking.
Okay, I suppose I’ll have a look. Just because, you know ...Aw hell. Because I want to, okay? Because I’m curious. Is that so wrong? I lean down to have a gander while Tokiko doesn’t arrive, which takes a lot longer than expected. Maybe she’s putting the stuff she knocked down back in place. Well-mannered girl… I suppose.
I recoil initially, because he’s really still shirtless on his bed (actual bed, not a futon!), reading by the flickering candlelight. I mean, it’s not like the oni (the only males I see with any regularity) don’t walk around shirtless all the time, but it’s different somehow. He’s smaller, relatively scrawny and for one thing, I actually heard him chat calmly like a normal person instead of… not. Seems more approachable, if that’s the right word. Still, this guy doesn’t strike me as ‘fall in love’ material. Not that my point of view on this matter is worth anything: I’m not the concerned party, so to speak.
Speak of the devil.
knock knock knocknocknocknocknocknocknock As if dreading it, with measured movements Rinnosuke sloooowly puts a page marker in the book, puts down the book, picks up his candle holder and eventually does gets up, sighing deeply. The walk to the door is painfully slow as well, while Tokiko keeps knocking intermittently.
“Um,” comes her muffled voice from the other side, strangely flustered. “Please hurry up.”
That gives him pause. He comes to a suspicious stop, hand on the door handle. “Hurry up? What’s the hurry?”
“Just open up already, please!” Her tone leans on desperate now. Is she okay?
So he finally does open the door, and — oh my. Oh my, oh my. That’s… that’s barely decent! Suspended by a pair of thin shoulder straps that threaten to slip off at any provocation is a piece of black fabric so flimsy it’s almost transparent. It goes from her chest — and nearly doesn’t cover that, either — down to not even the middle of her thighs. It even has the lace trim sprinkled around liberally. At least she’s wearing proper underwear, even though the fact that I can see it’s there through that… half a dress? Through her dress, let’s just call it, makes it even more indecent. Correction, half a set of proper underwear. That she forwent covering her chest up with more than the one loose piece of cloth is clear as day, even in the low light. Uu, and she wears it way better than I’d have thought. That dress she wears during the day really hides her, er, development. Not Yamame level, of course, but still a few orders of magnitude better off than me. She slips past Rinnosuke and shuts the door behind her. To his credit, his only reaction to her scandalous outfit is changing his expression from annoyed resignation into something I can’t quite describe. Pensive? Careful? He doesn’t even bother to put a shirt on, though. I suspect that if I were in his place I’d probably be too busy being mortified and blushing with all my being to form any coherent response.
But forcing her way into a man’s room looking like that is just… isn’t that too big of a leap? Shouldn’t she, I don’t know, confess her feelings beforehand or something? Hold hands, go on a date? There’s a proper order to these things, isn’t there? That’s what I heard. Read. I hope you know what you’re doing, Tokiko.
She fidgets with the hem of her ‘dress’, hiking up by another fraction of an inch the already dangerously revealing outfit. I don’t think she notices, but I see Rinnosuke’s eyes flit there for a good half second. “T-thank you. I hadn’t thought about our guests around,” she half-mumbles with an awkward laugh.
He stares in silence, there’s no change in expression. Watching this might get painful. Although It’s good to know she isn’t completely shameless, I think this might be diving too quickly into the deep end.
“It’d be embarrassing to be seen outside, haha…” Pause. He remains motionless while Tokiko’s eyes dart across the room for a moment. “S-so, how do I look? I found this buried in the store before.” She does a twirl, but it’s fairly obviously forced. Awkward. Rinnosuke, please. You’re just being cruel the way this is going. Show some delicacy, won’t you?
“Tokiko, listen.” He frowns, and I’m not sure whether it’s worse than if he remained stone-faced. “I allowed you to stay around because you’re fun company and I get bored and lonely like anyone else, but I think these jokes of yours are getting a little too much, don’t you think?”
Wow. I think that’s the wrong thing to say, not to mention more than a little insensitive.
“What? Jokes?” Her voice cracks, but otherwise she remains remarkably calm. Well, not calm, but she doesn’t immediately start screaming obscenities at him for that comment, so let’s call her calm. “You think I’d do something like this,” she gestures to herself, “if I didn’t actually like you?”
“‘Like’ me?” Did he really just say that? What is this, bullying?
“Love, okay?” She balls her fists, and it feels like she should be yelling it or at least speaking forcefully, but the confession comes as something nearer to a whisper. “I love you. C-can’t we be a… couple? Or something?”
She did it. That was a pretty painless confession, considering the circumstances. So, wait, if she’s saying this now, that means she hasn’t confessed before, right? Since it seemed like she was hinting pretty hard even with us around, I just assumed they’d already gone through this kind of song and dance. Maybe she just needed a push. Unexpectedly, Rinnosuke doesn’t seem very impressed. He sighs. “No you don’t.”
Oh, that’s rough. For a moment, Tokiko doesn’t look like she even knows what’s going on. She’s completely frozen in place. He breathes deeply. “Look, I didn’t want to have this talk or even think we’d have to, but I guess I have to now.” He’s really going to make her cry. Even from up here I can her eyes getting all shimmery.
Rinnosuke clearly falters for a second when he sees her, but forges on regardless.“You don’t actually feel anything for me, he begins. “You read too many of those brainless novels, you go down to the village and get weird ideas in your head from gossiping housewives and god knows what else. You don’t know much about me and I’m always around, which is what makes me interesting to you. Most of all, you’re bored. I’m just boredom relief.”
He’s merciless. “You’d just get bored again after a while, then it’d be over. Am I wrong?
Yeah, that did it. I’ll refrain from accurate description out of respect for the poor girl, but suffice to say, she starts to cry. Openly and loudly. I think she’s trying to say something, too, but the words don’t quite form properly for obvious reasons. Well, that went poorly. She doesn’t move to leave the room yet, though.
What to do?
[ ] Go down there and bail her out somehow. [ ] Go down there and punch Rinnosuke in the face. [ ] Wait and watch some more. I don’t think it’s over yet. [ ] Write-in
>>13966 >Like finding a peeping hole on the spider and jealous one! You now hold the dubious honour of thinking like me, my friend.
This is quite a sight. Slightly surreal, even. Tokiko just stands in the middle of room in her game outfit, bawling unrestrainedly while trying to speak. I think she’s trying to speak, anyhow. I feel bad for her, but in a sense, she put herself in that position. I wasn’t here to witness it directly, but from the way things are right now, it looks like a good amount of the blame for this whole trainwreck rests with her too. I want to go down and help her out, even though I have no idea how I’d do that, but something tells me this situation isn’t settled yet.
Rinnosuke’s been looking (unsurprisingly) uncomfortable since she started crying but he finally decides to act. “C–come on, it’s nothing to cry about,” he states, very unconvincingly. And incorrectly, as far as I can tell. “Not so loudly. It’s night.”
The guy is clearly out of his element in this sort of situation; I almost feel sorry for him.
But not really.
He stumbles a confused step towards Tokiko, probably trying to think of how to stop her from crying. And that’s definitely a mistake. They were already at arms length, so as soon as he steps in, she clamp her arms firmly around him and buries her face in his chest. His naked chest. While barely wearing anything herself. I’m not entirely sure that’s the appropriate response to someone rejecting you, but that’s how it happens. Besides, I don’t think even a clearly insensitive dolt like Rinnosuke has proven to be would be so callous as to shake her off right then. I hope he isn’t. Tokiko’s sobs gradually quiet into nothing. Neither of them move for a moment.
A moment that stretches on.
I look away. The feeling that I’m looking at something that I’m not supposed to comes back in force. It’s true that this doesn’t even qualify as an ‘embrace’, what with Rinnosuke looking utterly lost, desperately looking for a non-inappropriate place to rest his hands at and failing miserably. Still, it’s a personal moment, sort of, so I feel bad being this blatant about peeking, even though one of them knows I’m here.
...I’m still going to watch, but I silently promise myself I’ll stop if they go any further, so to speak. For whatever that’s worth.
“You’re wrong.” After a pause too long and too silent to be meaningless, I hear Tokiko’s unmuffled voice again — recovered: I dare to look again and find that she’s leaning back just enough to stare defiantly into Rinnosuke’s eyes. ‘Atta girl. Again, I don’t know if that’s the proper attitude, but you do need to take a proactive stance, somehow! Trust me, I’d know. Besides, it seems to be working; at least he isn’t still trying to drive her off.
She continues firmly, even disheveled by crying and with her eyes still swimming. I’m impressed, and a little envious. “That’s wrong and stupid. Really stupid. I– You… It makes no–” she mouths a couple more words that don’t come out, but manages to salvage it. “Y-you just said yourself that you like me too, didn’t you? What does me being bored or you being available have to do with it? Does that make feelings suddenly not valid? No!” She dives into his chest again. “I won’t accept it. Give me a better reason or I’m not letting go.”
Rinnosuke knits his brows hard, but something looks off about his expression. Other than the obvious awkwardness. “I think you should probably let go either way,” he stutters out, not looking so sure of himself.
“What do you me– Wait, no.” She interrupts herself and tightens her grip. Ah, muffled again. “You’re trying to fool me and I’m not buying it. You’re not getting off that easy, not until you give me a proper reason, or an excuse, or, or… something!” She rubs her face on him, wiping her tears on his chest. “M-maybe a little treat? I know you don’t hate me or anything.”
Rinnosuke is red as a tomato by this point. “I’ll do any of those things just as soon as you let go of me. Please.”
“Why? What’s wr– ah!” Actually, no, ‘ah’ isn’t quite right. She inhales sharply and lets out an involuntary girlish yelp, jumping a bit as if she was surprised, but doesn't let go. “Oh.”
‘Oh’? What? What’s going on? I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary from up here. Tokiko reddens even further as well, and her tone comes soft and apologetic. “This is… um. I–I’m sorry, that’s my fault. I know guys can’t help it, right?”
Oh. Oh. I see. Yeah, she did go into his room looking like that, so it’s the natural outcome, obviously. Doesn’t make it less embarrassing. Poor guy seems completely speechless at the whole situation, and I can’t say I blame him. After a pause, he comes up with a lame “Yeah.”
She fidgets around while still holding on to him, which I imagine doesn’t help matters any. ...Wait. She fidgets?
“S-so this means you’re… attracted… to me too, doesn’t it? Aren’t you?” she asks nervously. One of the straps on her camisole slips off with such perfect timing that i don’t believe it isn’t on purpose. Maybe this part was the goal all along. Rinnosuke looks like he’s lacking the strength to, er, resist any longer. In more than one way. He’s got that look in his eye — the craving, eyeing the prey, like all men get at times like this. I know that stare.
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I’m suddenly assaulted by severe nausea. I have to roll over and clutch at my throat not to cry out. Gods, I feel awful all of a sudden, like something in my stomach decided to start flailing uncontrollably. Knocking down everything on the way, I try to hop over back into my bucket, and roll up as small as I can. Thankfully everything goes back to mostly normal after a minute or so of retching and feeling like I’m being clawed at from the inside. I still feel a little bit like rolling into a hole and burying myself alive, but it’s not too bad. Only about the same level as a few weeks ago, when I was on the underground. Yeah, I've been a little too carefree lately.
I wipe my eyes on my arm and swipe Tokiko’s covers for myself. Sorry for peeking, Tokiko, but I think you’ll be alright from now on.
I’ve been rolling around trying to make myself comfortable in my bucket like an idiot for over two or three hours now. You’d think I’d know better than that by now. They’ve been making an admirable effort keeping quiet downstairs, but the odd sound or two keeps leaking through occasionally (mostly on Tokiko’s part), and it’s incredibly distracting.
I toss off the covers far away to add to one of the many piles of junk around, frustrated. This is a waste of time. I need to do something.
[ ] Downstairs for a bite, or dig through the store stuff, or do anything other than stay here. [ ] Check on Tokiko again. With nothing more than admirable intentions, of course. [ ] Go check on your travel partners. [ ] Night stroll. Not too far.
I would’ve posted sunday, but my imouto called me up. And a man cannot refuse his imouto.
Good for her, I think. I hope everything goes well for them from now on, even though I suspect it won’t go so smoothly. I also hope breakfast tomorrow(today?) doesn’t end up being as awkward as I think it will be. I shake my head to try and clear it of some unfortunate thoughts, but they’re still– argh, and I’m still feeling nauseated too. I roll my bucket around the floor out of restlessness. Alright, this isn’t going to go anywhere unless I go find something to get my mind off it. Or someone, as it happens. I take the flickering candle from the floor and float off with some annoying difficulty. Sometimes my ability to fly is affected by my mental state, concentration, that sort of thing. It’s landed me in big trouble before, believe me.
I make my way through the pleasantly spooky cluttered attic, down through the store where a collapsed pile of kitchen utensils lies conspicuously close to the hatch on the ceiling. I guess Tokiko didn’t bother fixing the mess she made, having more important concerns at the time. Oh well. You know, come to think of it, I’ve been indoors very often lately. I think I might even like this kind of place better than my little lair, with some considerations. Something about the smell of wood puts me at ease: something makes it easy to calm in this place, as different from home as it may be. Nice comfy furniture, can get outside and enjoy the air without a huge journey… one could get used to living in a proper building like this. Of course, not having wild youkai and the oni in the neighborhood helps, too. But that’s a thought for later.
Over the counter, straight past the door to Rinnosuke’s room (straight past, swear!), past the sitting room, and closer to the half-open door from where orange firelight and the sound of quiet conversation leaks. I’m not surprised they’re still up, honestly: I don’t think we youkai are meant for a 24 hour cycle, especially when you’ve lived in a cave for several years. At least we’re synced up, so not one of us is tired while everyone else wants to move. I stop silently at the door for a second, but soon I realize what I’m doing. Come on, this is getting ridiculous! I refuse to become a habitual offender just out of inertia like this. Instead, I quickly summon up my courage, knock and enter as nonchalantly as I can, head lowered.
“Look who’s here too!” Ah, it’s Yamame’s cheery voice again. I feel some of the awful feeling in my chest melt away, just from that. I take in the guest room. It’s bare: aside from the double bedroll, which looks wider and thicker than ones I’ve seen before, there’s nothing but a cupboard with a lamp on it and a large closet taking up one wall. Wooden floors, western style. Parsee and Yamame are sprawled on the oversized futon, looking mighty at home, and wearing… light sleepwear? Yamame sees the question forming in my head and points towards the closet. “We got them from there. You look too, there’s probably something comfortable in your size.” I wave hi to a pouting parsee and go get changed into something, settling for some shorts and a button-up shirt. It goes down to my knees and the sleeves cover my hands completely and then some, but it sure is snuggly. I fold my usual robe and stash it away.
“Come sit with us!” Yamame taps an open space on the bedroll, so I do, probably getting it all dirty with my bucket in the process. “We were just talking abo–” “Did that harpy do anything to you?” Parsee asks me, cutting her off, acidly. But not actually acidly. Normal Parsee-acidly.
Yamame sighs. “Oh, relax. Look at her, she’s fine.” I force a smile. Yep, totally fine here. “Besides, did you see how that girl was with the shopkeeper? It’s a done deal.”
Yeah, that’s fair to say.
Parsee snorts in derision. “As if that meant a thing; people are crooked up here. Being ‘with’ someone,” she sneers the word, “doesn’t stop them from doing anything.”
“Aww, don’t be like that.” Yamame rolls over and kicks her legs up. “I think they’re cute together.” Parsee frowns again, looking dissatisfied, but I don’t think she means anything by it. Just a gut reaction. Yamame smiles and places a hand on Parsee’s — which wouldn’t be a huge deal ordinarily, but it’s Yamame, with her… issue! I can see on her expression that it takes effort to do. She lingers for a full few seconds then continues. “I know you’ve had a bad experience, but that doesn’t mean everyone is out to get you.”
Parsee clicks her tongue, flops face down onto a pillow and mumbles a nearly inaudible “I know.”
“We’re both here with you, aren’t we? And I think you can trus–”
“I get it already!” Parsee kicks at the futon. I think she’s embarrassed, her ears even twitch. Cute. I see Yamame smirk out of the corner of my eye: so it was on purpose. “A-anyway!” She turns her neon green eyes to Yamame. “I know you come up here every so often, but have you gone this far before?”
Changing the subject, I see. Yamame notices too, but is kind enough to go along with it. “No way, we must be clear across Gensokyo by now. Furthest I’d gone before was that mansion at the lake.”
“How far are we going? I don’t want to run into the Great Barrier. I’ve heard some stories. Things get weird at the edge of Gensokyo.”
Yamame raises an eyebrow. “Weren’t you looking for someone out here?”
Parsee looks away. “I… I’ve changed my mind.”
“Good.” She grins. “That was a tremendously stupid idea you had before.” Parsee looks like she wants to say something, but settles for a noncommittal ‘Hmph.’
“Which means… there’s only one left.” Mm, right.
Wait, why are they looking at me? What’d I do? “Now we’re just following you along,” Yamame teases. I hope she’s teasing. “You do know where you’re going, right?” ...Kind of. I still have to ask the shopkeeper exactly where we’re supposed to go, but it shouldn’t be too far now. I nod with as much conviction as I have, which isn’t that much. “Then it’s fine.” Yamame smiles comfortingly at me. But is it really fine? I give her a confused look. “I’ve had more fun up here than I was expecting, although I’d rather not walk into a populated city again if I can help it.” Her smile crooks there, and I’m compelled to bow as an apology. That one is my fault.
We spend the rest of the night just chatting about nothing of importance. Well, the two of them do, actually. I just nod or shake my head occasionally when they talk directly to me. I don’t mind, stopping the conversation to scribble a big answer on a notebook would be a pain, anyway. I think I end up napping on the spot once or twice while just listening to the conversation, but I’m not sure. Either way, if any of us sleep, it’s not for long.
Our hosts were up early enough to prepare breakfast, which was a surprise, considering their situation. M-maybe they didn’t sleep at all? Oh my. I put my teacup down. Can’t really taste it in this atmosphere: Rinnosuke is clearly distraught, staring into the distance and frowning at random intervals, while Tokiko is practically humming with contentment, skipping around the room. Not an unexpected result, but it’s awkward all the same. I hope she knows what she’s doing.
I should ask my question now, maybe it’ll even get Rinnosuke’s mind off his… predicament.
To recap what I heard from Byakuren. The human magician is young and inexperienced, but excitable and very competent. If she finds me interesting, she’ll probably try to help me and require no compensation, but she’s prone to on-the-fly experimentation. Might be a risky choice. The Youkai magician is colder, older and more knowledgeable, but also more calculating. It’s likely she’ll try to get some payment out of me for removing this thing from my back, and if she realizes what I am, I might be in trouble. I mean, what Byakuren says I am. Personally, I’m still not fully convinced.
[ ] Ask for directions to the human magician’s home. [ ] Ask for directions to the youkai magician’s home.
I'm feeling good. I got a neat pen that's fun to write with, so if you vote quickly, I'll try to write quickly too.
Rinnosuke looks at me funny when I whip out my notepad, but nobody else pays any mind. He must be curious, I’m thankful he’s restrained himself from asking. A “don’t ask” policy does make a lot of sense for Gensokyo, thinking about it. I bow in a half-apology, half gesture of gratitude, but he just looks at me, confused. Sorry, I’ll tell you another time. Anyway, my question. Simple works best. Scribble, scribble. “How can I find the human witch of the forest?”
Egh, communicating through text never feels natural, no matter how much I do it. Rinnosuke raises his eyebrows in surprise. “You have business with Marisa?”
Tokiko pipes up from the other end of the table. “Whaaat? What could you possibly want with that–“ “Thanks for your input, Tokiko,” Rinnosuke doesn’t even raise his voice to scold her, it’s so routine. Tokiko must not get along with the witch (for not hard-to-figure-out reasons) and I don’t believe she’s the type to be shy about expressing her opinions. She pouts at Rinnosuke, but sensibly lets the issue go.
Rinnosuke ponders my question, and I notice Parsee and Yamame exchanging a glance behind me. I realize I haven’t told them what’s going on with me at all. I didn’t mean to keep it a secret, it’s just hard to talk about and even harder to write about. I’ll have to get around to it eventually. No, soon. “I can show you how to get there, but…” Oh, Rinnosuke was talking. Focus, focus. “Are you sure it’s Marisa you want to meet? Whatever you need her for, I guarantee you can find someone else who’s easier to work with. She’s a…” He gets a complex look on his face for a short moment. Too short for me to decipher anything. “She’s an eccentric character,” he concludes uncertainly.
Tokiko cuts in again, mid-bite with her breakfast. “He means she’s a nuisance.”
He sighs, but otherwise doesn’t respond to that. I quickly write “I’m sure” on my notebook and show him. He throws his hands up. “If you say so.” The way he’s acting doesn’t exactly make me feel good about my choice. Let’s pray it’s the right one — I’d turn to my friends for reassurance, but it’s hard to when they don’t even know what I’m doing or why.
But then again, everyone else is also a magician by choice: bound to have a few screws loose, what with choosing a lifestyle of altering reality by force and controlling phenomenal powers, fraught with danger. I have an excuse, but I’m not exactly the poster girl for sanity either, am I? Am I going to get nuttier when I can use magic? I hope not. I’ve always sort of fantasized about it, hurling fireballs, teleporting, summoning food whenever and so on — these sorts of characters are almost always really powerful in the books. Ooh, I remember Byakuren said the other magician in Gensokyo styled herself a flower youkai, didn’t she? Should I come up with a cool identity too? The youkai magician of, of–
“Ahem.” O-oh. I come back to earth to see Rinnosuke’s concerned eyes staring into mine. I may have let my imagination run away from me, just then. I nod to whatever he was saying and sip at my tea to mask my embarrassment. He sits back, frowning. “As I was saying while you weren’t listening at all,” he continues. I wince. Busted. “I can’t give you any directions.”
I perk up. What?
“It’s in the middle of a dense forest with no landmarks, I couldn’t give you directions even if I wanted to,” he lectures, expression neutral. “You can’t just fly there either: Marisa told me she has basic protection charms set up so she isn’t bothered by random fairies. It’d just look like more canopy from the air. I droop. That’s bad, then.
“Fortunately for you,” he smiles, and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen it. “I have just the thing to solve this conundrum. Wait here.”He walks off towards the store. Tokiko eyes him as he leaves, and I barely have time to exchange glances with anyone before he comes back with a cheap-looking wristwatch in hand. A watch?
“This was given to me by Marisa,” he explains, sitting back down. I don’t even have to look to know Tokiko is making a face, which Rinnosuke wisely ignores. He holds it out in his palm and spins it around. The hour spins too, keeping its direction constant and fixed. I think I see how it is. “It always points towards her house.”
“Is there really any need to keep th–” “Any questions?” Poor Tokiko. She pouts at him. I fear for the future of these two.
Question, question. I write out my question. “What do the other hands do?”
Er, okay. I gingerly take the watch from his hand – and it immediately starts flipping out, all hands accelerating and spinning so hard it sounds like the watch is purring. U-um, what? What’d I do? I nearly drop the thing desperately fiddling with the dials– “Oh, it does that when it isn’t horizontal. Nothing to worry about.” … Now I feel silly. Who the hell made this thing?
Oh, yeah. Marisa. The one I’m going to be entrusting with my body and life soon. It’s okay. There’s always a bright side. … . . .
With no more business at Kourindou, as Rinnosuke taught me the shop was called, I try to get out of the place as soon as possible: both for Tokiko’s sake and because I wasn’t comfortable being there while I knew exactly what happened between those two. They were doing a remarkable job acting normal, but even so. We thank our host. I decide against buying anything in the end, since my poor bucket is already overloaded with junk (I keep kneeling on my pen and it hurts like hell). I do, however, write out a full formal apology for startling Rinnosuke and bow as deeply as I can to him, nearly tipping over. At least that much I owed him. He seems astonished that I care at all, but I think I made a good impression in the end.
Before midday we’re on the road again, with a promise to come back eventually. ‘Road’, in this context, meaning ‘not a road at all’ — we walk the forest. I take the lead and deliberately avoid flying over it: I need time to settle stuff, and if I’m being honest, I’m more than a little nervous over this entire situation I’ve gotten myself into. So, walking altitude it is. Taking the lead also makes it easy not to face Parsee and Yamame, both of whom I’ve been sort of avoiding all morning.
[ ] Wait it out. They’ll know eventually, one way or the other. [ ] Talk to them now. -[ ] Ask them just to trust me for now. I don’t want them stressing out over me. -[ ] Tell them the basics: I need Marisa’s help because of reasons. -[ ] Tell them most of it, including what I heard from Byakuren. -[ ] Tell them everything Sorry. I don’t think I could do it.
I feel bad and sick and I can’t wait to end this story. Next thread will be the last.
>>14008 About that. (actual spoilers) I did intend to have some of that good old yuri there from the beginning, but the love interests just ended up so motherly and family-like that it feels horribly wrong to shove romance in there now. I couldn't do it.
...I end up flying another mile or so, all of us silent as death, before I can gather the courage to say anything. But you can’t blame me! You know how hard it is opening up a ‘serious’ conversation with someone you’re close to. It’s annoyingly difficult, you have to have the guts to challenge the well settled, fat monster called the status quo. I do have a clock ticking, though, so I manage to do it before we get into the Forest of Magic proper. So I stop: slowly, haltingly. It still looks like a normal, sparse forest here. Maybe a few overly colourful mushrooms and mysteriously luminous bulbs growing out of the trees, but nothing excessive.
I turn slowly, dreading the reactions, but it’s a needless worry: the two of them are just following along as they have so far. A slightly smiling Yamame — as she does a lot — and a lightly scowling parsee. I smile nervously at them and settle on the ground under the shadow of a tree, pulling my notebook from under me. This is gonna be a tough one, I can tell. So I start writing it out while the two of them chill out nearby. They do share a meaningful-looking glance and sit nearby, but nothing else. They don’t ask me anything outright, which I appreciate. Um, right. An explanation. Yeah. I haven’t actually communicated directly with these two much since we left the caves, have I? Not about anything of importance. We’re just sort of together in general, which isn't bad, either. At most I hover around and pay attention to what they’re saying, sometimes. But now it’s on me.
It’s too embarrassing to transcribe, but I do say — write it. About most everything. About the curious shapes on my back, about how I haven’t felt well lately (or ever), how the good monk in the temple told me it’s supposed to be a seal that’s been there for decades and that I’d be a different youkai if it were gone. I deliberately avoid the ‘magician’ angle. It’d be way too complicated to explain, for various reasons. It takes way too long, and the page ends up absolutely full of scrawls by the time I’m done. Seriously, there’s more text crossed out in here than not. Even then, I suspect it’s easier to write all this stuff down than to say it out loud, so at least there’s that. I think they sense I’m trying to say something important, because both of them refrain from chatting or asking me anything. Parsee doesn’t even click her tongue once while waiting. I’m proud of her.
After more time than a short letter like this should’ve taken, it’s done. Now I only have to give it to them. Yep, it’s cake. Juuust stretch my arms out and pass it over. Yep. …
Fidget, fidget. Um, maybe one more read over? Just to make sure I didn’t make any–
“Oh, for crying out loud. Give it here.” Ah-- ! Parsee swipes it straight from my hands with a sign. I–I wasn’t done with that! “Parsee, that’s not polite,” Yamame admonishes while stretching her neck to read my letter too. Not very convincing. The kind of huddle up to read, and I’m left here anxiously fidgeting and waiting for a judgement, like some sort of prisoner.
“Sealed? Is that it?” Parsee raises her eyes at the end of a tense minute. I nod. “Alright, then we’re just going for some unsealing ceremony? That’s simpler than I thought.” How so? I look quizzically at her. “What? Don’t look at me like that. The way you’ve been acting, I thought we were going on something more dramatic. Like a quest for redemption, a pilgrimage, off to take revenge on someone, something like that.
Yamame hums in what I take for an agreement and smiles at me. “It’s better like this, isn’t it?” She hands me my notebook back. “I didn’t know the Hakurei did seals, though. Before Reimu, at least, they just exterminated anyone who was out of line.” ...Yeesh. As if I didn’t have enough reasons not to cross her.
Alright, this is good. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. So it’s not a big deal at all and we can just walk in there and get this thing sorted, if all goes well. Let’s pray that happens.
After this one interruption, our hike through the woods goes uneventfully enough. We could just fly over it, I think, but nobody proposes the idea, so I don’t either. Not that I mind: this forest is a whole lot friendlier than the one near the Youkai Forest. We’re far into the thick of it, but it’s still not so dense. There’s easily enough space to walk comfortably. In fact, it even looks like a nice place to have a stroll, with nice, cool leaves at your feet. As long as you don’t step on a snake or scorpion. And the size of the trees! I’ve never seen trees so massive. Some trunks are so large I’d need a dozen of me to hugh one of them all the way around. They go up and up, extending skywards so far that you can’t see the top — or a single ray of sunlight, for that matter. It’d be extremely dark down here if it weren’t for one thing. It’s what gives the forest its distinct feeling, and most likely the reason it received the name Forest of Magic in the first place.
Lights. Colourful lights, everywhere. They come off mushrooms, fruits growing on trees, vines, bugs, even some leaves and things I honestly can’t identify at all give off some sort of glow. They shine in some colours I’ve never seen on lights, natural or otherwise. How the hell would you make something glow green, anyhow? Stained glass? The combination of lights makes such a spectacle that it’s hard to even describe: it just looks amazing. The colourfulness lightens up the place, it’s not eerie or oppressive like I imagined. Just bright.
We walk at an unhurried pace, enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest, them following me and I following this wonky wristwatch. We go on for… I don’t know. To be quite honest, I lose track of time completely. Maybe a handful of hours?
At some point, we come across a– no, not quite a clearing, since the canopy cover is as complete here as it is anywhere else in the forest. It’s a comfortably large space with no trees or shrubs or anything. I start considering asking for a little rest when Parsee forestalls me. She flops down on the floor, scattering dead leaves everywhere. “I call a break!”
...Alright, alright. We’re not in a big hurry anyhow. I set about gathering tinder for a small campfire while Yamame also sits beside Parsee. “Don’t go too far!”
I BROKE IT AGAIN Due to creative difficulties and other random excuses you don't want to hear about, I fucked up my minimum 1 update/week limit. I'll have one up by let's say friday, then it's back to the usual schedule, assuming nothing goes wrong.
I feel something winding down as soon as I move away from my companions, like a sort of tension, you could call it. Of course, I love them to death, wouldn’t even be up here without them and all that, but still. I’ve had little to no alone time since we left the underground, when before alone time was all I got. It’s a radical change, and I enjoy some peaceful isolation by myself, like this. It’s calming and feels like going back normal. The forest seems to help too: the colourful, pastel glows and lack of direct sunlight puts me in this relaxed state, like floating about underwater. Under warm water.
Not so relaxed that I forget myself, of course. I mark the (massive!) tree trunks as I go, so I don’t get lost. No knife, so I have to use my nails. Fearsome youkai claws, technically.
I wander around, more enjoying myself on a stroll than whatever excuse myself I gave myself to get out here. ‘Sides, I’m sure I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings, even if they knew I’m leaving for some alone time. I’ve seen those two and how they’re acting: back at the temple, and just how they’ve… stuck together, in various ways. It feels like the two of them are a proper group, while I’m hovering around them. Literally, too. Not that I’m against it! I mean, them. I know they were already close friends, it’s just that Parsee has clearly softened up a considerable amount lately. It’s understandable they’d get closer. They’ll be happy to have some time to themselves.
Ugh, what am I even thinking about? It’s none of my business what their relationship is and what they’re up to. I think the episode with Rinnosuke is making me think too much.
What did I say I was going to look for, again? Tinder? How stupid, it’s not even near cold enough for us to need a fire. I look around the forest, surprisingly sparse of life aside from the gigantic trees and the mysterious living light bulbs planted to them. Not even any shrubs around, just a whole lot of dead leaves. Actually, now that I take a good look — excuse me, a good listen at it, this place is way too silent for what it is. You’ve got a handful of bird calls sounding occasionally, way in the distance, and that's it. I can hardly hear them. Maybe the canopy is so high up the sound just barely reaches down here?
So I wander, thinking such pointless thoughts. It’s an enjoyable enough walk, and I find myself thinking (again!) that I wouldn’t mind living in a place like this. Perhaps carve a hole out in a tree? Wait, no. I should dream higher than that. I could build a house, I suppose? It’s not that I dislike the underground, but there’s such a big world out here, it seems like a waste not to even try at seeing it. I wouldn’t actually leave my home permanently, obviously. Not as long as there are people with me down there who care for me. That’d be stupid.
Right about the time when I start thinking I should head back, I hear something quite different from the bird voices that have been the only sound around until now. It’s not much louder, just above what I think would be audible to a human. Nothing else makes a sound in the forest while the… what is that, anyway? It’s an airy sort of sound, staccato and slow, old timey, but not bad to listen to, considering. I can tell what this is, partially: I’ve had the pleasure to witness an oni musical performance once, and I remember this. It’s some sort of a string instrument, and it’s coming directly from above. I look straight up at the interminable tree trunks. Can’t even see the top. I can’t not investigate this, can I?
Up, up, up, while listening to the melody. It is a melody, at that. Whoever is playing is no master of their craft: there are pauses, sometimes wrong notes, but the music keeps going regardless. The soft glow of the forest may be making my judgment duller than it might have been, but I decide I like this. It’s not like I get to hear music often, either, but this fits. I close my eyes when a ray of sunlight strikes me square in the face, after what seems like way too much time flying upwards. There, finally some branches, the sky and… people? Well, yes, people. How would there be music without people? Silly me. These are some very short people, though.
Oh. Oh dear, these aren’t people. They’re fairies.
Dealing with fairies is difficult at the best of times and impossible otherwise, for a host of reasons. But the music is coming from the middle of the small group of fairies — and whoever this is must be doing something right, because I’ve never seen so many of the fidgeting little things together and this quiet. I want to check it out.
These look different from underground fairies, to no great surprise on my part. They’re less deathly pale, more lively, have different wings and some of them inexplicably carry flowers their own size, but otherwise, they’re the same doll-sized, nervous fledglings in pretty dresses you’d get everywhere in Gensokyo. The difference is that these are remarkably well-behaved, sitting neatly in their branches. I float slowly, sloooowly up among them, knowing they’ll panic and scatter in half a second if they notice me.
Ah, and success. It’s not too hard, since they’re so focused. I settle down in my bucket without anyone noticing and have my first good look at our musician, and she’s a… what? Cute, for one. Of course. Not human, you can tell from the wings. Not a fairy, I don’t think they’d be capable of playing music. Also, too big to be a fairy: she’s about me-sized. Some kind of youkai? She has a dainty side-ponytail thing going on, tied with a childish yellow ribbon (not that I can judge childish), and that same plain but pretty dress that fairies are born with. I think they’re born with it. I’ve never seen a fairy in any other clothing or being un-cute, even when they’re in one of their occasional collective frenzies. I think it’s a part of the job description, somehow. Being cute, that is; the collective frenzy is just a thing they do. Fairies being fairies. The youkai(?) has in her hands a… a thing. Like a biwa, but thinner and a baby. A baby biwa, smaller, with less strings. She’s hunched over it, brows knitted, lip tucked under her teeth and fringe behind her ears. Clearly trying very, very hard at it. Poor thing visibly winces every time she makes a mistake, which is often. The audience doesn’t seem to notice or mind.
The song eventually winds down sort of randomly, without a proper ending, but still nobody seems bothered. In fact, the audience seems ecstatic: they begin clapping and chattering, as fairies do. Miss musician seems as happy as the rest of them, apparently forgetting all about her mistakes immediately, beaming and bowing.
Which has, of course, the expected outcome. Within moments they notice me and the typical panic quickly spreads, with fairies zipping away at far greater speed you’d think they’re capable of with those tiny wings. They’re just fairies, so I don’t feel too bad about scaring them. My target along stays, although she also looks like she might bolt off at any second, not unlike a fairy. Maybe she is a fairy? I’ve heard of great fairies, but I imagined something more grandiose, like a giant, crowned fairy in a resplendent dress, commanding armies of the little things. Are there medium fairies?
The fairy-like being opens her mouth, but no sound comes out. She’s sort of shaking, too. In fear, if I had to guess. I should do something about this situation before she runs off.