[x] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [x] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules.
“I can crawl along these caves faster than you can run, you know!” Yamame calls out, “I didn’t do it this time, but I can also set up my webs to slow you down if I want to! There’s also diseases…actually, you don’t need to know about that.”
“Well, fight it is then.” You shrug, “Ian, want me to explain the spell card rules for you?”
“Please do so.” He’s already shuffled off the pack and is settling into a battle stance. He’s not manifesting his sword though, strange.
“Rule number one of a spell card fight, you must give names and meanings to your attack sequences that you will use as a sort of…video game boss pattern? That’s the best comparison I can make. For us, these attack sequences are usually patterns of magical bullets, but I expect outsiders to have their own techniques. However…technically you don’t have to do this if you’re okay with being on the defensive the whole fight.”
“I have some names for my attacks, and they are far more unsightly than patterns of magical bullets, but they can deal with airborne opponents.”
With a deep inhale, he furrows his brow as his arms melt away into a stream of black ink, before swiftly reforming into something significantly more threatening. Something metallic, and colored ivory and gold. You clap as the massive claws emerge from the ink, bound to his normal body by chains.
“Now that is a dueling worthy apparatus for a human!” You praise, “You’ll fit right in here in Gensokyo.”
“What.” Again, that weird typewriter effect is echoing like a bass line in his voice, “You don’t find this…hideous?”
“Why would I? There’s a monk up on the surface who controls a ‘nyuudou’, which is a massive cloud giant’s head and arms, and probably fights the same way as you with giant hands. And Yamame, mind showing him your lower body?”
With a grin, the earth spider leaps upward to the cave ceiling. Her bulb-like dress distends and distorts as her human legs disappear. Then, all at once, six hairy brown arthropod limbs sprout out from under the skirt. She extends her body forward as her rear becomes the abdomen of a wagon-sized spider.
“See, your transformation is tame compared to what the average youkai can do.” You say to reassure Yan. This boy’s got some serious self-image issues, though at this point you are sure that’s the least of his problems if he thought coming to a stranger’s home in the equivalent of the Feywild (thanks Baldur’s Gate for giving you that analogy) was a good idea. “Just don’t go waving those sharp claws around, that’s looking for trouble.”
“Ah…” He’s staring at Yamame. “That seems similar to…no, this is the real deal, not an imitation.” Raising the claws up in front of him, Yan gets on the balls of his feet. “Let us get started then, now that we’re both ready.”
“In that case, I shall begin the duel!” Yamame shouts as she flies onto the cave ceiling and clings there, “Spider - ‘Cave Spider’s Nest’!”
It’s a card you’re quite familiar with, having fought with Yamame on and off during your tenure down here in Former Hell. For a human who’s never seen it, or any danmaku before…
“HOLY SHIT!” Yan exclaims, utterly losing all composure for a moment as he sees the elaborate web-shaped pattern of bullets fly all around, many of them aimed towards him. His speed is enough to just barely manage dodging the first wave, but as per usual Yamame’s second wall of bullets overlaps with the first one, and he is promptly nailed by at least a dozen of them.
Knocked back, he draws the claws back towards himself, covering his whole body and blocking the bullets.
"Using the difficult version of your spell card, eh, Yamame?" You call out.
"Just making sure the kid is up to snuff. If he can take this much danmaku to the chin then he can take physical harassment from fairies with no issue!” Yamame replies between sending waves of bullets at the boy.
You watch as Yan stumbles back into the cave wall, his claws clasped around like well, claws clasping around a small object, like an egg or something.
“Ian! Rule Two! Danmaku attacks all come in elaborate patterns! You don’t have to dodge all of them as a human who cannot fly, so it should be possible. There!” You point to the gaps in Yamame’s bullet pattern, which you’ve seen over a hundred iterations of. “You can stand there to avoid the worst of it.”
“As you order!” He leaps over to the safe zone, where bullet density is low enough that he can afford to free one of his claws. Curled up into a fist, it is hurled towards Yamame in a straight punch.
She dodges it with ease. “Too slow!”
“Miss Parsee, any other…”
“Make sure you keep an eye on your pack while you’re fighting!” Horosha interjects with a warning, while Yamame eases up her attack so the boy can hear, “The enemy may have an accomplice, or will try to overwhelm you with attacks before running off with it.”
“That…wouldn’t be an issue.”
You raise your brows as he sends one of his claws over, and a strange glow bursts from it as it gently punches the pack. Faint, almost ethereal chains then sprout from the top of the pack, anchoring it to the ground, and out of the tangle they came from sprouts a gigantic padlock with an oversized keyhole, tying the chains together like the bow on a present that the humans and recently the oni have been doing for this thing called “Christmas”.
You didn’t participate in Christmas, or most festivals, come to think of it. Maybe you should…because lots of potential jealousy victims go there! Right?
“So, you do know magic!” You say to Yan.
“Not really magic, this is Jeong Industry’s patented lock tech, alongside my own…peculiarities. It’s nowhere near what Miss Yamame can do.”
“If this is technology,” You let out a scoff, “Then call me an engineer. No outsider who visited Gensokyo had anything like this.”
“Have you had any Korean visitors?”
You look at Horosha, who shakes his head. “Last time I checked the Village’s records, there weren’t any. A few Westerners, a few Chinese. No Koreans. You’re the first one here…Ian. Though, as for Koreans in general…” Horosha perks up as he remembers something, “…I think the komainu of the Hakurei Shrine might be related, given how komainus are named in Japan?”
“Probably not if we’re talking about technology.” He looks up, and experimentally throws a few more punches at Yamame, who skitters around the ceiling at a pace too fast and too erratic for his relatively slow moving attacks to land. “I retract what I said about ranged capabilities. If opponents are like her, then this is not going to work.”
“Nah, I’m just pretty fast like this.” The earth spider says as she swings past an incoming claw with unnecessary flourish. “You’ll do fine against a ground-bound feral or a dumb fairy. I guess if the tengu harass you it can be a problem, but those crows and wolves generally stay civil.”
“Such speed…” You hear him muttering the next part underneath his breath, “I’m jealous.”
The boy’s picking up after you! That’s nice.
The fight goes on for about another minute, before Horosha raises a hand for Yamame to stop firing. “Good, we see that you can defend yourself adequately. However, such situations are not ideal, and are to be avoided.”
“Of course not. I would prefer not to fight…”
“I mean fighting defensively. It is better to crush the ne'er-do-wells that harass you with an unfair spell card, as the attacker. That leaves less potential risk for your package.”
“Spell cards can be any attack with meaning, according to the rules, as long as you write it down somewhere as a contract.” You say, showing off the spell cards that you use regularly, written down on cursing dolls. “Since you don’t know magic, you’re not going to be firing off bullet swarms any time soon. A sucker punch with a fist should solve the problem, unless you have something flashier.”
You see Yan frown as his arms fade back into normal ones…though, now that you’ve seen the claws, it is clear that the human arms are just a thin facade, with the chains underneath clearly visible if you know what you’re looking at. He then draws his sword out of the dimensional pocket. “I have one…I’d rather not use it. But if that is what is necessary...”
He raises his sword up high, “Miss Yamame, prepare yourself!”
You look over just in time to see a massive sword blade, resembling a giant version of his slab of steel, sprout from the ground and hurl itself into the ceiling. Upon impact, black ink splashes out with an acidic sizzling sound, before rapidly dissipating.
For Yamame though, the slow speed of the sword and ink do not manage to get her, although she did have to jump off and fly as the ink spread across the ceiling.
“Ineffective, but visually impressive.” Horosha says with a hand on his chin. “A name might give it some more meaning. Tell me, boy, what is the name of this attack?”
“...Distorted Blade.” He says, quietly.
“Distorted Blade?” You think about it for a moment, “Too simple, how about ‘Absolute Execution: Blade of Fate’? Eh…maybe that’s a little too much.”
Yan stares at you as you cringe at your own suggestion. Video games have begun rotting your brain, it seems.
“Parsee, don’t you name your spell cards after folk tales?” Yamame asks, still upside-down on her thread even though she’s almost to the cave floor.
“I don’t know any folk tales involving a giant sword though.” You think back to both tales youkai told about themselves here in Gensokyo, tales that were part of the general Japanese zeitgeist, and tales from your homeland, “...Nope, nothing that wouldn’t be pretentious.”
“Giant Killer: Blade of Jack.” Horosha suggests, with an uncharacteristically enthusiastic tone. Come to think of it, this weirdo spider always was happy to talk about foreign things. “This British folktale contained no mention of a giant sword, but it did contain a hero who went around slaying giants, so such a weapon would be well within his purview.”
“No offense, Parsee, but your suggestion was too presumptuous for someone of my status. ‘Giant Killer’ is a good title, Mister Horosha.” He holds up his sword again, “Giant Killer - Blade of Jack!”
This time, the massive conjured blade slams into the ceiling at greater speed, and Yamame looks noticeably surprised, and excited, at the change. And then, instead of merely splashing out some ink, the liquid coming out of the sword slowly turn a verdant green, a color in start contrast to the earthy darkness of the tunnel. The ink coagulate and twist, and before your eyes they transform into beanstalks, shooting towards Yamame.
Yamame enters an evasive pattern, skittering erratically to have the beanstalks hit air. However, the beanstalks sprout pods, and the contents of the pods explode outwards, covering the air with soramame. Yamame isn’t an oni, but getting nailed with a fava bean to the head still hurts enough that she clutches at it reflexively.
Bean danmaku. Not a common sight outside of Setsubun on the surface. But it makes so much sense that you wonder why more people don’t do it.
“A hit!” You cheer. Yan has frozen in shock, letting his sword drop into the ground while pointing at the botanical manifestation that came out of the Distorted Blade.
“I…I can do that?” The typewriter sound effect seems to have lessened, more background noise than bass line. “Was that magic? Just from renaming my attack?”
“This is Gensokyo. Names have power, especially when they tap into folklore.” Horosha brushes aside his bangs, “Britain may be a long ways from Japan, but the tale of Jack the Giant Slayer…Did it get conflated with the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk? It has been a century or two…This tale is still notable in Japan through contact with westerners. This ain’t proper magic though, it’s just you tapping into what’s already there.”
“Oh, but still…” Yan purses his lips, continuing his stare as the beanstalks dissipate along with the sword. “Jack and the Beanstalk was a tale of courage, guile and…hope, wasn’t it?”
“I could debate you academically on that.” The traveling earth spider says, “But yes, that would be the popular opinion.”
“Ah, then it definitely can’t just be part of my…condition…then. I cannot slay a giant.”
His tone on the last sentence is odd, with rasping like he’s crying, but there’s no tears on his face.
“So, Horosha.” You ask as Yamame flies down, rubbing the sore spot on her face. “Good enough?”
“You should have more than one spell card to have a dignified duel against a proper opponent. But for a human new to Gensokyo, your new ‘Giant Slayer’ and that ‘condition’ of yours should suffice to keep nuisances off your back. Most of the time, they are fairies, so a single good hit from those claws of yours should defeat them.”
“Do they die?” He said as he dismissed his sword. “I don’t want to kill…”
“Yes, but fairies just dissipate and return to life within days.” Yamame says instead of the other earth spider, “That was a really cool spell card, human! You’ll do well in Gensokyo.”
“Thank you?” He hesitantly replies. “Was it really that impressive?”
He’s looking over in your direction.
[ ] That was indeed a really cool spell card, Ian. [ ] That was indeed a really cool spell card, Yan. [ ] Impressive for a novice, but could use some improvements. [ ] I’m jealous of it, whatever it qualifies as.
You take a glance at your phone to see what people’s talking about on your Discord server’s social channel. You are genuinely curious now as to what your new fans are interested in. To better evoke their jealousy, of course.
GunBunny: It sounds like you have it rough over there.
Knife Bnuuy: You don’t know the least of it. After the whole mess with [PARTNER CORPORATION REDACTED], we’re in an energy crisis and the Caw-caws are breathing down our necks ‘cause we worked with them. One wrong move and it’s time to be converted into gene-stock.
GunBunny: Yeesh, and I thought my masters back then threatening to turn us into rabbit stew was bad.
Knife Bnuuy: If I got purged, the gene-stock will probably qualify as Rabbit stew lol.
GunBunny: We should form a union. “Asian Federation of Abused Rabbits”. Too bad it’ll just get crushed immediately.
Knife Bnuuy: [CryingWojak.png]
Sandwich Enthusiast: OH SHIT, WIFE’S GONE INTO LABOR, GTG
Knife Bnuuy: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, asshole
GunBunny: So hostile
Knife Bnuuy: You’d be hostile too seeing a happy couple if the person you loved since childhood doesn’t even remember you
GunBunny: That sounds like a story
Knife Bnuuy: A very personal one, thank you very much.
GunBunny: But you shared that much
Knife Bnuuy: I’m a little drunk, okay? Shit, it was mostly my fault for not confessing, but I was supposed to act professionally during the one meeting I got with her. And just a month later, the Incident happened, the facility she worked in was demolished, and everyone inside disappeared to god knows where.
GunBunny: That’s rough buddy.
Knife Bnuuy: And I’m going to be honest, it’s one-sided. I’m just one of many street rats she saved, while she is…kind of a big deal. I worked really hard my whole life, selling myself to [PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT REDACTED], just trying to be a little bit of the hero she is.
I’m not a hero. Nothing close.
GunBunny: There there. It’s okay, I’m sort of a coward myself too.
Knife Bnuuy: I won’t go as far as to call myself that
But what I’ve done.
GunBunny: What did you do?
Knife Bnuuy: Many, many questionable things. Cowardice isn’t one of them, but she would be disgusted by whose blood me and my team have gotten our hands stained with.
Can I show my face to her again?
GunBunny: Sounds like you need some help getting her to like you.
Knife Bnuuy: Are you offering help?
GunBunny: Just some casual advice. First you need a cup of dried and crushed rose petals, then a sprig of wolfsbane. Mix those together.
Knife Bnuuy: What?
GunBunny: Let me DM you the rest of the medicine recipe. It’s a perfume that will make you absolutely irresistible and it should be easy enough to make. (edited)
Oh, somebody’s getting groomed, either for sex or for crime. Lovely. None of your business right now though. “I Am Fire” can deal with it (for free).