Eientei and Lunar Capital
Forest of Magic and Flower Fields
Hakurei Border and Afterlife
Hakurei Shrine, Human Village and Myouren Temple
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Youkai Mountain and Heaven
Underground and Makai
not a color we know
Underground & Makai
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2010/07/18 (Sun) 07:03
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The Hell of Blazing Fires. Aptly named, for in this environment combustion is the natural state. Here, fire reaches an omnipresence paralleling that of air in the overworld. For those that dwell within, this state of affairs is either comforting, or a reminder of all that one has lost.
For a certain raven, the first is true. She has lived in these blazes throughout her short lifetime, with only vague assumptions to define what exists beyond its confines. Flitting from plume to plume, her wings fill with superheated air. Many other creatures share this space with her, but she is looking for one of them in particular.
She finds the dichromatic cat wandering the fringes of the magma pits, deep in the heart of this hell. It is a popular locale to burn bodies, because the infernal fluid draws in even the ashes of corpses. Finding her here is unusual, as she does not often manage to claim bodies. Indeed, she has yet to earn her wheelbarrow. Perhaps this day has brought her success?
“Orin, Orin!” the raven calls.
The cat looks up, her expression unreadable even to those well versed in the reading of demonic feline reactions. “Hello, Reiuji.”
“Are you down here because you procured a body to burn?” the raven inquires.
A sour look crosses the cat's face. “No.”
“Oh. What for, then?” the raven replies, enthusiasm falling.
“I'm working to keep the magma going. It needs tending lest it go out, you know.”
“Oh, yes, I know.” The raven didn't. She believes her friend, though.
The cat paws at the bank of the lava flow, looking thoughtful. She is waiting. It'll come, it always-
“How can I help?” the raven asks.
Masking her sigh, the cat replies; “Well, I suppose you could look for some coal. It never hurts to have more fuel.”
As both present know and an onlooker might suspect, finding intact coal in a place such as the Hell of Blazing Fires is quite unlikely, if not impossible. But one of those three has the common sense of a true Gensokyoan native. Which is to say, none at all.
“Very well then! I'll return with some. Keep up the good work, Orin!” the raven declares.
She departs, leaving the cat to her unoccupied misery.
Further and further from the magma pits, the hell raven flies. She has the requisite cunning to realize her chances of striking coal are highest where the flames are softest, as uncomfortable as those places may be. The maze-like outer tunnels are the coolest places in all of hell, so she makes for them specifically.
These are pitch black, and even her unholy sight provides only vague shapes in the normally impenetrable dark. She does not go far before a frigid hand snatches her out of the air. The cover of a lantern comes off, and she sets eyes on her captor. A mortal?
“Even this far out, the air is thick with devils,” the young man says with disgust. He is dressed for war, but alone.
A wiser demon would quail to be in her position, but the raven's impression of mortals is primarily fiction, and she is more curious and excited than afraid.
“A human, here? And a live one at that! What could possibly bring one such as you to the underworld. You bear no illness, no wounds.” The raven gushes wonder.
Taken aback by her enthusiasm, the young man replies; “I've come to retrieve someone. A soul that does not belong here.”
The fountain becomes a geyser. “Oh, but what are they to you? A wife? A sibling? A child?” The raven nearly explodes; “... a king?”
The man's eyes narrow upon her last words. “Not quite a king, but I do seek the spirit of my lord. Dark magic slew him and denied him his deserved rest. You are a perceptive devil. Perhaps to perceptive to let live...” He pauses to think. His only knowledge of demons is fiction as well. “But see here, demons must follow any contracts they make. If you agree to lead me to my liege, I will refrain from crushing you right here.”
The raven thought, her mind turning over half-remembered stories of mortals interacting with demons. Slowly, she spoke. “That is not a proper contract. You equate my life with that of your lord? Disgraceful.” Her ambiguous words were interpreted differently through the lens of the young man's arrogance. Certainly, a single demon's life was not an equal exchange for the life of his lord. His unwitting insult leveled at his lord's very soul shook the young man, but the raven did not seem to notice her words' effects.
“Three truths.” The raven's sudden speech cut through the man's horror. “Excuse me?” he asked.
“If you let me go, I will guide you as you trek through the flames. However, I may lie or tell half-truths. Three times, you may call me out on a statement you believe to be suspicious, and I will correct it. However, if you use all three, your soul belongs to the Hell of Blazing Fires when you die. Whenever that may be, and regardless of your deeds.”
The man regarded the tiny raven in his grip for a long time. Again, his arrogance colored his thoughts. He believed that he could not only tell when the raven lied, but also that he could read the truth without using his “truths.” Truly, the bargain had not changed at all. If this wording made her more inclined to agree, so be it. He commended himself for being so humble, realizing he needed a guide for his hellish expedition to succeed. His self-assured smirk barely concealed, he agreed to the raven's terms.
The raven is bad at telling falsehoods, so told the truth more often than not. Her honesty was more duplicitous than any lie she could tell, for the man second-guessed her answers and added days to his trip trying to circumvent “traps”.
“It's completely safe.” quoth the raven, regarding a certain bridge. It looked sturdy enough, but the cliff faces of the chasm it spanned burned fiercely. How could a wooden bridge withstand that? “Is there another way around?” asked the man. “Two ways, actually. Either we go left to the magma plains, or right.” The raven gestured to her right where a citadel of nigh-molten metal rose up from the fissure's floor, with entrances to both sides on the level.
The man had yet to see magma, but “plains” sounded open and easy to be seen while crossing. Thus far he had met no demons other than the raven and preferred it that way. The citadel wasn't worth considering. “I'd like to use one of those truths now. Is the bridge really safe?”
“It's completely safe.”
Such a scowl played across the young man's face!
Time passed, and the pair neared the location where newly damned souls arrive. The young man wasted his second truth on a triviality along the way;
“Magma is molten rock.”
“The truth now.”
“...magma is molten rock.”
His reaction was unpleasant, to put it kindly!
The man and the raven reach a pit filled with ghostly shapes. In the center, a man in shades of fine clothing stands out due to his distinct form in a sea of weak-willed half-formed monsters. The young man recognizes him immediately.
“Why do the other spirits cling to him so?” asked the man.
“They are jealous of his obvious finery. His ability to maintain his shape, as well.” stated the raven.
“How can I retrieve him from their midst?” continued the man.
It was the raven's turn to scowl. “If I tell you and it's something really obvious, will you get mad again?” She was still cowed by his previous outburst regarding the magma truth.
“Tsch, nevermind. I'll get him out myself.” He was not about to damn himself over something easy. His two truths cost him nothing, the last would claim everything. Thoughtful, the man removed his pack and began searching it. In moments, he retrieved a number of charms and attached them to himself, leaving only his hands unwarded. This would allow him to retrieve his liege while being guarded from the angry spirits.
Thus prepared, he lowered himself into the pit. Enraged spirits recoiled from his kicks and elbows. They learned quickly that they could not touch him, and parted to allow him to pass. He reached the spirit of his lord, who could not speak but smiled appreciatively. The young man reached out to his lord with both hands.
A howl went up throughout the pit, as two freakishly tall spirits grabbed the young man's hands and held him aloft, out of reach of his furious kicks. Lesser spirits scrambled beneath the dangling man, where they began to claw at the dirt. The lord, eyes wide, was dragged back into the throng. Horrified, the young man let out a cry. “Raven! Raven!” He strained to look back, and saw a girl sitting on the lip of the pit, her legs dangling over the edge and slightly swaying. “Yes?” She asked. The voice was the same.
“I'm using my last truth! How do I retrieve my lord from the jealous spirits?!” he cried. Her legs stopped moving, and the raven-girl smiled. A horrible, demoniac smile. “Well, you just gave yourself the answer! They are jealous; of what he had, what he is.” The spirits below him continued to gouge the earth, and the tall spirits holding him began a shuddering howl.
The girl leans forward, eyes wild, smile impossibly wide, her fingers drumming against the edge of the pit. “But there is something they are even more jealous of. If you use that, you can distract them.”
A cold weight settled over the young man's heart, despite the flames surrounding him. “And what... and what would that be?”
“They want someone to come and rescue them. Give them a savior.”
The smaller spirits clambered out of the hole they had dug, screeching. The tall spirits slammed the young man into his grave, while the diggers covered him with soil as his voice joined their choir. The tall spirits waited for his hands to stop twitching before letting them go.
“Orin, Orin!” called the raven.
The cat could not disguise her sigh this time. She wasn't complaining, though. That last “errand” got that birdbrain off her back for a whole week. Maybe she would use that one again in a decade or so. “Hello, Reiuji. Did you find any coal?” The cat speaks without turning around.
“Nope!” states the raven, enthusiasm intact.
“Gave u-?” the cat begins.
“I've got a better fuel than coal!” gushed the raven.
Taken aback, the cat turned to look. This was the first time the raven actually had something to show after going on an errand. Her tiny cat jaw dropped.
Utsuho stood in human form, dragging along a corpse. The skin had a bluish tinge and it was covered in dirt, but it was a young man in full war regalia with charms warding everything but his hands, which she dragged him by. The value of such a catch among the corpse-carrying caste is nearly incalculable, and anyone bringing such a prize in would gain immense prestige, and certainly a wheelbarrow if the retriever did not yet possess one. Kaenbyou looked to Utsuho uncertainly, teetering between awe and jealousy.
Oblivious to her friend's inner conflict, Utsuho beamed and brought the corpse's hands forward. “Here you go, Orin!” Rin had never seen the sun, but if she had she would have likened Utsuho's smile at that moment to it.
Kaenbyou's knees gave out then, and she began to cry. Startled, Utsuho dropped the corpse's hands and moved to comfort her friend. “Hey, hey, Orin! What's the matter? Orin?”
My groove is back where it belongs. I'm going to sleep now, then get back to working on "I think I've finally gone insane."
2010/07/18 (Sun) 17:08
Nice little short, I like how the guy was too suspicious of the overly honest birdbrain.
2010/07/19 (Mon) 23:53
2010/07/20 (Tue) 02:23
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This reminds me of the kind of grimdark doujins we see every once in a while from Japan. Beautiful art (writing), wonderful story, mind breaking use of Touhous. That one fantastically dark Byakuren doujin comes to mind.
Great job and a fine return to form. Definitely leaves me feeling conflicted. I kinda wanted the young man to succeed, but you don't simply wander into hell and squander your opportunities like that. If this was a CYOA, I'd feel pretty slighted by the spirits grabbing onto the one unwarded part of his body, but it's not, so I don't. Anyway, thank you for finally giving me something to even out my perception of Okuu after Grue's wonderfully sweet version. This was awesome and you should feel awesome.
I'm compelled to ask what the inspiration was, if any.
sage for gushing
2010/07/20 (Tue) 03:51
I love this. Good to see you writing again Unbounded.
2010/07/20 (Tue) 05:17
My initial bouts of writing for this site left me worried and more than a little self-conscious, but I must admit;
I had to stop writing this piece a few times to get the "fuck yeah!" out of my system.
Sometimes I'll spontaneously consider a character that has made an impression on me in-depth (It's not a phenomenon exclusive to touhou, but the bare-bones canon involved in touhou gives a wider range for it to play out). Considering their motivations, origins, etc.
This one in particular dealt with two things;
1. How Utsuho and Rin became friends, because that kind of loyalty doesn't show up easily.
2. Why Utsuho is portrayed alternately as dense and insightful. Seems to me she's the type with high capacity for certain things while neglecting others. See title.
While not all of these... "considerations" result in writing, every submission I've made has originated in this way. The short preluding ITIFGI obviously stems from Yukari (specifically the limits of her powers as applied to self-defense), but ITIFGI itself draws inspiration from
, which will become apparent if I ever finish the next update for that.
This trend is likely to continue; earlier today another one jumped out at me, involving Medicine Melancholy of all people. I'll write that one once ITIFGI wraps up.
...I'm not sure if that really answers the question. If it doesn't, just pretend all that text says "Hells if I know."
2010/07/20 (Tue) 13:39
Man, mixing aspects of old anvilicious fables and touhou into stew quite delicious. Good to have you back man.
2010/08/01 (Sun) 15:22
...this was pretty damn good. Wonderfully done, dude.
2010/09/26 (Sun) 20:21
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