“Um, I’m kind of curious about the process… ” you begin, putting on a look of puzzlement and curiosity as you reply to the girl. Midway through it, however, you raise your hands, flailing them around a bit erratically as you consider the words you’ve just said. “Er… that’s not to say that’s the only reason I would help out! Even… even if I wasn’t I’d still help, so—”
“Thanks!” Sanae says brightly, flashing a grin as she excitedly claps her hands once. Enthusiastic, she turns to Lady Kanako with a look of eagerness and anticipation. “So what should we do first, Lady Kanako?”
“Go on out and find a suitable tree to cut down,” she says in a much more subdued tone of voice, instantly losing the fervor and exuberance she had before as she lazily stretches her body out on the floor, lying down on her side and using one elbow to prop her head up. “Then carve it up with an adze.”
“Adze…?” Sanae repeats in a confused voice.
She turns and looks at you questioningly, but you shrug your shoulders to indicate that you don’t really know what that is, either.
“It’s a tool for carving wood. You use that the carve the tree into a pillar,” Lady Suwako pipes up helpfully, raising one hand up toward the ceiling and waving it around, the wide sleeve around her wrist falling to her elbow. “If you look in the shed you should be able to find some it in there. There ought to be an axe in there, too.”
“Oh, I get it,” Sanae replies, nodding her head enthusiastically. “So you’re going to help us too, right, Lady Suwako?”
“Huh?” Lady Suwako freezes, her eyes widening. Quickly lowering her raised hand, she lifts a sleeve to her mouth and weakly coughs into it. “Er… g-gee, I’d sure like to help, but—koff, koff! I-I must be getting frail in my old age!”
…Um, is that really something she should be saying with that kind of appearance…?
“Oh, really…?” Sanae says, worried. Uwah, does she seriously believe her? Not losing any of her energy, however, she turns to the other god next. “…That’s a pity, but even with just Lady Kanako’s help, we should be able to do this no problem, right?”
“Cough, cough,” Lady Kanako replies, not even bothering to actually fake a cough as she continues to lie there on the floor. Raising one hand, she waves it around dismissively, and speaks with absolutely zero motivation. “…Oh, I must be getting old, too. You two go ahead and take it on your own.”
She’s really not interested in the work itself, is she? After all, she’s probably used to just having her worshippers follow her every command. Still, she could really stand to come up with better excuses than that…
“Well, okay…” Sanae says, looking somewhat discouraged but not completely lacking in drive. “Then, we’ll take care of it.”
“Right, have fun!” Lady Suwako says, looking somewhat guilty as she lifts her head to give the two of a parting look.
“The tools should be in here,” Sanae says as she opens the old, rickety looking door to the tool shed, carefully pushing it open.
Sunlight shines into the dark interior of the small little wooden shed, illuminating the scattered dust in the air flying around, blown up by the air displaced when the door swung open. Fumbling in the darkness, the shrine maiden tugs on a small string attached to the ceiling, causing a light bulb hanging at the center of the small room to light up.
“Let’s see… where are the axes…?”
She heads further inside, looking around the cramped space. Taking a careful step inside the shed yourself, you look around in wonder at the assortment of things lying around. Most of the stuff here seem extremely old and rusted, like the snow shovel resting in the corner of the shed. There’s a few things that stand out here, though, like the roll of shimenawa and the stack of paper charms held together by a paper band. On one side of the shed, you can see a strange device with two, giant wheels connected by several bars, with what seem to be handles just above the first wheel and something like a seat above the second.
A… bicycle, right?
Just like the one…
“Ah, found it!”
You snap back to attention as Sanae turns around, holding a very old, very rusty axe in her hand. Even from just a first glance at it, it looks like it couldn’t cut through paper, much less a sturdy trunk of a tree. You stare somewhat doubtfully at the chipped blade of the act. Even Sanae, soon having gotten over the initial joy of having discovered the tool, looks at it with a blank expression, before closing her eyes and smiling.
It is a dangerous looking smile.
“Ahahaha…” she laughs in a hollow tone of voice, completely at odds with her “cheerful” expression. “It almost seems like we’ve been had, doesn’t it...?”
Though she really should have seen it sooner.
“I-is that the only axe in here?” you ask nervously, stepping back.
“It seems that way.”
“Um… what should we do with this, then?” you ask yourself as you continue to stare dubiously at the axe in her hands.
[ ] Give it a try with that. Maybe looks are deceiving?
[ ] Complain to Lady Suwako.
[ ] Maybe you can borrow an axe from a kappa?
[ ] Give it up.
[X] Use the last durability left on the Axe to cut a small tree. [X] Break the tree trunk into several planks. [X] Break the planks into sticks. [X] Combine 4 planks to make a workbench. [X] Use the workbench to make a wood shovel and wood pickaxe. [X] Dig downwards. [X] Use the pickaxe on the stone layer. [X] Go back up, and use the workbench, cobblestone, and sticks to make a stone axe. [X] Go back down, and keep breaking rock until you get iron and coal. [X] Go back up, and use the workbench and stone to make a furnace. [X] Smelt the iron ore into iron bars. [X] Take the iron bars and sticks, go to the workbench, and make an iron axe. [X] Use the new iron axe to cut down a big tree.
Too much minecraft.
[X] Have Sanae complain to Lady Suwako.
[X] Stay outside, ignore any scuffle you hear.
[x] Give it a try with that. Maybe looks are deceiving?
-[x] But not too hard, we don't want the head to snap off and clock Sanae
-[x] And if it breaks, well... your sword can cut through a dozen trees with just one slash! What use is something like an axe for a Tengu?
“I... guess we could try using it,” you answer your own question, uncertainly raising your hand and scratching the back of your head as you continue to stare at the dull, rusted edge of the axe. Well, it certainly does look old, and it certainly does look like it’d break on contact with anything decently solid, but, um, maybe looks aren’t everything? “I mean, it is a god’s tool, after all.”
“R-right... you’re right!” Sanae says, though judging by the tone of her voice, she’s only saying that to convince herself the same thing. Her smile widening into a grin, she holds the axe up in front of her. “I’m sure Lady Suwako wouldn’t give us something totally worthless, right? I bet this is like... you know, that thing: Something that looks useless at first, but then when you do use it, it’s completely peerless! I’m sure this axe must be something like that... probably.”
Or it could be a piece of cra-
“Alright, let’s go!” she says, turning to you and nodding, having completely regained her enthusiasm and walking out of the shed.
“Um, so what are you looking for in a tree?” you ask as the two of you trek down the mountain path, heading off toward one of the many gatherings of trees in the area.
“Let’s see...” she says, hefting along that axe, bouncing the back of its head against her shoulder as she walks. “It has to be a Japanese fir tree, at least two-hundred years old. It’s got to be around a meter wide, and sixteen meters in length.”
“That’s some pretty strict standards. Oh, by the way, isn’t that heavy? Should I carry it for you?”
“Oh, this?” she turns her head to you, tapping the axe handle with her free hand. “No, it’s okay. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to try cutting a tree down, like a lumberjack! Well, not that I have a lot of interest in lumberjacking, but, you know, just to give it a try? I mean, not a lot of girls get to try their hand at logging, so this is kind of exciting for me.”
It really takes so little to get her ecstatic about something doesn’t it?
“Oh! This one looks good!”
Having spotted what (presumably) matches what she’s looking for, she runs through the grass toward a tree standing tall near the river leading to the waterfall. Bristling with myriads of thin, pointed branches, it certainly does stand out as a little impressive compared to its brethren standing around it. Quickening your own pace, you follow after the wind priestess as she comes to a stop by the base of the tree’s trunk, pointing a finger at it and turning her head to look at you as you approach.
“This one will do,” she says simply.
“Really?” you say, looking up at it. “...Shouldn’t we measure it first, though? I mean, how do we even know if it’s really two-hundred years old?”
“Divine intuition,” she says.
That’s a convenient answer, isn’t it...?
“Then, I’ll cut it down with one strike!”
Sanae briefly puts the axe down on the ground, taking a moment to pull back her sleeves, which really seems like a pointless gesture as they drop back down to normal as she bends to retrieve the axe again. Taking a deep breath, she lifts up the axe and readies herself for a swing, apparently having lost all doubts about its capabilities on the way here. Preparing for the worst, you take a few steps back, making sure that you’re not standing directly behind the girl. Or in any position where you’re likely to be hit should the axe-head ends up breaking off and sends itself flying at you.
Letting out a warlike cry, she swings the axe and... the dull blade bounces off the wooden surface, not even making a small chip in the wood. The force of her swing rebounding onto her arms, she lets out a surprised shriek, immediately losing hold of the handle and dropping the axe to the ground as she crosses her arms together, holding her upper-arms while letting out a pained squeak.
“Owww...” she whines pitifully, looking down at the axe that has fallen at her feet. “F-forget what I said before, lumberjacking is kind of painful...”
“Are you okay...?” you ask as you step toward her, reaching down to pick up the dropped axe.
“My arms feel numb...”
“I guess this is useless after all,” you say with a frown, looking down at the rusted axe in your hand. “We can’t cut down anything with this.”
“Ohhh...” she says, scowling as she looks vindictively at the axe you’re holding. Turning in the direction of the mountaintop, she stamps down with her foot, yelling in frustration, “Lady Suwako, you suck!”
You give her a moment to collect herself before asking, "What should we do with this?"
Still somewhat seething, Sanae turns around with a frown. “...You don’t suppose if we toss it in the river, a water spirit will appear and offer us a gold axe or a silver axe, do you?”
“I, um, I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Hmph,” she pouts, puffing up one cheek as she walks over to you, taking the axe from your hand. “...I guess we shouldn’t just throw it away, though. That might upset the spirit inside of it. Um... maybe we should pray to its spirit to make the cutting edge better...?”
“Yeah,” she nods, holding up the axe in front of her and patting the side of the blade. “All things have one or more spirits within them, like tools and objects and stuff. They’re basically what gods are. Even Lady Suwako and Lady Kanako have containers that act as vessels for their divine spirit. That’s what shrines are for.”
“...Well, I’m probably not really good at explaining these things, so I’ll tell you more about them later, when I find a way to lay it out clearly,” she says, sighing. “...But for now, I guess we should go complain to Lady Suwako about this.”
You nod, and following the less-than-satisfied girl, you begin the long walk back up to the mountain shrine, intending to follow the river upstream, until...
She flings the axe into the river.
“Oh no, I dropped it,” she says with a completely unconvincing voice, looking mock-shocked.
She stands still in front of the flowing river, though by the look of it, even she's doubtful this. Though you don’t think anything’s going to happen at all, you walk up to her side, watching the river in silence with her. To your surprise, however, a small little group of air bubbles begin swarming around near the spot where the axe plunked through the water, and a moment later, a girl's head breaks through the surface of the river.
“A water spirit!” Sanae says excitedly, clapping her hands together as she turns her head to you with a joyful smile. “It’s a water spirit!”
It’s, um, it’s just a kappa. She’s already seen them. A lot of them.
The kappa, poking only her head out of the water, glances up at the two of you with a completely deadpan look before speaking in a similarly deadpan voice, “Was it a golden axe you dropped, or was it a silver axe you dropped.”
Play along with that old story, even though we're likely to get shafted.
By the way, don't ever expect to cut down a tree with a gold or silver axe. The metal's too soft, and that's why some versions have the lumberjack break down in tears when he gets the gold one instead.
>>16944 >If you're adding gold because you want the item to be shiny and resist corrosion, there's cheaper alternatives such as chromium.
Cheaper in the outside world, maybe. In the event that there are any precious metal mines in Gensokyo at all, though, they're probably gold mines, and either way, I don't think the Japanese had stainless steel figured out by the 1800s.
“Oh, oh, I know!” Sanae shouts out eagerly before you can do anything, her eyes practically sparkling with excitement as she gazes down at the unamused kappa floating in the river. “Um, we didn’t drop either one, even though those would be pretty nice. The axe we dropped was a really old, really rusty one.”
“Sort of like this, then,” the kappa says as she raises one of her submerged arms, holding up the useless act the wind priestess dropped into the river. “Is this yours?”
“Um...” you begin to mumble. “T-that’s... um, we’re so—”
“So, it is yours, then,” the kappa says with a scowl, dunking her arm back into the water. “...Okay, that’s all I wanted to know. See ya.”
“H-huh?” Sanae says, taken aback. “Wait! Um... aren’t you going to reward us for being honest?”
“No, why should I? Shouldn’t honesty be a natural virtue? That’s what’s wrong with all you humans: you all have this undeserved sense of entitlement. Axes made of gold or silver would be useless for logging, anyway. What were you going to do with them, hang them on walls?”
A look of indignant anger flashes across Sanae’s face for a brief moment, her cheek reddening slightly out of embarrassment. Still, she manages to keep her voice steady and her tone polite as she speaks, “T-then, can we at least have that back?”
“Screw you. This thing hit me on the head.”
...And with that, the kappa dives back under the surface of the river. You look over nervously at Sanae, whose hands have clenched themselves into fists, her whole body shaking. Finally losing it, she reaches down quickly and picking up a rock from the ground, she throws it as hard as she can into the flowing river.
“Ooooh! Get back here, you... you thief!”
“Um, you know,” you begin quietly. “Even if she didn’t take the axe with her, it would have just gotten washed away in the river.”
Calming herself down, she breathes in deep, closing her eyes. Her breathing returns to normal after a few moments, and she turns to you with a disheartened gaze.
“...I lost it,” she says despondently looking like she’s about to start crying. “What am I going to tell Lady Suwako...?”
“Er, well, that’s...” you mutter out, fumbling over your words. “Well, it was a very old axe, so I’m sure they wouldn’t miss it...?”
“...Sorry, it was my fault we ended up losing it,” she says, sighing. Discouraged, but not despondent, she bites her lip. “I guess we should head back for now. Without something to cut a tree down with, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
“You need to cut down a tree?” a familiar voice comes from behind Sanae.
The wind priestess lets out a surprised yelp, jumping on her feet. Stepping to the side a little, you see Nitori casually floating in the river, looking up at the two of you with a look of interest. Touching a couple of fingers to her breast as she turns around, Sanae greets the kappa with a pleasantly surprised expression.
“Ah, Nitori,” she says, the manner of her speech still somewhat restrained but nevertheless more familiar than with the other residents of the mountain. “Um, yes, we need to cut down a tree to carve into a pillar, but we just lost our only axe...”
“That sounds like a problem.”
Wading over to the shore, she dunks her head back into the river for just a moment before leaping out, somersaulting high up into the air as countless droplets of water shower down from around her. Landing gracefully as she raises her arms into the air, her long dress billowing around her knees, she straightens her stance, her hands gripping the straps of her backpack.
“A problem I could help solve,” she says, grinning.
“Would you?” Sanae says hopefully.
“Of course. Absolutely. Certainly. Positively,” she says rapidly, her grin growing wider with each word.
“Thank you,” you say, smiling at her.
“You’d be really helping out,” Sanae says, bowing low.
Nitori flinches as she accepts the bow, somewhat awkwardly returning it. She bow so low, though, that her hat nearly falls off the top of her head, and she hurries to catch it, pressing it down against her scalp as she straightens herself again. Sanae, noticing this as she uprights herself as well, looks at the kappa with a somewhat inquisitive look, biting her lip again.
“Um...” Sanae begins somewhat uncertainly, hesitant. “I’ve actually wanted to ask you a question for a while now. Ever since back when I first came here, actually!”
“Huh? What is it, what is it?” Nitori asks, blinking.
“Is it true that kappa have a bald spot on the top of their head?”
“...Huh?” Nitori blinks, puzzled by the question. “Bald spot?”
“You know, the hole in the head where they store water,” Sanae says as a matter-of-factly, pointing at the kappa’s hat. “Don’t you have one?”
Blinking dimly, Nitori reaches up and touches the top of her head, groping it with her fingers and giving it a rap with her knuckles. Lowering her arms, she shrugs her shoulders before giving a reply, “Nope, I don’t think I do.”
Sanae looks somewhat disappointed by her answer, her shoulders drooping slightly. “Oh... well, I guess not all things said about youkai are true...”
“Ahaha, but that reminds me!” she says as she claps her hands together, smiling fondly. “Back when I was in the outside world, we had this teacher, and he had this bald spot right on the top of his head! He kept trying to comb over it, but everyone knew already, so they all called him ‘Mr. Kappa’!”
Nitori responds with an uncomfortably vacant stare.
“...Um, not funny?”
“Seems rude somehow.”
Sanae deflates. “S-sorry...”
“U-um... if we could get back to...” you interject.
“Oh, right!” Nitori turns to you. “You guys needed to cut down a tree, right? Well, I can lend you guys an axe for a bit, ooooor... we could go ahead and use the Kappa Saw.”
“Yup. It goes ‘vrrrm, vrrrrrrrmm!’ and cuts down a tree just like that!” she says excitedly, pumping her arms with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. “It’s awesome! Here, let me go fetch it so I can show you two!”
Without waiting for a response, she turns and dives back into the river. Several minutes later, she emerges from the water again, so energetic this time that she manages to shower you both with a whole lot of splashed water as she lands back on the shore, carrying a large device in her arms.
“Here it is!” Nitori’s muffled voice announces her return.
She’s holding what looks like a rectangular box with a handle, with a giant metal blade sticking out of one end toward the two of you. The edges of the blade are covered with sharp, triangular teeth. With one arm holding up the device, Nitori uses the other to pull back a cord attached to it. At that instant, a terrible roar sounds out from the tool as it begins vibrating rapidly, sparks flying out from the metal blade as the “teeth” spin around so fast that they appear as a blur. That’s...
“A chainsaw!” Sanae gasps.
“Isn’t it neat?”
The kappa’s voice is muffled because she’s wearing a mask; a pale white mask that covers almost the entirety of her face, with two large holes for eyes and about a dozen small ones near the mouth. The appearance, combined with the intimidating nature of the tool in her hands, seems kind of sinister somehow.
[ ] Um, isn’t this thing too dangerous?
[ ] Go with it.
[X]Go for it.
-[X]See about borrowing the mask too. You get the feeling that wood chips hitting your face wouldn't feel pleasant at all. Yeah, that's right, wood chips. I don't plan to massacre anyone...
Still holding some reservations about the safety of that tool, you try to voice your concerns with your eyes narrowed in worry. “Um, isn’t that thing a bit too—”
Vrrrrrrmmm! The chainsaw lets out a ripping roar, sparks flying from the rapidly revolving teeth of the blade as it gives a sudden jerk forward, dragging the small kappa’s arms along with it. Managing to get it under control, she rests the handle against her waist as she pulls up her mask with one hand so that her face is visible again. Reaching up to one ear, she pulls out an earplug.
“What? Sorry, this thing gets kind of loud.”
“Um... well, that is... it’s safe, right?” you ask, somewhat unnerved.
“Of course it’s safe,” she says confidently, pointing up at the mask. “I’m wearing a mask, see? This way wood chips won’t fly into my eyes or something.”
That’s just as well, but that isn’t exactly what you were worried about...
“Is that... really a chainsaw?” Sanae says, wearing an expression somewhere between shock and awe.
“Yeah, you wanna give it a try?” Nitori asks cheerfully, pointing the revving blade toward her and unwittingly brandishing it quite menacingly at her.
Sanae jumps back in surprise, her hands uneasily clasped together in front of her as she looks hesitantly at the roaring tool in the kappa’s arms. On one hand, her eyes are wide and sparkling and she clearly wants to try holding it in her own arms, but on the other her shoulders are slightly drooped and her skin is paler than usual.
“Oh, by the way,” the kappa adds in a casual tone of voice. “This thing’s pretty unwieldy. If it bounces off of something it might go and cut your head off.”
That settles her indecision quickly enough.
“N-no thank you!” she says immediately.
“Okay,” Nitori nods, looking over to you next. “You wanna give it a try, Mikio?”
“I’ll pass,” you say with a half-hearted smile, raising and shaking your hand in refusal.
“’kay,” she says as she flips her mask back down and plugs up the one ear again, turning to the tree and raising up the chainsaw. “This is the one, right? Well, I’ll go ahead and chop it and drop it! You’d better steer clear from here for a bit.”
Nodding, the two of you take several steps away from the tree as the kappa walks around it, surveying it from all sides as she determines where she should make the first cut and where the tree should fall. Having figured those out, she brings the blade of the chainsaw to a certain height, carefully bringing it against the surface of the tree. A terrible, snapping noise resounds throughout the forest as the rapidly revolving chain rips into the surface of the wood. The sound is so loud that it makes you wince a little, cupping your hands around your ears to shield them from the noise.
“By the way,” you say as you lower your hands and turn to Sanae, who’s watching the kappa with a look of great interest. “What do we do once we cut the tree down?”
“Eh?” she jumps at your question, slightly flustered for a second or two before taking another moment to search for the answer. “Um... after we cut it down, we carve it into the shape of a pillar. After that, we ride down—or wait, I guess in this case we would be riding up the mountain, um... or maybe we should take them up to the summit and then ride down them...? A-anyway, after that, we’d take the pillar to the lake and replace one of them.”
That... that really sounds like work that would be beyond just two people. Ugh... did those two gods of the shrine send the two of you on this knowing that you wouldn’t be able to accomplish it by yourselves? How cruel...
“That sounds like an unusual festival...”
“It used to be a really big one,” she says, sighing. “It would be broadcast all over the nation, and at least half a million people would be watching. But, well... the shrine’s influence just started dwindling until no one cared to continue the tradition anymore...”
A great, earthshaking crash alerts the two of you, and the revving of the chainsaw slowly dies away as Nitori turns back around, now standing next to a stump and a felled tree, waving to the two of you enthusiastically with one arm. With a wide, goofy grin, she yells out “Tiiiiiimber!”
“Oh, well done!” Sanae says as she hurries over to the felled tree.
“Thanks for helping us out,” you say as you approach the kappa.
“Shucks, I didn’t do much,” she says, somewhat embarrassed. “...So anyway, what’d you guys need this tree cut down for, anyway? You said something about a pillar, right? So does that mean you guys are gonna turn this into a pillar? Like one of those biiiiig pillars—I counted sixteen—sticking out of the lake you guys dropped here with the shrine, right, right, right?”
“Er, yes,” Sanae says, somewhat overwhelmed by the rate of the questions. “It’s the Onbashira festival.”
“Ooh, festivals,” she says, intrigued. “Festivals are fun. Are the tengu in on it, too?”
She addressed that last question to you.
“Um...” you say, at a loss for words. Probably, no one else really knows about your semi-exile at the moment, and it’s probably best to keep it that way, so you’ll have to come up with something. “Er, we wanted to try this on our own... so we haven’t asked anyone else for help yet.”
“Really?” she tilts her head, eyes widening. “You mean you guys are going to carry that big ol’ tree by yourselves? Wow, that’s amazing! That thing’s gotta weigh something like twelve tons!”
With a look of terror, you turn to Sanae, and given that she has what is probably a similar expression on her face, it seems the realization has only just dawned on her as well. She looks a little unbelievingly at the felled tree at her feet, and then back at the unsuspecting kappa.
“...we hadn’t thought of that.”
[ ] This is definitely too much for the two of you.
[ ] You don’t know until you give it a try, do you?
[x] You don’t know until you give it a try, do you?
“This really is going to be a problem...” you muse to yourself, frowning as you place a hand over your mouth thoughtfully, your eyes wandering over to the felled tree. Simply lifting it up or dragging it uphill is out of the question. Not without the force of at least a dozen people. “Do you think we’ll be able to carry it on our own?”
“Ah? Just us?” Sanae says, looking doubtful of the chances. She crouches down next to the felled tree, reaching out and touching the barky surface. “...I might be able to try something if I can channel Lady Kanako’s wind, but I don’t think it’ll be able to lift something this heavy.”
“You can’t try?”
“Well... I can give it a go, I guess,” she says with a shrug, standing up.
Taking a deep breath, she raises one hand up into the air, pointing a finger up to the sky while closing her eyes. A moment passes, during which she holds her breath, her expression focused in concentration. A few moments later, however, she lowers her arm and opens her eyes, letting out her breath as her cheeks glow red slightly.
“...I didn’t bring my gohei with me.”
“...Is it necessary?”
“Yes. I’ll, um, I’ll be right back,” she says, turning around and floating off into the air, heading toward the summit of the mountain, back to the shrine.
Sighing, you turn back over to the tree lying on the ground, leaning over forward with one hand on your knee to support yourself. It really is too much work to expect from two people, isn’t it?
“She’s pretty hard working, isn’t she?” you hear Nitori say off-handedly.
“Yeah,” you say, putting on a small smile. “She’s been eager to prove herself capable ever since she met with Miss Marisa and Miss Hakurei when she first came here.”
“They must be pretty tough competition, huh?”
“Well, at the moment, her shrine doesn’t exactly have a lot of renown compared to those two,” you say, shrugging your shoulders. “People have been interested, but they’re a bit hesitant to really put their faith in it.”
“Heh. Maybe she should go out resolving incidents like those two! That would boost her popularity for sure, wouldn’t it?”
“Ahaha... maybe,” you say as you slowly straighten your body again, turning toward the summit of the mountain, where you can see a small speck in the air slowly grow larger, until its identity becomes clear.
“I’m back,” Sanae says as she gracefully lands on the ground, holding her gohei in her hands. “Right, I’ll get right on it!”
“Well that’s because when I went inside the shrine, the first thing Lady Suwako asked me is if I was already giving up!” she replies indignantly, swinging her gohei down in an irritated manner. “Can you believe that? They sent us out here thinking we’d just give up and go home sooner or later! That makes me so mad!”
...Well, though it was pretty obvious that they were thinking that from the start.
“Home situation must be pretty complicated,” the kappa says with an uneasy laugh.
Letting out a “humph,” Sanae turns toward the fallen tree. You back away from it, so as to give her more room to work with, and she steps forward, thrusting out the gohei in front of her with the end of it parallel to the ground. Closing her eyes, she places her left hand on top of the bit of paper, touching its surface with the tips of her fingers. Immediately, a gentle wind rises around her, the dirt and sand at her feet spiraling up into the air in a circle.
“O brave god of hunting, god of war, god who gives life to the land and molds the earth into blades, god who sits high atop the mountain and strikes down the wicked with divine lightning...” she whispers in a low, almost mystical voice.
She lifts her hand from the gohei, the tip of her index finger glowing red and leaving trails of light in the air as it moves. The light dances back and forth as she waves her finger around, pointing it to the sky as she draws an elaborate star-like pattern with that red light. As she lowers that hand, the red light shifts to a pale blue color instead, leaving blue trails of light mixed in with the dazzling red pattern.
“Ooh,” Nitori says, watching the show with an awed expression. “Is she summoning a god?”
Hearing that, Sanae immediately opens her eyes and turns around. “Oh, no, this is just preparation. It is a bit fancy, isn’t it?”
“...Um, is it okay to just stop like that in the middle...?” you ask.
“Oh! Right, sorry,” Sanae nods, turning back around and closing her eyes again, taking a deep breath before continuing where she left off.
“Takeminakata, who creates the very elements of the heavens... Heed my call and grant me the power to control thy wind!”
Opening her eyes, she relaxes a little, and the wind that gathered at her feet dies down, allowing the floating bits of debris to settle back down on the ground. Then, thrusting forward one hand, she focuses intently on the fallen tree before her. New wind begins to gather beneath the felled tree, gentle and weak at first, but quickly gaining in strength and ferocity. As seconds pass by, the intensity of the wind grows exponentially, and within mere moments, the small whirlwind becomes a great typhoon. Slowly, but surely, the tree begins to rise just an inch above ground.
“It’s working!” you say excitedly, grinning despite having to struggle against the air being sucked into the miniature typhoon before you.
...And then the tree falls back down to the ground.
“Ugh...” Sanae lets out a groan, managing to stay standing but completely taxed beyond her current abilities. “No good. It’s just too heavy.”
Though it seemed like she was almost capable of lifting it. Maybe this approach is just a dead end, after all...
[ ] Swallow your pride and ask for help.
[ ] Try a different method.
Damnit lets get this tree back to the shrine and tell Kanako and Suwako where they can take the tree and shove it! What about Mikio though? I'm not saying channel HeadGames just for this but he ain't exactly a weak human either right?
>>17129 Besides the fact that I don't think I'll ever see a Japanese fir tree that large, this particular tree is 1m wide and 16m tall. Seeing as a tree can weigh over 500kg (1100lb.) per cu.m, do the math.
>>17128 That was pretty simple compared to most incantations, spells and such. You could come up with this by watching an episode or two of some magical girl anime and putting your own spin on it. After that, it's just how much detail you describe your image to be.
>“That sounds like an unusual festival...”
>“It used to be a really big one,” she says, sighing. “It would be broadcast all over the nation, and at least half a million people would be watching. But, well... the shrine’s influence just started dwindling until no one cared to continue the tradition anymore...”
I do believe there is more to be gained from asking for help than to try to prove something by being stuborn. The festival was big, with many people participating, but now there are only two people trying to do it.
What would impress (ans please) the goddesses more? They being able to do it alone, or they gathering more people to partake in the shrines festivals?
“Not yet,” you say, folding your arms together again as you look down at the tree, frowning. It’s going to be impossible to simply lift the tree and move it around for very long, so that option is right out. But even so, you still want to try to accomplish this on your own, without any more help than you’ve already received. “Let’s not give up just yet.”
“But it’s hopeless,” Sanae says, letting out a small sigh. “There’s no way we can pick it up.”
You bite your lower lip. That’s probably true, at least for her... but even then, there’s a way to carry it without actually lifting it, isn’t there? If you can’t move something, then use something else to accomplish that. But, is that possible with the limited power you possess? Possibly, though it would be more easily managed if you had assistance.
“...That’s right, we can’t,” you say, nodding in affirmation. However, even as you admit that, you haven’t given up. You walk over next to the tree once again, crouching down and extending a hand in its direction. However, your palm doesn’t touch the surface of the tree, but rather, the ground. “We can’t move the tree itself, but... Can’t we move the earth beneath it?”
“Rather than moving the tree itself, can’t we manage it if we move what it’s on instead?” you say, turning your head to look back at Sanae, who gradually seems to understand what you mean, although she doesn’t look too hopeful.
“Wouldn’t it still be too heavy?”
“I think it’d at least take less effort than trying to lift it,” you say, shrugging.
Sanae nods. “I guess we could give it a try. Give me a moment.”
She steps forward, standing next to you. Closing her eyes in concentration for a moment, she sinks down while holding her gohei in both hands as she slowly raises it over her head. She opens her eyes, and then lowers the tip of the gohei to the ground, giving the earth at her feet a gentle tap with the end of the rod. The ground gives a small shake as enormous rows of what look like giant fingers trap the trunk of the fallen tree between them. Sluggishly, these granite fingers clamp around the wooden surface, securely holding the tree in their grasp.
“...Okay, I’m going to try to move it a little now.” Sanae says, standing up from the ground, looking a bit woozy.
She claps her hands together with her sealing rod still held in between her palms, and the clamped fingers clenching the tree in their grip slowly emerges from the earth with considerable noise, a clenched palm emerging from beneath the tree. A giant fist is now jutting out from the ground, having grabbed the tree by the middle of its length and holding it up from below.
“Whew...” the wind priestess lets out bated breath, relaxing a little. “...Well, now what?”
“I’ll take it from here,” you say, stepping forward ahead of the girl. You reach out and touch the clenched fist made of stone, concentrating. “If it’s manipulating what already exists, then that’s something even I can do. I’ll restructure the earth beneath the tree bit by bit so that I can move it without exerting too much energy.”
Demonstrating just that, the earthly hand sticking out from the ground begins to squirm and ripple slowly, sluggishly moving forward in what almost looks like a glide. The earth raised beneath the tree is being broken apart and restructured at a rapid rate, only giving off the illusion of movement. Normally, it’d be too tiring to manage that for too long, but even if you’re lacking in power, control is something you have confidence in. Like this, you’ll be able to move it back to the shrine without too much of an effort.
“Hee hee,” Sanae giggles into one sleeve, looking delighted. “I bet Lady Kanako and Lady Suwako will be really surprised when we come with this~!”
“You guys are really something else!” Nitori says while clapping lightly, looking impressed. “I didn’t think you would be able to do it, so I was gonna go fetch the other kappa to help you guys out, but I guess you didn’t really need that, huh?”
Sanae folds her arms together, smirking somewhat smugly. “Well, it’s no problem at all for a living god! Oh and, um, a tengu, too.”
You show her a weak grin. Even though she came so close to giving up, she seems to have regained her confidence quickly enough. You’re still concentrating on keeping the tree moving, but you can probably divert just enough attention away to hold a conversation, at the least. You begin walking along with the moving tree, walking toward the summit of the mountain as Sanae and Nitori hurry after you.
“Oh. Question!” Nitori says to Sanae, looking inquisitively at her. “Back when you did that preparation ritual thing, you called a god named Takeminakata, right? But weren’t you channeling Lady Yasaka’s power back then? So why didn’t you call her that? Who is this Takeminakata fellow?”
“Takeminakata is one of the names that Lady Kanako is known by,” Sanae says, pointing a finger up and wagging it as if lecturing someone. “According to her, gods are sometimes known by many names and identities.”
“Huh? How does that work?”
“Um, well...” Sanae bites her lip, apparently struggling to get the words out. “It’s mostly because what humans believe isn’t necessarily the absolute truth. Gods are, um, well they’re literally shrouded in myth, so there’s a lot about them that are never passed on or misunderstood. For example, um, the acts of a single god might be attributed to multiple gods, or the acts of multiple gods might instead be attributed to a single god.”
“And so the acts of Takeminakata were attributed to Lady Kanako?” you ask, curious.
“Um, yes, and no,” Sanae says, looking somewhat uncertain and confused herself. She takes a moment to pause and recollect herself before continuing. “Lady Kanako is known as Takeminakata, but she was also known as his wife Yasaka-tome, and Takeminakata was known in the native lands of Suwa as the god Moreya.”
“Moreya?” Nitori repeats, raising one eyebrow. “You mean like, Lady Moriya?”
“Yes... and no,” the priestess says again, her frown deepening. “You could say that she was Moreya, but you could also say that Lady Kanako was Moreya as well, and Moreya was Takeminakata, but the mythical Takeminakata never actually existed so you couldn’t really say that and, and...”
Her eyes are practically spiraling around and she ends up biting her tongue.
“...How does that work out?” you ask, just as confused.
“They never really explained it to me in detail,” Sanae says with a sulking expression. “Every time I tried to bring it up, they’d start acting all weird and not say anything about it, or try to change the subject, or... well, they really don’t seem to want to talk about it much.”
[ ] They must have their reasons.
[ ] They should tell her the truth.
You feel your lips tightening, your mouth curling into a disapproving frown. Though it isn’t really something you should speak up about, as it was the gods’ decision to keep their history from her, it isn’t something that you can allow her to remain ignorant of. Of course, since you’re in no position to speak about the matter, you won’t force the issue, but if you can at least give a little push, then it might be able to be resolved.
“...Aren’t you curious about what happened?” you ask, a little more vocally than you intended to. “Don’t you want to know why it is that things at the shrine are the way they are?”
“Well, of course I’m interested,” she says, folding her arms together in front of her with a conflicted expression. “...But, I just thought that if it was something that they didn’t want to talk about, I should just leave it be. I figured they would... they’d tell me when they’re ready, or when I’m ready, whichever one...”
“They might never tell you,” you say quietly in response. “You might never find out if you’re not the one to take initiative.”
She bites her lip, lowering her head slightly as she quietly ponders over your suggestion. Slowly, she raises her head again, still looking slightly unsure in expression but nodding firmly. “You’re right. This is something I shouldn’t not know. I’ll... I’ll ask them tomorrow -- no, today, when we get back.”
You nod, smiling as you look up toward the summit, at where the shrine is located. You’re about halfway or so there, and you don’t feel tired in the least. It should be easy to make it there at a steady pace like this, though the ground is beginning to become steeper and more uneven. Still, it won’t be too much of a hindrance, especially since...
“I think I’ll say bye here,” Nitori says as she walks ahead of the two of you, twirling around while still hefting around the chainsaw in her arms. “I gotta put this away, anyway. It still needs a lotta work, too, the chain’s kinda messed up a little just from cutting through that tree, so I gotta look into that and tinker with it a bit, oh, but I’ll definitely come around to see you work on the pillar, so expect me, ‘kay?”
“Oh, er,” Sanae says, taking a moment to process the rapid-fire dialogue from the kappa. “O-of course we will. Um, thanks for the help! We really couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Shucks,” the kappa replies, her face reddening slightly.
“See you,” you say, smiling.
She nods at you, before running off in the direction of the nearest water source.
“Lady Kanako, Lady Suwako!” Sanae yells joyously at the shrine grounds, one hand cupped around her mouth. “Come on outside!”
It takes a few seconds for the door to the back of the shrine to slide open, revealing the two gods standing behind it. Lady Suwako rushes out first, putting on her shoes before hopping off the porch. Lady Kanako follows behind her at a slower, more relaxed pace, almost lazily stepping outside with an expression of boredom.
“Holy cow!” Lady Suwako says in surprise when she sees you still hauling the tree behind you using the earth. “You seriously brought back a tree!”
Lady Kanako nearly seems to do a double-take, failing to keep herself from flinching in shock and then doing an abysmal job of masking her surprise as she coughs into a fist.
“W-well, it’s only what I would expect from my own priestess,” she says, trying to play it off cool. “Of course she did it.”
“You totally expected her to fail.”
The other god’s remark goes by unnoticed, or perhaps ignored, as the sky god walks over to the two of you, looking fiercely proud of the two of you.
“Well done. You’ve done more than enough for today,” Lady Kanako says. “The festival normally takes over two months to complete, so the rest can be done at a later time. There’s still much to do, of course, but it should be no problem for the two of you, right?”
“Of course,” Sanae says, nodding.
“Oh, by the way,” Lady Suwako says, speaking up. “A kappa came by just now. Hold on.”
She rushes back into the house, nearly tripping over while climbing up the porch when her foot slips, her arms flailing around wildly before she manages to upright herself, running past the door. She returns after a brief moment, holding something in her arms.
“Here. She just came by and left us this without so much as a word,” she says, outstretching her hand to show the object in question to the two of you.
“Oh!” Sanae says, taken aback. “This is...”
It’s the axe the two of you “lost” to the river. Only, it seems to be in much better condition than before, with all the rust having been removed. The metal of the blade’s been completely reworked, no longer chipped and battered. The edge has been sharpened, and the flat of the blade polished to the point where you can almost see your own reflection in it.
“Did you have it commissioned or something?” Lady Suwako asks, curious.
“N-not exactly,” Sanae says, reaching out to take the axe from her god. “I’ll, um, I’ll go put it back...”
She rushes off, her face somewhat flustered. So that kappa you ran into took the axe to restore it for you, even though she acted so hostile... though you wonder whether she had done it for your sake or simply because she couldn’t stand seeing the tool in such a state. Either way, you can’t help but smile a little as you watch the priestess run off toward the tool shed.
“...But this really is a strange custom, isn’t it?” you reflect out loud, looking back to the tree you carried all the way up to the shrine. “I’ve never heard of something like it before.”
“It was a lot grander back in the days,” Lady Kanako says, folding her arms together. “At the festival, my subjects would offer to me a sacrifice of over seventy-five deer.”
“That’s right. It reflected the way my people would praise and worship me,” she says proudly with a firm nod. “...Though near the end of the tradition, they started using stuffed animals instead. Something about the ritual being ‘barbaric’ and ‘cruel.’ It’s a sign of just how much of a standing gods have been reduced to in the outside world, I suppose...”
“...Um, you’re not going to make us offer animal sacrifices, are you?” you ask apprehensively.
“No,” Lady Suwako answers with a darker expression than usual. “...It’s an antiquated tradition from antiquated times. When we came to this world, we’d already decided we’d let go of the crumbling kingdom of the past, anyway. And I’d rather not take up that particular custom again.”
“Well...” she begins, narrowing her eyes. “Back when—”
“Suwako,” Lady Kanako quickly cuts her off, casting a sharp warning glance at her.
The other god bites her lip, glaring back at the god. The two of them lock eyes, as if they’re having a silent debate between one another, neither of them giving inch. Lady Kanako seems to want her to silence herself, while Lady Suwako seems to refuse to allow herself to be silenced.
“What is it...?” you ask with a shaking voice, a bit apprehensive about what you may hear.
Lady Kanako turns away, folding her arms together and looking out toward the lake, avoiding the gaze of the other god, who closes her eyes and pauses for an instant before turning her head back to you. Parting her lips, she begins to speak in a dreamy tone of voice, her eyes unfocused as though reminiscing in the memories of the distant past.
“These onbashira were used for a different purpose, a long time ago, before there was even a kingdom of Moreya. Back when curse gods known as the Mishaguji commanded the worship of Suwa’s people,” she says, walking over to the tree hauled up the mountain and taking a sit on the stump, caressing its barky surface with one hand while seated. “...And the sacrifice offered to them wasn’t a deer.”
You remain silent, your body stiffening. Your body... begins to burn. You close your eyes, the outer layer of your skin feeling as though it’s heating up. Parts of your face, your hands, and your entire body feel like they’re being set ablaze, cruel eyes surrounding you as their cruel hands press their merciless fire against your body, covering it with burns that would never fade away.
“A small boy, no older than eight or nine,” Lady Suwako continues to speak as the other god obstinately refuses to look at her, “He would be tied to the base of the pillar, using the sacred shimenawa. While bound, he would be approached by a priest, carrying a ceremonial dagger...”
That boy would be killed.
He would die lamenting and resenting his fate, for the sake of appeasing the never ending hunger of those ravenous gods.
Keeping your eyes closed, you take in a deep breath. The air smells of smoke now. Fire. The unstoppable, uncontrollable flames spreading and growing wider, filling the air with the scent of burning wood and flesh, raging on in spite of the rain pouring down from the sky, the flashing of lightning and the crashing of thunder accompanying the raindrops as they fall to the dry, dead earth.
“...The onbashira aren’t just objects of worship,” Lady Kanako finally speaks up, still looking out toward the lake, at the rows of pillars standing tall in the middle of the water. “The lake itself is a graveyard. A cemetery dedicated to the children whose lives were sacrificed to the Mishaguji.”
You turn toward the lake, casting your gaze across its shining surface. The lake itself holds the stolen lives and the shattered dreams of those who had fallen victim to unfair circumstances. All of their regrets and their laments remain there, as symbols of this shrine’s dark past...
“...How terrible,” you say quietly.
“Ahem,” Lady Kanako clears her throat exaggeratedly, sitting up straight with her shoulder broadened seemingly to show off her authority. Before she continues, however, she takes a quick sip from the teacup handed out to her by Sanae, apparently having strained her throat. “...Right. We will now begin the weekly discussion on the standing of the shrine.”
Lady Suwako shrugs. “There’s not really much to say.”
“That’s precisely the problem,” the other god says, pointing at the map of Gensokyo spread out on top of the problem. She circles the area around Youkai Mountain with the tip of her index finger, before jabbing at it fiercely. “Our sphere of influence hasn’t increased at all in the last few months! It should at least be a little bigger now, shouldn’t it?”
“Hey, hey, these things take time, y’know? Can’t help it if people’re a little afraid to try something new. They’ll come around soon enough.”
Lady Kanako sighs, shaking her head while folding her arms together in front of her. “...Certainly, our influence will grow with time, but how long will that take? We’re still not anywhere near the level of power we were at back in our prime. We need a different way to attract worshippers.”
“Maybe what we need to come up with is an incentive for people to visit the area,” Lady Suwako says, frowning. “Like a hot springs resort or something.”
“There’s only one natural hot springs spot on this mountain,” you interject. “The tengu have control of it for their own use, though.”
“Really? Bummer~” she sighs. “Isn’t this mountain supposed to be a volcano?”
“A hot springs resort...” Lady Kanako repeats, raising a hand to her chin. “...You might be onto something with that, midget.”
“Huh? But he just said...”
“We don’t need natural hot springs,” she says with a smirk. “If we boil water, then it becomes hot, doesn’t it? We can create artificial hot springs that way.”
“And just where are you going to get enough energy to constantly heat something as big as a spring?” Lady Suwako asks doubtfully.
“The infinite energy of the sun, of course,” Lady Kanako replies confidently, holding up a single finger. As she does so, flames erupt from the end of her fingertip, condensing itself into a blood-red sphere with a black, slit pupil in the middle of it. “I’ve been holding on to the essence of Yatagarasu, remember?”
“Oh yeah!” the other god replies, her eyes widening in realization. “...So you did collect it for a reason, did you? As sly as always.”
“Um... what is that?” Sanae asks, looking curiously at sphere revolving around above her god’s finger. “Yatagarasu... the three-legged bird of the sun, right? That’s its ‘essence’?”
“That’s right,” Lady Kanako nods, lowering her hand as the red sphere blinks out of sight. “As an emissary of Amaterasu, I was entrusted with the essence of Yatagarasu, whose mortal body was killed in battle a long time ago.”
“You can’t use it, though,” Lady Suwako says with a frown. “And Yatagarasu isn’t able to manifest its virtues anymore, since it lacks a proper form, so Sanae can’t even call on it.”
“Well, we just need to create a new vessel for it.”
“Isn’t that dangerous? Yatagarasu was pretty crazy from what I remember. It once tried to completely scorch the surface of the world, didn’t it?”
“Don’t worry, it’s been without form for so long that its ego should be tremendously weakened,” Lady Kanako replies, that confident smirk returning to her face. “It won’t affect the new vessel’s personality too much. Now, the only problem is to find an appropriate vessel for its powers...”
“Um... Lady Kanako?”
“So why is it that our shrine has two gods?”
“Alright, meeting adjourned!” Lady Kanako says with a clap of her hands, unnecessarily raising the tone of her voice. Scrambling forward, she begins to fold up the map she had laid out on top of the table. “We’ll talk more about the Yatagarasu plan next week. Now, who’s hungry?”
“I am!” Lady Suwako says hurriedly, raising her hand. “Sanae, what’re ya gonna cook for dinner? I mean, I’m always fine with anything you make, but I was just wondering~!”
[ ] Don’t let them get away with this.
[ ] What’s for dinner?
Kanako and Suwako have given us a home when they didn't need to and we owe them enough to not force what may be an issue for them.
What we can do is support Sanae from the sidelines and help her talk to them about it in the near future. When it is obvious that she does desire to know what is going on (which will become obvious if she asks on multiple occasions) then they will tell her.
Despite his masked appearance, Mikio is not eminently comfortable with deception, which is what he sees it as, given the wording of the choice. It is uncharacteristically aggressive for him, but I can't help but wonder if it's the sentiments of the more brash (and paternalistic in regard to Sanae) Hoshuu that he took into himself. And if that's true, this becomes even more attractive an option since nothing has actually come of that yet.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m speaking out of line, but...” you begin somewhat hesitantly, trying to sound as polite as possible while still making your point clear, choosing your words carefully, “...I believe that if she wants to ask something, then that question shouldn’t go unanswered like this. At least, give her a reply...”
Lady Kanako freezes, turning her head slowly, fixing her gaze on you with a difficult to read expression on her face, though if you had to describe it, you’d say it’s about halfway between grim acknowledgement and astonishment. She folds her arms together again, a deep frown besetting her features. She glances to Lady Suwako, who returns to her a similar expression. The littler god sighs, reaching up and pulling the brim of her hat over her eyes.
“I s’pose it’s about time we told you,” she says in a resigned tone of voice, connecting her sleeves together as she begins speaking in a rarely heard tone of voice that seems to carry mature qualities. “...A long time ago, there were two factions of gods. The amatsukami, the heavenly gods who resided in takamagahara, the realm of the gods, and the kunitsukami, the earthly gods who ruled over the world of humans. The kunitsukami ruled over various small kingdoms dedicated to their own worship.”
“Then one day,” Lady Kanako picks up where her fellow god left off, shutting her eyes. “Amaterasu, the leader of the amatsukami, sent her grandson, Ninigi-no-Mikoto, down to the earthly realm to unite all the islands of Japan under the rule of the amatsukami. He founded a kingdom with the help of the other heavenly gods that would later come to be known as the Yamato.”
“That’s right,” Lady Suwako says, taking a deep breath. “...And that was the beginning of the war between the heaven and the earth. The kunitsukami fought with all they had against the amatsukami to prevent the spread of Yamato and gave every valiant effort to defend their rule, but...”
Lady Kanako opens her eyes, running a single hand through her hair in a melancholic gesture. “They lost. One by one, their kingdoms were conquered and made a part of Yamato. Those who submitted to the heavenly gods were made subservient to them, and those who refused to give up either died fighting or ended up banished to a remote corner of Japan, their worship made taboo and their history written out of the central myth of the nation.”
“...That’s terrible,” Sanae whispers.
“That’s war,” Lady Kanako replies stoically, though from her expression it’s easy to see that she seems a little shaken, remembering those times. “...Near the height of the Yamato conquest, one kingdom in particular proved to be especially difficult to overcome for the amatsukami forces: the kingdom of Moreya, defended by its ruler and the Mishaguji curse gods that god had tamed.”
“Yup, that’s how we ended up meeting,” Lady Suwako says with a nod, a sly grin creeping on to her face. “We were two gods on the opposing sides of a war.”
“...You really were a handful. You iron weapons were superior to any bronze weapons forged at the time, and with the Mishaguji, you would cripple the invading armies with diseases, shortened food supplies, and complete demoralization before they even had a chance to attack. Anyone who challenged you would be fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. The amatsukami ended up suffering defeat after defeat.”
“Though that wasn’t going to last forever, obviously...” the smaller goddess says darkly, pulling the brim of her hat over her eyes again.
Lady Kanako smirks a little at this, seeming somewhat proud of herself. “Of course. It was inevitable that you’d meet your match sooner or later.”
“Heh,” Lady Suwako snorts, looking to Sanae. “This idiot god was just as audacious back in those days as she is now. She just marched right into my kingdom without so much as an army and demanded that I fight her one-on-one over the rule of the shrine.”
“That sounds like something she’d do,” Sanae replies with a weak laugh.
“Anyway, I figured she was just an insolent upstart of a god,” Lady Suwako says, shaking her head and sighing before going on. “...So I accepted her challenge to humor her a bit, but, well, it didn’t really turn out the way I expected them to. The iron weapons that I thought made me invincible were corroded away in an instant.”
“You went to school, didn’t ya, Sanae?” the god says with a mischievous grin. “What happens to metal when it’s exposed to air and moisture?”
“...Oh! You mean...”
“Yup, she was a bit cleverer than I thought she would be,” she says, shrugging. “She used her rain and her wind to rust my weapons and break them to pieces. So I threw in the towel and handed over the kingdom to her.”
“...Why?” you ask.
“Well, you can’t fight change, or something like that, I guess,” she replies with a somewhat sheepish look in her eyes. “...Actually, to be honest, I guess I was a little tired of playing leader. Before I was a king, I was just a lake spirit, you know. The lake out in the back of the shrine... it used to be my dwelling before I was enshrined here. I... wanted freedom again, I suppose, though, it didn’t take long for problems to come up...”
“Problems?” Sanae asks.
“It was Kanako, see,” she says with a grim smile. “She couldn’t get the Mishaguji under control. They rebelled against her rule and cast a curse on the kingdom of Suwa herself. It was hit by a plague, a drought, and a famine, and because of that, the people of the kingdom had no faith in her ability to rule.”
“That was hardly my fault,” Lady Kanako says bitterly.
“Soooo... she came begging for my help.”
“I did not beg.”
Lady Suwako ignores her as she goes on. “So together, we subdued the curse of the Mishaguji, and decided that we would share the rule of the shrine. To do so, we decided to create a figurehead of a god; in our kingdom, the god would be known as Moriya, outside of the kingdom and in the central myth of the Yamato, it would be known as Takeminakata.”
“Oh, so in a way, both of you are Takeminakata and the god Moriya,” Sanae says with a look of dawning comprehension, clapping her hands together.
“That’s right,” Lady Kanako says, nodding. “The tale of Takeminakata fighting the god Takemikazuchi was only a twisted allusion to our battle, modified throughout history by both age and the hands of the amatsukami, with this froggy playing the part of Takeminakata and I playing the part of Takemikazuchi.”
“Then, what about the god Yasakatome, said to be the wife of Takeminakata?”
“Oh, that was just me,” she says, snorting with slight hint of annoyance in her tone. “...Because Takeminakata, or Moriya, I should say, didn’t actually exist, I served as ‘his’ representative to the people of the kingdom, conveying ‘his’ divine decrees, which were really just mine. Anyway, I guess a few people thought I must be his wife and the rumor just spread until it basically became the accepted truth.”
“Ohh...” Sanae says, nodding along. “That makes sense...”
“Aaaaand that about wraps it up, I guess,” Lady Suwako says, taking off her hat and fanning herself with it. “Boy, I need a glass of water after all that exposition. Anyway, any questions?”
[ ] “Do you regret what happened?”
[ ] "Why were you so keen to avoid the subject?"
[ ] “What’s for dinner?”
[ ] Write-in.
[ ] Nothing further.
[x] "Why were you so keen to avoid the subject?"
You sit there, biting down lightly on your bottom lip, gazing intensely at the pair of gods seated at the table. There’s more than this. There’s more to this story than what they just told you, and you know that. It doesn’t matter what it is that they’re trying to hide, but rather, the reason behind the secrecy is what’s caught your interest right now. Why...? Are they doing it for themselves, or are they simply trying to hide the truth from their priestess? Are they doing it for their own sake and interests, or because they’re care about Sanae...?
“And so...” you slowly begin, your voice barely above a whisper. It’s very hard to keep your voice from shaking, but you take a gulp of air and carry on regardless, even though your throat is screaming in protest against you. “...Why is it that you wanted to dodge the subject?”
“Eh?” the frog goddess raises her brows, surprised by the question.
“Ah...” Sanae gasps slightly. “Oh, that’s right. Why were you so keen on trying to avoid telling me all this, Lady Suwako...? I don’t really get why you would do something like that...”
“Ah, um, well, uh... it’s nothing, really,” she says, nervously scratching her cheek with one finger. “It’s just, y’know, complicated and long, you see? It... it would have been a pain to explain everything like this, but we were gonna tell you eventua—”
“Gods also have things they would rather not remember,” Lady Kanako interrupts gravely, turning her head away. “...Those times hold painful memories for both of us. Just as a snake sheds its old skin and leaves it behind to grow larger and stronger, we decided that we would let go of those times and always look forward to building ourselves a better future.”
...Yes, that’s a very understandable sentiment. The desire to forget the painful events of the past and walk on a new road to a brighter future, lest you be halted in your tracks and become unable to take even a step forward, the shadows of what happened long ago wrapping its dark tendrils around your limbs to trap them and leave you unable to move on...
“Um... then, did I bring up something unnecessary...?” Sanae says, looking concerned.
“No,” Lady Kanako shakes her head, reaching out across the table to place her hand on top of the girl’s head, affectionately messing up her hair. “Sorry we kept it from you for so long. It was out of our own selfishness that we didn’t tell you, even though you’re the closest human to us.”
Out of the corner of your eyes, you see Lady Suwako biting her lip.
They didn’t lie to the two of you or anything like that.
“Then, I’ll get right to preparing tonight’s dinner,” Sanae says, clapping her hands together enthusiastically as she stands up from the table. “The kappa gave us some fish the other day. Um, how would you like it prepared? Um... let’s see, I think we have enough ingredients to make a stew, but maybe I could try grilling it...”
What they didn’t tell the two of you is...
You look up from the horizon, finding that Miss Aya has landed down on the same tree branch you’re seated on, her ever-present fan gripped tightly in her hand as she looks down at you with a friendly grin. Hopping off the branch, she seats herself next to you, the sturdy branch shaking only slightly from the sudden weight.
“It’s already the end of spring, huh?” she muses to herself as she looks down at the scenery of Gensokyo spread far out before her, bathed in red by the setting sun behind the two of you. She fans herself in a slightly annoyed manner. “Sure does feel like summer already. Even up here where the wind never stops, it’s getting pretty hot.”
“I think the weather’s pleasant enough,” you say with a far-off smile, enjoying the breeze. “I’ve always handled the heat better than the cold.”
“So, it’s almost been a whole season already since you’ve been staying at that shrine,” Miss Aya casually change the topic, though it’s easy to see that that’s what she wanted to talk about from the moment she approached you. “Have you been let in on any juicy secrets? Like, for example, a hidden torture room built underneath the shrine or something like that, the walls and the wooden tables covered in bloodstains that are over a few centuries old...”
“Of course something like that doesn’t exist,” you say with a small laugh.
She frowns somewhat disappointedly, taking a moment to click her tongue to express her dissatisfaction. However, she quickly regains her enthusiasm, and a grin returns to her mouth as she gets ready to fire off her next question. “So then, how’s your progress with the wind priestess going?”
“Progress...?” you turn to look at her inquisitively.
“Y’know,” she says, jabbing her elbow against your arm a few times as though she’s suggesting something, “A forbidden romance between a human god and her tengu bodyguard, living under the same roof? That would be quite a scandalous story if it got out, I’d say.”
“It’s not anything like that,” you say directly.
Miss Aya deflates again, her shoulders sagging a bit as she lets out a sigh. “...Well, it’s not like I would have been allowed to write about it anyway,” she says, shrugging it off. “But you know, Miki, girls like a sense of humor. You should just play along with it sometimes when I ask something like that.”
“If I did, you would have taken me seriously.”
“Geh,” she makes a noise like she’s just bit down on her tongue. Somewhat embarrassedly, she places a hand behind her head. “Well, not gonna deny that at all. It’s kinda hard to tell what your expressions are like, what with that mask in the way and all, so I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not.”
Unconsciously, you reach up with your fingertips to meet the cracked and battered surface of your pure white mask, running your hand over the many fractures in the material. You lower your hand and shake your head. Though you would also like to take off this mask, for right now, it would be best if it stayed on.
“So, you haven’t been having any difficulties adjusting to that place, have you?” she asks with one eye closed, looking somewhat concerned for your well-being. “They don’t bully you over there or anything, do they? If they do, just tell me about it and I’ll write up a bunch of articles to damage their rep.”
“You don’t have to do that,” you say, once again letting out a weak laugh. “...They’re very kind, all of them. Lady Yasaka might always act extravagant, but she’s actually straightforward when it comes to matters other than just appearance, and Lady Moriya is carefree and very fun to be around.”
“...You don’t really look like you’re happy, though,” she says, studying you. “You seem a little down, even.”
“Really...?” you say a bit curiously, turning your head forward to stare out at the scenery dyed in the radiant glow of orange, pausing as the breeze picks up for a moment and brushes across your body, whipping your sleeves about in the air. “...I’m just wondering if I really do belong there.”
“Huh? Why wouldn’t you?”
“They seem so happy, to be living together like that. They... really seem like a very tightly knit family. I... feel like an outsider sometimes, watching them,” you say with a sigh, turning your head away and placing a hand over your forehead. “I wonder if I can really be a part of that.”
“Sounds to me like you hate being happy or something,” Miss Aya says with a scoff, and as you turn back to her, she reaches out, jabbing you in the chest with a finger. “Listen, if you keep thinking you don’t belong, then you won’t ever be able to fit in like that, and you’re just going to end up getting in weird funk like this, so keep your chin up!”
You give her a brief stare before chuckling, looking out in front of you again. “...You’re right, Miss Aya. If I feel unhappy now, then that’s because I’m putting myself through that. It’s a silly thing, isn’t it...?”
“Of course it is,” she says, fanning herself a bit more furiously now.
A comfortable moment of silence overtakes the two of you, as the sun slowly sinks behind the top of the mountain, gradually filling the sky with less light. Shifting your body slightly, you turn your head to the side to look at Miss Aya again, deciding to interrupt the silence.
“...Say, Miss Aya, the black-white witch was here just now, wasn’t she?”
“Eh?” she lets out a surprised gasp, flinching slightly. “Uh, well, no! Of course she wasn’t. If she did come here, I’d chase her off right away!”
“You don’t really have to try to cover it up like that. It’s not like I’m going to report you to the daitengu.”
“Er... well, I guess you wouldn’t. Honestly, that burglar thinks just because we let her be around once she can drop by whenever she wants to and I’m the one who has to hide her from the other tengu whenever she visits. It’s a bit of a pain to be a part of an organization like this, isn’t it?”
“Do you resent it?”
“Uh... well, sometimes I don’t get my way because of it, but I don’t mind too much, I guess. Why?”
You shake your head. “...It would be terrible if you were made to do something you hate, wouldn’t it? If you weren’t given a choice to refuse.”
“Now, now, what’s this?” she says, crossing her arms together. “Is that idiot Inukawa pushing all of his work on you still? Or... are you talking about those times when I would drag you along to interviews?”
“No, no,” you say, shaking your head once again. “I just... wanted to ask, that’s all. It’s nothing like that, Miss Aya. I had a lot of fun, going around Gensokyo with you, even if I did end up in some trouble every now and then.”
“Oh,” she says simply, seeming a little embarrassed somehow, a very slight flush blooming at her cheeks. “...Well, you want to go out tonight?”
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” she says, grinning as she withdraws a pen from her breast pocket, twirling it around between her fingers. “So, why don’t you go on a little date with me? You look like you need a bit of cheering up, anyway.”
“Well, let’s see,” she says, nibbling on the end of her pen. “...Tonight’s a full moon. You’ve never been to the human village at night on a full moon, have you?”
“Um, is something different about it tonight?”
“Hah, well, let’s just say it gets a bit more festive than usual,” she says, cackling somewhat evilly. “If not there, we could just go for a drink and some food, too. I know a place. It’s a food cart a bit of a ways away from the village, but the food there’s pretty decent and the booze is good too. The owner never shuts up, though.”
“Oh, wasn’t that featured in one of your articles?” you say, vaguely remembering the piece in question. “A food cart run by a sparrow youkai...”
“Right, right, that. The business’s gotten unexpectedly popular. We might run into some interesting faces there, even. So, how ‘bout it, Miki?”
[ ] Let’s go to the village.
[ ] Let’s go eat.
[ ] On second thought, you don’t really feel like going out tonight...
>>17328 I know that. I may have missed the full moon part on my first read, but I did catch "run by a sparrow youkai". It's just that Mystia/Mokou seems to be oddly popular for coming out of sheer nowhere.
But really, Mokou would probably be in the village, if we were to find her at all.
“Well then, that’s decided,” Miss Aya places one hand on the tree branch she’s sitting on. Pushing herself off of it, she drops out of the branch before casually floating up, fanning herself with her hauchiwa as she turns to face you. “Let’s get going, shall we?”
You nod, also dropping out of the branch, stopping yourself from falling through concentration. Lifting your body up to even level with Miss Aya, you smile at her and say, “Lead the way.”
She pauses, her grin becoming a bit more devious, as though she’s getting a weird idea into her head. “You want to link arms while we’re flying there?”
“Ha...?” you say, a bit puzzled. “Um, but won’t that be uncomfortable? Flying like that, I mean...”
Her mischievous grin becomes a frown, and she sighs before shaking her head. “Never mind, then. Honestly, Miki, sometimes I really wonder about you...”
As you blink several times in confusion, she clears her throat and turns back around toward the rest of Gensokyo, pointing her fan in that direction. Energetically, she yells, “Alright, let’s go!” before flying off at a high speed, leaving you in her dust. Quickly regaining your senses, you fly off after her, attempting to match her speed to the best of your abilities.
By the time you reach the area near the main human village, the sun has set completely beyond the Youkai Mountain, the sky now lit only by the faint glow of the moon and the stars overlooking your night’s flight. A little ways off from the brightly lit village, following a trail leading out of it, the two of you see a small stand down below, lit only by a few lamps hanging from the roof. Miss Aya lowers her flight altitude, and you follow suit, eventually touching the ground as you walk the rest of the short distance to the food cart. In the air, you can smell a faint, delicious scent of something cooking on a grill.
“Hello~!” Miss Aya calls out in a familiar tone as she walks up to the stand, grabbing a stool for herself. “A regular customer’s here~!”
You follow after her, taking a sit on a stool next to her. You take a moment to look around yourself; there do seem to be a couple of other patrons, but they don’t seem likely to be human, all of them possessing one or more animal features, whether it be ears or a tail. They don’t quite seem as... wild as actual beast youkai, however, and the way they seem to jovially laugh and eat together suggests that most of these patrons are at least familiar with one another.
“Well, it’s always swarming with half-beasts at around this time of the month,” Miss Aya mutters to herself.
“Half-beasts?” you ask, curious.
“Yeah. Therianthropes,” she replies, withdrawing her fan from her side and beginning to fan herself with it again. “Humans that transform into beasts under certain conditions. For most of them, it happens during a full moon, though. There are actually quite a few of them living in the village.”
You nod, and turn your face forward, looking for the owner of the stand. You find her at the back of the kitchen, a slim, petite girl dressed in a brown kimono with a white handkerchief tied over the top of her head like a bandanna. Sticking out from her back is a pair of brown-feathered wings, tucked in so as to not get in the way of her work.
“Excuse me~!”Miss Aya cups one hand around her mouth to call out toward the girl. “I’d like to place an order!”
The winged girl turns around, her gaze following Miss Aya’s voice to the two of you, seated at the stand. Humming a tune to herself, the sparrow youkai places two skewers of meat over her grill before making her way to the front of the stand. Before either of you can say anything, though, she opens her mouth.
“Crow, crow, two crows have come ~♪” she sings in a shrill voice. “But what strange birds they are, they have no wings~♪”
“Yes, yes, we are quite strange,” Miss Aya says, sounding somewhat annoyed. “Anyway, just give us the usual.”
You get the feeling that you ran into her some time back, though you can’t place exactly when it was that you met her. Shrugging it off, you look up at the large wooden sign hanging from the top of the food cart, displaying childish, crudely written characters, which you assume to be the menu, though the only items for sale appear to be “grilled lamprey” and “sake.” It’s a bit hard to not have a usual when there are only two things to choose from.
“Coming right up,” the stand owner says cheerfully, turning back around as she begins humming again, nearly skipping all the way back to the grill.
“Sure seems to be spirited tonight,” Miss Aya notes, looking at the girl’s back. “Her chirping’s a bit louder than usual. Business must be doing well.”
“Um... is this stand popular with humans?” you ask, looking to her. “...I don’t really see any around.”
“Hm? Ah, well, not really,” she shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t really get why. The food’s cheap and quite tasty, and I guess you could consider the owner’s singing as an extra service, but for some reason, not a lot of humans really seem too keen on coming around here.”
“On a night when the moon’s full, the humans run in terror~♪” the sparrow youkai sings in an especially loud voice, catching the attention of nearly everyone at the stand. “They run and run but they get torn to shreds in the dark~♪”
“I wonder why?” Miss Aya says absentmindedly to herself.
Turning your eyes back to the kitchen, you watch the stand owner go about her work, taking two skewers off a grill and letting them sit for about half a minute before dipping them in a pan full of brown, thick sauce, some of it dripping to the ground as she withdraws the skewers. Holding each of them in her hands, she walks back to the two of you, handing the skewers over.
“Thank you,” you mutter as you take your skewer, looking curiously at the sauce-covered meat pierced on it.
While you bring the skewer near your mouth to take a bite out of it, the stand owner brings two cups over to the front of the stand, setting them on the countertop before fetching a bottle of sake, pouring the liquid inside into the cups she placed on the countertop before putting down the bottle next to the cups. Miss Aya gladly snatches up her cup, taking a quick swig of it. As for you, you take a bite out of your skewer; the meat tastes very... delicate, the sauce covering it giving it a sweet taste.
“This is pretty good,” you say, taking a hold of your own cup and drinking a sip from it. “...The sake tastes a bit watered down, though.”
“Well, the owner here’s a bit of a cheat,” Miss Aya says in a low voice. “This probably isn’t even lamprey we’re eating. That girl’s surprisingly cunning for a little birdbrain.”
...It’s a bit strange for her to be calling other people that, isn’t it?
Miss Aya starts on her skewer as well, taking an occasional drink from her cup and refilling it as necessary. You take your time in eating as well, looking around the stand and watching the other patrons here. Some of them seem more animal-like than the rest, their skin covered in light fur rather than being bare and smooth like a human’s, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from associating with the more human-like customers, raucously talking and laughing with one another over their drinks.
“...Gensokyo’s advanced pretty far,” Miss Aya notes, watching the patrons as well.
“Yeah,” she says, turning to face you with a faint smile. “About a hundred years ago, you wouldn’t ever be able to see a scene like this, half-beasts openly enjoying themselves out on a full moon. They used to be a pretty brooding, moody group of people, operating in total secrecy and all, away from the eyes of the human village.”
“Because humans were afraid of them,” she says as-a-matter-of-factly, pouring into her cup. “Most of the half-beasts lived completely shunning their youkai side, trying to hide it from others, though they’d usually end up forced out when people began getting suspicious of their longevity. They’d either lock themselves in during a full moon, or head out of their homes, far away from anywhere where there are humans. But, well, that’s all in the past, now. No one has to hide it anymore; humans accept them.”
“But just a hundred years ago...?”
“Yeah,” Miss Aya nods. “Amazing, isn’t it? One of the daitengu once wrote that the drastic changes to human societies within a short period of time are only made possible by their comparatively short lifespan, as opposed to the stagnation present within the society of long-lived youkai like the oni and the tengu.”
...Maybe that’s right. But if it is, then why is it right? Is it because...
[ ] ...people can change...?
Is it because they can change that they cast off the prejudices of the past?
[ ] ...it’s impossible for people to change...?
Do those prejudices simply die with those who hold them?
[x] ...people can change...?
If the second option were correct, then the fathers would pass the hate to their sons, making the fear and paranoia virtually endless.
Guess they learned that, as long as they don't try to kill each other, all living things can coexist.
Youkai are born from humans no? They don't seem THAT different to me...
If the second option was correct then hate would die when the father died and that would be the only way for the hate to end. Hate does tend to get passed down the family, such as racism, and it takes a long time for that hate to finally be removed from society.
>>17354 And then we have to explain to her that, technicalities aside, Mikio is essentially an entirely different person than Hoshuu, and should be treated as such. Unless Hoshuu's personality starts leaking into Miki, at which point that statement would be moot.
If they couldn't, human society would change with time but youkai would still be living in the Stone Age.
Oh, and here's a hypothesis as to why Kanako and Suwako are reluctant to discuss the past: the mishaguji rebelled when Suwako retired, but didn't fall back in line when she made the deal to share power with Kanako. So they had to compromise and use human sacrifice to buy back their loyalty.
It might not be impossible for people to change. They may be able to break off the shackles and chains that bind them to the prejudices and burdens of the past after all. Only through change and development, can they overcome the cycle of hate and suffering, and escape from that wheel of tragedy. If nothing were to change, then that cycle would remain constant and static. Nothing would change, even after countless millennia.
Then... what about me? Can I... can I change, as well? Can I reject what I am – what I was always meant to be and always will be if I don’t fight against it – and break free from this cycle of misery...? Is it... even a possibility for something like me?
you already tried
...Yes, I have tried before. I tried, again and again... I tried so hard to be what I wasn’t, desperately trying to change what I am. But even despite that, again and again, I failed and sank into misery time and time again. I just... couldn’t let go of my own nature. No matter what I did, no matter what I wanted to become, I would never be allowed to throw away my own nature.
its impossible for you
But even so, I want to try. I want to try, just one last time, to change. I’ve already decided... I don’t want to be bound by my own past. That’s why... I don’t need you anymore.
you are a coward unwilling to face the one truth there is to your existence
Maybe. Or maybe I’m brave for trying to resist it?
either way you are a fool
...Even if what I’m doing is illogical and foolish, it won’t stop me. I don’t have much longer, anyway. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from taking this one last chance to finally break free from my own binding. I won’t be stopped from doing this, no matter what. If I can’t change what I am, then instead, I’ll change who I am.
Isn’t this what he would want me to do?
You have no way to know for certain.
What you are doing is putting on a mask to hide yourself once again. A mask so fragile and battered, so shallow and thin, that even the slightest damage – a glancing blow, a trivial mistake – will shatter it to bits to reveal your ugly, detestable nature. And when that happens, the cycle will only repeat itself once more. You know that there is only one way that you can break free from it, and that is to remove yourself from everything.
If that’s how things go, I...
...then you will be unable to resist your deepest, most desperate desire.
...I don’t want to let that happen.
“...Miki? You’re doing that spacing out thing again.”
“Eh?” you suddenly turn your head to Miss Aya, your thoughts still in a bit of a haze.
She gives you a funny look before pointing at your hand. “Look, all the sauce is dripping down your hand.”
You look down at your hand, now covered with the thick brown sauce, dripping from the sauce-coated meat stuck on a skewer. The lukewarm sauce continues to travel down your wrist as you stare blankly at it. Sighing, Miss Aya grabs a napkin from nearby the table top and starts dabbing away at the sauce before it reaches your sleeves.
“Honestly, Miki. You’re not a kid anymore, you know,” she says.
“S-sorry Miss Aya,” you say, taking the napkin from her hand to clean up the rest yourself. “I’m sorry. I was... just thinking about something, that’s all.”
“You must have been thinking pretty hard to not notice that,” Miss Aya says, frowning while crossing her arms together. “C’mon, Miki, we came out here for the food and booze. You have plenty of time to contemplate the mysteries of the universe, but now isn’t one of them. Just relax and enjoy yourself! That was the whole point of coming out here, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah... yeah, you’re right, Miss Aya,” you say, offering a weak laugh and taking a bite out of your now cooled skewer. “...Let’s enjoy ourselves.”
“Glad to hear that. You know how to have fun, don’t you? Let’s order some drinks, maybe sing along a little with the sparrow – no, wait, she doesn’t like it when other people sing because she can’t hear herself. Ahh, hell, that doesn’t matter!”
...Yes, now is the time to be enjoying yourself.
Quite some time later, the two of you are on the trail leading back to the mountain, moving at a slow pace along the quiet and deserted path. Though at first you were traveling by air, since it was quite late and that was obviously the fastest way to make it back home, it soon became apparent that that might not be the best of ideas, considering that Miss Aya’s flight course seemed rather dangerously erratic and seemed like she’d crash to the earth at any moment. As for why, that would be because...
“Miss Aya, you’re completely drunk,” you say, looking beside yourself at the woman clinging tightly to one of your arms.
“I’m not drunk at aaaall. That much is just a warm-up for a tengu,” she says stubbornly, despite her breath reeking of sake and her face completely red from its effects. Even her gait is clumsy and uneven, missing a step or two once in a while even though she’s practically dangling off your arm. “...Ooookay, maybe... maybe just a liiiittle drunk.”
“You didn’t have to drink so much...” you say, sighing.
She doesn’t reply, just following you as you continue to walk toward the mountain, her slender arms wrapped around your own, keeping herself very close to you. She leans her head against her shoulder, and closes her eyes. If her legs weren’t keeping her moving, you’d suspect her to have dozed off, sleeping peacefully like this.
“...you’re not a kid anymore, Miki,” she says, still keeping her eyes closed.
“No, I suppose I’m not,” you say, looking to the sky.
“You know, you really make me worry sometimes,” she says, lifting her head from your shoulder with an uncharacteristically somber expression and tone. “...like how you’re going to live from now on, or who you’re going to fall in love with... you know, stuff like that.”
“You mean like a mother,” you say.
“Older sister,” she insists with a bemused giggle, leaning her head against your shoulder again. “I’m only a thousand years old, y’know. I’m too young to be a mother! Besides, Momizi fits that role better than me, doesn’t she?”
“Ahahaha...” you laugh weakly again, “...if you say so. But isn’t she younger than you are, Miss Aya?”
“Details, details,” she says, making a dismissive gesture a wave of her hand. “...well, either way, I won’t deny that tengu are long-lived, even compared to youkai.”
“...Yeah,” you nod.
“That’s probably why I worry about you so much. We live for thousands of years, so we don’t really mind each other too much, but with you it’s different,” she says, her voice becoming somber again. “...Human lifespan is just too short, you know? Sixty years... sixty years is like a blink of the eye for people as long-lived as we are.”
“I know, I know,” she says, her voice gradually becoming more high-pitched. “I’ve seen a lot of humans die over the years. You know... friends I knew, strangers I’d never met, and people I had become acquainted with by chance or through my vocation... When they died I just felt something like ‘well, that’s just how humans are’ or something like that and never really thought too much of it.”
You nod along, silently listening.
“But you... well, you’re like family,” she says, her voice a bit choked up. “...Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I wonder if I hadn’t been sleeping for years and you’d died without me realizing it, and everyone had forgotten about you already. It’s stupid, thinking about stuff like that, but it scares me, you know...?”
“...Now who’s the one thinking too hard about something?” you say with a slight grin.
“Pfhaha,” she lets out a half-hearted laugh, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand even amidst her weak laughter. “...ahaha, you’re right. This isn’t like me, is it? Still, I was just thinking... you know, it would be good if you were really a youkai, wouldn’t it? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about stuff like this...”
[ ] “Yeah, that would be good...”
[ ] “...I’m sorry."
Chill out, this is just a hypothetical situation, this vote has no ramifications whatsoever.
...just like the last few, now that I think about it. If I had something to complain about this story, it'd be the pacing.
[X] “...I’m sorry."
His humanity is what makes him unique... Guess it's my turn to take things too seriously.
Mikio is already something other than human, this response is basically a confession, in his own passive way, to Aya of what's been happening to him.
It's almost unanimous that we want Mikio to find peace. One part of finding peace is being at peace with himself, which means he'll eventually have to accept that he is at the very least a hanyou, if not a full-blown youkai or a mishaguji. Accepting what he is, however, doesn't mean he has to start listening to his base instincts and start randomly attacking youkai, any more than Aya has to attack humans or Kanako has to demand fealty at swordpoint.
(In B4 "I'm sorry" and other votes like it cause Mikio to dig his own eyes out once his porcelain mask gives up the ghost)
Mikio isn't competely human anymore, is he? But then again, this isn't a matter of what, but one of who. Even if he really becomes a complete youkai, or somehting else, what really matters, is who he is.
Cheer Aya up guys; when someone is worried about something like that, always try to take the most positive/cheery ways. You shouldn't say "Sorry I'm going to die of cancer", you should say "Yeah, it would be really nice if I didn't have cancer" and enjoy the time that is left and be happy.
Yeah, but...what is Mikio? Is he really human? He isn't a Tengu, or an Oni, that's for sure. Whatever he is now, that is not human.
He changed; like Tayasumi did. Though not in the same manner, or with the same speed, but ever since Headgames became more...active, Mikio did start to change. Alice too was human, and became a youkai. Wether her change slow as Mikio's or sudden as Tayasumi, she is the proof that humans can become youkai.
Youkai and Human aren't the only possibilities. After all, there's also gods, celestial/demonic beings, undead, elementals... Heck, we've even met a psychopomp.
I mean, for all we know, Headgames could be a construct made from vast amounts of spiritual energy and negative emotion and resentment, like our own personal Angra Mainyu.
Eh, whatev. I've already voted.