“...Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?” you say, allowing yourself to smile a little as your eyes wander over to the side, to avoid looking at the woman’s visage.
If that were possible... if you could really live as one of the tengu and spend many more happy days with them... what a wonderfully long dream that would be, even though you already know it’s an impossible one. If... that sweet, blissful dream could be made a reality, no matter how impossible it may be, then it means there was meaning to your birth after all.
...but it’s a cruel thing, to know how beautiful something is, but also knowing that you would never be able to hold it in your hands. All you can do is marvel at it from a distance while bound, chained, and shackled away from it by bonds that are impossible to break, restraining you from attaining that wonderful treasure. Wasting away in front of it, never allowed to touch even a finger to it... until the moment you
“...yeah, it would be,” Miss Aya says, her smile widening just a bit more, almost looking apologetic. “...Thanks for saying that, Miki, even if it was just to cheer me up a bit.”
Your own smile falters a bit, though you turn your head to look at her a little more fully. Hugging your arm to her chest, she lets out a sigh as she looks up at the star-filled sky above, the night’s light reflecting off her bright red eyes.
“...It’s not really a bad thing though, I guess,” she says somewhat thoughtfully, her somber smile becoming a more energetic grin, more befitting her usual expression. “Human lives are precious because they’re short, y’know? At least, that’s what I think.”
“Isn’t it a bit inconvenient, though?” you say with a bit of a playful smile.
“Ahaha, well, it’s not like death is the end,” she says with a wink. “When you die, Miki, I’ll be sure to visit you often over in the Netherworld.”
“...Well, I guess I might have to look forward to that,” you say, trying to laugh off the rather macabre statement.
...When you die, huh?
What... will happen to you when that does happen...?
Having parted ways with Miss Aya at the bottom of the mountain, you climb up the steps leading to the shrine near the summit, lifting yourself up the stone stairs. Reaching the shrine grounds, you make your way over to the extension at the back of the house that serves as home for the shrine maiden, stepping onto the wooden porch and sliding the door open. Closing it behind you, you let out a sigh of fatigue as you take off your footwear, stepping further inside.
The living room’s lights are still on, even though it must be pretty late into the night by now, so it doesn’t surprise you to see the two gods of the shrine seated at the table when you walk into the room. Several bottles of sake are on the table, and judging by the slight blush on both of the gods’ faces, it’s pretty obvious that they’ve been drinking for some time now.
“Oh!” Lady Suwako lets out an excited squeak when she notices you, letting out a childish giggle into her long sleeves. “The man of the house has finally returned.”
“What does that make me, then?” Lady Kanako asks her in a amused tone of voice.
“You? You’re the grandma.”
The taller of the gods reaches out and playfully gives her a flick between the eyes, knocking the other god’s head back a bit. Lady Suwako sways in place for a while, before eventually sprawling herself onto the table, her face pressing down against the hard wooden surface. Shaking your head, you walk over to the table and crouch down, grabbing the back of the frog god’s shirt and yanking her upright again.
“Are you okay?” you ask, slightly concerned.
She stares at you, her eyes a bit out of focus. She blinks a few times, and then leans in, sniffing the air around you. A wide grin soon becomes plastered to her face.
“Ahaha, you’ve got a woman’s scent on ya,” she says, giggling maniacally into one sleeve. “And... and your breath smells like booze.”
“Really?” Lady Kanako says, her interest piqued a little. “...I didn’t think you were the type. Maybe we should reconsider letting you stay here...”
“Knock it off, please,” you say, shaking your head.
“Ohhh, what a two-timing cheater!” the younger-looking god says, still giggling like a lunatic even while trying to speak. “Going out drinking until late at night with some strange woman even while already living with a girl! How am I going to tell this to Sanae?”
“It’s not like that,” you say calmly, waiting for her to settle down.
Finally ceasing her laughter, Lady Suwako looks at you with narrowed eyes, looking like she’s almost pouting at you. “...Geez, you’re impossible to tease. It’s no fun when you don’t react at all to anything, ya know.”
“I think I’ve heard that before,” you say, smiling in apology.
“...Well, you look like you’re still able to walk straight even though you’ve gone out drinking,” Lady Kanako says while lifting and slamming a bottle onto the table. “Let’s remedy that with this. Care to join two gods for a drink or dozen?”
“Is today special?”
“No, we’re just getting drunk,” Lady Suwako pipes up.
“...Sometimes I think that’s all you do.”
“Being able to be this carefree in our daily lives is a privilege and a blessing. It means we can afford to laze around a bit,” Lady Kanako says, pouring the sake into a glass. “It’s not like the tiresome grind of modern human society. Countless numbers of people back in the outside world would do anything to live life like this, you know. So, again, care to join us?”
I have to wonder: does Lion actually write for a living? It takes skill to actually tame Anon and get them to actually think about the consequences of their actions (Miki's drinking habits aside) and pick actions based on what they think is best for Miki and story.
>>17428 You can easily see it with the number of votes he gets per update. You can see that often the votes come in over a long period of time. This means people have not always the time to instant vote but take the time to still come here to read and vote. This is proof enough.
>>17431 >have never been unruly; the closest case have been about moral implications, not routes.
>the closest case have been about moral implications, not routes.
I see Aya as a sister figure and Hina as a good friend. Your argument is invalid.
>>17431 The biggest/closest thing to a shitstorm I've seen in this story was whether or not to listen to Headgames and fight dirty against Marisa during "MoF".
>>17432 Well, there's the Shizuha vs. Sanae thing, but that's like a grain of sand in comparison to trying to give Mikio a happy end. In fact, Miki (And Border House Anon for that matter) having a distinct personality is probably part of why Anon's so tame. We genuinely care for him, and act in his best interests, not ours (drinking habit aside). For example, no one chose to reject Hoshuu's hand, even for the sake of trolling.
As for shipping, if it even plays more than a minor role in this story, my stance is Mikio/Shizuha and Hoshuu/Sanae, depending on which ends up the dominant personality (I'm assuming they'd be mutually exclusive).
But enough about that, what are the odds that one of the goddesses let something important slip, like, say, that one boy who managed to pull Sanae out of depression and got her to stand on her own feet?
This is the most consistently enjoyable read on THP. Even the digressions into different settings that first felt distracting, as well as the repetitive, unintentional conflicts with incidental Touhous, this has now consolidated into a story that has a strong sense of direction and a very well characterized MC, as a result of all those things. Even the most innocent conversations are read as under the shadow of some terrible onus, lurking and ready to strike at any moment.
Despite his laconic nature and his featureless mask Miki's character is on very firm ground. One reason we haven't seen a constant push for a 'route' is that Miki is really the focus of the readers' attention.
You shrug your shoulders as you pull up a cushion for yourself. Seating yourself at the opposite end of the table from Lady Kanako, who, with a wave of her hand, conjures up a cup for you. Graciously taking it for yourself, you pour yourself a drink, holding the cup in your hand but not drinking from it yet.
“We’re not having a match, are we?” you ask.
“Oh?” Lady Kanako raises an eyebrow in amusement. “Are you challenging me?”
“Not at all,” you say, shaking your head. “...I’m a bit tired tonight. I’m sorry, but I would rather not strain myself.”
She doesn’t seem bothered in the least about it, bringing her own cup to her lips in a leisurely manner as she takes a small sip of the drink, setting the cup back down onto the table as she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “...Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a drink just to relax.”
Although both of you have been doing that for a while tonight, it seems...
“Has Sanae already gone to bed?” you ask, looking about the room in case you might be able to catch a glimpse of her around.
“Of course, of course,” Lady Suwako says, giggling as she slaps the air up and down with her hand, a goofy grin on her face. “She’s such an obedient girl, you know. Never comes home late at night and goes to bed before eleven! Were you hoping to see her before you went to sleep?”
“It’s not that,” you say, shaking your head. “Just wondering.”
“Well, even if she were awake, she wouldn’t be joining us here,” Lady Kanako says, knocking back another drink. “I don’t think she’s accepted a drink since... oh, the New Years’ of last year. Tsk, and I was hoping she wouldn’t take after you in that aspect.”
“Heeeeey,” the other god says, a bit annoyed. “It takes talent to be that bad at holding her liquor, y’know? Besides, isn’t it a cute trait? It makes her seem all innocent, doesn’t it?”
Lady Kanako stops herself from taking a sip from her cup, instead narrowing her eyes at the shorter god with a frown, shaking her head.
Unable to stop yourself from faintly smiling, you raise your voice to speak up along with the hand holding your cup, letting it hover just below your lips as you say, “...I’m sure if she was here listening in on this conversation, she would be a little angry.”
“Ahahaha~” Lady Suwako laughs, drunkenly swaying back and forth with her laughter while covering her mouth with a sleeve. “Well, well, we’ll just have to keep it a secret to ourselves, right?”
Still smiling, you nod, before knocking back the drink, wiping your lips with your sleeve using your other hand as you set the cup back down on the table. Looking to the two gods, a sudden question comes to you in your thoughts. Curious, and perhaps made a bit less hesitant in voicing those thoughts by the effects of the alcohol, you part your lips and ask, “...Why did you decide to come here?”
Lady Kanako looks at you a little funny, before considering the question with a fairly serious looking face as she pours herself a drink. She raises the cup to her lips, drinking a sip from before taking it away, still contemplating something. “I wanted to bank on a new possibility.”
“A new possibility...?”
“A fresh start,” she says, taking a sake bottle in her hand to pour into her cup once again. “I told you before, didn’t I? As a snake sheds its skin, I wanted to cast off the traditions and history of the old, and start a new life. This land, where beings like us can exist and live carefree days like this, was the perfect opportunity to do just that.”
She drinks from the cup again, this time, draining it in a single go. Still holding the cup in her hand, she puts on a wry smile, “...though while I say that, I may have just done it in a moment of panic to save myself, but that wouldn’t be something a god would like to admit to, is it?”
“...And, did you think the same thing as well, Lady Suwako?”
“Not reeeaaaally,” she replies in a childish voice, in spite of the somewhat heavy subject matter. “I didn’t really care whether I disappeared or not, to be honest. The shrine was a responsibility that really should have been taken from me a long time ago, and sometimes I thought Sanae would be better off not having to do with us at all and just living a normal life. But, this isn’t bad, I guess~”
“You weren’t afraid of dying?”
“...Even if we disappear,” Lady Suwako begins, her tone finally becoming more somber, “That won’t mean the death of us. It may mean that the aspect of the nature we are a part of that was given a name and a mortal body would no longer be able to manifest themselves physically, but our essence will remain a part of the world. In that sense, we are eternal.”
“...I see,” you say, smiling a little.
“How ‘bout you?” she asks, turning the question back around. “If you’re a human, then do you fear death?”
“I...” you begin, trailing off rather quickly. “....I’m a little scared.”
“Well, it’s natural for a human to be afraid to die,” Lady Kanako says casually.
“It’s not the experience I’m afraid of,” you say, trying to explain your thoughts, though it proves to be a very difficult thing to do. “...It’s just... there would be a lot of things that I would regret. Things that I wanted to do that I would no longer be able to do. I... envy you a little, Lady Suwako, being able to think like that. I don’t think I can do that at all.”
“Shucks, you’re making me blush,” she says.
but at the same time wouldnt it also be such a relief
When my existence is at its end, what will happen to me then?
Will all my regrets disappear along with it?
Maybe that might be the best way to free myself from them.
Maybe that might be the only way.
But even if that’s true, I still...
...I still want to be able to look back, and say I was glad to have been...
You sit up in your bedroll, taking in a sharp breath as your entire body shivers from the lack of warmth around you. Your teeth on the verge of chattering, you snatch up the blanket at your lap and wrap it around yourself, trying to gather what little warmth around you so you can at least feel your feet again. All of your sleepiness having run away from you thanks to the abnormal temperature, you take a moment to clear your mind and take a look around.
There’s plenty of sunlight shining in through the curtains, so it’s not as if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night. Because you’re up so high here and there’s always a breeze blowing, it gets pretty chilly in the evening, even during summer. However, despite the conditions up here on the mountain, it still shouldn’t be this cold...
Tossing off the blanket, you rub your forearms with your hands, trying to warm them up as you make your way over to your clothes, folded neatly at the foot of your bed in preparation for today, readied just as you prepared to sleep the night before. Changing into them, and making sure your mask is still affixed to your face, you slide the door leading out of the guest room, making your way out into the rest of the house as you shut the door behind you.
Covering a yawn with your hand, you walk out in the living room. Though you’re usually up before Sanae is, it seems today you slept in a little, probably thanks to the cold making your body a bit more inactive than it usually is, so you see the living room’s lights already all on.
Interestingly, though, no one seems to be sitting at the table. Looking around a bit more carefully, you see that the usual pair of green shoes resting near the front door seems to be missing, meaning that Sanae must have gone outside. Curious, you head off in the direction of the door, putting on your own pair of shoes as you head outside, sliding the front door open.
You’re greeted by a scene of white that appears to have come to visit you two seasons too early.
Letting out a breath of incredulity as you step further outside, which is actually visible in front of you, you step off the wooden porch, feeling the crunch of the pure snow covering the ground beneath your feet as you tread on them. Even though it should be summer, there’s snow covering the ground and the roof of the building behind you. What’s more, there’re small specks of snow falling from the sky, even now. What’s going on...?
Hearing voices from nearby, you turn in that direction to look there. Seemingly unconcerned about the drastic change in climate, Lady Suwako appears to be building a snowman by herself while Sanae watches her with a disapproving expression.
“Lady Suwako, take this a little more seriously,” she says, puffing up a cheek. “This is definitely an incident, isn’t it?”
“Huh? Yeah, sure,” the god says, patting down a rough spot on her snowman’s torso, clumping more snow onto it to shape it a little better. “I guess someone’s gotten a little bored.”
Seemingly unsatisfied by the reply, Sanae turns away from the little god now busy shaping the snowman’s head like a frog’s, casually turning her head in your direction as you approach them. Her expression lighting up like someone’s who’s just now remembered they had to do something, she tries to look a bit less flustered, greeting you with a friendly grin.
“Good morning,” she says. “...Kind of a strange way to start the morning, isn’t it?”
You open your mouth to return the greeting, but stop, noticing something in the air. What looks like red wisp seems to be flowing out from Sanae’s body, rising up into the air. It’s a bit hard to see amidst the falling snow, but you’re almost sure that you’re not just imagining it being there. What... is that? You follow the rising trail of red up to the sky, but there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual there at the moment...
“...Is something wrong?”
[ ] Point it out.
[ ] Ignore it and return the greeting.
>>17464 I'm thinking Mikio's supposed to be the reincarnation of one of the boys who would be killed in the old Onbashira Festivals. Miki had quite an interesting reaction to hearing that story, and it would explain Headgame's hatred of the gods.
>>17463 I'm actually more interested in what will happen when he meets Koishi.
Lesee... I ended up feeling sick yesterday, but to give a slightly truncated form of what I was going to say : Beyond statements like Suwako saying Hoshuu was connected to the shrine in >>13452 explaining his actions in >>13417 , there's also his name itself to consider. Kuromugi, which from what I can tell means 'black wheat' or rather, 'rye', which is further collaborated in Suwako's speech in >>11729
Why is this interesting? I'm unable to find anything on the Japanese significance of rye, or rye by itself, but there is one important piece of mythic symbolism for grains - the cycle of death, sacrifice, and resurrection. You harvest the grain by cutting off it's 'head', killing it. You eat it, it's a sacrifice. You then bury the leftover in the ground, and it grows back - resurrection. This is apparently present in Egyptian mythology in the form of Osiris (Harvest God -> Death and Rebirth God) and even Christianity. (Beyond the resurrection part, he also blessed bread and said that it was his body.)
As for why rye specifically, since I can't really find any special significance to the Japanese for the grain - perhaps it's a reference to the Ergot fungus that often affected rye crops in the past? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergotism) Some of it's symptoms include gangrene, hallucinations, psychosis, and mania.
It's a bit of a long shot, but I doubt the family name was chosen haphazardly.
>>17471 I'm kinda hoping it isn't an Izanagi/Izanami thing, honestly. Persona 4's sudden introduction of actual mythological figures (as opposed to weird abstract beings named after mythological figures) into the otherwise psychological and modern fantasy setting sorta soured me on any plot that pulls a "IT WAS IZANAMI ALL ALONG" deal.
Plus, Headgames wants to destroy the supernatural and the gods, leaving only humans alive. Izanami hates humans and wants to kill them, and is a god. Possibly a tad difference in motives there.
“Um...” you say, not sure if you’re the only one who can see the red wisp or not, and hesitant to bring it up. You make up your mind to do so, however, and lift a hand to point a finger toward it. “...Do you see that too? There’s this... red wisp coming out of you.”
“Eh?” Sanae says, blinking her eyes in confusion. She follows the tip of your finger, trying to see the wisp for herself, but the trail simply moves along with the direction of her head, always shifting just so that it’s barely out of her viewpoint. “I don’t see anything...”
You frown, following the red trail back up to the sky again. Your eyes widen, however, when the snow descending from the cloudy sky abruptly stops falling, the dark clouds up above parting to allow sunlight to pass through. Almost miraculously, the fairly heavy snowstorm ceases and makes way for a calm, bright sky.
“That’s strange...” Sanae says, watching the strange, unnatural weather phenomenon alongside you with a befuddled frown. Turning to you once again, she asks with a look of honest curiosity. “Is weather always this crazy this time of the year in Gensokyo?”
“No, no,” you say, shaking your head. “It’s a bit more consistent than this, more or less.”
Save for that time when winter lasted a bit too long.
“Haah, is that so...?” she sighs, looking a bit disappointed as she looks back up to the sky. “...Well, at least it’s stopped snowing now.”
What could be causing this, though...?
Sanae lowers her head, seemingly beginning to say something to you as she looks in your direction once more, but she stops the moment she lays her eyes on you. She blinks, almost as if reassuring herself that what she sees isn’t a trick of the light or her eyes being tired, and then she lifts her hand to point at you in the same manner that you did to her just a moment ago.
“Ah... there’s red mist...” she says.
Following the tip of her finger, you look up. Flowing from your body up into the sky is a red trail, exactly like the one you saw on Sanae just a moment ago. Your mouth agape slightly in awe as you stare at the thin wisp, you look back to the shrine maiden, and then once more to the sky. The weather changed just a moment after you saw the red wisp escape from her body... so could it mean...?
A thundering roar interrupts your thoughts.
Your blood runs cold from the loud noise as you watch the clouds gather once again, blocking out the sun from view. The clouds are dark, black, and completely oppressive; they block out the sunlight almost completely, letting little of its glow pass through them. The sinister, ominous-looking clouds loom over head. A low grumble escapes them, gradually building up in volume as they let out a second roar, even louder than the first one.
“Oh... now it’s a thunderstorm...?”
You freeze in place, watching the black sky above. You can’t tear your eyes away, or close them, or even blink for even a fraction of a second. You can’t help but watch as the clouds gather, becoming even thicker and more densely packed together. And, of course, without fail, a single bolt of lightning crashes down from those black clouds.
It’s a thin, narrow bolt at first, as hard to make out in the air as a piece of white string. But as soon as that thin string of lightning reaches the ground, the rest of the lightning follow suit, much thicker and wider than the first, almost as if it was merely following the guide path drawn by the first arc of lightning. The lightning crashes down, without care if you’re a peasant or a king. It is a force of divine punishment from those in the sky, to destroy what they deem to have transgressed. It is a swift, brutal judgment that instantly takes from its target the breath of life...
...Even now, you can smell the scent of smoke, the scene of death and destruction laid out before your eyes: the broken, ruined foundations, the burning pieces of wood, and the cold touch of the rain that drips down your face and body, the long sought after water that does not give you life but instead condemns you to death instead, seeping into the cracked, deadened earth beneath your feet but doing nothing at all to enrich the soil.
“Um... are you okay?” Sanae asks, looking worried. “You’re shaking...”
“Oh...” you shake your head, coming to your senses. You stare at your hand, involuntarily shivering even as your eyes bore a hole into the palm. You can’t stop yourself from shaking, you can’t... Lifting your chin, you try to speak, although all that comes out of your mouth is a stammer that can be barely understood, “I... um, I-I don’t... I don’t really like thunderstorms.”
“Really...? You don’t really look like you would be afraid of thunder,” she says, somewhat surprised. “Well, I guess we all have things we’re not good with. Let’s go inside. It might start raining if the weather keeps being weird like this.”
You nod, but take a moment to look up at the sky one last time. A flash of light and a thundering roar...
The sky is covered in red now.
At first, the sky was as blue and as clear as it always is, but bit by bit, day by day, a thick red haze has been gathering together up above in the otherwise blue sky, almost like the incident that took place several years earlier. The gathering of scarlet clouds hangs over the peak of the mountain, and from this position at the shrine ground, it stretches out pretty far, almost to the point where you have to strain your eyes to see beyond the usual blue.
“...It’s a bit frustrating,” Sanae notes, standing by your side as she watches the same clouds with a disheartened frown on her face. “I know there’s something going on here, but I don’t know what I can do about it, and Lady Kanako won’t tell me.”
“Maybe she just thinks you need more training,” you say, though you hasten to placate her. “I-I mean... I’m sure she has confidence in your abilities. It’s just, um... well, you lack a little field experience so maybe this particular incident would be... a bit too much?”
“So we leave it to Miss Marisa and Miss Reimu,” she says a bit sourly, though almost immediately she seems to deflate in what almost seems like relief. “...Though maybe that’s right. To be honest, I’m not sure if I can really do this ‘incident resolving’ thing. Maybe I could get one of them to... tutor me on it or something.”
“I’m sure you’ll get your chance.”
“Ahem,” an unfamiliar voice from behind clears their throat exaggeratedly, trying to catch your attention.
Immediately, the two of you turn around. Greeting your sight is a woman dressed in a modest black skirt and a red shirt that seems to shimmer in the sunlight with every passing moment, giving off a radiance you wouldn’t think to be possible from any kind of fabric. Draped around her body is a long, frilly shawl that seems to be made of the same material as the shirt, gracefully swinging around with the body’s motion and shining proudly.
“Excuse me,” the woman says, directing your gaze up to her face rather than her clothing.
Her hair is close to shoulder length, possessing a deep blue-purple color. A circular brimmed hat rests on top of her head, adorned with a ribbon whose strands rise up into the air, trailing behind the woman’s head like a pair of antennae. The woman herself seems very calm, and carries an air of grace about her, though her somewhat tired expression and the way she speaks—very fast and concise—seem to suggest that she’s here on troublesome business she’d really like to get through with as quickly as possible.
“Um... who are you?” Sanae asks the question you’ve been thinking of.
“I am Nagae Iku, an emissary from the Dragon Palace,” the woman introduces herself. She seems to relax her speech for a brief moment, allowing her face to relax, “...Really, I wasn’t aware that a new shrine had been built here recently. I passed by here earlier, but it seems I missed it then. I would like to offer a welcome on behalf of the Palace, but...”
She clears her throat again, returning to the business-like manner of speech.
“To cut it short, there will be an earthquake.”
“...Huh?” the shrine maiden says. “An earthquake? Now? Wait, what was that about the Dragon Palace...? Um... isn’t that... the one place underwater in the sea? You mean it’s here? In Gensokyo?”
“I would like to answer your questions, however... I have descended only to give that warning,” the woman calling herself Nagae Iku says, almost apologetically. “There are still places that I must attend to, so I’m afraid that I cannot spend too much time here.”
“W-wait a minute, you can answer just a few questions, right?” Sanae says, looking almost agitated at the lack of answers.
Miss Nagae says calmly, raising a finger and pointing it to the sky. A sharp noise like metal being scratched across a surface echoes out through the air as the tip of her finger lets out a sharp flash of light. Only a second later, the air around you seems to become charged with electricity. Reacting almost instinctively, you quickly dart to the side, grabbing Sanae around the waist. Not even a second later, a bolt of lightning crashes down, leaving a large scorch mark where you were standing just a moment ago.
Your face is a bit pale, the blood draining from it as your heart races from fear. That bolt of lightning was very quick and sudden, and just how narrowly you managed to avoid it sends a bit of a chill down your spine. You do your best to keep yourself together, however, and to think and act logically even despite this sudden, unprovoked attack.
Releasing your arm’s hold around the shrine maiden’s waist, you turn to the mysterious woman who, as far as you can tell, just assaulted the two of you for no discernible reason. Though most people would likely be outraged and angered by an action like that, you’re more confused than you are indignant, although that is certainly on the back of your mind. Still, you approach her without drawing your sword or reaching inside your tunic for a spellcard.
“What was that for?” you ask, trying not to sound too offended.
Up to that point having maintained that pose with her finger pointed skyward, Nagae slowly relaxes her form, correcting the part of her shawl that had fallen off her shoulder when she raised her arm. Not attacking further, she looks back at you inquisitively, seeming almost as confused as you. Still, she looks a bit cautious and hesitant to approach, and remaining away from you, she raises her voice to speak out.
“...Weren’t you going to attack me, as well?” she asks.
“Huh?” Sanae’s the one to react to her question, stepping forward ahead of you. “Why would we do that?”
Finally, this Nagae woman seems to let her guard down, letting out a weary sigh before speaking, “...It seems you had no intention to attack me, then. Although I wish I could say that for many of the people I’ve met today...”
“You were attacked...?” you ask.
“Multiple times, I’m afraid, and I simply can’t understand why,” she says, shaking her head. “Although all I’ve been doing today was to warn the people of the surface about the impending earthquake. I was even almost under the impression that perhaps it’s become a local custom to attack people as a greeting...?”
“A local custom...? Here in Gensokyo?” Sanae says, pondering on those words. “...So it’s sort of like how waving at someone when you greet them?”
“Please don’t get the wrong idea from her,” you say.
It almost does seem that way sometimes...
“However, it seems I was mistaken,” she says, taking off her hat and pressing it to her chest while bowing low. “I am truly sorry.”
“No, no, it’s okay...” you say, holding up your hands in a reassuring gesture. “And, um, I wish you good luck?”
“Thank you. Now then...”
She places her hat back on her head and floats up from the ground, bobbing up and down and back and forth almost as if she’s swimming in water rather than flying through the air she rises up into the sky. You watch her until she becomes only a speck in the sky, moving off in the direction of the rest of Gensokyo until she’s completely out of sight. That was a bit of a strange encounter, though you sympathize with her a little...
Come to think of it, this is probably the first and only time you’ve managed to talk your way out of a fight, isn’t it...? It’s slightly reassuring to know that there’s at least one other person around with enough sensibility to try to avoid a confrontation, even if she did decide to temporarily play by the rules of others by doing as they did...
“Ah,” the girl beside you suddenly speaks up. “We didn’t ask about the earthquake.”
Not long after that, you decide to seek out Miss Aya on the mountain to see if you could learn a bit more about the matter.
“An earthquake?” she raises an eyebrow, crossing her arms together in front of her chest. Frowning, she fans herself with the hauchiwa in her hand as she continues speaking, “Oh yeah. Some strange woman came around earlier today, saying something about an earthquake, too.”
“And did you attack her?” you ask.
“W-well,” she begins defensively, trying not to look bothered by your question. “She didn’t really say much about it, and I was only trying to keep her from getting away before she answered my questions. And besides, I got troun—I mean, I wasn’t going all-out, anyway.”
“What was she talking about, then...?”
“Oh, speaking of earthquakes,” Miss Aya says while grinning deviously, apparently having remembered something interesting, “You should go check out the Hakurei Shrine. Some pretty big things have been happening there, from what I’ve seen and heard.”
“...?” you raise an eyebrow. “Big things? Like what?”
“You’ll see when you get there,” she says.
The Hakurei Shrine, huh...? How would that be related to the earthquake?
[ ] It’s been a while since you’ve been there...
[ ] Let’s not get involved.
[x] It’s been a while since you’ve been there...
...Well, now that your curiosity’s been piqued, you can’t help but want to check the place out. It’s been a while since you’ve visited the shrine itself, anyhow, and though you wouldn’t call the shrine maiden anything more than an acquaintance at best, it can’t hurt to at least drop by. Bidding farewell to Miss Aya as you turn to the direction of the shrine off to the East, you float into the air, flying through the sky to make your way there.
Sometime later, you land at the shrine grounds, walking toward it. Your eyes widen when you see the state of the shrine, however; instead of the worn-down, badly maintained building you expected, you only see a collection of wooden beams set up in the vague shape of a shrine. What happened here...? Getting closer, you notice what appear to be a group of women flying about the wooden beam structure, carrying pillars of wood. Are they... building a new shrine? But then, what happened to the old one...?
“...Hey, long time no see,” a subdued voice comes from somewhere nearby.
You turn your head to the direction of the voice, finding the shrine maiden there, sitting on a thin mattress placed on the ground with a large parasol propped up over her head and body to block out the rays of the summer sun. She’s holding a teacup in her hands, from which she takes a quiet sip while watching you with those careless eyes.
“Um... yes, it has been a while,” you say, stopping yourself from immediately asking for an explanation to at least be polite. “...May I ask what happened here, Miss Hakurei?”
“The shrine got crushed in an earthquake a couple of days ago,” she says, pausing and taking another sip from her teacup before continuing. “So I went and beat up the culprit and made her help rebuild it.”
“I...I see,” you say, now comprehending what Miss Aya had meant earlier. “Um, but it looks like the reconstruction is taking a while. Where are you sleeping in the meantime?”
“Here,” she says simply.
You look up at the parasol, and then back down at the mattress the shrine maiden is sitting on, your jaw almost dropping in disbelief at her situation. “Er... that’s terrible, but... you seem to be taking this surprisingly well.”
“I’ve already cried all the tears I had for the shrine,” she says. Placing the teacup down on the ground, she raises herself up, walking out of the parasol’s shade. “Speaking of which, I haven’t seen that troublemaking celestial in a while. What’s she up to now?”
Walking past you, she heads off in the direction of the shrine. Still feeling a bit curious about all this, you decide to silently follow behind her, hoping your presence wouldn’t be too big of a nuisance. The Hakurei shrine maiden looks about around her as she approaches the shrine, searching for someone. Having apparently found it, she heads off past the shrine toward the small pond located at the back of it.
Following after her, you see an unfamiliar person sitting with her back turned toward the two of you on what looks like a large boulder with a thick shimenawa rope wrapped around its body, zigzagging haraegushi streams hanging off the rope. She has long blue hair covering her back, with a stylish black hat, itself decorated with what looks like a pair of peaches, sitting on the top of her head. She’s holding a fishing rod in her hands... Is she fishing at the pond?
“...Honestly, you little...” Hakurei mutters under her breath.
She reaches down, taking off her shoe. Holding it up in her hand, she takes careful aim at the seated girl, and then chucks it. The flying shoe sails through the air in an arc, and then, almost perfectly, it hits the blue-haired girl smack in the back of the head. Startling her and knocking her hat off her head, she fumbles around in front of her to catch it, managing to do so and pressing it to her head.
“What the—!?” the girl turns around angrily, one hand still gripping her fishing rod as the line swings about with her sudden movement, a glint of sunlight shining briefly from the needle (huh?) at the end of it. “What in the world was that just now?”
Now that she’s turned toward you, you can finally make out her details. She’s wearing a blue dress underneath what seems to function as both a dress shirt as well as an apron, colorful diamonds decorating the end of the white fabric. The material of her clothes seems to be the same the material of the shawl Miss Nagae was wearing...
“Divine punishment,” Hakurei says as she walks forward, not caring if her sock is dirtied by the ground or not, “...for a celestial who’s slacking off while the rest of her lackeys are working hard.”
“I don’t see why I have to dirty my hands,” the celestial (?) says haughtily, lifting up her chin in a proud sort of way. “My divine maidens are more than enough to rebuild this small shrine. They don’t need any help.”
“If you’re responsible for it, you should be the one to be lending a hand instead, shouldn’t you?” Hakurei says bitterly, walking past the celestial girl and retrieving her shoe. “...Well, I say that, but to be honest, I don’t really care who rebuilds it as long as it’s finished soon. But it’s still taking too long. Can’t you do something about the speed?”
“You can’t rush construction,” the girl says, shaking her head. “If I do that, the new shrine will end up just as shabby as the old one. You don’t want it to collapse like before, right?”
“And it wouldn’t have collapsed if it wasn’t for you in the first place,” Hakurei says in an annoyed tone, lifting the shoe and swinging it at her lightly.
The celestial lifts her arm for a feeble resistance, and then looks past the shrine maiden, finally noticing you. Immediately, her expression goes from mild annoyance to interest. “Oh? Who’s this? He doesn’t look like he’s from the village.”
Lazily, Hakurei replies, “He’s a visitor.”
“Um... hello,” you greet the celestial awkwardly, bowing your head just a bit. “I’m Kirita Mikio of the tengu. I, er, I just thought I’d drop by...”
“A tengu, huh?” the celestial says with a slight smirk, sitting back on the boulder behind her. She crosses her legs together, resting one arm in her lap while the other still holds up her fishing rod. “So, I’ve been hearing that your lot has been running newspapers now. That must mean I’m pretty famous now, aren’t I? I must be the talk of Gensokyo right now!”
“Uh... well, not exactly,” you say.
“Huh?” she frowns, seeming almost furious. “...What do you mean ‘not exactly’? I destroyed the Hakurei shrine, yes? That counts as big news! It has to be the biggest news in the last century! So, why wouldn’t you have heard of me already?”
“Don’t be so proud of it,” Hakurei says, smacking the girl with her shoe again.
“That’s... well, I haven’t really been a part of the info circulation for a while now, so even if it was reported, I wouldn’t know...” you say, scratching the back of your head.
“Oh, of course,” the celestial seems to relax a little. “Of course, right? I mean, if the tengu couldn’t even report something like this, they wouldn’t be able to see a scoop if it hit them in the face. Well! Since you don’t know, I might as well tell you. I’m Tenshi, of the famed Hinanawi clan.”
“The lady who came by earlier called you ‘Chiko,’ though,” the shrine maiden notes.
‘Tenshi’ seems to redden at the mention of that name, becoming flustered and embarrassed. “D-don’t mind what that mere messenger said. If I say my name is Tenshi, then it’s Tenshi! I wouldn’t accept a name as lowly and as earthly as Chiko.”
“I think it suits you a lot better,” the shrine maiden says again, and by this point, you’re ready to assume that she’s enjoying this quite a bit. Then, turning to you, she asks, “...Well, since you’re here, why don’t you stay for lunch?”
“Eh? Can you afford...?”
“Ah, yeah,” she nods before you even finish your question. “I got some snacks and food as donations from the people living around here. It’s actually a bit too much to eat by myself, actually. I’d prefer monetary donations, though...”
“Oh, you’re having lunch?” Tenshi asks excitedly. “What do you have?”
“Why do you care?” Hakurei asks her. “It’s not like you’re going to get any of it. If you’re hungry, go back to heaven and eat there.”
“All they have there are peaches,” the celestial replies, almost in a whining sort of way.
Ignoring her, the shrine maiden turns back to you, expecting an answer.
[ ] Sure, you’ll accept her offer.
[ ] That’s okay, you’ve already finished your business here.
If she’s offering, then you suppose there is no real reason to refuse it, no matter how strange it seems to be accepting a meal from someone who is (temporarily) without a home at the moment. Putting on a very light smile, you nod your head in assent, saying, “If that would be alright with you.”
“Okay then, I’ll go fetch the stuff. Don’t expect too much, though, it’s mostly just sweets,” Hakurei says, putting her shoe back on her foot now. Turning to the celestial now, she puts on a stern expression as she speaks to her, “Don’t follow me. If you do, I’ll seal you up underneath the shrine along with your keystone thingamajig.”
“Why not?” Tenshi asks, scowling.
“Because I don’t need you raiding my stockpile of food while I’m asleep once you know where it is,” the shrine maiden replies in a dry, uninterested voice, although her glare is akin to that of a dangerous predator. This woman takes her food very seriously, it seems.
The celestial scoffs, appearing to be offended. “You’d accuse me of petty theft? I wouldn’t do something as sneaky as that.”
“Didn’t you steal that sword of yours?”
“I-it’s not stealing if it’s from your own family,” she says stubbornly, though she seems slightly flustered. “And besides, it’s going to be mine anyway. As the eldest daughter of the Hinanawi family and the future head of the clan, I hold full claim over a family treasure like this.”
“Well, whatever,” Hakurei shrugs before sauntering off, presumably in the direction of the place where she’d hid her food.
“Hmph,” the celestial snorts in dissatisfaction as she watches the shrine maiden walk away, her lips set in a scowl. “What nerve, even though she’s just a mere dog of the gods. Who does she think she is, telling me what’s right and wrong?”
“She’s not wrong, though,” you say carelessly.
Tenshi immediately shifts her glare to you, which you avoid by hurriedly looking away. As you do so, however, you catch a glimpse of something shining in the air, and you focus your eyes on it. When you do, you realize that the glint of light was from the needle hanging off of the fishing line on the rod held in the celestial’s hand, which reminds you of something you had been wondering...
“Um...” you begin, cautiously.
“What?” the celestial says in a brash, unfriendly tone of voice.
“Miss Tenshi, can I ask you something?”
At the mention of her name, her scowl seems to relax a little, and even her voice is a bit less lacking in enmity now, “...What is it?”
“What’s with the fishing rod?” you say, pointing to the rod in her hand.
“Oh, this?” she says, holding it up. “Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s for fishing. In heaven, fishing is one of the main ways that celestials pass time. When they aren’t singing and dancing together, they’re usually found at isolated ponds or springs, fishing by themselves. It’s an activity that brings a sense of lull and peace to the soul, allowing for inner harmony and detachment from the material world.”
“Um, but if the end is a needle, you won’t be able to catch anything. What’s the point, then?”
“It doesn’t matter whether you catch anything or not,” the celestial says, in a tone that suggests that she’s only repeating what she’s heard. “To seek a reward for your actions is to indulge yourself in materialistic desires. To engage in selfless enjoyment of the world around us is what we—”
She abruptly stops there, clamping up. Standing up, she raises the fishing rod, and then, with all her might, she throws it down at the ground, where it bounces off and rolls away.
“What a load of trash!” she yells in a frustrated huff, her breathing quickening as she stamps the ground thrice like a child in a tantrum. “Ugh, you’re totally right! What’s the point of fishing if you’re not gonna catch fish!? I hate fishing! It’s so boring!”
...well, it seems even a celestial has their share of problems.
“What are you yelling about now?” Hakurei’s voice comes from nearby, and turning your head, you see her returning with a small rectangular box held in her hands, wrapped up in a cloth caked with dirt. Did... did she dig it up from the ground?
“Nothing,” Tenshi says with a frown, bending down to pick up her discarded fishing rod.
“I brought some manju,” Hakurei says walking next to you. “Hey, celestial, bring down two more of those boulders. We don’t even have a porch to sit on right now.”
Lazily, Tenshi flicks her wrist up above her head, and immediately, a pair of boulders identical to the one she’s been sitting on crash into the ground from the sky, forming a triangle, startling you with their sudden appearance. Flicking her wrist again, a fourth boulder appears, set in the middle of the other three.
“Oh, thanks,” Hakurei says as she places the box on the middle boulder, unwrapping the cloth. She removes the lid on the box, revealing half a dozen manju sitting inside. Reaching inside, she takes one for herself. “Alright, eat up.”
You reach out, taking one for yourself. Tenshi extends a hand toward the box, but immediately, the shrine maiden slaps her hand away from it.
“I was serious when I said you wouldn’t be getting any,” she says.
“What?” Tenshi says, alarmed.
“It’s two for me, and four for you,” Hakurei says to you, ignoring the celestial. “...Stuff like this spoils pretty fast, and if there’s anything I hate it’s letting good food go to waste, so be sure to eat all of it. If you don’t feel like finishing it, take it home or give it to someone. I don’t really care as long as you finish them.”
“Um, yes, thank you,” you say, taking a bite out of the snack in your hand.
Taking an aside glance at the celestial, you see her eyeing the box in the middle with a scowl, almost as if she’s trying to decide whether or not to run off with the thing or something. Actually, she looks a little pitiable, looking at the box with disappointed eyes.
[ ] Offer to share.
[ ] She probably needs a little scolding...
>“...Stuff like this spoils pretty fast, and if there’s anything I hate it’s letting good food go to waste, so be sure to eat all of it. If you don’t feel like finishing it, take it home or give it to someone. I don’t really care as long as you finish them.”
...The shrine maiden did say that you could do whatever you want with your share, and although this celestial girl seems to have a bad temperament and probably does deserve this kind of treatment, she seems to have been really looking forward to even a simple joy as an afternoon snack, so it does weigh down on your mind a bit to deprive her of that. At the same time, though, you don’t really want to get on Hakurei’s bad side, but there’s probably a way to get around that...
Your eyes drift over to the peaches decorating Tenshi’s hat. Those are probably real, aren’t they? Peaches from heaven... In your studies, you’ve heard that peaches grant longevity, and thus are consumed by those who reside in the heavens. They’re also supposedly high in alcohol, though since you’ve never tried heaven’s peaches, you wouldn’t really know. They give you an idea.
You direct a question to the girl, “How about a trade?”
“...Huh?” the celestial blinks. “Trade?”
“Two of these for two of your peaches,” you say, pointing to the box holding the rest.
“Hmph,” she scoffs in that haughty, arrogant manner, crossing her arms together with a stern expression. “You think your mere, earthly food is equal in value to the fruits of heaven? Not even ten of those would make for a fair trade for even a piece of a single peach!”
“Well, if you don’t want to...”
“Ah, wait!” she suddenly loses her composure, holding down the top of her hat with one hand as she plucks the two peaches off of it with the other. Hurrying over to you and practically tossing the pair of fruit in your lap, she says, “I’ll make a special exception for today! Be grateful!”
She then walks over to the box holding the snacks, reaching out for them. Before she takes one, however, she looks at the shrine maiden square in the eyes, and their gazes meet. The former seems to be gauging a response from her, almost as if trying to see if she can get away with taking the snacks, while the latter has that unreadable, deadpan face that she’s always putting on, making it impossible to discern what it is that she’s thinking.
“What?” Hakurei finally breaks the silence.
“I’m taking them,” the celestial says, almost as if challenging her.
She shrugs. “Go ahead.”
Tenshi seems to let out a breath of relief, stacking up two of the manju in one hand and walking back to her seat. Instead of bringing them immediately to her mouth, however, she instead reaches up and places the snacks where her peaches sat before, turning to you afterward.
“Well? How does it look?”
“You shouldn’t play with your food,” is your immediate answer.
She snorts, bringing one of the manju to her mouth to take a bite out of while leaving the other one on her hat. She seems completely fascinated by the taste, like a small child having seen some great wonder she’s never experienced before, her eyes opened wide as she continues to dig in. “This is great! Much better than peaches!”
Biting into your own bun, you look over to the shrine maiden, calmly eating her second manju now. She doesn’t seem even the least bit troubled by the fact that the celestial got her share after all. Actually, you’re beginning to suspect something. The way she distributed it at first, keeping two for herself while granting you four... Isn’t the number strange? You wonder if she gave you four knowing that you would split it with the celestial, so it wouldn’t look like she was letting her off easy...?
“After you finish eating, make sure you direct your workers properly, okay?” Hakurei says, finishing off her snack and dusting her hands off. “I want the re-construction finished this week, at least. You’re not going home until after you’ve got some walls up, you got that?”
“I got it already,” Tenshi says, not really paying attention.
The shrine maiden sighs at this, probably not expecting too much. “...I wonder if I should go crash at Marisa’s for tonight... or maybe Mr. Rinnosuke will put up with me.”
“Hang in there.” you say, trying to cheer her up.
“...And that’s what happened.”
“Hmm,” Lady Kanako closes her eyes, the ends of the chopsticks held in her hand still stuck between her lips as she thinks deeply about something. “So, it was the work of a single celestial. Well, I’ve heard of the Hinanawi clan when they were prominent a long time ago; the power to control the weather’s temperament does explain what’s been happening lately...”
“Is it really that great of a thing?” you ask.
“Of course,” she says, lowering the hand gripping those chopsticks. “That sword can drain the spiritual nature of an individual, and through gathering that essence, exert influence on the weather itself, converting it into a form reflective of that individual’s temperament. Those who are by nature calm will clear the sky of any clouds and allow for sunlight to shine through, while those of unpredictable nature may create weather in which rain starts falling even while the sun is out and bright, and those of strong will that imposes on others find themselves struggling against a fierce windstorm.”
She scoops up a bit of rice between her chopsticks, chomping down on them. “...Incidentally, what kind of weather did your own spirit create?”
“...Nothing special,” you say, forcing a smile.
Meanwhile, to your left, there is a conversation separate from yours...
“Hey Sanae, you feeling okay?” Lady Suwako asks, concerned.
“Huh? Um, yeah, I’m fine,” the wind priestess says, looking a bit pale. “I’m just... um, shocked! I didn’t think the Hakurei shrine would... Well, it’s hard to believe that it just collapsed. Ahaha... it’s a good thing that that didn’t happen to us, right? Um... well, not that it’s good that it happened to Miss Reimu, but...”
“Ahaha~” the little god laughs mischievously. “You’re think that maybe that lil’ wish you made on New Years’ came true, aren’t ya?”
“Wha...? You were listening i—I mean! N-no!” she says fervently. “I-I mean, I wasn’t really serious about it! I didn’t think it would really happen! I would never wish that on anyone, not even Miss Rei—er, well not that I’ve got anything against her, or anything...”
“Careful, careful,” the little god continues to tease, “Keep that up and you’ll turn into a curse goddess instead.”
“Geez~” Sanae says in frustration, turning away with a huff. “That’s not funny, Lady Suwako.”
“...Anyway, it’s not every day that you meet with a celestial that has come down to earth,” Lady Kanako says, finishing up the last of her bowl. “Did she impart some sort of higher wisdom with you? Though, most mortals aren’t capable of understanding their reasoning...”
“Um, something about enjoying the act of fishing rather than the reward of catching fish,” you say, closing one eye in concentration. “...I don’t really get it.”
Ah, but there is one other thing that she left you: those peaches you got from her. Well, only one now, actually. You ate one on the way home, although it didn’t really seem like anything special. You’re still carrying the other one on you right now, though, so maybe you should present it as a gift to someone?
[ ] Give it to Sanae.
[ ] Give it to Lady Kanako.
[ ] Give it to Lady Suwako.
[ ] Split it.
[ ] Keep it for yourself.
“Um... actually, I did receive something else as a gift of sorts,” you say, digging into the pouch connected to your waist sash, producing the fruit from it and setting it on the table. Despite being used as a decoration for a hat and probably enduring the sun’s rays for a very long time, it still seems as fresh as one that’s just been plucked off a tree; that detail alone probably counts as a testament to its supposed longevity effect. “A peach from heaven.”
“Hoh,” Lady Kanako says, raising an eyebrow and looking quite a bit impressed. “You received quite a treat. What you hold in your hand is a treasured fruit of heaven, and the source behind the perpetual youth of the heavenly people. That celestial must have taken a liking to you.”
“Not... really,” you say, scratching your cheek.
Lady Suwako eyes the peach on the table with great interest, leaning forward and sniffing it, “Doesn’t seem like nothing special.”
“Of course,” Lady Kanako replies with a smug look, “Little country bumpkin gods like you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the gifts of heaven.”
They’re always finding a way to get into a fight with one another.
At first, it made you feel a bit uneasy around them, as it felt like just being around them was like standing around highly unstable bombs, but now it doesn’t even bother you anymore. Probably, it’s just how the two of them interact with one another, and it’s probably how it has been for the thousands of years they’ve spent together already. Although, sometimes, it feels like they’re putting on an act for everyone else to enjoy...
“They have peaches in heaven?” Sanae asks.
Lady Suwako asks, “Did you ‘spect something else?”
“Um, well, I thought they had fancier stuff up there, because it’s heaven, right?” she replies, frowning as she touches a single finger to her chin. “Like... triple-layered cakes and five-star steaks, or something really high class like that.”
“The heavens are full of people who’ve thrown away material desires,” Lady Kanako explains, waving a hand dismissively. “So of course their food would be humble.”
“That’s almost kind of disappointing...”
“You’d get fat pretty quick on a diet like that~” Lady Suwako says in a teasing voice again, “Sanae, Sanae, maybe you should start eating peaches only too? You’ve been picking up a few pounds.”
“N-no I haven’t!” she rises quickly to her own defense, flustered. And then, she looks down at herself, almost as if she’s confirming her own statement. Her face glows a little red, but rather than accept defeat, she raises up her arms, flexing an arm. “It’s just... it’s just muscle! B-because I’ve been training really hard to fight youkai lately!”
“Sure, sure~” the little god says, covering up her laughter with her sleeves. “Muscle, muscle~”
You pick up the peach again, holding it out toward the wind priestess, “Do you want this?”
“Y-you think I’m gaining weight too!?” she says in shock, flinching away almost like she’s been struck, looking betrayed.
“Um, no, it’s not like that,” you say meekly, almost cringing back. “...It’s just, since I already had one for myself... I thought I’d give the other one to you.”
“Oh!” she blinks, her gaze falling to the floor as a blush flares up again, although the girl tries her best not to show any embarrassment as she takes the peach from your hand, holding it in both hands as she looks down at it, seemingly examining every inch of the thing. “...Is it really alright? I mean, this is special, isn’t it...? It’s yours, so...”
“So I can give it to who I would like to receive it,” you finish her sentence.
“Thank you,” she says, smiling, “Just wait a bit, I’ll go cut it so we can all have a piece of it.”
She heads for the kitchen with the peach in hand, and you hear the faucet turning on as she washes the peach in the water. About two minutes later, she returns with the peach split evenly into eight slices and laid out on a plate, which she brings to the table and sets down. She hands out a toothpick to everyone, keeping one for herself.
“Oh, thanks,” Lady Suwako says, skewering the piece of the fruit closest to her with the pick and bringing it into her mouth. “...Huh, the taste is a bit plain.”
“It really is nothing special,” Lady Kanako says as well, chewing on her own piece of the fruit. “...I wonder if the celestials ever get tired of eating these?”
You reach out and skewer one of the pieces on your toothpick for yourself, biting into about half of it as you bring it to your mouth. You turn to ask Sanae what she thinks of the fruit, but... you end up freezing in place when you do. Sanae sits there, holding the toothpick to her lips. She seems to have swallowed a piece, but...
Suddenly, her face becomes completely red, almost as if she’s been boiled alive in an instant. Her hand limply falls to her side, dropping the toothpick to the floor. Immediately, she slumps forward, the front of her head hitting the wooden table with a loud bang. Everyone’s gazes are fixed on her now, but she doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of movement...
“Um, Sanae...?” you call out to her nervously. Was something wrong with the peach? “H-hey, are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” she practically shouts, sitting up all of a sudden. Her movement carries her farther than she seemed to expect it would, and she sways in place, almost falling back to the floor, only barely managing to keep herself upright as she tries to turn to you. Her eyes are unfocused, and her face is still completely red. “I’m fine! I’m fine, fine, fine! I feel oooookaaaay!”
Still swaying around, she lifts her hand and makes a ‘V,’ her smile unnaturally wide now. With completely unsteady movements, she turns back to the table as she lowers her hand. Her head hangs low, and for a moment, she falls into silence again, until like just now, she suddenly raises her head along with her slurred voice. “So... I’ve been thinking!”
“A-about what...?” you ask nervously. Is she... drunk?
“Everyone’s always...” she pauses, interrupted by a hiccup that makes her entire body jump, “...everyone’s always just... calling us the other shrine...”
She clenches her eyes shut and starts flapping her arms like a pair of wings in a tantrum, shaking the sleeves attached to them up and down.
“It’s sooo annooooying! It’s the Moriya shrine! Moriya Shrine! It’s not even that hard to remember, but still, everyone always just calls us the other shrine, and they always call me the other shrine maiden! I’m a wind priestess! It’s different from a shrine maiden. It really is! I know Reimu has seniority and all, but can’t they at least call us by our names!?”
“U-um... calm down.”
“I... I am calm!” she says loudly, ceasing the movements of her arms. “I am calm. I am really, really calm. I’m not mad at all, not at all! I’m happy, right now, so let’s do happy things. Oh! Let’s sing the national anthem! Come on, everyone, let’s show our love for Japan! Maaaaaay yooouur reeeeiiiiiign~”
She starts singing by herself, clapping her two hands slowly. When she notices that no one’s singing along with her, she trails off, looking about herself. “...Ehh? Why aren’t you all singing?”
“I don’t know the lyrics,” you say.
“Ehehe...” she giggles, pointing at you with a goofy smile. “You live in Japan... and you don’t even know the national anthem! That’s so silly...”
To your surprise, she suddenly starts to drag herself over to you, crawling on the floor. Pressing your hands against the floor and parting your legs, you try to crawl back, but before you’ve even started she’s already in front of you. She lifts her body, trying to crouch down, but she loses her balance, and your hands fly up to catch her by the shoulders as she falls against you, her head leaning against your chest and her body nestled in between your knees.
You look past the girl to the two gods still seated at the table, to try to send them a plea for help, but they’re already watching the two of you and doing nothing at all to stop what’s going on, Lady Suwako lifting a finger only to bring another piece of the peach to her mouth.
“Oh dear,” she says while munching on the fruit, her cheeks reddened as well, “This is a problem, isn’t it, father?”
“Quite, quite, quite a big problem, mother,” Lady Kanako says in a deadpan voice, her arms crossed together. “It seems our Sanae’s inebriated.”
“She’s a pretty bad drunk, isn’t she?”
“Yes, I’d say she is.”
“U-um, a little help...?” you try to ask, knowing it would probably be in vain.
“...Father, should we help?” Lady Suwako asks.
“We should indeed, mother,” Lady Kanako says, popping another piece of the fruit into her mouth and still not moving to save you.
“But are we going to?”
“Well, that’s that,” Lady Suwako shrugs, giving you a look that says ‘oh well, can’t be helped!’ “Now, now, Mikio, we know you’re a trustworthy fellow, so you won’t go taking advantage of our Sanae while she’s drunk, right?”
“Hey, hey...” Sanae’s voice comes from below you, a hand coming up and tapping repeatedly against your mask. “Pay attention...”
You look down, looking at Sanae, gazing up at you with that goofy smile still on her face. She’s close enough that you can still smell the scent of the peach on her breath as she opens her mouth to speak.
“I said... you’re a silly person,” she says, giggling. “You’re always... wearing that weird mask, even though you’ve been living with us for a while... You’re so silly... just take it off already, you silly person wearing a silly mask...”
Her hands steadily rise up, and reach behind your head. You freeze up as you feel the straps beginning to come loose...
>>17671 >>17673 I don't think this is the sort of thing that Mikio can react calmly too. If he moves to stop her, it won't be a calm and collected action. He'll flip a little and everyone will feel awkward.
It's been proven that Miki's all too willing to ignore his very serious problems, so we can't rely on him to ask for some much needed help unless it's forced onto him. It's how we moved into the shrine, is it not?
The straps continue to loosen as Sanae’s clumsy, uncoordinated fingers undo the knot behind your head holding them together. Ah, this is bad. Any second now, your mask will fall away, revealing your face to this girl. You should stop her. It wouldn’t be right to reveal your face to her. Nothing... absolutely nothing good would come of it. You’re just going to end up giving her another wound. It would be best if you stopped her. It would be best if you just pushed her away.
You keep telling yourself all that, but you can’t seem to move your body at all. Whether it’s because your body is rebelling against you or because your commands are simply not reaching it, you sit there, completely frozen, absolutely still even as the mask falls from your face, landing on the front of your chest and coming to a rest in the creases of your tunic.
Drawing back, Sanae lowers her arms, and beholds your face for the first time.
What follows is silence. A silence so powerful and overwhelming that it seems to drown out everything in its deafening wave. Even the low, persistent buzzing of the electrical lights above no longer seem to be able to reach your ears. No one speaks a word. No one moves. It’s as if the flow of time itself has stopped, turning this single moment into an unbearable eternity.
Ba-dmp, ba-dmp, ba-dmp.
The only sound that you can hear is the sound of a beating heart.
Whose heartbeat is that, you wonder.
You can’t tell if it belongs to you, or if it belongs to her.
“It’s... it’s you...”
A small voice that breaks the silence that has filled the room. A small voice that is almost drowned out by the beats of the heart that are now filling your ears. That voice surely belongs to this girl, who stares at you with eyes of complete and utter shock. Her face has whitened considerably, remaining flushed red only in her cheeks.
...Finally, you seem to regain use of your body. Without thinking, without hesitating, you snatch up the mask and hold it against your face, pressing it against yourself tightly, almost as if willing the event that has taken place in the last few seconds to be erased forever. Not bothering to redo the straps, you sit there, your knees raised and one hand keeping the mask on your face, your eyes staring down at the floor beside you rather than in front of you.
“Why are you, why are you... here?” a whisper comes from the girl.
You say nothing, not raising your head.
“...Say something,” she begins to plead, her voice breaking away from shock, becoming almost desperate. “Say something, please... It’s you, isn’t it?”
You raise your head this time, your mouth too dry to say anything. Painfully, you gulp, trying to get rid of the lump that has grown inside your throat, preventing you from speaking. It’s no avail, and you can’t even part your lips to taste the air. So, you sit there, completely mute as you watch the girl look at you with eyes that are now filling up with tears.
“Why won’t you answer me...?” she asks, lifting a hand over her chest, almost as if to try to calm her own beating heart. She watches you, waiting for an answer. A moment passes, and still, you remain silent. She grips the front of her shirt, and squeezes her eyes shut as she shouts in an anguished, near-hysterical shriek, “Say something, Hoshuu!”
The tears begin freely falling from her eyes, rolling down her cheeks as she lets out a low, mournful wail. Her body shakes and shudders with each sob, and she lifts her hands, wiping away the tears with her wrists. But for every drop she wipes away, new drops flow from her eyes, clinging to her eyelashes or quickly falling to the floor before it can be caught.
“I—I...!” she struggles to speak, even while still wiping at her eyes. “I... did my best... I did my best to make the shrine popular, even without you. I... really did my best to become stronger, all alone. I tried so hard to keep my promise...!”
She continues to cry as you do nothing but watch. Looking at her, you remember the same scene taking place a long time ago: a boy who was sent away from a girl, the tearful pleas of the girl, begging him not to leave her as she wipes away the tears that wouldn’t stop falling, and the boy shedding his own tears as he attempts to comfort her.
It’s the same as then. Only, this time, there are no tears you can shed.
“But... why didn’t you come back...?”
“I wanted to talk with you more...”
“...I wanted to laugh with you more...”
I’m really sorry.
“...I wanted to be with you more...!”
Past the girl, one of the gods finally rises from the table. Lady Kanako, wearing a very solemn, very stoic look, walks over to the two of you. She lowers herself on one knee next to her priestess, and places a hand on her shaking shoulder. The girl turns and buries her face into her bosom, sobbing into it. Lady Kanako holds her close, gently stroking the back of her head, until finally she ceases her shuddering. The god turns around, and hoists the calmed girl up on her back, revealing her to have fallen asleep.
“...I’m sorry you had to see that,” she says to you in a hard voice, though it’s not hostile.
With just that, she stands up from the floor, carrying Sanae on her back as she heads toward the girl’s room. After she’s slid the door open and headed inside, Lady Suwako opens her mouth to speak, in the same grim tone of voice that you’ve heard her use only once before.
“She’s still hurting,” she says, tipping the brim of her hat down over her eyes. “...Suffering because of the mistakes we made in the past.”
“What happened wasn’t our fault,” Lady Kanako says as she enters the living room again, frowning in dissatisfaction with her arms crossed again. “What happened to that boy... it wasn’t something we could have anticipated. We did everything we could have done to prevent him from coming to harm, but...”
“...I wonder if that’s true,” Lady Suwako says, still keeping her eyes out of sight. “Well... if anyone’s to blame, I s’pose it’s me.”
Lady Kanako shakes her head, and then, she disappears from sight, gone within a single blink. The other god stands now from her table, pushing up her hat now. Turning to you, she puts on a distant smile, trying to look as cheerful as always, though in this she puts only half-hearted effort.
“This isn’t your fault,” she says, as if attempting to console you. “...By the way, how old are you again? Hm, no, I s’pose that’s a pointless question. Never mind, forget I asked. Don’t let what just happened get you down too much. Oh, and thanks for the peach.”
And then, with a blink, she’s gone as well.
As for you... well, when the gods have gone, you lift yourself to your feet, and find yourself walking out of the front door.
You watch the moon’s reflection in the water.
High up on top of one of the many pillars that juts out from the lake next to the shrine, you stand there in the cold night breeze that whips the fabric of your tunic about your body. You came out here to think. To think about what you should do, and who you should be. Letting out a chilled breath, you raise your head and look up at the sky. The wind caresses your bare cheeks, the mask that normally hides it still held only in your hand.
“...What should I do...” you wonder aloud.
The spirits of the lake rise up in response to your voice, and they float upward, dancing about in the air with very graceful movements, their bodies shining bright in the darkness of the night. You smile as you watch them, reaching out to gently touch one of them. It responds to your touch, letting out a very soft, very sad croon.
“No, it’s not your fault...” you say, continuing to stroke the body of the pale wraith. “...It’s not your fault.”
...the task that boy entrusted me with, I wonder if I can really accomplish that?
By accomplishing that, will I, at the very least, be able to heal that girl’s scars?
Or is it too late now for her wishes to come true?
What I am... and who I am...
I need to decide that now.
You lift up the mask in your hand, looking down at it. The moonlight shines on it, reflecting off the pale, white surface and showing the damage and wear to it. It’s so deeply cracked and worn out, but it can still hide one’s true face. You nod, making up your mind, and...
[ ] ...toss the mask into the water.
[ ] ...put the mask back on your face.
Hard to say... as the mask seems to signify hiding and running away... now's more the time to stop doing that. And if you read the update, there's no sign of Hoshuu taking over him, just Mikio worried about fulfilling his promise to him.
You know, a write-in put us into this uncomfortable position to begin with, so I don't think it's unreasonable to write-in now. I have to give Lion props for using the peach as a vehicle to effect this long-time coming climax.
The two most important parts of the decision to throw the mask away is first a sort-of coming of age event in which Miki accepts his humanity as a public persona, no longer hiding behind a relic of tengu custom, completing his exodus from their society proper, and the second is in order to have Sanae get over his physical similarity to Hoshuu, which will probably take time.
But both these ends only need that he not wear it, and not throwing it away. Miki is starting to see into the past as Hoshuu, but that doesn't mean his time with the tengu was meaningless or an illusion. The memories shared with Ogata, Momizi, Aya, and others as Mikio Kirita should not be forgotten.
[x] Tie the mask to your belt.
I think this is a pretty good compromise. This way Miki can still be recognized by others who only know him by his mask, while at the same time broadcasting to those who know him well that he's a changed person.
And we the readers will get to retain in our imaginations the most iconic part of his appearance, his mask.
>>17764 I dunno. It may be the only gift he has from being a Tengu, but I hold no attachment to the thing. From the very beginning, it was meant to be something to hide his identity (at first, to hide his human nature from the Non-Tengu. Now, to hide everything about himself from everyone, including himself). Throwing it away could symbolize that Miki's done with running away and hiding himself from the world.
Besides, it's not like Aya and Momiji are banned from visiting us or anything. Hell, knowing Gensokyo's afterlife, Ogata could probably come visit if he really felt like it.
>>17767 >Throwing it away could symbolize that Miki's done with running away and hiding himself from the world.
Or that he's throwing away his own past in order to adopt the past of someone else. It would be quite convenient for him to just be Hoshuu for Sanae, locking his future together with hers, getting easier over time as more memories continue to surface.
To trade his old beaten, chipped tengu mask for one he cannot remove and eventually becomes blissfully unaware of? It's definitely an attractive prospect for someone who has nothing but misfortune.
Well, anon, how did the previous choice go? Nice and happy, or sad and melancholy?
Looking back, when was the last time striving for a Hoshuu and Sanae reunion brought about a favorable outcome?
Instead of killing the youkai in >>13787, we turned our back to it, and were brutally mauled. Then, it turned out our eyes went from red to snake-like and red. Clearly, we were victorious against headgames.
Honestly? My hypothesis on this is that we are the first Mishaguji, and "headgames" is its attempts to talk to us.
Reasoning: starting with Tayasumi, we either were possessed by the Mishaguji or became it while retaining human form, thus allowing us to chase off EX Rumia. In thread >>12707, a white snake with red eyes engages in telepathy with us, and states
>-__u h__e r__u___d _o _s, _y l__d
Counting characters, the translation "You have returned to us, my lord." from 12709 and 12712 fits. Hence, the qualifier "first".
Filling in the gap between Hoshuu and Tayasumi, Suwako either supresses the original Mishaguji to keep it from possessing/reincarnating as a human, or else keeps said reincarnation from being controlled by it. Someone previously mentioned Suwako's spell card Scourge God: Mishaguji sama in Hisoutensoku contained white snakes with red eyes, indicating her control over the curse gods.
When Hoshuu meets Suwako in the field (>>11746), she states:
>“It’s possible you might have some connection to one of the many native gods of Japan. You might be of divine ancestry, even."
Also, a small white snake w/ red eyes speaks to Hoshuu in >>13417, after he almost kills Sanae:
>The snake remains still, unmoving. You stay still as well, gazing back at it. Why… is there such a huge snake here…? But even so, you don’t feel scared. Even though there’s a snake this large around, you’re not terrified of it at all.
>Don’t hold this against us. >A whisper. You heard someone whisper in your head.
The snake's line may refer to the Mishaguji's regret at having Hoshuu harm Sanae, or that Hoshuu was being controlled to exact the Mishaguji's revenge.
So, why, or perhaps how, does the Mishaguji exert control over Hoshuu? The diminishing faith in the shrine's god, especially by its own priestess, may have weakened Suwako to the point where she could no longer supress the Mishaguji, resulting in lapses of Hoshuu's control to it. This may also explain why Suwako and Kanako both regret the "mistakes of the past," (>>17738) and why the flashbacks of Tayasumi and Hoshuu occur to Mikio in the first place.
Regardless of whether this hypothesis is correct or not, the collective anon's choice is so obvious, and so easily influenced by gut emotion. Lion has done an excellent job of stringing anon along like a hooked fish: we continue to move to avoid occasional pain, oblivious, maybe by choice, that the current state of events will lead to the eventual demise of Mikio.
And the inevitable grimdark and despair will be all the sweeter, as the story goes on and anon realizes the path they've walked.
I don't think this is the kind of choice where you should even try to reach a compromise. This is pretty straightforward: he can accept who he truly is, or keep hiding behind a piece of wood. It doesn't, and never had, anything to do with the Tengu. They didn't accept a mask into their ranks, they accepted him. Its purpose was to avoid drawing any attention against himself, a moot point after the battle with Kanako I might add, but it has gained some twisted purpose: so that our MC could continue living ignoring who he was and what he did. In this case, keeping it in the belt is a much, much worse choice than the other two, simply because he'll keep living as he was: an indecisive man stumbling between one or the other side of the street. And that'd be a terrible step backwards.
It's not compromise; it's a difference of metaphor. If you're voting to keep it on the belt, the gesture is symbolic of Miki's past that he shouldn't forget about as he leads this new lifestyle. If you're voting to throw it in the water, the gesture is symbolic of Miki's future not being constrained by the person he used to be. If you're voting to put the mask back on, the gesture is symbolic of Miki's present being too dangerous a place to act without caution.
[X] ...put the mask back on your face.
This tide, I'll be pissin' in it. Also, since the mask "reduced spiritual presence," maybe it was holding headgames back slightly? What'll happen if we get rid of it?
>>17805 Does this decision mean we can't be anymore? So now we're throwing away the present and hiding in the past? That all of this, all of the friends we've made, the people we call family; none of it was real?
We still are Mikio. It's what we are now. Hoshuu was just another name. Tayasumi was just another name. If you really want to go back you'll have to go back all the way.
If we're going to stop running we have to accept every part of ourselves, throwing nothing away. The time we spent under different names wasn't an illusion. Every one of them is who we are. We can call ourselves whatever we want, but to abandon any of our memories is working against our cause.
Not everything is decided by Anon. Did you vote for Mikio to tell Sanae about his past? Did you vote for him to run off from Tenma's office? Did you vote fot him to start drinking at the beggining of the story with the tengu (though there was an option to rink with Tenma, but that was after).
So, see, what if there is no option to choose wether he puts the mask on again? Would it still be easy to choose 'no', if there is no choice?
Well, most of these could have been guessed from the choices we were given that lead to those turn of events. It would be counterproductive and railroadish if he were to simply put the mask back on after voting for him to stop wearing it. And at such an important turn in the story? Lion is not one who screws over his readers just because he feels like it.
I think this would only happen when we're faced with a crisis such as others looking at him like he's a monster, making him regret his decision, and then Lion allowing us to vote on whether or not to use the mask again with vague, single-word choices based on emotions or something that might be too complicated to connect with the outcome or could have multiple implications that we have to think about before voting.
You really have to try and look three steps ahead.
>>17812 Then isn't is also a bit late to bring back Hoshuu? They were both our past selves. Hoshuu is nothing more than a fragment of memory. He wanted us to fulfill a last wish for him, not take over again. Tayasumi accepted his fate and disappeared from us.
But if we try to become who we once were, we're throwing away who we are now. That's still running away. Running away from our problems with the Tengu council, running away from those who worry about us, running away from the promises we've made others. Running away from our true nature.
As for being railroaded into his storyline, that's our fault. We favored Hoshuu's arc too much. It's still our choices in Tayasumi's arc that lead to what he became and what the outcome would be. What we choose ties into how they will decide to act without us voting on every little thing.
Hina and the Akis? We already got them maybe once every other thread - it's no surprise we haven't seen them in awhile. One of those is even seasonal. We'll see them again soon, I bet.
>>17823 I was under the impression that Tayasumi was destined to become the "Youkai Killer" no matter what happened. Especially since a scene from said "Youaki Killer" arc showed up in the first few threads. It wouldn't have been mentioned otherwise.
And isn't Mikio simply an amnesic Hoshuu? I'd imagine that trying to bring the latter back would simply result in some weird mashup between the two. I'm not sure what happens when an amnesiac regains his memories of a past life.
>>17824 >And isn't Mikio simply an amnesic Hoshuu? I'd imagine that trying to bring the latter back would simply result in some weird mashup between the two. I'm not sure what happens when an amnesiac regains his memories of a past life.
Mikio's lived in Gensokyo too long for that to make any sense. He was definitely younger than Hoshuu when he first arrived. It's clear to me that like Tasayumi, Hoshuu is a different person whom Miki may be taking on the appearance, memory, and/or personality of.
Actual amnesiacs don't develop two robustly different personalities that come into conflict with each other. Even dissociative amnesia doesn't come to that level.
>>17825 Take into consideration that when Mikio first awoke, his mind was almost a total blank slate, not even knowing how to talk. He lived in a completely different environment than Hoshuu, and was also taught radically different values by a non-human group while his mind and mentality were very malleable.
It's practically a given that he'd be an almost entirely different person from Hoshuu even if they are one and the same, when you think about those circumstances.
Actually, 13-14: >>7941 >no older than 13 or 14 by the looks of his face
And Hoshuu would still be 14-15 when he left. Probably 14, since we never got a scene about his birthday. It's not like it would be implausible for Mikio to be off by 1 or 2 years when he can't talk and can barely even walk.
Wasn't Hoshuu a bit scrawny as well or something? Take a look at >>8426 , where Sanae is worrying about Hoshuu carrying a bag of rice... that she was originally going to carry herself. Even if he wasn't eating right before... hahahahaha.