The journey felt like punishment, though I knew it was not. Nevertheless, I continued trudging through the narrow, sinuous path overgrown with vegetation. My ankles and feet flared with the dull pain of walking through treacherous terrain for far too long. I feared to look downwards, as it felt like I'd be bruised and drenched in blood from the knees down. I stopped for what seemed like the hundredth time, leaned against a tree, and looked round yet again.
The Youkai Forest, I realized then, was named such not only for the obvious reason. Certainly many youkai lived there, but if you spend enough time in the heart of the woods, you can feel a curious effect: It's easy to imagine that entire forest itself was one enormous, malicious being. The trees were twisted abnormally like none I'd seen before: their blackened roots rose above the floor and made great arches large enough for a man to pass under, thick vines decorating them with colorful and enormous flowers. The canopy was so dense that a ray of light was a rare sight; it was not unlike traveling at night. Mushrooms of impossible sizes glowed, changed colors and pulsated according to some rhythm unknown to me; fruits and bulbs hanging from the contorted parodies of trees bloated and withered even as I watched, and of course, I cannot forget the incessant growling, snarling, screeching, and just about every other kind of noise the unholy youkai of the forest could manage to unnerve me. The scenery went against everything I took as normal. In an odd sort of way, it was quite beautiful, though I wouldn't realize this until I was safe and well outside the range of its horrifyingly large variety of poisons and dangers. After resting and marveling at the shuddersome forest once more, I gathered myself and again took the same cramped path, assaulted on all sides by the hostile flora. The aforementioned youkai kept hidden well enough that I did not even catch a glimpse of them, thanks to a set of charms given to me by the village elders who saw me off. I had no doubt I would've been little more than a nice little snack as soon as I set foot in this place otherwise. Regardless, I stumbled along the trail. My mission was of utmost importance, after all. Besides, what option did I have, even if I gave up? Sit down and offer a limb to the first slightly more powerful youkai that showed up? Turn back and run towards the village? Those were not options. After more time of stumbling and tripping than I care to recall, the dark gloom of the forest slowly started to give way. Here and there rays of light penetrated the canopy and normal trees, without the latent evil present in the others, started springing up. This could only mean one thing: I was getting near. Indeed, soon afterwards, I found my mark.
The barely-there trail suddenly opened up into a large, perfectly circular clearing. Inside, instead of ominous-looking fungi and aberrant plants, was only the dazzlingly green grass. As I stepped into the clearing, I could feel the atmosphere clearly change: like stepping into a warm bath in a cold day. The stifling, stale, dank air of the forest was almost instantly replaced by a pleasant, vaguely earthy one, as if I had stepped into a portal straight back to the wide fields of the plantation. I breathed in gratefully and removed my abused footwear, happy to have my feet on the soft grass, and turned my attention towards the only feature in the otherwise empty plain. A monolithic slab of wood some 3 meters tall stood alone in the center. Looking at it somehow filled me with some kind of fascination (likely magical in nature, looking back), and I couldn't resist coming closer. As I walked towards it, I could sense a thrumming in the air, permeating my body and drawing me in the direction of the pillar. Slowly, I became able to see it more clearly. Rather than being featureless as I thought it would be, it was criss-crossed with all manner of what I assumed were magical sigils and, more curiously, masterfully done carvings of rather simple everyday events. Here and there I could spot a farmer spreading seeds, children at play, a town market in a busy day... Fascinated, I inadvertently reached out and ran my hands through the grooves. Even as a young boy who had had zero contact with magic, it was plain as day that the monolith was filled to the brim with it. I stopped for a moment to feel the peculiar, indescribable vibration of pure magic running through me before reluctantly backing away. As thrilling as messing about with mysterious powers beyond my comprehension was, it wasn't my business there that day. I put down my pack beside me and sat facing the monolith, still a bit intoxicated by the pleasant mood of the clearing, and took stock of my situation. The hard part was over now, and all I had to do was get it over with. However, one cannot take an action of such gravity without inevitably dwelling on it, and it was no different for me. I recalled my honorable parents telling me, over and over again, just how important my mission was and how I'd been born to do it. I accepted it just as I had accepted everything they'd ever told me, without question. Still, standing right before the supposed goal of my life, I had a gut feeling. An unpleasant quiver on my chest told me something was terribly wrong, and I couldn't for the life of me decipher what it was. I stared a hole into the monument before me, hoping it would somehow grow a mouth and tell me the answer I needed. No such luck. Unfortunately for me, I was only a child. I had been taught only what was deemed necessary, and however much I thought about it, no answer came to me, so I did what children are bound to do.
I wrote feverishly, slumped over a desk in the center of the hall. My desk. I glanced around the room, knowing exactly what I would find. The room I spent so much time in; far too cold, large and empty for a single boy, lacking any features other than a chair and a desk. Two withered servants stood by, although perhaps it would be more accurate to call them my overseers. Not that they were necessary anymore, I was long aware of the consequences for not doing as I was told. A third identically expressionless servant walked noiselessly into the room. “Young master,” he started, in the same raspy, empty voice every one of them had. “The Lord calls for you.” “Yes,” I replied mechanically, not raising my eyes.
A pair of the specters, as I'd taken to calling them, escorted me along the wooden corridors. We walked silently, the dim gloom of the house dulling the sound of our steps. I kept my eyes trained on the ground, although I might as well have kept them closed: The hallways stretched far, with not a single thing distinguishing one from the other. Soon the dining room loomed close, and I felt a familiar anxiety well up in me. I had to meet with them again. My two escorts stopped behind me, evidently pleased with my distress. I turned around quickly, hoping to catch a smirk or a look... ... No, of course not. They were as empty-eyed as ever. I heaved an internal sigh, arranged my thoughts and slid the door open.
There they were. The chill building in my chest reached its apex as I felt his gaze upon me. I raised my eyes for a split second; as much as I dared. Something was amiss. Terribly amiss. Where their faces should be, there were only featureless blank slates: they were faceless. No, that's not it.
I simply can't remember their faces.
I planted my eyes firmly on my feet, avoiding their eyeless stares. It didn't help much. His tall shadow stretched towards me and his commanding voice resounded across the room. “Tomorrow, we'll be attending the High Priest's marriage ceremony. I trust I don't have to tell you not to shame me.” So he says. So naturally, you'd think he was talking about the weather. “Of course, father,” came my meek answer.
Next in line, as usual, was the loathsome snake-like woman. She slithered my way and stopped to pet my hair - fully knowing I hated it. I held back a wince, barely. She took hold of my chin and pulled firmly, and I found myself staring into the empty patch of smooth skin that would have held her face. “Don't you give me that look. Because of us, you're bound for great things,” She said. The lack of movement on her... "face" made the experience far more unnerving than usual. Though I couldn't see it, I could clearly hear the sarcastic grin in her voice. “So be thankful.” I no longer had enough strength to force out a reply by then, so I simply detached myself from her hold, bowed and turned to leave. The specters were frozen in place, waiting for me. I didn't bother saying anything to them, instead heading straight for my room. Thinking about the day I had ahead of me took all energy I might have had out of me.
Such was a common day.
The first things I noticed after awakening were the smells. They were varied, and all of them wonderful. How I could pick out each of them was a mystery, but one of those mysteries one is thankful for. In the first few seconds I felt the sweet smell of cinnamon, fresh apples; then old wood and the smoke of a bonfire. It was overwhelming, in a good way. Then, I got my sense of tact back. I was laid upon a large, soft bed, wrapped many times over with thick woolen blankets, yet surprisingly I did not swelter. It was comfortably warm, and I felt I could stay like this for quite a while. And I did, happily. After basking in the comfort for a few more moments, my rational mind slowly came to, and questions started mounting with alarming speed: Am I alive? Am I dead? Where am I? If I'm dead, what kind of afterlife is this? If I'm alive, who saved me and why? Why can't I feel the hole that should be my guts right now? However much I wanted to stay still and enjoy myself for a while longer, curiosity won out, and I opened my eyes slightly.
I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't this. I briefly wondered how it was possible to live this far into such a dangerous forest in just a simple cabin, but discarded the thought: it had been known to happen, after all. Everything had a roughly-made quality to it; the floors were slightly uneven here and there and the walls were made of unworked wood. An image of dark wooden corridors flashed through my mind, but I shook it off quickly, grimacing. It was sparsely furnished and well-lit; the windows were wide and tall, letting plenty of the late-afternoon sunlight stream in lazily. Outside, I could see the forest stretch out to the horizon; this place must have been built a little ways up in the mountain. I craned my neck to survey the rest of the place, and the most striking feature of the room by far came into view.
But not just any woman. I'd seen my fair share of beautiful women, but she was in a class of her own. Unlike the meek looking, wilting courtesans or repulsive, bovine noblewomen I'd seen, she sat with flawless posture and her sharp eyes gave her the distinct impression of being an authority; her short golden hair briefly reminded me of the wheat fields as it caught the sunlight; she wore a simple, light white dress, but even loose as it was, it did not manage to completely hide her... generous form. The only mar I could discern was the troubled look she wore.
Just then, I must've made some noise, as she gradually snapped out of her daze and looked over at me. We locked gazes, and looking at those startlingly red eyes, I remembered at once. How could I have forgotten, even for a second? The Symbol of Abundance and Plenty herself. The saviour of our village, the goddess of the harvest. I was stunned. The goddess herself? I hurriedly lowered my head in what I hoped would pass for reverence and braced myself.
...But nothing came. I was surprised. All the tales told of Gods and Goddesses being petty, vengeful, capricious creatures; I fully expected her to vaporize me on the spot for failing to see my sacrifice through to the end; failing that, I thought she'd at least get a little angry. I risked a peek: her expression was simply worried, hesitant.
She fidgeted in her chair. “Are you... How are you feeling?” Her voice was soft, melodic. Unfamiliar. I breathed in deep to respond...
And then there was pain. It turns out my stab wound hadn't magically disappeared.
Pain. Bright red, cutting pain, radiating from my stomach. I twisted pitifully, trying to bend whichever way the pain wasn't. I felt one hand push me back onto the mattress - strong. It was but a single hand, yet all my convulsing couldn't budge it any more than it could budge the house itself. A second hand, as unwielding as the first, forced something into my mouth; a liquid flowed down, and brought with it another pain. This one was a yellow, burning pain, and I couldn't even twist from it; it came from inside. I tried to escape anyway. Anyone would have, in my place. Somewhere beyond the pain, I felt my flesh twisting and growing, far, far more rapidly than mother nature intended: a sickening feeling, like maggots crawling on me. All my nerves screamed in unison, but whatever was doing this to me didn't much feel like listening.
Perhaps the goddess was feeling vengeful after all.
[ ]Endurance round [ ]Helping hand
Hello! Here are some things you ought to know. 1. Updates will be slow at best. 2. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, so anything at all you have to say about my writing will be helpful, probably. 3. As you might have already noticed, canon will be broken six ways from sunday, especially Symposium, which will be nearly completely completely ignored. I can only apologize for this.
I'm not entirely sure what this vote means. Other than that, I can't see anything glaringly bad or off about this. A bit hard to parse in the beginning, maybe due to the spacing. Maybe an odd word choice here and there but probably as good or better than the average first post. Interesting setup though. Hopefully you won't be too slow in updating. And don't worry about canon too much; Proper storytelling comes first and foremost.
1. Updates will be slow at best. 2. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, so anything at all you have to say about my writing will be helpful, probably. Do you mean you don't even have an draft of plot? In this case you better stop right now.
>>21326 First, learn to sage. Second, learn to greentext. Third, I'm pretty sure that just meant the writefag's new to the whole CYOA scene, the first post looks like it would have taken some considerable thought.
Though, writefag, if you are currently lacking any ideas for plot or direction, come up with some before the next post.
>>21315 all the "proper storytelling technique" won't save it if he writes trite memes. Though with this story it's clearly AU so he's not exactly bound by as many rules. I just hope he has good reason for setting up the moriya shrine as villains.
But I believe it's better to work on the spirit of the story first then correct whatever flaws in the writing.
My vision blurred, darkened and my ears rung. The brief spike of pain couldn't have lasted more than a scant few minutes, but each stretched to a full hour for me.
Through the haze of pain, I must have reverted to my most primal instincts; I reached out, not knowing what for, and grabbed the first thing I touched: something warm and delicate. I squeezed, pulled against it desperately, clinging as if it was my only anchor to this mortal world, and the Yama itself was yanking at my heels - it certainly felt like it.
At long last, longer than I might have liked, the pain receded and I got my wits about me enough to take in the situation. Somewhere along the line, she had leaned farther over the bed to hold me in place better, getting almost completely on top of me. In the back of my mind, I registered the fact that freely touching a goddess in such a brazen manner could surely only end in death, but I was beyond caring; I had already been wrong that day, ignoring myself just a little bit wasn't out of the question.
I let go of Minoriko's hand and collapsed completely, the bed swallowing me, my muscles barely responsive and burning from the exertion. Sweat-slicked hair clung to my temples and forehead and I was soaked, panting. I looked weakly at my saviour and noticed she wasn't unaffected either: her chest heaved with the effort. Holding a writhing person by yourself can't be that easy, even if I was small. I tried to move to thank her, or apologize, or anything at all that wouldn't make me look quite so pathetic, but she denied me before I had any chance to.
“If you talk right now, it'll hurt more,” she said, drawing back to her chair.
That shut me up more effectively than anything else possibly could have.
She took a handkerchief from the bedside table and again moved towards me. My movements still shaky, I held out my hand to take it, but she deftly knocked it aside. “Stay still. You shouldn't be moving yet,” she said, her voice firm. I neither could nor wanted to disobey.
She leaned over and cleaned me up the best she could. As the silky handkerchief dragged against my face, I idly wondered why it didn't feel as bad as when... someone else did it. In fact, it felt positively pleasant. Curious.
Once that was done she nonchalantly and without warning lifted my shirt; I stiffened momentarily in surprise, but she either didn't notice or ignored it completely. The crimson-soiled bandages I hadn't even realized were there came off quickly and were added to the pile at the corner of the bed, dyed a blackish, hideous red. My eyes decided not to linger there too long.
Wait... pile? Come to think of it, she was beside me when I woke, waiting patiently. For how long had she been waiting? How long was I out? And she'd been looking over me all along? My flawed perception of the gods took another hit, all but completely discredited then; the thought crossed my mind that I should have thanked her anyway, pain be damned. She palmed my stomach carefully, and ascertained what I already knew: There was no wound, not even a scar; only the unsightly half-dried blood marking me.
Sighing deeply but seeming satisfied with her work, she drew back to her chair, keeping her perfect posture. Then, she spoke.
“As you may know, I am Aki Minoriko, bringer of the harvest and matron goddess of farmers,” she said emphatically, inclining her head ever so slightly. A little bit of a late introduction, wasn't it? She looked at me expectantly, her eyes widening almost imperceptibly, and recognition struck me; this pattern was very familiar. She was more subtle about it than most, by virtue of the lack of expensive jewelry and fine silks, but I'd seen this so many times, it was clear as day what she wanted. I let out a carefully measured gasp, put on my best shocked and impressed face; extremely well practiced gestures, by necessity. The result was instantaneous: She puffed up, the phantom of a smirk gracing her face, visibly being fought back down the next moment. I almost couldn't resist letting out a laugh, despite the situation. Were all gods this simple?
Great. If she was in a happy mood, all the better for me. She looked out the window: the sun had dipped underneath the trees some minutes ago and the room was darkening fast. “You'll be able to talk and move tomorrow. You have a lot to explain, so I'll be here in the morning,” she said.
That didn't sound so promising, however. With that, she walked out, a slight spring to her steps, leaving me to my thoughts.
I could have thought of many things. I could have thought about the consequences for failing my task, I could have thought that maybe it was just a test, or about how I was in the middle of a forest full of youkai at the mercy of someone I'd never met, or about how I'd just ingested some mysterious substance with unknown side effects. But rather than any of those critical matters, my mind was drawn inevitably to just one thought.
If there is anything that could be better than Minoriko, it is Shizuha.
Anywho, interested in this Minoriko. At first, she seemed simply innocent and caring, completely shattering the protag's opinions of the gods. Then, she goes around and affirms that she is like the others with her need to assert dominance. It makes me wonder if she simply is that prideful, or if she has simply worn a mask for far too long. Suppose we'll see sooner or later.
>>21344 Still, from my point of view, it seems that the honest quiet faith engendered by her actions (taking care of him without a word otherwise) would be better than the false faith from automatic kowtowing. Granted, Our protag is a good actor, but still. Perhaps I'm still thinking as a human, though.
>>21339 >Then, she goes around and affirms that she is like the others with her need to assert dominance.
What? When did she assert any dominance? Are you talking about the apparent medicine she made him take because, if it is, you need to remember you'd have to use a bit of force to make someone who is thrashing about take medicine orally.
>>21349 No, not that. (I know how hard it is to stop someone from struggling in that case) I was referring to when she was introducing herself formally, and expecting him to respond as a subordinate. This seemed to contradict her reticent nature when he awoke.
Not that it's a bad thing. I find myself interested in exactly what this Minoriko is like.
The quarters weren't nearly as wide as the ones in that old, morbid mansion; the beddings not nearly as expensive, yet I slept sounder that day than I had since I could remember.
I woke to an urgent tugging on my shoulder. I moved to clear the haze of sleep from my eyes; as soon as I did, I felt a warm gust of air on my cheek - heard a gasp. I tried to take a look at the intruder... but couldn't. Everything was pitch black; I glanced outside, and sure enough, there they were: the bright stars of the northern sky, shining proudly as ever; it was still the middle of the night. Then who-
My thoughts were cut short as the culprit made herself known. She thrust herself towards me, getting far too close, far too quick. I froze in place as she stopped an inch from me, breath hot on my face. In the total darkness and at that distance, I could only see her eyes - and what eyes they were. Though in the darkness they were just a barely discernible black on white shape, I could still tell. Hers was the focused stare of a curious child; she looked at me as though I were telling her about some deeply hidden secret of the universe.
But only for a second. She soon noticed what she was doing, let out a girlish “Ah!” and leaped back. She whispered then, or rather, tried to whisper; she might as well have been screaming and knocking pans, for all the good it did. I'd never heard a louder whisper. “Ah, sorry, sorry, I was making sure you were awake. You are awake, yes?” She spoke quickly, only her eyes somewhat visible in the darkness. I began to answer, but she ran me over with words.
“But nevermind that. Sister brought you in, didn't she? I saw her carrying you, I did. She looked so worried! I can't remember the last time I saw her look like that. Oh, but what am I doing rambling on about nothing? We have no time!” Here her voice raised in pitch, but kept its playful tone. “Time for what?” I managed, neglecting to whisper, my voice still dragging from sleepiness. She would have none of it. “I said there's no time! You don't want to miss it, do you? Come, come!”
She found my arm under the covers and pulled me by the hand, forcing me out of bed. “Here, let's go. I don't want to have to carry you.”
Any other time I would have been suspicious of some strange girl stealing into my room in the middle of the night to carry me off, but it didn't even cross my mind to distrust her; I couldn't picture this girl as a dangerous sort, even if I hadn't actually seen her yet.
Still holding my hand, she skipped out the room, going a touch too fast: just enough to make me stumble over myself. She turned around and whispered in that roaring whisper of hers, “Shhh! You'll wake my sister,” but there wasn't a smidgen of actual reproval or annoyance in her voice.
We were out the door by the time I got used to her pace; I took a quick look around: Not much was visible but the looming black forms of the Youkai Mountain mingling with the sky, it's inhabitants surely even then watching over us, unseen. We took a snaking, trodden path around the mountain; it didn't look nearly as dangerous as the one in the forest, I thought with some relief.
The girl stayed a pace ahead of me, navigating the bumpy path with marked ease: it wasn't too hard to figure out she was used to it. Occasionally she'd let out a little giggle, as if walking through a path was, by itself, fun. Then again, maybe it was, for her. She spun around, still holding my hand and keeping her speed while trotting backwards. Impressive, I thought.
I still couldn't see more than a vague silhouette. “I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Shizuha, Minoriko's big-sister-little-sister.” She turned back around. “Even though I'm technically older than her, she calls me little sister, can you believe that?” Her tone clashed with her words. If I didn't actually understand what she was saying, I'd have thought she was telling me about what great food she ate the other day or somesuch. And... Shizuha? Minoriko's sister? Her sister was well-known enough, but no matter I racked my mind for any memory of anyone mentioning that name, but nothing came up. She didn't seem to be lying, however, so I let it pass.
After a good deal of walking, the trail disappeared from beneath our feet, and the animated girl skidded to a stop. I looked around: we were on the edge of the mountain, a precipitous drop overlooking black ocean of trees below. Maybe because I'd been moving my body or was too focused on the situation, but I only realized then that I'd left the house with only light bedclothes on. I paid for it, the cutting cold winds of the small hours covering me with goosebumps.
Shizuha sat on a makeshift log bench, some distance away from precipice. “We're in time. Come and sit, you don't want to miss it!” I sat neat her, shivering - it must've been particularly obvious, as she turned to me the next second.
She paused for a second, thinking, then extended her arms towards me, motioning with her hands. “Here. I dragged you out here, so this is the least I can do.” When I didn't respond she gestured impatiently and continued, “Come on, before it begins. My sister says I'm warm, so it'll work, really! You don't want to catch a cold, do you?” That's what she thought the problem was? Whether it'd work?
I didn't know exactly how to react. But then again, it was quite cold...
[ ]Do. [ ]Don't.
Thank you very much for reading and commenting, you guys have no idea how happy you guys make me. I've even got discussion, this early! I haven't even given you guys anything material to discuss yet. I'll do what I can to live up to your expectations.
Didn't run this by anyone this time, so if it's not up to standards, do tell me.
Well, that is sweet of Shizuha. Taking us up to see the turning of the leaves at the crack of dawn? Sounds like she really wants to impress someone, or she just wants some company. Either way, I don't see how we could not hug the Symbol of Loneliness and Demise. I will admit I am a bit biased, though.
And ye be welcome. Shizuha and Minoriko are rare enough, that any depiction of them is interesting. Especially as neither are acting quite as I had imagined, which makes me want to speculate as to their actions and motivations. And if nothing material has come out yet, I can't wait. Looking forward to next update, either way.
Seeing no reason to refuse, I scuttled closer to the girl. She didn't just sit waiting, however, and darted forward, grabbing hold of my shoulders and pulling me in. In motion, she spun me around and I fell squarely on her lap, facing away from her; but she wasn't done yet: Her arms wrapped around my stomach, gripped firmly, and finally she rested her chin gently on the top my head. Extremely comfortable would only begin to describe it. She spoke excitedly. “Here, aren't I warm? When we sleep together, sister says we're a perfect fit. Because she's soft and I'm warm, see?” ...What an unfortunate comment. True, but unfortunate.
I sat tight, enjoying my unique position while I could. It didn't escape my notice that I still hadn't been told what we were waiting for, but Shizuha was suddenly sitting so quietly and appeared to be staring so attentively over my head that I didn't think it a bright idea to speak up.
Sure enough, it didn't take long. In due course, the sky began it's unstoppable daily cycle anew. First the night lost its luster; stars went into hiding, waiting for their chance to shine again. The pure black velvet paled into a dusky ash-grey.
Shizuha tightened her grip on me, her hands folding on my front.
The grey became a weak blue of dawn, colouring the entire firmament, and the darkened forest below us finally came into view: It stretched on, and on, before the indistinct fog that encircles Gensokyo swallowed it entirely. At last, what I assumed we were waiting for begins.
Shizuha gasped, her breath tickling my hair.
The sky at first only blushed, a small corner of the sun touching it's cold surface, but not for long. The pale pink bled into a deep orange, which bled into a vivid red, which simply bled out, enveloping the enormous canvas in warm colors. The dazzling light dyed the forest, the sky, and everything else in red, yellow, and all in between. I lost myself for a time; I'd never seen anything quite like it.
Shizuha relaxed at my back, her arms slacking.
“I come here whenever I can,” she began, a tinge of desolation to her voice, “It's so beautiful, isn't it? If you squint hard enough, you can pretend it's autumn arriving.” I could only nod. It was fleeting and fragile, but it was there.
For a long moment, all that could be heard was our breathing and the sounds of a clear morning as we enjoyed the view. I'd have loathed to be the one to interrupt it. So she did instead.
“Umm... I'm sorry.” Her tone was sheepish now, the earlier sadness in her voice gone.
“Now that I think about it, it was a bit stupid to bring you all this way for something this silly... It's just that usually I do this alone, and sister is asleep, and I feel bad waking her up, and you were there, and, you know...” She sighed deeply, and I felt it all too well on my back. So I did what I do.
“I thought it was quite beautiful and well worth the trip. Thank you.” And it wasn't a lie, this time. It wasn't much, but it cheered her up nicely. “Great! Then, you don't mind if I pick you up to do this again, do you?” Maybe more than it should have, even.
'Again'... I wondered. I'd probably have to go back to my 'home' soon. The thought of going back to that soured my mood for a moment, but I didn't let it show on my face.
“So!” Shizuha exclaimed suddenly, startling me. “We should be getting back. It's over already.” The effect was gone and the forest was now the same old boring green. She prodded my side and I reluctantly peeled myself off her, the sudden chill on my back jarring. It struck me that I hadn't actually seen this girl in full light yet. I turned, not knowing what to expect.
Her previous comment about autumn suddenly made a lot of sense. She was barefoot, and her dress was the same color as the sunrise, with the same gradations: red throughout, it ended just above her knees, the hem fashioned into little orange maple leaves. Her face and the golden shade of her hair mirrored her sister's, and she had adornments in the shape of leaves. The ensemble left no doubt what she was a goddess of. However, in one aspect she was unlike her sister. She did not carry herself the same, she didn't have the same poise, stature or light to her eyes. If I didn't know she was a goddess' sister, I might have thought she was just a carefree and common, if uncommonly pretty country girl with a strange fascination for autumn.
“Whatcha staring at?” I floundered. She giggled a musical giggle and offered me her hand.
I didn't hesitate in taking it, this time.
I didn't write yesterday because I was too busy playing EoSD while drunk off my ass rethinking my choice system. Feel free to scold me for it. As usual, if anything is bad, do say so.
>She did not carry herself the same, she didn't have the same poise, stature or light to her eyes. If I didn't know she was a goddess' sister, I might have thought she was just a carefree and common, if uncommonly pretty country girl with a strange fascination for autumn.
Nothing wrong with that, makes for a nice contrast to her sister. And for once she doesn't have a certain green-haired miko to possibly steal the show.
>>21377 >Feel free to scold me for it. Scold, scold, nag, nag, etc, etc. There, I'm done. Still, Shizuha update, so all is forgiven. And agreed with >>21379, as this Shizuha is very nice. Innocent goddess of dead leaves with something hidden? Can't wait to see the next update. And I definitely can't wait to see how she interacts with her younger older sister.
Though it wasn't necessary anymore, the sun's bright shine revealing the road to us clearly now, Shizuha held my hand as we walked, apparently not giving it a second thought. Her pace was slower than when we first came. “I feel much better now,” she said, a sunny grin on her face. “It's almost time, too. Only another few weeks and it's our time again. Say, have you gone to any of the harvest festivals?”
It was a silly question of sorts. Without exception, there wasn't a soul in the village who hadn't witnessed it; perhaps the largest single event amongst humans in Gensokyo, it was said the loud colors and enticing merry music could be seen and heard across Gensokyo. I'd only seen it from afar, prohibited from going to the larger commemoration, same as I was prohibited from many other things; my people had their own festivities in the occasion, and, as they said, I wasn't to be distracted with such useless things. I shook my head.
Shizuha looked genuinely surprised. “How haven't you? I thought they were a huge deal in the human village.” She squeezed my hand then, her voice gaining in intensity. “Oh, but you should! They're the greatest. There's more food than anyone could eat, and you can't help but sing and dance with them, oh, and they have these wonderful colorful decorations everywhere, and even fireworks! How can you not have been to one?”
I got envious, then. Just a little.
She realized she'd stopped walking just to tell me about the festival and colored slightly. “Sorry, it's just, they're so fun, I get excited just thinking about it.” Salt the wound, why don't you?
“You know, Minoriko looks forward to the festivals even more than I. It's her reward for for working throughout the year, though she'd sooner die than admit it.”
“Throughout the year?” I couldn't help but ask. I was under the impression that she helped only on the harvests, being the harvest goddess.
“Yes. Most people don't know it, but in truth she works a lot,” she said, puffing out her chest. “She helps the smaller farmers with everything she can. Oh, and she cleans the house as well, and her cooking is divine, did you know?” I resisted the urge to ask her just what she did, if Minoriko does all the work. “Not to mention, she's pretty cute as well, don't you think?”
I turned to look at her - she had a sly grin on; a rather unfitting look, I thought.
“I'm just saying. I don't really mean anything by it,” she said, painfully obviously meaning something by it. “Look, here we are already.”
She hurried her steps; the house was in view now, just as quaint on the outside as it was on the inside: short, stout and sturdy-looking, it overlooked a downwards slope leading to the forest, like a final bastion of humanity deep into youkai territory - though it didn't house any humans. Even that I was beginning to doubt; what were these gods if not humans with unusual powers?
She stopped and, with a look backwards and a smile, pushed the door open.
Yup yup, agreed. She's like a leaf on the wind, blowing hither and thither, while Minoriko is like a flower rooted in the ground. Or perhaps a potato plant would be a better analogy?
Either way, their beauty lies in their connection. One steady, dependable, and caring, with the other wild and free, testing you with what she can bring.
And if my suspicions prove correct, what will we end up doing? Shall we care for the fields, slowly nurturing them to grow as strong and as beautiful as they can be, or shall we throw everything to the wind, while attempting to catch the very same?
I think there are going to be more choices eventually. Remember, the writer did say that he was new at this, and he's had no experience. But from what we've read so far, I am thinking of this as more of a prologue than anything else. Plus, he didn't think he'd have one up until tomorrow at the earliest, so it's better than nothing at all.
That being said, there should be a few more choices. Most updates should have a choice, as we would like more involvement in where the story is going. But I do have trust that it will open up, once we get further along.
...Directly into Minoriko. I saw the younger goddess whirl around just as the door opened, her expression relaxing as she caught sight of us - and that was all I could see. Before she could do much of anything, Shizuha leaped onto her with a yelp, burying Minoriko's head into her chest with a hug. I'd never seen family members act quite so close, but I was the outsider here, so I was content not to interfere, instead watching as Shizuha made happy little sounds while she smothered her sister.
Before long, Minoriko managed to remove herself from the hold with some effort, putting her sister down on the ground as one would a small animal. She eyed her and spoke, surprised. “Shizuha? You, already?”
“Yes and yes,” she beamed, still holding Minoriko's hand with both of hers. “I managed to come early this year, aren't you glad?”
Minoriko gawked for a second before making a smile: the first I'd seen out of her. Slight and small as a sapling and equally as bright; reaped from its fertile soil before I could even look at it twice, but just for a second, it was there. I had seen it.
Shizuha tittered, pulling at her sister's hands. “I was going to surprise you, but then he happened,” she said, gesturing to me, “so I ended up not doing it.” At this, a frown took Minoriko's face.
“Just where did you go?” She adopted the martial air that I was beginning to get used to.
“We just went for a walk, is all. No need to be worried.” She acted innocent - not very convincingly. A child could have spotted it from a mile away.
Her assurance had the opposite effect from what she intended. Minoriko crossed her arms, her frown deepening, making an ugly crease on her brow. A need flared in my mind: 'I want to see her smile again' - but I snuffed it out handily. “Just a walk, is it?” She chided. “Just a walk in the Youkai Mountain with a defenseless human, in the state you are.”
Shizuha grinned still, her sister's scolding tone glancing off of her. “Don't be like that, we're both here and we're both fine, aren't we? Besides, would anyone really attack me?”
Minoriko held her glare for a second before redirecting it, piercing me. Her sharp eyes ignited my memory, and I shrunk in reflex. “And you. Don't you know where we are?”
“I...I'm sorry,” I stuttered out, sounding appropriately apologetic.
After a beat, she softened, her arms uncrossing - success. She sighed deeply. “Nevermind. Just don't do it again. And Shizuha,” She started in a weary voice, turning, but Shizuha was no longer there. I blinked; I'd missed her completely. Quite the trick. It didn't seem new to Minoriko, however, who just muttered under her breath. She turned to me.
“Come with me.” She sounded a bit distracted, though I couldn't imagine why. She led me through the well-lit home back to the room I was first brought to; I was surprised at how big the house was. It seemed far bigger on the inside than on the outside. She sat awkwardly on the chair, and I on the bed - her serious demeanor from before was all but gone now, as she shifted in her seat, her eyes darting around the room - a startling and sudden transformation. I stayed silent as she opened her mouth - closed it again, gathered her courage, and finally spoke.
She was timid. “Why did you... try to... you know.”
I didn't know. “Try to what?”
“End...” She grimaced. ”Your life.”
My eyebrows raised - did she really think that? She found me with a knife buried in my guts before the Keystone and the conclusion she came to was that that it was a simple suicide? I glanced at her - she was still looking down, fussing.
That explained some things. Perhaps it'd be better to cut to the heart of the issue; I think I liked her better when she was more goddess-like.
She froze and looked up at me, her eyes wide. “What?”
I made it as straightforward as I could. “I was to be sacrificed.”
Minoriko simply stared at me, her expression wild. For many long seconds, she said nothing, moved not a muscle; when she did, her voice was shaking, shocked, no louder than a whisper. “What?” I wasn't expecting that reaction - but then again, my expectations had long proven useless where it concerned gods.
“I was sent by the village to be sacrificed. To you,” I clarified, although I knew I didn't need to.
She looked at me like a lost child, disbelief evident in every single trace of her face. “Wha... Why?”
I was starting to regret just saying it. Nevertheless, lying to a goddess about a sacrifice to her seemed like an even worse idea. I thought about her question; why did I do it? Well, that was a simple one to answer. “Because I was told to.”
For a moment, she simply held her pose, not moving - but soon I saw the gradual change. What I feared started to happen: Like the high tide coming in, understanding, or perhaps acceptance dawned on her, and with it, something more terrible. Her red, red eyes took on the shine I didn't want to see: fiercer. Clearly, as if in slow motion, I saw each of the muscles on her face contract into a fearsome expression of barely restrained anger, flushing redder than I thought possible. Her teeth sunk into her lip and her nails into her palms. I made myself as small as I could.
One sudden violent movement and she was up. I feared the worst, but it never materialized; I felt no blows, no sting against my skin. She spoke straining her voice, doing a passable job of keeping the rage out of it, under the circumstances. “I have... some things I need to do. You stay here.” And with that, she stormed out, leaving me alone.
I decided not to look for Minoriko, to give her time to cool off. There was no trace of Shizuha either. In the absence of much else to do, I decided to explore the house, or rather, the interesting parts of it.
There's no moral quandary about privacy or whatever here, just pick a character.
>>21409 >>21411 My idea for choices was that they would be relatively infrequent and, at least for now, simple, binary character choices. The previous ones were already intended to be that, but in a VN-like kind of format, where you choose for one girl, you're implicitly choosing against the other. It should have been obvious that it wouldn't work out, knowing THP, but I had some kind of momentary brain failure. Don't worry, I won't penalize you or anything, that was my fault. If you guys do want me to be more orthodox and have choices every post however, I don't particularly mind either. Just add a comment with your vote and I'll know if there's some kind of consensus.
In an unrelated note, the world sorely lacks angry Minoriko pictures.
Shizuha is one of my favorite characters, so it should have been a no-brainer. But I had to debate on which one to pick, so I guess that shows how good both the characters are here.
And this is >>21411 here. You write it how you want to. Even if I maybe would like more choices, I'd not mind this format that much. Besides, I like it, so I'd rather not you change something if you believe it would hurt the story.
Agreed with your unrelated comment, though. There is a distinct lack of Aki pictures in general that have them badass or to a similar effect.
As for the post, I have to wonder. So Shizuha comes and goes truly, and doesn't stay the entirety of the year? Very interesting. I'm seeing a few similarities with Miss Whiterock here, which does make me wonder how'd these versions would interact. Also, it sounds like Minoriko doesn't do the same. I have to wonder why that is as so. Does the faith from the village allow her to stay, while Shizuha has to fade away until it is her time of year again? Or perhaps it is for a more sinister reason? Especially considering the whole human sacrifice aspect, one has to wonder.
Free to roam, I had little to do but to explore my surroundings. The house felt cramped compared to what I was used to. In the old mansion, wherever I went there was plenty of space around - there was not one place where I couldn't stretch my arms comfortably - not so here. Not only that, but the kitchen had none of the exotic ingredients and foods available in mounds, there was no carefully kept garden with all kinds of flowers to be found in the land, no servants to fetch me things I needed. Yet, for all that, it was better. For being cramped, it wasn't empty and dismal. Though it had less food, it tasted better, livelier. Though there were few flowers around the house, they grew naturally and glowed brighter for not being enslaved. Because there were no servants, I couldn't feel the distinct and then customary dagger's point of a stare on my back.
The only rooms of interest were those of each goddess: I briefly passed Shizuha's room; from the door, I could only see the room was bathed in her autumn colors. Figures.
I directed myself to Minoriko's room, not knowing exactly why. Idle curiosity, boredom, perhaps a deeper emotion then consciously unknown to me. I entered with only the faintest feeling that what I was doing was wrong; Imparting me with proper morals wasn't far up the list of those who taught me. Much the opposite, in point of fact; especially where it concerned privacy.
At first glance, the room was bare. It reminded me of mine, but smaller and with more furniture - nothing here gave me the impression that this was a room that was being lived in. Like a being outside reality set things in place and froze time, just here - no dirt, no dust, not one crooked line. I was truly mystified. It was enough to make me forget, for a second, that I was in a person's room, and not in some sort of furniture exhibition.
I opened her dresser. The situation was the same: rows of identical, immaculate dresses, the ones she's commonly depicted as wearing, and a couple of simpler white ones; the same I'd seen her in before. About this time my conscience finally started to kick. I should probably stop going through her stuff, it said.
But it did no good. I was too curious - or perhaps 'anxious to see' would be a better expression - now, to see if there was anything at all that showed any individuality here. I opened the drawers, one after another. Socks, shoes and sandals, although I'd only seen her barefoot so far, underwear - all as plain and perfectly arranged as the rest of the room. I closed this last one a little faster then the others - there was still at least a small measure of shame and decency in me, whatever good it did.
And, finally, something showed itself. As I opened the last drawer I felt a small shift, not there in the other drawers. A false bottom. I groped around while my imagination ran amok, thinking of a thousand things a goddess might have hidden; each more absurd than the last and all best left unspoken. My fingers sunk down at last - a hole in the wood, passing for a handle. I pulled, eyes wide with expectation.
Needlessly, as it turned out. There was no evidence of murder or any such thing to be found there.
It was just a dress. No, a second look corrected me. It wasn't just a dress; it was unlike all the other ones in this room. Bright gold in color and made of an extremely noble fabric rather than the comparatively common make of her other ones. It was probably worth more than everything else in this room combined.
That was about it for me. My conscience finally surpassed my curiosity. I didn't have any idea of why she would hide such a thing - nobody would burgle a goddesses' home, would they? But I was going into dangerous territory. I gingerly put it back in its place, making sure everything was exactly as it had been before - people who take the time to hide things like generally notice the smallest details.
I tip-toed out of the room, and...
Ran directly into Shizuha. Oh.
By the end of the half-second it took her to register me leaving Minoriko's room, she already had a lopsided grin on her face. “Ooooh?” She said, trailing. “What have we here then?”
I inwardly gave my thanks that her voice remained playful as ever.
I didn't even have time to open my mouth fully, she was already following up on it. “Don't answer that! You're just going to make excuses, aren't you?“ Right on the mark. ”That's quite alright, I understand completely.” Did she? I didn't. Why did I even go in there, again?
Her grin stretched. “I promise I won't tell, but I'll have to collect on that favor sometime, deal?”
I quickly thought about it. That smile was just a bit too wide for my tastes, but I would likely be gone within the week, and even if I did have a choice, she didn't seem like the sort to make me do anything terrible. I nodded.
“Great! Now not another peep about it,” she said, raising a hand to her lips. I was only too happy too comply.
She said her farewells and ran off to do whatever it is that she did. Little more than play around, I suspected.
And thus, night came.
Minoriko arrived looking grave, but not slamming doors anymore. She wasted no time; before a word of greeting was said she was already speaking in earnest.
“I still don't understand why.” Those were her first words.
“Why sacrifice you? They're not lacking food. I personally make sure of that,” she said, her face reddening again. To her credit, she kept her composure this time.
Why...? That's a good question. Nobody had seen it fit to inform me. “I don't know.”
She sighed, exasperated. “Just explain to me what you do. Why did they even think it was okay to sacrifice you?”
It sounded like she wanted to know more about me, in a way. I...
[ ] Explain in full what I did, from the beginning. [ ] Explain the gist of it - no needless details. [ ] She knows what she has to know already. Explain the bare minimum.
WELL. That was far more boring, horrible and creepy than I intended. I had half a mind to retcon the choice halfway through writing this update. I promise you future updates with less badness and higher Aki density.
[x] Explain in full what I did, from the beginning.
While she may have a good idea, we have the other half the picture.
While I'm tempted to ponder what would happen if we choose Shizuha's room, though I'd imagine the MC found what Minoriko uses to support her 'bumper crops'. But I wonder why she hid that dress, worries about up staging her sister even more?
[X] Explain in full what I did, from the beginning.
I doubt she'll want just minor details considering she's not known to be wanting bloody sacrifices. Another note as far as we know, he was told by his parents about his purpose but not much of a reason aside from merely having to do so.
Is the whole thing even connected to the rest of the village; rather it's a ritual for his prominent family to do than something the village wants to do? Hell wouldn't Keine or Reimu be entirely against the whole notion of a human sacrifice assuming the MC knows about them well enough?
If for some very strange/twisted reason he's unaware of those two then ignore that last bit as it's meta...
I can't help but wonder if it's a total miscommunication of what they meant by "sacrifice"
>>21453 >>21454 I should tell you guys about that this choice also determines how much background you get on the main character next update, so if you don't care for original characters in your story, you know what to do.
She wanted to know, did she? That meant I had to explain. Explaining meant talking.
I never much did like talking. As I'd had ample opportunity to experience, speaking was simply an extra, a bonus. A minute tightening of the lips, a shift in posture, a well placed look away can say more than a thousand words would. I could make yourself look scared, dominant, fearless, anxious - anything at all,knowing the proper signs. And more importantly, with a trained eye, one's heart is laid bare with minimal effort. Yet, sometimes, words were made necessary.
I sat in silence for a moment, considering my next words. “I've told you all I know. I was sent to sacrifice myself to you, and nobody told me why. This isn't as abnormal as you seem to think it is.” She sat right next to me, and already I could see her distress building clearly, her muscles tensing. Her eyes seemed to urge me onwards, so I thought it best to start from the beginning.
“I was born to one of the noble families in the village. They all own farmland, so you should be familiar with them, yes?” She nodded faintly.
I continued, seeing no sense in omitting anything. She was isolated in here, and as far as I knew, she only went to the village proper for the harvest festival; it's possible she didn't know some basic facts that were well-known to me. “Because the families supply most of the food of the village, they also hold power and make decisions, forming the committee of village elders. Of course, there's a lot of political intrigue and backstabbing. And so,” I said, folding my hands. “As far as I can tell, that is the reason I live for. Since my first memory, they've hired the best teachers for all sorts of things. I've learned many musical instruments and skills to impress important people, history, economics, all things that would be important for a ruler of sorts.” I paused. Somewhere along the way, Minoriko had seized my hand - yet again. I hadn't even noticed.
For what I was going to say next I hesitated, but not for long. However much I'd been told not to reveal this to anyone, I was talking to a goddess here. “I am an useful tool. People in high society are generally not suspicious of young ones, so it's easy to extract useful information in social gatherings, especially when they've had a few drinks... and other things.” I neglected to mention some of the less tasteful tasks I'd been made to do in said gatherings, nearly cringing as I remembered. Bad thoughts, bad thoughts. Minoriko looked - and felt - flustered enough as it was, her warm fingers sinking into my hand almost painfully. At least she was avoiding the nails that time.
“Besides that, I was also being groomed to become an eventual worthy successor. They haven't told me so - they don't tell me much, but I'm not dumb. I can piece things together.”
As soon as I said those words, something clicked in my head - and I kicked myself for not thinking of it before. Why would they have me sacrificed if they had already invested so much on me?
Storing that thought aside for then, I continued. “And that is why sacrifice isn't so far-fetched. They've given me everything I have and taught me everything I know. My life is... was,” I added, on second thought. “Theirs. And I am not special. I've been given to understand that the situation is the same for the descendants of most families. If they want to sacrifice me, I just obey. It's the way things are. It's... normal,” I concluded, an unintended exhaustion creeping into the last word, surprising even me.
Of course, I didn't enjoy doing those things, but I had no choice. It was my entire reality, and so I got used to it. I had to get used to it.
I looked down at the wooden floor, reflecting. When I laid it all out like that, it unexpectedly gave me a cold feeling at the pit of my stomach. A pervasive clammy unpleasantness, spreading throughout my body; I usually avoided thinking about the big picture, focusing in living through whatever had been thought up for me. It felt worse than I thought.
I looked at Minoriko for the first time since I began my little tirade. I'd thought she would be angry as before, but no such thing. She paled rather than flushed this time, her eyes set on a definite frown, yet there was something else to the frown. I recognized the expression as a dangerous one: grim determination.
At length, she spoke again, her voice low and controlled. “Tell me more.”
“More. All the things you... and others did for your families. I have to know.”
And so I did tell. I liked recalling none of them, but at this point, refusing was a non-option, even if I wanted to. We stayed awake far into the night, and I told her about all the tales of nobility I could remember; although I hadn't lived long, I had more than enough of them. Debauchery, excesses, and even murder all figured in. As I talked, I realized slowly myself how horrible it all was. Living in the midst of it all, I didn't register any of it until I stopped to think.
Minoriko sat and listened until I was done talking, never saying more than a word or two at a time in that low voice to prompt me forward, and when I was done talking, the moon high on the sky, she said no more than this: “We'll be going to the village tomorrow.”
And that was that.
Well, you guys did ask for the ham-handed exposition. I think I'm getting more efficient at this writing thing. It only took me around 3 hours for this update, rather than the usual 5 or 6.
Well, it looks our protag sure got the short end of the stick. I'm only familiar with western nobility, but general consensus seemed to be an heir and a spare. So if his family already had a heir and spare, or the next generation was already born, his value suddenly plummeted. And he became worth as little as cattle might be.
Still, I can't wait for next update. I just had the strangest grin come over my face while imagining what a certain goddess might be visiting upon the village. Diving wrath, anyone?
>>21508 >I'm only familiar with western nobility Well my good friend, truth is, so am I. It was pretty tough finding material on ancient eastern society customs, so I just sort of made it up, mashing together what little I knew from both sides. Call it laziness or research failure, if you like.
My excuse will be, the human village has been perfectly isolated for a couple hundred years, so it's not impossible that culture has mutated in that time.
Aye, alright, that makes sense. The only reason I put that in was to demonstrate my lack of knowledge, and if I needed to be corrected. That being said, I'm curious as to how you're to mix the two, especially considering how far you've stated you'll deviate from canon. As it is, I feel like your excuse works well. Particularly if you consider that if a society has stagnated so from being isolated from so long, families would jockey for power in any way imaginable, and implement the most subtle of methods in a hope to lull their foes into a more relaxed and uncaring state.
At least, that's how I'd see it, but that's just me. Either way, I see no problems, and can barely wait to see how this plays out.
If Kanako has only been around for a few years, I don't know. As much as I would like to pin the blame on her, it would take decades and decades of influence over the humans, which she never had.
Granted, if she arrived two or three hundred years earlier, I could see it happening. Especially if she aimed to weed herself in with the humans instead of the kappa/tengu. But for now, it'd be best to wait and see instead of presuming what other characters might be doing.
>>21512 Well there has to be some reason for the snake woman (whom I merely suspect to be Kanako) popped up in the MC's flash backs and with things diverging from canon this much, we can't rule out anything.
True, you raised a good point, as I had nearly missed it earlier. And you're correct on that point, as it could be her. I'd only like to not presume anything is going on, as doing so could lead to a fatal exception.
After all, the snake woman could be Sanae. Considering the protag's father mentions going to the High Priest's wedding ceremony, it makes one wonder. Then again, the mere indication that the Moriyas, if it is them, have more than one priest/shrine maiden shows how much more ingrained they've become.
It should come as little surprise that sleep did not find me easily that night. Neither soft bed nor warm cover did enough to truly claim me, even as the late night advanced. I turned and tossed, unable to calm. Now that I had been more or less forced to think, one question burned brighter in my mind than others. Why? Why had I been sent to be sacrificed?
I didn't remember doing anything wrong, so surely it couldn't be punishment. There had been no major incidents, so there was no appeasing of angry gods. The sacrifice was to the goddess of the harvest, so perhaps they simply wanted more profit? That too seemed far too simple. Puzzle over it as I might, nothing quite fit.
Perhaps from another angle.
There were only two people with even enough power to make such a decision, and though it pained me to think of them, it pained me more yet to not know. Those two.
First, he. The broad-shouldered master of the house, head of the family. Unlikely, I thought. It was from him the funds to raise and feed me came. He had poured too much money over too much time to throw it away easily. As much as he treated me as an object, a tool, it did not seem like he did it out of a dislike for me or another thing of the sort. It was simply how he was raised, in his time, and as such, raised me as well.
Then, She. Now that made a lot more sense. I couldn't remember exactly when she had shown up - some years ago at most - but I could remember it had been sudden. One day she wasn't there, and the next there she was, being treated as if she had been around for decades. I knew better than to ask, of course.
She would vanish sometimes for days at a time, which suited me just fine. Whenever she was around and deigned to turn her eyes to me, she'd make sure to take extra time to make me miserable. Touched me, knowing I hated her cold skin, said unspeakable words to me in her shiversome hissing voice, even pinched and struck me when she knew there was nobody around. It was some kind of comfort, somehow, that I was not alone. She treated much everyone the same, speaking to servants as though they were mere vermin, and looked down even at he, who would normally not suffer an insult even if it led him to his death.
Yes, it was not impossible that she would want to have me killed, though for what reason I couldn't say.
Just at that moment, the door creaked open. Immersed in such thoughts as I was, I started, imagining one that instant that I saw those slitted eyes, that venomous smile, sneaking inside to finish their job.
No such thing, of course. Rather than the woman's powerful, tall frame, stood Shizuha, small as she's always been, illuminated only by what moonlight could enter the room.
I calmed. She approached with small steps. “Um, I sort of arrived while you and sister were talking, and I didn't mean to eavesdrop or anything, but,” she made a guilty smile, “I did.” It's not like it was some kind of secret, so that wasn't a problem.
She sat next to the bed, wringing her hands and looking uncharacteristically reserved. “I just heard you tossing around from outside, and...” She seemed lost for words. I couldn't blame the girl, hearing what she heard today would probably put just about anyone out of sorts. Hell, it was all familiar to me and I still got disconcerted. “It just seemed so horrible for you, I ended up coming in here without thinking. I should probably start thinking before I do things, huh?” She said with an awkward chuckle. “Hmm. Starting tomorrow, that is, because right now I feel like doing this.”
Saying that, she clambered onto the bed and under the covers in one quick movement. It was thankfully quite big, so she could stay at a comfortable distance - as unconcerned about such things as she seemed, cuddling was a little too much for now, I thought.
“You'll be able to sleep right now, right?” She asked, peeking out from under the covers. I wasn't sure how her simply being there was supposed to help me sleep, but I nodded anyway. Surprisingly it did, and within few minutes I was fast asleep.
Alas, luck wasn't with me. I was woken up with a start not an hour later by a single knock. I took a moment to reorient myself; Shizuha was sleeping soundly, sprawled out on top of the covers, limbs bent in all directions, her head resting against my shoulder. I was amazed she hadn't fallen off the bed.
Another knock. I whirled my head around to look at the window.
All I could see there, silhouetted against the starry sky, were two large circles bulging out from some other shape, a slim arm extending from somewhere below.
It knocked again.
[ ] Investigate [ ] Stay put.
I suck at coming up with choices.
Turns out discussion also helps me steer the story, in addition to feeding my writer's appetite. This should help alleviate confusion some. By the way, this seems like an apt spot for me to inform you all that there will be no bad-ending in this story.
Currently 5-4 for staying put, but that's a big turnaround in a short amount of time. It'll be interesting to see where this heads either way.
Oh, and agreed with >>21528 The choices so far have been mostly simple and easy to understand. Which has been a refreshing change from convoluted votes that require google search or decryption to understand. I'm sure you'll be able to create more intriguing/diverging choices as we go on.
As for discussion, considering you've requested it, I'm drawing a bit of a blank as to why Suwako would be here. As we've seen no mention of her (and no indication of who snake lady is, whether it is Kanako or Sanae), I'm personally thinking she's in the same situation that Shizuha would be. Unknown and overshadowed by the much more important goddess (assuming here). That being said, with how poorly the current snake lady is being portrayed, it leaves me with a further impression. If it is Kanako that is acting like this, and is indeed the one that helped send us to our death (presuming), then Suwako might actually be on our side. That said, if it's Sanae, then Suwako would more likely be either evil or locked up and isolated. And seeing how she is visiting Minoriko's house at night...
That all said, do note that she is knocking. She wants permission to come in. And I doubt she actually needs it, so she wants to probably make nice under the cover of darkness, when Kanako/Sanae aren't looking. Which is why I reaffirm my previous vote of >>21536
Also, one question. You've said that there are no bad ends. Does that mean there are no snow ends as well?
>>21542 I'm not requesting discussion. Certainly I appreciate it and it's useful, but I don't want you to pull your brain out through your ears trying to come up with things to say if you don't feel like it.
On snow ends: I wonder about that. Does Winter not come to finish Autumn? Does the snowstorm not smother and kill the crop of an unlucky farmer? Nah. I'm just kidding. Probably.
I'm just saying that the chain of events that occurred within the boy's perception had taken some time. I'd imagine Suwako would have made attempts hindering plans of sacrificial humans as that just seem out of place of the Moriya Shrine.
I will say though I'm glad the write in managed to avoid being seemingly meta. The MC most likely wouldn't recognize Suwako, but having the courage, at least with Shizuha, to investigate is good.
Way too ominous. With all that was going on, I didn't think it was too good an idea to investigate by myself. We were smack in the middle of youkai territory, who's to say a particularly savvy and daring youkai wasn't looking for a midnight snack?
I looked at Shizuha. She looked relaxed, a peaceful look on her face as she rested against me. I would even have called it cute, if she wasn't drooling on my arm. Still, I felt a little bad about waking her up; It was like disturbing a precious and rare natural phenomenon. But not bad enough.
I shook her by the shoulder. “Shizuha. Shizuha, wake up.”
Thankfully, she was quick to wake. “Whaat?” She mumbled out, staring at me through half-lidded sleepy eyes.
“Someone's here,” I whispered, already dragging her out of bed by the arm.
I may have been more nervous than I'm willing to admit.
At this point, an especially fierce knock rattled the glass, which served to jolt her into full wakefulness. She looked at the silhouette on the window, then at me, quite bewildered. “Come on,” I said, pulling her along.
The mysterious shape loomed against the night sky quite forebodingly, but I was armed with a goddess now, so I should be safe, right? Wait, didn't Minoriko say something about wandering around the mountain being dangerous even to her?
Ah, to hell with it. If something powerful wanted me dead, it would have done the deed already. Not pausing to really think of the logic - or lack thereof - in that statement, I slid the window open, the wind chilling me.
And what a sight it was. I backed away from the window hastily as it... no, she pulled herself inside with slow, inhumanly fluid movements. Shizuha gripped my arm from behind me.
The... girl, I suppose I could call her, stood in the faint light now, and I could see her fully. The first thing I noticed was the hat: the shape I saw on the window. Somehow, it sat on her head normally though it was easily large enough to cover it completely. Floating hat? No, a second look corrected me.
It wasn't a hat at all. What I first took to be a couple of ornaments on top of her headwear wobbled and shifted, their oval... pupils? Swirling around inside. Yes, they had all the appearance of eyes, each almost half again as large as the hat they say upon. The leather that composed it looked rather too alive to be just leather, glimmering slightly in the starlight like a sheen of sweat covered it. Below the hat was a tiny child, though one could tell quite immediately that she was no child at all. If the hat-that-was-no-hat and the slinking, unnatural way she moved hadn't been enough to clue me in, the rest of her would have. As soon as she entered, she bent into a crouching position quite spontaneously, like a spring slowly returning to its natural state. She had the same odd shine to her body as her hat, her plain, loosely hanging purple clothes giving her the aspect of a ghost.
The only reason I had time to make all these observations is that, after getting in, she just crouched there. And stared. And stared. With all four eyes, directly at me.
Rather than me or her, the one to break the silence was Shizuha. “Who are you?” Seems she was done being scared, curiosity dominating her voice.
The strange girl spared Shizuha only a fleeting glance, setting her (lower) eyes again on me after a second. Harsh. At least it seemed to snap her out of her daze. “I've words with you,” she said. Her voice mimicked her movement: slow, measured, all around bizarre.
“First, I must apologize,” she said, bowing her head slightly. “It's partially my fault you were nearly killed.” Now that got my attention. She seemed to sense what I was going to say next. “I don't have the time to explain everything,” she said, ironically, in that same slow way. Her hat-eyes spun lazily backwards, to look out the window. Creepy. “My... Counterpart has finally run out of patience,” She said, showing her teeth. I think it was supposed to be a grin of some sort.
“Counterpart?” I asked, even though I had a good idea of who she was talking about. They both gave off similar auras - though the one before me was a little more agreeable. Well, less disagreeable.
She kept her "smile" on. “You'll know her as a rather unpleasant woman, but she's really just a big idiot. I managed to stall her for a number of years, but she's gone and done it, now.” She ran her eyes across Shizuha. “It seems you've found yourself a nice place here, so I advise you to not go back to the village. Things are about to get complicated there. Ah.” She made a disinterested noise and looked over her shoulder. I traded a look with Shizuha. She looked even more befuddled than I.
“Here she comes now. I ought to go,” she said, laughably unhurriedly. “I'll try and get to you again and explain things when I get the chance, but it might take a while. She usually keeps a tight leash, see.”
Saying that, she, rather amazingly, turned and, in a flash, leaped straight out of the window an amazing distance, impossibly, from a crouching position. And just like that, she was gone.
A beat passed.
And then Shizuha was upon me. She held me by the front of my shirt and half-shaked me, standing far too close; enough that I could smell her clearly again - cinnamon? Her eyes looked just like they did when I first met her - bottomless.
“Hey, what was she talking about? Who was that? What counterpart?”
I answered only mostly honestly. “I've no idea.”
She pouted. “Of course you do, why would she come to you otherwise? Oh!” She darted her eyes around the room. “Should we tell sister? Ah, but she'd worry too much.”
While she fretted, I wondered. Not much of what the girl said had made sense, but then again, I was running on very little sleep.
“Hey,” I begun, making myself look and sound exhausted - which wasn't too hard, considering I really was exhausted. At this, Shizuha calmed quickly, looking at me worriedly. “Can we think about this tomorrow? I'm just a little tired now.”
She kept pouting, but jumped, rather violently, onto the bed by way of response. I mouthed a silent thanks and practically collapsed, the day finally taking its toll on me.
And finally, finally, I got some hours of rest.
I hope you enjoy reading this Suwako as much as I enjoyed writing her.
I think I'm throwing the plot at you guys just a teensy bit too fast. Things should calm down some soon.
Heh, perhaps. But right now, I'll just take me the Aki goodness, no matter who wins.
Actually was considering my own hand at an Aki story when Aeolist showed up. Felt it would have been rude to do so after that fact, so I'm holding off. Besides, this story is awesome, and I'd hate to distract in the slightest.
>>21563 Yeah and if it was sacrifices to Kanako, it'd be one thing but it was to the Akis (who were shocked and appalled by it)
But now that I think about it, what other changes are in this Gensokyo besides SnakeWoman pulling the strings and the village's nobility becoming so corrupt that even the French Nobility at its worst would be appalled.
Perhaps they are not all gone so far as to sacrifice one of their children to a goddess, for whatever reason.
But remember, nothing exists in a vacuum. While it is obviously Snake Lady's fault that he was sent to his death (or am I presuming too much?), it doesn't mean that his family thought much better of him otherwise. From my understanding, she is a recent acquisition by the family, while the web of intrigue that encircles everyone has been around much longer. So, we cannot say that the family doesn't seem that barbaric, as they only needed one small push to send them down the slippery slope.
Whether the others are as bad remains to be seen. But they cannot be much better, if that family has sunk to such depraved depths. Knowing all this, I fear for the other residents of the human village. How do the nobles treat those that are beneath them? And Akyuu... is she in a similar position that we are in? Another child, to be sacrificed for whatever gain that can be had for the family? Or is she on the other side of that fence.
Oh, I'm quite aware. I'm just basing it off of the fact that the Aki's are surprised, yet not unfamiliar to the concept. Minoriko is appalled that someone would do such a thing. But she is aware of it, and it potentially has been done in the past. (Notice how she does go off and check on whether the village was not starving, implying that sacrifices had been made, or attempted to have been made, previously to this incident) The reaction, as I understood it from her, was 'what sort of barbarian would do such a thing in these days?'
What I'm more concerned about is what protag is concerned. It makes no sense to sacrifice him, considering how useful he's been and how well he has been trained. Factoring in the reaction from Minoriko, I am assuming that sacrifices are nearly a relic of the past, in her opinion.
It makes me wonder, what purpose was there for the sacrifice? Perhaps the act was not meant as a message for one of the families, nor for a boon. Perhaps it was a signal from Snake Lady that she is intertwining herself with the community, possibly in an attempt to supersede the Akis as the major goddesses? We simply do not have enough information at this point to know.
Essentially, what I am arguing is that we cannot simply assume that sacrifices are commonplace. We must simply look at the facts as: We have been sent to be sacrificed, the goddess being sacrificed is horrified at the notion, but not unfamiliar as she immediately checks for possible reasons, and that we were sent to be sacrificed by one who is either a goddess or in service to one.
Count in the fact that Suwako says her counterpart is finally making her move, and it fits the picture even better. The protag was sent to die, in order to send a message. Think of the horse's head in Godfather. Except, we were the horse.
Also, hate to nitpick, but could you remember to sage your posts when not voting?
Didn't get to vote, but I agree with >>21571 in that human sacrifice is likely not a regular occurrence, but rather the power play Suwako alluded to.
Left without an heir, there is no succession, and the political power of a house crumbles. The father is at the least disgraced when his son is found to have killed himself, and possibly worse if it does indeed turn out to be the cause. There's the possibility that he would be lauded for his contribution, but the lack of appreciable change in yield would make him a fool, and no one would marry their daughter into the family of a disgraced mad-man to provide him another son.
Instead of slaying the boy at a prepared altar, or throwing him out to die by 'natural' predators, or even sowing his blood into rice paddies, has the most powerful-seeming noble's heir killed in the most public fashion. Without gathering the villagers. Without any pomp or ritualized in the least, when Japan, even in its most isolated of villages, is exceptionally concerned with in religion, to the point where it displaces belief in the gods themselves.
I think that implies that this is an uncommon practice, or at least one the general populace is unfamiliar with, and about to get very familiar with when they find the corpse at the village's most famous landmark--essentially a magical weather station. Not terribly much more to do with a farm god, than say, a farm. Definitely more to do with gods that have power over the winds. If torrents come and the winds blow hard, there's the 'sacrifice' to blame.
Now, if this was chosen to occur at a specific time, when the critically-important harvest goddess herself happened to be in the area, it's even worse. Enraged, she complains to village elders. Unfavored by the goddess of harvests and apparently insane enough to have his own heir killed, yet responsible for the survival of the villagers? Pitchforks and torches.
Perhaps Kanako is engineering a calamity to dismantle the entire plutocracy? Or she seeks to estrange the village or the nobles from the harvest goddess? She already hisses in the ear of one powerful man, and even if her soothsaying brought a crisis to his door, she would continue to control the him, if not through magic then with the promise of providing another heir.
Really interested in this, btw. You make the main character seem pitiable without seeming pathetic. That's hard to do!
Good point you've made. I had supposed that the target was the Aki's, but perhaps you are right, and she attempts to dismantle the local systems of government and class. Or, rather, she intends to manipulate them in ways that would suit her the most. Perhaps it's simply a combination of all of the above, and taking whatever she can get. If it all works out, it's wonderful; if the plan only works partially, that is fine. Either way, she has made progress towards her objective, whatever that may be.
The only spanner in the works is the fact that protag is still alive, yet it doesn't mean that her objective is unfulfilled. Rather, if he does grow away from his previous role (indeed, the realization that his life is a lie has already been done, bu he is learning that there yet may be more to life itself), he would still be an unsuitable heir. Come to think of it, is he the heir? Aeolist never has directly stated it. Perhaps he is simply that spare child that is not needed.
The only spanner in the works is that Minoriko found him while alive. If he had been found dead to rights (instead of mostly dead), she would have been nonplussed and appalled, but what would she have done? She would have made sure to check the village for any troubles, if sacrifice indeed was the name of the game, but finding none she would have been left without any clues. Even as a goddess, she would have likely been rebuffed by the family, or so I would presume. There'd be no lines of inquiry that she could follow off, and could only pass it off as unable to do anything about it.
Anyways, agreed with the spoilered comment there. You've done it well so far. Can't wait to see what happens next.
In retrospect, it wasn't the smartest of ideas to sleep in the same bed with Shizuha. She wasn't a quiet sleeper, to say the least. When Minoriko came to wake me, what she found was a tangle of limbs and soft parts all over. Thankfully she understood; I imagined she'd had similar experiences with her sister.
Shizuha promptly scampered off and left me and Minoriko alone. We had a silent breakfast. She clearly hadn't had the best night of sleep - her eyes, focused, but on nothing in particular, had dark circles around them and she sagged against the table.
As we stepped onto the fresh grass outside, a thought hit me: the trip to the village wasn't exactly a short walk. I looked at Minoriko: she was likely pondering the same thing, from the look on her face. Not long afterwards, she seemed to come to a resolution.
She beckoned me closer with her hand, a gesture as simple as it was charming. It may have been the scraps of my prejudice towards gods acting up, but to see her do it so naturally, as any mother would when calling her child, filled me with an emotion I couldn't quite place - the same as when I went into her room, I noticed with some surprise.
As I got close, she stayed me with one thin hand and turned her back to me.
She made an annoyed noise and, rather abruptly, reached back and pulled me in by the legs. I was reminded yet again of how strong she was as I was effortlessly lifted onto her back. I leaned in and reflexively wrapped my arms around her shoulders, steadying myself. As I had learned the past day or two, Minoriko seemed to always smell of something different. Always something nice and, curiously, usually edible. Presently, I could almost taste freshly baked bread, being so close to her.
She turned partway - and I could have sworn I saw the hint of a blush - to make sure I was safe, and then she took off. I wasn't prepared for it; I lurched, tightening my grip. And realized.
We were flying.
She went high - the trees became spots, the forest one big green carpet. The strong wind roared and whipped my hair around, I could barely hear myself think, and I had to keep my eyes mostly closed. Still, I was flying. What was only achievable by madmen willing to isolate themselves, learn magic, and stand being shunned by everyone, and here was I, doing what few of them even ever achieved. A smile came unbidden to me, and, with some surprise, I noted that I couldn't even remember the last time I'd genuinely smiled. I'd been living, theoretically, in luxury for all of my life, yet the one time I was happy was after being sent off to die and living a couple days inside a cabin deep in the woods, with no amenities or even humans anywhere nearby. The irony was so astounding, it drew a chuckle out of me. And it was all because of her.
Minoriko peered at me with the corner of her eye. “What?” She asked, or rather, yelled, to be heard against the buffeting winds.
“Nothing,” I replied near her ear, fighting against a smile still. “But thank you.”
You guys have no idea how much I wish I was just a reader right now, so I could participate in this debate.
Just a short bonding scene with your favorite goddess before I get to the real meaty part of the update and your choice. I want to get it out this weekend still, but no promises.
Could always play it off as he was so tired, that he thought it was all a dream/vivid hallucination. But when he brings it up with Shizuha later, or mentions a weird dream about Suwako to Minoriko, one of them could realize that it was no dream.
No bad ends in this story, remember? Although there is the chance he may be captured and detained for now, we will eventually be able to leave. Have faith, and ye may have your happy ending with your goddesses, aye?
I held on tight, enjoying the view (and feel) of our little trip. The forest gave way to field, which, in time, gave way to the village. The village. From up here, it was an unsightly brown blight on the landscape, the multicolored woven farmlands stretching past it a good ways. Green and yellow of all shades, with only the occasional farmhouse and cattle dotting the scenery.
And in the middle of it all, the town proper. It was walled, but more due to tradition than actual fear of attacks. Youkai had stopped being quite so bold long ago, and now contented themselves with the occasional stray child or unlucky isolated family. The roads didn't extend far; other than the immediate vicinity of the village, there weren't many places one would want to go to.
Most strikingly, I saw from up here what I couldn't from the ground: the walled off portion inside the town itself - where I lived. Whereas most of it was composed of small, dirt-colored homes clustered together like some sort of human hive, inside that barrier, all houses were like my own. Wide - wider than necessary, each with their own expansive green gardens. I'd been mostly isolated, only very rarely getting a glimpse of the rest of the village, so I didn't have much of an idea of just how contrasting it was.
Minoriko touched down near one of the entrances, much to the fish-faced surprise of the few guards milling about. I jumped off - with some regret - and watched as she talked in hushed tones with a couple of them, who then darted off into the town like they were being chased.
The town was much like it seemed from above. Ramshackle, sometimes half-built buildings of brick and wood grouped together with little regard for safety. Twisting, small alleys branched off from the main pathway into unseen corners. And then, the main ingredient of any city: the people. And this one was full of them. Sly-faced merchants in their storefronts and stalls, calling out their wares in loud voices; bustling packs of children like sheep running around the paved path, making merry in whatever way they could; housewives and idle women standing at every door and corner, chattering and gossiping away; burly men hammering away at whatever roof or door was in direr need of fixing than the rest.
My mind flashed back to the warning of the odd girl, but nothing here seemed to be out of the ordinary. I kept quiet for the moment.
It was lively. Until we passed through, that is. There was not one man who didn't know Minoriko, from her routine appearances in the harvest festivals. There was a curious effect as we passed, Minoriko marching with decided steps, me behind her.
First, all noise ceased as the villagers stared unabashedly at us, and not long afterwards, a wave of chatter would rise and accompany us. I looked back; sure enough, a crowd was forming behind us, people abandoning whatever they were doing and following the mounting mass of people.
I started getting a little nervous when I realized I wasn't privy exactly to what she planned to do. If she was just going to deliver me and leave, she wouldn't have drawn this much attention, I thought. I shot her a quick look, but she had her eyes set straight forward, the slight paleness from lack of sleep doing little to detract from her fierce look.
Finally the pathway widened, and we walked on to what even I recognized as the main square - not very hard, considering the enormous stone statue of serpentine dragon to the center, coiling around itself. The people following emerged behind us, making the already crowded square positively unbearable.
I saw what she dispatched the guards earlier to do: a couple of them were hastily erecting a makeshift wooden platform to the front of the statue, and I could see others still, leading a few of the village elders - each family, all with their personal troupe of bodyguards, all of which had known about my sacrifice. Virtually everybody seemed confused and awed to some degree, and who could blame them?
I began to form a vague idea of what Minoriko was about to do, and it wasn't going to be pretty.
She easily cut open a swath in the crowd, climbed onto the platform with little effort and pulled me up by the hand.
I took stock. Most of the important people seemed to already be present, father included, save for a very important one. Her. She was nowhere to be seen.
Minoriko spoke firmly, and although she did not yell, her voice carried far and swiftly silenced whatever chatter there may have been.
“I want to ask all of you, why do you think I do what I do?” She stared them down. “Why do you think I work the whole year long to make sure every single one of you here has enough to eat?”
She paused. Most of the audience looked flabbergasted, understandably. To them, she was little more than an abstract concept you'd pray to, or a waving form at the festivals. Not many had had the luck to see and hear the goddess from up close.
“It's because I love you. It's because I don't want to see anybody dying needlessly. So what am I supposed to think when I find a dying boy,” she rested her hand on my head. “Who then tells me he was sent to die by the very people who are supposed to be governing this place,” she turned to burn a hole into the rich people present with her eyes, “for no good reason at all? An innocent child!”
They did not in fact send me, but they had all known about it, which I suppose was all the same to her.
A murmur ran through the crowd, and the faces of the assembled nobility took an interesting downward turn.
And then she told them. All I had told her. All of the dirty secrets and detestable happenings that had stayed behind closed doors until now came out. Of the murders, and orgies, and lies, and vices, and gambling, drugs, excesses, banquets and everything else. With each word, the crowd grew more restless. A few of the people being accused beat a hasty retreat under the fiery eyes of the populace, while others dared to stay to the end. I had no doubt they wouldn't have been able to leave at all if not for the armed guard with them.
Once she was done, the square was rather tumultuous, the people itching to go.
“I'm taking this one with me. That's no place for anyone to grow up in,” she finished, referring to the 'inner circle'.
I should have stopped her at some point. There was no way this was going to end well, but for the moment, I was simply too stunned that I was finally leaving those horrible people for good. The thought had passed my head before, but I didn't want to feed a false hope. And so we stayed blissfully unaware of the events set in motion that day.
We left the crowded village behind, back towards her - our - home.
When we arrived, she said nothing, but pulled me into a hug and gave me a sweet smile, and most thoughts of everything thing else were erased. I managed to remember, however, to tell her about our visitor. Once I was done describing the exchange and how she told me not to go back to the village, Minoriko adopted a thoughtful face.
“So this woman of yours is linked with some kind of youkai in some way? Nothing comes to mind.” I had figured the frog-girl for a youkai, but really, she could have been anything. “Well, it doesn't matter anymore, does it? You won't be going back there.” And it was true. As far as I knew, then.
Despite the lingering worries in the back of my mind, the following weeks were my happiest and most carefree. I was happy to forget all about the heavy stuff and enjoy myself as much as I could, ignoring all else. Minoriko didn't leave the house as much as before, perhaps as worried as I, or extending her punishment, giving me ample chance to play around and talk to her and her sister.
From those times, a few moments stood out to me.
[ ] One nosy tengu stopped by for an "interview", as she called it. [ ] Shizuha dragged me and her sister out for a swim in the river. [ ] Minoriko took me fishing, resulting in an interesting encounter with a river kappa. [ ] We were visited by yet another infamous goddess from the forest. [ ] Shizuha whisked me off again for another short adventure. [x] One night, a strange noise woke me up, and I just had to investigate... [x] And finally, I had a chance encounter with a certain green-haired shrine maiden.
Time to relax. Pick one. You'll have the chance to choose others from this selection later, so don't worry.
And yeah, I am shamelessly ripping off someone else's voting system. If you're reading this, I hope you don't mind.
[x] Shizuha dragged me and her sister out for a swim in the river.
This option has Shizuha in it. It cannot be beat.
Anywho, has anyone noticed the Minoriko has essentially told us, you're gonna get taken home? I wonder if that's ever happened to an MC before. Usually, it's the other way around. And I can see this as Minoriko giving a long suffering sigh at her sister's actions, but secretly enjoying it the entire time. At this rate, I honestly feel like we're getting turned into a little brother. Not that I do mind too much.
Sanae has had many roles. FoM in particular comes to mind. That was the first story where there was even a chance of an Aki route (It had a good Shizuha in it) However, once Sanae showed up, everything swung in that direction. Granted, that ship had sailed before I found THP, but it seems to be a distinct pattern.
>>21603 She's very similar to Marisa or Alice in that regard. Not even Sakuya was this unrivaled. It doesn't help that some past stories write the sisters off anytime outside of their season when they would likely be around still, just not as powerful.
[x] Shizuha dragged me and her sister out for a swim in the river.
I'm worried about how this Sanae would be considering the god she serves. (I don't think she's even aware of Suwako in this Gensokyo)
But this option does call for me though I'm sure Shizuha's swimsuit would be nice despite not having "bumper crops". I'm trying not to think on the choice as it's a painful decision.
I feel ya there, friend. I'd almost say go for the third option, but would that even be fair to them? We'll merely see how this plays out, and do what we can when the time comes.
But that's just another reason to worry about this Sanae. Will she still be a good girl, or will have Kanako corrupted her further? This is especially bad if we're going to be seeing round 2 of the game starting soon.
This was something of a struggle to write, so I might cut the slice of life scenes I planned short. Vote carefully.
After tomorrow I'll have virtually unlimited free time, so you can expect more frequent updates (if video games don't swallow me whole).
I know I said the protagonist was “a child”, but really, you should imagine him as somewhere between 12 and 16 years old as I do, or this story will be getting a little weird in the future. Well, unless you're into that stuff, I guess. Who am I to judge? Anyway, fanservice time. This is your beach/hot spring/pool episode. Enjoy it while you can.
A familiar cry, growing in volume fast, along with the rapid thumping of naked feet on wooden floorboards.
WHAM, and the poor abused doorknob widened the dent in the wall next to it by another bit. I internally saluted whatever master craftsman managed to make something so sturdy.
Shizuha – for it could have been none other – stood on the doorway sporting her usual sunny grin, holding out a colorful collection of straps and strings.
“I got us swimsuits!”
Looking up from her book, the younger sister breathed in deeply and closed her eyes, as one does when they're about to sigh – but stopped there. “Okay. So?”
Shizuha's smile didn't fade in the slightest. “'So?' What do you think, silly?” She skipped her way to Minoriko and pulled on her arm. I'd learned Shizuha was quite fond of touching as she talked, for whatever reason. I didn't mind it. “We're going swimming, is what. Today. Now.” She shot me a look. “You too.”
“No, we're not.”
Shizuha mock-pouted. “And why in the heavens not? You're not doing anything either way. Don't you want to go have some fun?”
The answer was immediate. “It wouldn't be proper for a goddess.”
“Oh, please,” Shizuha retorted. “Not that again. What does it matter if you go for a swim? Will anyone stop praying to you because they find out you go out to play sometimes? Plus, you've been doing some other rather 'improper' things for a goddess this past week anyway, or have you not?”
Minoriko silenced, but gave no hint of wavering. The older sister made a displeased face for a moment, before a sly look displaced it. She slid behind me, putting her hands on my shoulders. “Well, I can't do anything about that, then. I guess I'll just be taking this one with me.”
She stirred at that. Shizuha noticed, and I could feel her smile turning dangerously predatory behind me. She leaned closer, wrapping her arms around my neck.
“Who knows what might happen when I'm completely alone with such a cute boy?” This earned another twitch.
Shizuha held out the swimsuits again. “And wearing so little clothi–” Minoriko stood up abruptly, interrupting her.
“Fine,” she said through clenched teeth. “I'll go.”
The change in Shizuha was immediate. She bounced off me, returning to her normal cheery disposition. “Great! Come with me, let's put these on.” Minoriko followed, grumbling.
Funny how I didn't even get any say.
We walked this time, to my well concealed disappointment. Or, I should say, I and Minoriko walked while Shizuha pranced and twirled around.
Through the unused-looking paths – I wondered briefly who had built them – she lead us to a secluded spot somehow surrounded almost entirely by mountain face; small trees and shrubs grew through cracks in the stone, coloring the place a pleasant green. A waterfall, short and small compared to others in the mountain, ran down the rocks, forming a clear natural pool just the right size for swimming, before going dropping to and running through the forest, further down. Minoriko's sour look was easing by the minute.
As soon as the pond came into view, Shizuha yelped and, in one swift motion, threw her dress to the ground like it was nothing.
Now, I'll let no man say I'm a lecher, but to not take what you're offered is just impolite.
True, she didn't have as much as her sister, but what she did have was perfect. She was sleek, hints of toned muscle spread throughout her physique. A flawlessly curving navel and strong thighs – a runner's body, to be sure, as seeing her in motion proved. The swimsuit matched her dress, orange with maple leaf prints. Cute. Unfortunately, I only managed to get a small peek before she dived into the water headfirst.
She waved us closer, only head and arms out of the water.
I glanced to the side: Minoriko was glowering at me. I made an apologetic gesture – I was a healthy young male, what could I do?
Then, it was her turn; and as she undressed, I was reminded that she was, indeed, a goddess, in all possible senses of the word.
I realized that her usual poofy dresses actually did wonders in hiding her figure, and even then, I could tell. I couldn't help it. My eyes went straight to the obvious feature... that is, features. Her breasts strained against the swimsuit – matching her sister's – and it rebelled, stretching wonderfully and delineating every curve perfectly. She wasn't as slim as Shizuha, but by my life, that was just fine.
“...You're staring.” So she said, gravely, but the blush in her cheeks was clear to see. I don't think anybody would have blamed me if I didn't, but I averted my eyes anyway.
Shizuha was already making the best of the excursion, darting back and forth in the pond like there were sharks in it. Minoriko, after having some time to soak, looked quite relaxed for someone who didn't even want to come in the first place. I dived in as well, and found the water pleasantly warm, hot even. Volcanic spring water, perhaps? I'd heard the Youkai Mountain was actually a volcano. It was relaxing enough to make me forget entirely that we were in fact smack in the middle of a mountain chock-full of dangerous youkai.
At some point, Shizuha took a break from her fevered thrashing in the water to swim my way, looking like she was up to something. She draped herself over my shoulder, touching me with altogether too much of her body, and apparently thinking nothing of it. I thanked my guardian angels for the good sense of self-restraint I was bestowed with.
“So, what do you think?” she whispered conspiratorially, her eyes glued to Minoriko, laying with her eyes closed in the shallows. In times like this, it was better to play dumb.
“Think about what?”
“What do you mean, 'what'? I bring you this great present, and you won't even acknowledge it?” she returned, affecting a shocked voice; the effect broke right away as she grinned.
“You're really lucky, did you know? Even I have to go through the trouble of barging into the bath just to get to see this. Her. Them.” Did this girl even know what she was saying? Did she feel no shame at all?
She looked down at her own modest self, evidently not having the same thoughts as I. “They're pretty nice, but I think I like mine better. Can you imagine what a pain it would be to run with those? They'd flop all over the place.”
I didn't think she noticed, but at some point she'd gone from whispering back to her normal tone of voice. Her quite loud normal tone of voice. With each word she uttered, Minoriko – not quite far away – got a little redder, her frown a bit deeper. I wisely kept my mouth shut.
She continued, heedless. “Speaking of which, I just want you to know that if you want to try something, you don't have to worry about any interference from me. I think she needs to cut loose anyway, so this might be a good opportun–” “Shizuha.”
She froze on the spot. I think she realized she'd gone a bit over the line, as not another word escaped her mouth, even though Minoriko didn't say anything. She just stared, furious, and blushed bright red, though if from anger or embarrassment was unclear.
Shizuha stopped being quite so rowdy after that, but only for that day, I suspected. Minoriko told me in hushed tones to “forget what I heard”, but that was quite the tall order. Nevertheless, I felt reinvigorated, and it looked like I wasn't alone. For all her reluctance, Minoriko looked content, almost swaying her hips as we walked back, although that last detail might have been just the result of my state of mind.
I had to thank Shizuha sometime. She did provide a stimulating day, in various ways.
[ ] One nosy tengu stopped by for an "interview", as she called it. [x] Shizuha dragged me and her sister out for a swim in the river. [ ] Minoriko took me fishing, resulting in an interesting encounter with a river kappa. [ ] We were visited by yet another infamous goddess from the forest. [ ] Shizuha whisked me off again for another short adventure. [x] One night, a strange noise woke me up, and I just had to investigate... [x] And finally, I had a chance encounter with a certain green-haired shrine maiden.
[x] Minoriko took me fishing, resulting in an interesting encounter with a river kappa.
That was awesome. The wait was definitely worth it. And I can't believe I'm voting against my favorite of the two... But I want to see if we can crack the barrier she has put up. We've already broken through a few spots.
Well normal and cheerful suits her better. The *ahem* grimdark vision is usually forced. Maybe you can try making her normal or happy on the outside and sad and fed up on the inside. She doesn't like her work, but still does it because who else will.
He's done pretty well with all the characterization so far. And it doesn't look like he's pulled it out of his hat at the last second... So let's see how this works. As long as it doesn't go as far as grimdork... And as long as there is spinning. Lots of spinning.
>>21640 that's what people like about her: her kindness and resonablity compared to the norm: Sociopathy (Considering how the heroines are composed of one greedy shrine maiden, one kepto magic user, and one shrine maiden that's forsaken any sort of common sense)
Minoriko was not the only one worshiped in the village – though she was the one favored by most. Some paid tribute to the Hakurei, the 'official' protector, but almost none dared make the trek to her shrine. It was entrenched deep in the deadly Magic Forest, and there were even those who would say she consorted with Youkai.
Compared to those two, however, all others were minor, unknown deities, or those that were not even deities at all. Amongst those, there was always talk of one goddess who was rather feared than worshiped.
A “curse goddess”, they called her. Should you so much as spot her in the distance, your crops would wither and die, you and your family would fall ill, your home would go up in fire, you'd lose all your hard-earned money – or so the stories said. None of them had a speck of truth to them, naturally.
However, I could understand how they came to be, after meeting her.
An oppressive feeling came over me, like the air thickening into black tar. Simply breathing in became a challenge of its own. My lungs strained. Movements became sluggish, my limbs suddenly tripling in weight. One look at Minoriko's troubled face, across the table from me, told me she felt it as well.
Then, a knock on the door.
Minoriko got up, probably faster than I'd have been able to under the circumstances and went over, warily; Shizuha never knocked. Opened it. And revealed an apparition.
Pale as bleached bone and as gaunt, she was. Her sunken cheeks and the dark circles around her eyes told a tale of one who did not much sleep or eat, and an intricate blood-red dress fell flat against her emaciated form. Expensive-looking ribbons tied to her hair ran down to her shoulders, and I could see more of them wrapped loosely around one arm, reminding me of a prisoner's cuffs.
I knew instantly who it was – and not only because of the symbol for 'misfortune' brazenly emblazoned on the front of her dress. She curtsied: a grisly sight.
“You're... Hina, right?” Minoriko asked, unsure of herself.
She made a thin-lipped smile, as though pleased someone recognized her. “That's right.” Her voice was low and raspy. “May I come in?”
“I won't bother you very long,”
“I – I suppose.” She stepped aside.
Hina stepped inside, making the air just a tad heavier. I was the first thing she saw. We locked eyes – hers were a dulled green, likely by whatever had dulled the rest of her as well.
“Ah! Got yourself a pet human, did you?”
I didn't like how she phrased that at all. Minoriko frowned with me.
“Just a little joke. Nevermind.” She coughed. “Anyway, you both know what I do, correct?”
I nodded uncertainly.
“Good, that means I can skip the boring explanation. I thought I felt something from here.” She stepped towards me, her smile sharp. I would've backed away if I was capable of moving at all. “See, there are different types of misfortune. Yours is very peculiar. I haven't seen it in a while.”
She put her hand on the side of my neck – cold as the kiss of death, naturally – and mumbled something to herself.
“Hmm. Have you gone to the shrine at the top of the mountain lately?”
At the top of the mountain...? Oh, that's right. I faintly recalled news of a shrine showing up there some years ago, but nothing came of it. “I haven't.” I managed to keep my voice from wavering.
“Curious. Well, no matter. Could you get up for me?”
“Wait. I haven't been suffering from bad luck,” much the opposite, actually, “how am I cursed?”
“Well, you've been living with two goddesses, right? Those are beacons of good fortune.” She made a crooked smile. “Except for one of them. Anyway, get up.”
“So I can take your misfortune, what else?”
I looked at Minoriko: she was just watching tensely, so I assumed there was no danger to it. I struggled to my feet, using the table for support.
“The ritual causes no lasting damage, so it would be better if you didn't panic.” ...“Lasting” damage?
Ignoring my panicked expression, she began.
She stared straight at me, her eyes keen now, unlike before. Other sounds, smells and sights all faded entirely. I could only see, feel and hear Hina. She smiled.
The ribbons slowly uncurled from her arm, and I saw one coming from somewhere below her long dress. They snaked over my skin, feeling like silk. Wrists, legs, one went under my shirt and wrapped around my chest. Hina's smile widened. Finally, one of the ribbons tightened around my neck menacingly, not quite squeezing, and they all stopped moving.
“Alright, let's begin it proper now.”
I didn't even have time to be scared by those words before the ribbons all tightened. Simultaneously. I felt something flowing out of me, as if some sort of thick liquid was flowing right out of my arteries and into her. Curiously, they neither choked me or hurt at all – the only feeling was one of strong pressure.
Gradually her eyes misted up, her breathing became labored. Finally she fell against me, holding herself up by my shoulders. I don't know how I managed to stay up. She breathed hard on my ear, giving me goosebumps. And that's where we were stopped.
She was yanked hard away from me. The ribbons slipped away easily as if they weren't touching me at all. Hina fumbled and fell with a dry thump, her loose and now lifeless fabrics spread over the floor. I would've fallen as well, but something held me up. Something soft.
The soft someone looked at the fallen 'goddess' with something like a mixture of anger and pity. I guess it would look like she was choking me from the outside.
Hina let out a choked cough, her face obscured by her hair. “I understand. I'll let myself out.” And so she left, dragging her ribbons behind her.
“Are you alright?” Minoriko fussed over me. “I should have stopped her earlier.”
“Actually... I feel fine.” And I did. There was no pain at all. I looked down at my wrists – the red welts from the ribbons were fading rapidly.
“Ah...” Minoriko looked guiltily at the door, but she was already gone.
I suppose that's simply the fate of one born with a title such as “curse goddess”.
Being Hina is suffering. Came out maybe a bit darker than I intended?
Anyway, we're going back to the plot soon. Sit tight.
Agreed. But maybe if Minoriko feels guilty about what she did, we can talk her into helping us make some food for her? That way sh doesn't feel so bad, and maybe help Hina make friends with the goddesses.
Of course, insert Shizuha, and everyone might be more at ease. That, or they'll be too busy wondering what she's doing to think about their unease of each other.
I've just realised that as enjoyable to read as this Hina was, we've glossed over an important plot hint.
>“Hmm. Have you gone to the shrine at the top of the mountain lately?”
>At the top of the mountain...? Oh, that's right. I faintly recalled news of a shrine showing up there some years ago, but nothing came of it. “I haven't.” I managed to keep my voice from wavering.
>“Curious. Well, no matter. Could you get up for me?”
She's seen this curse before. Now who (or is that a what?) do we know that lives in a certain shrine and is affiliated with curses?
Curiouser and curiouser. Either Suwako lied to us (or withheld information) about her role in this, Kanako has more power over the Mishaguji in this story than she should have (assuming she's behind the woes of the MC), or there's something more sinister than the above two at work.
By that time, I had no idea just how exactly Minoriko did what she did, her actual work. How did she bless the farmers and farms? Did she wave her hands and do some shiny magic to grow the crops? Was there some elaborate ritual to it? It interested me greatly.
I hadn't much left the house in these days I'd spent here. “It's dangerous outside,” she'd said – but I ventured then. What was the value in living in a staggering place as the base of a great mountain if I was to stay cooped up inside?
I circled the house leisurely for the first time since I'd gotten here. The imposing rock face, towering trees; looking at it all made me feel a bit low that most humans would be confined to that cluttered pile of brick, stone and plank, as if thrown there at random, for most of their short lives.
So wondering, I came across an unusual sight. I didn't know how I'd missed it before. Tucked away in a well hidden spot just behind the building, a well maintained vegetable garden: small patches of dirt floor in the middle of the grass, neatly and carefully enclosed in small white pebbles, decorating them. Plants and trees of all sorts grew here, but of the small and harmless variety, contrasting with the titanic trees of the groves nearby. Some laden with heavy, ripe fruit, though it wasn't even season for them; some I had never even seen before, lending all sorts of color to the garden.
In the middle of it was Minoriko, a serene look on her face, looking very much like she was born into it – which she probably was. She crouched, thick gloves on, doing the most menial work I could think of: weeding. Yet, despite her status, she looked not the least put off by it. Her puffy dress bunched, far too cumbersome to be comfortable while doing such work, but she didn't even seem to notice.
She finally noticed me and rose from her task, wiping her hair-plastered forehead; the summer sun wasn't in the mood to be kind, and it showed.
I gestured to the lush, well-kept garden. “What's all this for?” A shrug. “I can't exactly go down to the village buy food.” She had a point.
Pitchforks, shovels and other tools leaned against a wall, neatly arranged but work-worn and dirty, which clued me in that she did have to actually work and not just wave her hands to make things grow.
“Is this all really necessary?” I asked, looking at the tools. She raised an eyebrow. “Why would they not be?” “Since you're the goddess and all...” I trailed off.
She kept a baffled expression for a moment before understanding dawned on her.
“No, that's not how it works.” She said, plucking a decidedly oversized apple from a tree. “These grow this much simply because I spend time around them, and I still have to clean and harvest.” “So you don't actually consciously do anything?” “Don't tell anyone, but,” she bit into the apple with a loud, succulent crunch “I don't. Although I do put on a little show sometimes. It helps both me and the people.” She perked up after saying this, clearly getting an idea. “Would you like to see?”
I nodded. I couldn't refuse that face, even if I wanted to.
She smirked: a rare treat. Minoriko didn't smile like people usually did, over nothing, just to be polite. I had to earn each of her smiles, and it made them all the more precious.
She lifted off, hovering a foot above the floor, eyes closed. Funnily enough, she still held the apple in her mouth. I watched, breath bated, as she spread out her arms and began... glowing. There was no other way to describe it. In the span of a few seconds, she became radiant enough that I had to shield my eyes or risk being blinded, though we were in plain daylight. Then, beams of golden light; each wide as an arm and perfectly straight, spreading out outwards and upwards from her.
The spectacle only lasted a scant ten seconds, but it was enough. I had been planning to feign being impressed – old habits die hard – but it wasn't necessary, I really was astonished.
It must have shown on my face, because Minoriko soon blossomed into a full winning grin.
I was at something of a loss for words. “That was... amazing. I've never seen anything like it.” “Oh, It's nothing,” she said, again trying to hide her smile. A terrible habit. “Actually, forget that, I have to finish up. Here, give me a hand.”
So I did. It was more grueling work than what I was used to, and when I was done I ached in more parts than I knew I had, but she was a patient teacher and it was true that she really was mostly done. I didn't actually contribute much, but that would change in time, I thought.
If time was afforded to me.
Due to REASONS, you get another slice of lifey scene where you were supposed to get plot. Due to MORE REASONS, I'm not giving myself a deadline for next update. Don't rupture your lungs holding your breath.
Yeah, Shizuha is definitely trying to set him up with Minoriko. But I'm curious as to the why of that case. Not that Minoriko doesn't like the idea, as she's shown she's thought of it. But why is Shizuha going so far out of the way? She planted the seed in our heads before she'd even seen us interact, back when we were coming back from watching the sunset.
This may be a bit far out there, but also note how Minoriko was surprised at how early she arrived this year. Assuming that she stays away (In a hibernation of some sort?) to preserve what little faith she has, to come back early means she has extra faith... Or she wants more time.
Also, consider how he doesn't have any clue who she is. Considering how he was treated in society, the very idea that he was unaware of goddess, especially one related to the harvest goddess, is telling.
Those two tidbits, combined with how she doesn't bother to flirt or tease him directly, except to engage Minoriko and have her react jealously, tells me the rest of the story. She isn't trying to tease the boy just because she enjoys seeing him flustered, and her sister green-eyed. She wants to bring the two together, while she still can. And before she has to leave her younger sister for good.
Anyway, enough of an epileptic tree. I sure hope that I'm wrong, but it's still a chance at this point.
True, true. I suppose I'm just preparing for the worst. I hope indeed that I am wrong. And your explanation indeed is simpler. And, since there is nothing that tells me outright that my supposition is correct, it is probably wrong. Still, is too early to tell.
We'll just have to wait for our next dose of plot to formulate any more ideas.
File 134189141913.jpg - (327.58KB, 750x1425, there's no image of her in an evening gown.jpg)
It was still summer when it happened, though only just. I tracked the season not by star or weather, but by how giddy the Autumn goddess was – I believed she couldn't outdo herself at first, but the closer we got to her season, more she jumped and yelled and ran about as a child would, apparently powered by the same kind of boundless energy.
Minoriko, for her part, turned a good face to me, showing herself as cheerful as she could be; It was not much, but well enough that I glimpsed one of her gold framed smiles every few of days or so, and it was enough to sustain me. Still, I could tell that all was not quite right. She frowned when she thought I was not looking, worrying. It didn't take a genius to figure out what for. She hadn't gone on her errands for a while now, and last time she left the village it was to tightened and wrathful faces, instead of the usual joy of the festivals she was accustomed to.
It was hot, hot as it's wont to be in a summer night. The world itself was aching with a hot fever, of haze and stifling humid heat, and as such I was suffering a staggered sleep, waking every few minutes. Even without any blankets or most of my clothes, it was hard to stomach; what little I wore was near soaked through with sweat.
Yet I am thankful for that frightful heat, for it allowed me to witness something I imagine few others have.
I was praying for a reprieve from the summer heat when I heard: the faintest patter of naked feet and rustling of clothes. I never would have heard it were I asleep, and I knew immediately who it was; only one of the two women in the household was capable of being quiet at all. The thought didn't even come to my head that it could have been an intruder, which is testament to the effect those peaceful weeks had on me.
So I got up and I followed, of course I did.
She seemed to clutch something tightly against her chest, the Minoriko-shaped blur did, and moved on the tips of her toes, making as much sound as blurs usually did. I followed as she slinked through the black corridor and opened the front door; the creaking that was scarcely noticeable in the day sounded loud as cannons then, in the dead of the night; she cringed and paused for only a second.
When she left the house and hurried her pace I followed, feeling the leaves and grass beneath my bare feet as well as she did, and the heat eased with no walls to trap it inside. Although we both made an awful lot of noise crushing leaves and twigs and any other thing there was, she didn't seem to notice through whatever had made her sneak about after dark like so.
I followed as she near sprinted the slopes to the forest, letting the momentum carry her down, and I skipped when she did, to avoid a rock or some other obstacle, and she didn't notice me even when we went under the cover of the thick trees, so the dark became darker still, the night sounds louder, the air colder. It was somehow even more sinister in the night time: the trees became deformed shapes that might have been the fingers of a giant coming down on me or the malformed bars of a great otherworldly prison, or indeed anything but trees.
Still I followed, partly because if I stopped or went back now my doom would be all but sealed, lost in the Youkai Forest without guide or guardian in the middle of the night. She stopped not before my legs started to ache; not the decisive stop of one who knows where they're going, but the trailing stop of one who merely thinks they are where they should be. I hid behind a tree trunk that was, as others, thick enough to hide five of me side by side. It didn't seem different from any other spot in the forest except for the slightly wider space in between trees, possibly purely by chance. I hesitated to call it a clearing, for the canopy hid the moon and stars above it as well as any other spot.
Minoriko, still shrouded in darkness, looked around suspiciously, spinning on the spot. I stilled, being careful to be very quiet now that she was attentive. From my hideaway I watched as she spun once, twice, thrice, looking – and finally stopped, seemingly satisfied.
She shifted around awkwardly for a while; I couldn't figure out what she was doing with my weak human eyes in the near total darkness.
Until she shifted her dress right off herself. I saw that well enough. If I wasn't curious enough then, that certainly helped quite a bit.
She took whatever she was holding before and... unfolded it? In another instant I recognized it: the dress I'd found in her room. She hurried to put it on, understandably, made a few experimental movements, and the fabric swished along with them, much lighter than her common one. What little light there was glinted off it, making for an ethereal sort of spectacle – and not a disagreeable one. Unlike her normal clothes, these hugged her figure, beginning somewhere just below her shoulders, showing them off completely and ended dragging behind her; that was unfortunately all I could make out right then.
She shifted around some more, moving a few steps to one side, a few to the other, and a twirl. The dress followed along without complaint, describing a few inelegant curves in the air. And she moved, and moved. And kept moving.
I corrected myself; this wasn't just moving around. She was dancing.
Well, trying to dance would perhaps be more accurate. She staggered at places and was unsure of herself, retracing her steps several times. I fancied she would be blushing and biting her lip adorably, though that was little more than a wild fantasy. Probably.
But I really wanted to know for sure.
[ ] Get closer. [ ] ...
Just to make sure you guys don't forget: If there's anything wrong, please don't hesitate to say it.
I got distracted by EVO this weekend. Sorry.
By the way, this is the fated choice. There is no return after it.
Dammit, so we do have to make it. Commence in the agonizing.
Although, for him, how hard is it? She saved him when he didn't even think he should, or wanted to be saved. She protected him, and continues to do so. She rescued him from that lie he lived back with the nobles. And she has shown time and time again that she feels something. Or do those constant blushes not mean anything?
And now, there is a goddess out there in a clearing, dancing alone in stuttered step. Let him join her, and put his upbringing to some good use. Let him teach the goddess to dance, with him.
[x] Get closer.
And as to anything wrong? Damn you for making a Minoriko so good that you make me vote for her, instead of Shizuha. That is all.
>>21704 I'm not upset about Shizuha losing, just about how he made us choose and tossed salt on top of the wounds afterwards. The latter brings back memories of when Lion basically pushed Shizuha into the "no long appearing in this story" role.
Yeah, thing is, I voted for Minoriko myself, considering how well he wrote the character in my opinion. And as much as I would prefer Shizuha, I felt that Minoriko fit better. As Shizuha has actively pushed the two together, it would seem awkward to turn around and go after her.
Plus, I knew eventually that we'd have to chose, as unlikely as taking a third option would be. I just hope that we're still set to have a happy ending, with all three as a family. And that the trees are just shaking in the wind.
Wasn't here when Lion was writing the majority of his, but I remember when I first read it in the archives. I was overjoyed to see Shizuha get such a major roll, but with each thread I'd wonder where she had gone to.
>>21706 Oh I find myself leaning that way as well as Shizuha was pushing them and the fact Minoriko could use some confidence. I wonder why he made us choose. I doubt it's because "it's how VNs do it" and it makes me wonder just how happy the ending would be as >>21679 might be right.
I get the feeling Lion wasn't expecting Shizuha to be as popular as she was, but that didn't stop him from the Sanae-hijack. Back then I didn't think Sanae's arrival would mean Shizuha would get written out of the story.
Ja, I know what you mean. To be honest, I'd rather have a very happy/best/true ending where the Aki's live happily ever after, etc, even if he never gets the girl. This would be much preferable to losing one or the other, or having one marginalized.
At least, in that case, he gets the family that he never had.
It might have been painful to watch, if she wasn't so lovely. She could hardly go two steps without stopping to correct herself – even though there wasn't even a need to correct herself, since she was alone and dancing for fun, I assumed. It lit a teacher's instinct in me, if such a thing exists. Although if I'm to be honest, what compelled me to approach was more a mix of other feelings. There was that now familiar emotion which, had started surging every time I laid eyes on her – and I had a good idea what it was, by then. Enough books talked about it, anyway. I won't pretend I didn't want to see her in that dress up close, either.
I marched out of my hiding spot. S he didn't notice me until I was over halfway to her, though I made no effort to conceal myself. When she did, she jumped, dropping what I guess was a fighting stance, legs bent at the knees – which looked pretty silly in that getup.
“Who's ther... Ah?” Her alarmed tone turned into confusion in half a sentence flat. “Why are you...” She seemed to realize the situation and fixed her posture, covering her breasts with her arms as though she were naked. “This isn't –”
I knew I had to act fast. If I let her get her bearings, she'd probably insist on going back, and that would just be a shame.
“Here, hold.” I took her hand and it was tense, clenched. Finally I looked her over, closely.
The dress, satin and bright golden yellow as her hair, was shoulderless, showing the gentle slope of her collarbone – and other gentle slopes too. A sash colored orange as brilliant sunset was tied, rather tightly, just below her bustline, outlining her waist well. It was tight-fitting at the hips also, and flared out below the knees. She had the aroma baked yam that night, I remember well.
I slipped a hand behind her back to complete the basic dancing pose and found supple, warm flesh where I expected fabric: the dress exposed all of her upper back as well. This would probably be considered awfully risqué down in the village. Not that I cared one bit.
She twitched when I laid hands on her, gasping sharply.
“I-I don't think we should be doing this,” she said haltingly, but gave no sign of actually moving to stop me. I pressed on. “Nonsense. You want to dance, right? I saw it well.” She averted her eyes. “This is the simplest one I can think of. Just follow.”
As expected, she stumbled at first, fumbling and shooting me apologetic and pained looks every time she stepped on my toes – needlessly. We were barefooted both, and she was surprisingly light. I guided her along, doing what I did when I had first learned, myself. One step back, one right, one forwards and one left.
“Why dancing?” She blinked, as though awoken from a trance. “I'm sorry?” She stepped on my toes again. It's what I got for taking her concentration. “Why dancing? There must be things you can do that don't take this much effort to do,” I said, looking around at the forest. She kept her eyes on mine, pondering. “Every festival, I watch all the people dance to the music and the women dress up, and I can't, it's not proper. I have to bless people and wave and do the sort of things a god does.” I wondered at that – was it really true? I'd bet her sister would dance and not give a damn whether it was 'proper' or not, but I kept quiet about it for the moment.
We danced with only the crunching of leaves underfoot and the noises of the night for music. It didn't matter; she followed my movements, learning my own rhythm without much difficulty – and I hers.
She unwound before long, and to say that I 'taught' her anything would be a gross misstatement. I did little more than step in the right places, and she followed up, all the while keeping her shining red eyes fixed on mine. Her hands unclasped some, she relaxed against me, and at one point a mischievous satisfied smile came, plastered itself to her face and refused to leave. I don't think she realized it herself.
By the time the sun started to peek out and poke Gensokyo awake, we were spinning wildly and laughing together rather than dancing. I started to stumble more than she had at the beginning, exhaustion taking hold of me, and it wasn't long before I tripped over her dress, or my own feet, or – who cares?
I fell on my back and brought Minoriko down on top of me, sprawling dead leaves all over her and I, dirtying her beautiful dress; surely a crime. She hadn't even enough energy to roll herself off me, though energy may not have been the only reason.
We laid, doing little but breathing hard. She was flushed, heaving and dripping with sweat; I wasn't in a much better state, either. If someone came across this scene they'd probably get the wrong idea. Or the right idea, perhaps.
I felt her weight against me – the full hips, her breasts against my chest and the heat of the skin on her naked back – which my hands had never left. The rising sun slipped through cracks in the trees, touched her and I could see, for we were close enough to feel each other's breaths: the misted red eyes, reddened lips as cherries, half-open and half-smile, the furious blush reaching to her ears, the sweat across her skin.
And thus she found another way to surprise. She leaned down and kissed me.
Her lips were soft as the rest of her.
Special thanks to Kapow for proofreading this one.
You'll notice the shadow of my love for corny, overly-sweet romance looming large here. Hope you don't mind.
She clumsily pressed her soft biteable (so I thought at the time) lips against mine, no skill or finesse behind it. She was acting on pure feeling and instinct and I could tell, from the slight tremble of her naked shoulders under my hands, the hesitance as she pulled away, the dream-eyed dazed stare she showed when we separated.
She simply stilled for a while, looking with hazy red eyes, and I became even more acutely aware of the contours of her body weighing on me. I absently realized it was the first time I did something of this sort with somebody who didn't fill me with complete repulse. It was a good feeling.
Eventually, unfortunately, the spell broke, as it inevitably had to. The sun was already high enough in the sky to lend the forest it's distinctive penumbra, few tendrils of light piercing the trees, hanging in the air phantasmagorically.
The fog lifted from Minoriko's eyes, gradually; her eyes wandered from me, to the forest, to herself; a slow breath escaped her as she mouthed a long, unbelieving 'ah'. Finally her eyes settled on me.
“I don't... this didn't...” She awkwardly shifted in the spot, and in doing so seemed to realize that she was still very much right on top of me. Her eyes widened and she hastily tumbled off me and onto the floor with a soft thump, dirtying her dress further. She picked herself up just as hastily and dusted herself off.
“Not a word of this to anyone, understand?” She was strained. I still didn't see why this was a matter to worry over, but she didn't leave room for question in her tone. I nodded. Even on edge as she was, however, she helped me up. She changed into her “proper” outfit, as she'd say, after unnecessarily saying something about peeking. We walked in silence and she threw me a glance every once in a while, which I thought were meant to be surreptitious. She didn't pull it off very well.
Some ways out of the forest, I sighted a moving dot in the sky – not as common a sight as you might believe. The tengu didn't easily show themselves, and whatever mutated sorts of birds lived here usually hid for fear of being eaten, or for the chance to eat something else, I imagined.
The dot veered our way and slowly became a vaguely person-shaped form. Minoriko halted and held my wrist tightly.
She closed in fast and landed on the floor powerfully, scattering dirt and grass alike, and leaving deep prints of her long boots on the floor. Down with her came the blue-white flowing shrine maiden uniform, crooked and disheveled from flight. One oddly detached sleeve hung lower than the other. The enormous messy green mass that was her hair was topped with two cheap, battered looking ornaments: one lost, childishly drawn frog hairclip littered with scratches and dents, seemingly randomly thrown on her head, and a snake, wound around one long green tress, hanging there by unsure means.
Frog... and snake. The pair clicked something in my mind, and my blood chilled for a moment. Minoriko relaxed her grip some, however, so I figured it was safe. The mess of a girl swept her hair away, revealing a surprisingly youthful face. “Hey!”
And that was all. I faltered. Was the bombastic entrance really necessary for such a simple greeting? Still, better to play it safe, I thought.
I nodded in acknowledgment. She smiled and quickly switched to Minoriko, before I could say anything. “Hello, Miss Aki.” She bowed exaggeratedly, sending her hair flying – was she mocking her? No, it didn't seem like it. All the same, Minoriko didn't look all to happy, all but openly glaring at the shrine maiden, who seemed oblivious to it.
She switched back to me. “You're living together, right? I heard about you.” 'Heard' about me? From who? Minoriko's face echoed my feelings, though probably for a different reason. “I'm Sanae Kochiya, Wind Priestess of Moriya.” She leaned forward to attempt a curtsey but lost balance somewhere along the act of crossing her forelegs, ending in a stilted bow. “You've heard of our shrine, haven't you?” “I Have.” Just lately, too, from.. Hina, was it? “The one on top of the mountain, right?” Her eyes took on a different shine and she clasped her hands together, smiling. “Really?! Ah– I mean, of course you have! I told them I could do it by myself, somehow.” Then, a frown. “Still, it sure took a while to find someone... Is this really working? Maybe I should try other avenues...”
She devolved into muttering to herself before long. Minoriko tugged on my arm and gave me an annoyed look. I wasn't done, however.
I discreetly coughed to remind Sanae I was still there. She shot up as if struck.
“Right! Sorry! Here, you should visit sometime.” She fished under the band of her skirt and pulled out a folded paper, handing it to me with both hands.
I took a look. Hand-drawn crayon pictures of little snakes, frogs, torii, and other things you'd expect from a shrine adorned it, and the text went on about the benefits of prayer and worship, how to get there and so on.
“From whom, exactly, did you hear about me?” She made a face. “From lady Suwako! You know her, right? She say's she's met you. She's one of the goddesses at our shrine.” Not the name, no. I couldn't say it, though. “I was going to bring you a welcome present, but you guys were over here and, you know.”
Minoriko was getting more and more impatient beside me, but there were still things I needed to know, and Sanae looked eager enough to answer.
[ ] Ask about the state of the shrine. [ ] Ask about 'Lady Suwako'. [ ] Ask about the other goddess. [ ] Ask about Sanae.
DELAYS. I'm still not satisfied with this, but I also don't feel like rewriting it for the fourth damn time.
Pick only one, please. Write-ins OK too, if you can think of something better than this. I can't.
The green-maned shrine maiden, eyes glittering, looked just about ready to clumsily pounce onto another facet of her worship like a newborn kitten. I had to steer her.
“You said 'one of the goddesses'?”
She physically reeled, and I could practically see her train of thought being interrupted. Nonetheless, she looked at me with nothing resembling any negative emotion that I could discern. She was quick to recover. “You don't know about her?” She put a finger to her mouth; a gesture so caricature-like I never thought anyone would actually use it. “That's strange. Lady Kanako is better known than Lady Suwako. How would you know about one of them and not the other?”
I shrugged – on the outside. I carefully etched the name in my mind. I wouldn't forget it.
“Anyway,” she did an out-of-place flamboyant flourish, twirling a hand, “Since you don't know, I think a little history lesson is in order.”
“A few centuries back,” she began in earnest, “In the Sengoku period, Japan was fragmented, not only politically but spiritually as well.” She clenched a fist dramatically for no apparent reason. “Each kingdom worshiped their own gods and goddesses.”
Japan – the word took a second to sink in, but I recalled it. The land Gensokyo had splintered from, if I wasn't misremembering my studies. 'Sengoku period' eluded me completely, however.
She either ignored or didn't notice my confused expression and went on. “Lady Kanako ruled one province, but she wanted more. She tells me she was rather power-hungry back then,” She realized what she'd just said and darted her eyes to me, jumping slightly. “I-I mean, She's gotten better, though, really!” Adoration surged in her eyes and voice, and she clasped her hands once again. “She's kind now, and lovely, and takes really good care of me and Suw- Lady Suwako.” She inadvertently raised her voice, starry-eyed now. “Did you know? Once, before I learned to fly, she let me ride her piggyback all the way to school just so I wouldn't be late. Isn't she great?”
I glanced at Minoriko at this, and she had just happened to pick that exact, convenient moment to look away.
Sanae seemed to have forgotten about whatever tale she had been spinning, and kept babbling on about 'Lady Kanako', a wide smile on her face. “And– and she taught me how to cook, and once she scolded one of the kids who picked on me, and–“
I was forced to interrupt her once again. “Alright, so she ruled one province, and?”
She looked unfazed at the interruption, this time. “Right, sorry. So, the gist of it is that she took over Lady Suwako's shrine, along with control over everything she had. She did it willingly, though. Anyhow,” She thought for a beat, again raising a finger to her mouth. The girl had a number of nervous tics, it seemed. “More recently, the outside world lost faith in the supernatural. You know this part, right?”
Indeed I did. It was commonly taught throughout the village, I believed.
“There was no more faith to be had there, so that was most of the reason we moved the shrine here.”
“'Most' of the reason?”
“Yeah...,” she hesitated for the first time since we started talking. “There was another thing as well, but it's not important. Anyway!” She carried on hurriedly, very transparently avoiding the subject she brought up herself. “After getting here, she wanted to expand right away, but we got beat down by Reimu – the other shrine maiden. You know her, don't you?” Who didn't? “After that, she rebelled for a while and we got beat down a few more times.” She says it without a trace of resentment in her voice. “But a few years back Lady Kanako calmed down about getting more faith. We have enough power to get by just with a few youkai from the mountain, anyway, but I still try to gather faith since it's a lot of fun, lets me run around Gensokyo and meet people,” she finished with pure smile.
'A few years back', she'd said. A nebulous time frame, but somehow I knew just when it was.
Beside me, Minoriko finally got tired of doing her best to stop blood flow to my hand and went for a more direct approach. Far more direct.
“We have to go,” she said curtly, and promptly pulled me along, marching straight to the opposite direction from Sanae – which wasn't even the right direction. I looked back: Sanae had her eyebrows scrunched, a little confused, but just waved me goodbye, not saying another word.
Once we lost sight of Sanae, Minoriko stopped dragging her feet forcefully through the grass and,
A sharp pain on the top of my head. I recoiled quickly, covering it with both hands. Minoriko had her hand clenched in a fist. “What was that for?”
“'What was it for?' What do you think, you idiot?!” She huffed – a gesture that came off as cute more than anything, now that I'd seen the other side to her – and unfurled a scrunched up piece of fab– Oh.
The dress. She'd been holding the dirtied dress behind her the whole time. I'd completely forgotten about it.
“You're lucky that girl is thick as bricks. How would I have explained this?” Ten different made-up explanations popped into my head in an instant. It would've been pretty easy to explain, actually, but I let her have her way. I lowered my head.
It was the simplest apology, but seemed to work fine. She exhaled once, lowering her shoulders, and brushed a stray lock of blonde hair from her eyes. “Pay attention next time.”
I could only nod.
It's still Sunday where I'm from! I would've posted earlier, but a family thing popped up, you guys know how it is.
>>21765 Snakes coming out when you burp sounds like an awesome superpower.
Minoriko quickened her step as the house came into view and I found myself jogging to keep up. She threw sly looks around as a thief might, but there was nothing to watch us other than the mountain's gray walls, standing unchanged from how we left them. She pressed an ear against the door and held up a hand, which I figured was to tell me to be quiet. Come now, I could understand that she didn't Shizuha to know about it, but this was all a little silly.
I didn't say so, of course. It was clear from her tense movements and expression that she was as serious about it as she was about everything else.
She pushed the door open, slowly, slowly. The telltale creak rang loud and high, as they do when it's most important that they don't. She flinched, and I would have too, if I minded Shizuha at all.
It didn't go smoothly, of course. The sleepy eyed older sister happened to be right there when the door opened, lightly dressed and paused mid-yawn, slim arms stretched behind her back.
Minoriko's shoulders tightened. The moment hung suspended in the air for a beat or two – none of us moved a muscle as Shizuha's eyes wandered, expressionless, from her sister to me. The corners of her lips tugged upward and the moment broke with a crack. Minoriko bristled and quickly disappeared into the house on stomping feet, not a word said, all but denouncing herself.
The evildoer then turned her growing grin on me. A sudden urge to back away welled up in me.
“Weeell...” she trailed, laughter in her voice. “I didn't think you'd actually take my words to heart.” She took a slow step toward me. “But that's alright. I was only halfjoking about my sister.”
She gingerly picked a stray leaf from my hair. Darn, I thought I'd gotten rid of all of them. “I won't ask what you were doing. You'd just lie anyway, right?” She had me. I could think of nothing that would defuse the girl at that point.
“I can take a good guess, though.” She leaned in and her nose twitched with a dainty sniff. Her smile grew sharper. “Sweet potatoes today, then? My favorite.”
She withdrew, and her smile lost the edge to it. I nearly sighed with relief: I could only imagine how much more she could have teased me if she was up to it. I wasn't terribly bothered by it, however, so maybe that's why she backed off.
“You just be careful. Now, excuse me, I have someone else to talk to,” she finished, half giggling.
Clanking and sizzling sounds woke me, and a delicious smell a second later informed me those were the sounds of cookery. Something like a feast would probably be waiting for me soon as I got up.
It dawned on me that it felt normal, then. Not a full month after being whisked away from my 'home', and I was feeling right. Better than I ever had. Although, perhaps it was not such a wonder that I'd feel welcomed – I looked round. I had been given my own room, soft bed and feathery covers, good food and, most importantly, warmth.
In more than one sense, warmth.
As such, it clearly couldn't last long.
I glanced out the window and my good mood disappeared in a flash.
Far away in the distance, far from the mountain's stony eyes, from beyond the cavernous forest below. Right about where the village would be. Clouds of black smoke billowed, spread and choked the sky.
Short to help me get back into the groove and because this was supposed to go into the last update, but I forgot. Sorry for the wait.
Huh, this is what I get for falling out of religiously checking every day. Good to see you back...
Although, I have to wonder, what exactly could have caused such an event? Has the populace risen up against the nobles? Or is this something more... divine at work? I have to wonder if this isn't just a trap to draw us out. Or more likely, to bring our guardian guards out in our stead.
The fields surrounding the village seemed even lonelier than usual. On a normal day outside harvest seasons, the few roads, trodden and beaten into shape by horse and carriage alike, served only a small number of people. However, I had never seen it like this.
The only life to be seen was that of the grain, waving lazily in the wind, and occasionally the oblivious grazing livestock. It would have looked quite idyllic, were it not for the blooming pillar of dark smoke looming above.
Minoriko seemed to have forgotten about any pretense and was openly throwing nervous glances around us and at the cloud above.
“What do you think is going on?”
She sunk her questioning eyes on me. In truth, I had a good guess, but she probably wouldn't like it one bit. If my suspicions were correct, we'd find out soon enough, anyway.
I shrugged. She went back to biting her nails bloody.
In time, we approached the gate to the town proper. The guards – more of them than last time we were here, I noticed – seemed to half-panic when they caught sight of Minoriko, trading hushed whispers and looks. Still, they let us through without a words, some even bowing as people sometimes did before her.
We were late, it seemed. The streets inside echoed the roads. Not long ago it was bustling with merchants, peddlers, cobblers and children and all else that can be found in a town. The bustle and noise were proof that it was alive as much as any one human. But now, there was nothing.
The doors and windows on the ramshackle buildings were all shut tight. Rare was the soul adventurous enough to stick his head out and peer at us, and when they did, it was a child, to be swiftly pulled inside by a fearful hand. Our way was cleared: we were the only ones using the street.
Except for the guards.
Sometimes on feet, sometimes on hooves, they gave us wide berth – but it was clearly noticeable how on edge they were, and holding their weapons rather closer to themselves than I remembered. And frequent, too; every couple of minutes we'd cross a small group of grave-faced militia men trotting one way or another.
Minoriko worried more with every step she took. At some point, her hand found my wrist and gripped. I don't think she was aware of it herself.
Thankfully, there was no conflagration here. These clumped together buildings, some of them made almost entirely of wood, would go up in an instant and spread the fire well. Instead, the now fading smoke came from the center. The direction where the inner walled section was – where I used to live.
The closer we got to it, the worse off it seemed. Where the streets were once only empty, they were now in disrepair. It looked like a hurricane had been through them: Broken glass and all kinds of unrecognizable detritus were strewn about and store fronts broken into.
Just then, Minoriko froze in place suddenly. Her hand clamped down on mine, strong enough to draw blood. I turned to her, a question on my lips – but it died there. She'd gone pale as death, shaking, her eyes locked on something ahead. Fearful, I followed her gaze – and then wished I hadn't.
Tucked away in one of the many dirty crooked alleys, seemingly tossed there as just another piece of garbage. Putrid, festering, broken and dishonored.
A peasant, I realized from the rough clothing he wore. Sporting a full beard as was the custom, now matted with filth, the poor man laid well hidden beneath a piece of wood, broken off something. I could see bruises on his face still, and the fatal wound through his chest, hidden by a frayed shirt now dyed red. He'd already been dead for a while.
She was frozen, her eyes locked on the body. Further still her nails sunk into my wrist.
This was bad. Last time she found out there had been attempted killings going on, the situation got out of control. If things have gotten this awry, hanging around here might be a terrible idea.
[ ] We need to get to the bottom of this. Snap her out of it and continue heading for the center. [ ] From this, we already more or less know what happened. We should get out of here as fast as possible.
I'm not happy with this one, but it's 5 minutes before midnight on monday, so there you go.
[x] From this, we already more or less know what happened. We should get out of here as fast as possible.
A tactical withdraw would be best for now. I wonder if Aya's still covering things in this Gensokyo or not. I've been trying to figure out the divergence point between the Gensokyo we know of and this.
I was too far involved now, even if I ran, the problem would surely come and find me - such are these things. The decision is made. With a quick prayer under my breath, I took one last look at the decaying cadaver and turned to Minoriko... Before realizing the decision was not even mine to make in the first place. Of course. Despite feeling like just a woman - in more than one way - she was a divine being, a concept made flesh and bone and magic and lovely skin by powers beyond our imagination. She was not so weak as to need to be shaken awake by a child from seeing a mere human corpse. I had mistaken her anger for shock. I felt a sudden wave of relief that it was not directed at me.
She spared me barely a glance and a word, spoken in a chilling tone - "Come," before breaking into a trot, taking me by surprise and near wrenching my arm out of its socket. Then into a sprint. Her face was flushed, which ordinarily I would find appealing, but at that moment, I found it gave her a striking resemblance to an oni mask.
We jogged through the broken streets and Minoriko saved me more than once from tripping over rubble. I spotted a few more bloodied bodies hastily thrown under wooden boards and random debris as we approached the center. If she noticed, she gave no sign of it. The plume of black smoke towered over us, now. Unsurprisingly, it came from the center of the city, the walled inner sanctum, my former home. I felt like it would have been appropriate to worry if anyone I knew before was dead, but found myself more concerned about the graveless peasants. The closer we got, the more the city looked, felt and smelled like death, and I had a feeling we would be coming to the source itself - or herself soon, if my guess was right.
We emerged into the square: the same we were in once before. Where I had seen children playing and people going about their business, there were now only dried pools of red. The market tents, bloodstained also, had been hastily reassembled into bedding and shelter for the wounded. Mostly soldiers: bloodied, passed out, some unfortunate souls missing a hand or a leg. Others yet had been ever less lucky, and got only the comfort of a blanket over their cold bodies in the shoddy field hospital. Minoriko marched into the square without pausing, turning every head her way. I could but follow the path she opened through the people.
Thankfully, there was no fire there. Seemed it was contained to the inner, walled portion, where the smoke billowed from. The gate and walls had seen some abuse recently - numerous unflattering graffiti and dents littered its entire surface. Some equally dented-looking guards stood about the wide, wooden main gate, almost as if this were any other bustling day.
Minoriko wasted no time bee-lining her way to the gate, as fierce a look on her as ever. The young man manning the gateway shifted on the spot and diverting his eyes every which way but the rapidly approaching furious goddess. I didn't blame him - I would've been nervous also.
"Explain," she said, gesturing to the what could only be described as a war zone. Her tone left no space for anything but a straight answer. The poor young guard chosen for the interrogation cringed though struck for a second, but managed to meet her gaze.
"W-we..." He straightened up some. "The people got a little rowdy." Minoriko narrowed her eyes, causing the poor man to visibly pause a moment. "Three days ago, we received orders to stop anyone from getting inside the inner city... Since then, there's been absolutely no communication from anyone in there, and the people weren't happy in the first place, so..."
I risked the question. "Where are they now, then?"
The man looked surprised to see me, as if he only noticed me now, but answered nonetheless, still in a shaky voice. "We've... convinced the people to stay inside for now, but I'm afraid we'll need some help," he said, bowing to Minoriko.
The response was as swift and powerful as the one uttering it. "Open the gate."
The guard looked positively relieved as he lifted the giant bolt.
Short part 1 to get my brain restarted. Sorry again. Part 2 and choice in no more than a week.
I have much to say, but it would all be negative, so I'll just say the usual: please do tell me if there's anything wrong with my writing, in your opinion. I'm out of practice now.