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The enormous reptile slowly and deliberately lowered its head to my level, to let me stare directly into its slitted eyes. To make me fear. Or so I assumed: every blinding white scale on the creature radiated such an aura of malignancy that even if it were sleeping, it would have looked poised to kill me.
It was clearly not a normal animal or youkai: no creature grew this powerful without developing intelligence. I just hoped it was an intelligence that was willing to listen.
"Why..." I began, glancing at the burning mansion and the blood-soaked courtyard, now made the gruesome final resting place of so many, more out of astonishment than any real desire to know. I realized there was no need to elaborate. "Why?"
It kept its deep red, pupiless eyes fixed on me for what could have been an hour or a second. Time becomes a very flexible measure when you feel your life could be ended any second.
"You," It spoke, although it did not move its mouth. At odds with its appearance, it had a very old and tired voice: raspy and ancient, entirely devoid of what one would expect from such a powerful entity. No booming, no flame or death spewing out of its mouth. "Would you ask of a bear why it sleeps in the winter?"
I thought about that.
"You are no animal," I said, not realizing the irony in the statement. "Obviously you can act on thought and not instinct, or I would be dead already. So, why?" I wasn't sure where I was going with this, but I seemed to be succeeding in stalling it.
There was no pause this time. "I am also no human. I am a god." It said, with no trace of arrogance. "And gods follow their nature."
I would have argued that point, but a far more important thought crossed my head. It said it was a god - and I knew the one shrine that was involved in this.
"You're from..." Minoriko spoke for me, incredulity imprinted in every word. "The Moriya Shrine? I don't believe it. I've met their shrine maiden, and I don't believe they're capable of... this." Her voice broke.
The snake exhaled heavily in what would have been a tired chuckle, I thought. It finally took its eyes from me, moving its deathly stare to Minoriko, and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. "The shrine maiden you met is a child of barely twenty. What could she know?"
"Then why are you here?"
It exhaled again, curled in on itself and rested its head on its body, seeming to relax... or perhaps coil to strike. Although I knew quite a bit about people, snake body language was not within my expertise. It only served to tense Minoriko even more.
"I suppose it won't hurt to tell what I know, since I'm stuck here waiting either way." it said, rather oddly conjuring the image of an old man sitting before a fireplace in my mind, if said old man was caught red handed murdering a score of people.
"In the beginning, I was a fearsome beast, itching to spread destruction, fear, and grow in power. Humans quaked beneath me, and I would demand sacrifices and make shows of it. I was young and eager." That was a completely believable scenario. I saw Minoriko twitch out of the corner of my eye. "It did not take long for my presence to attract something stronger and older than I." His voice seemed almost nostalgic. "A mischievous little thing you'll know as Suwako."
I recalled my meeting with the unnerving goddess. Yes, 'mischievous' might be one word to describe... that. "I've been around her for millenia and I still don't understand how she thinks. That's the kind of being she is." His voice raised in what seemed like pride.
"She set up a shrine and a small kingdom of our own, and we had our fun together for a time," I thought about what the idea of fun might be for someone like this, and shuddered. "Until another much like I was showed up. She was young, fierce, determined and had some thousand men at her back. I expected to fight, but Suwako assured me we'd have to do nothing. She ceded the Moriya shrine and nothing much changed for us, although it became officially Kanako's."
He paused, casting a look in the direction of the Youkai mountain in the distance where the shrine sat, overlooking gensokyo.
"Three thousand years is quite old, even for a god," He said, heavily. "I'd changed. It was no longer fun to seek out and curse humans, or do things like that just for the hell of it. I spent most of the time after that watching over Suwako's descendants and other humans. Their lifes are short, but so varied and eventful! It's interesting to see."
"Kanako also quit her campaign after awhile and lived with us in the shrine, but she'd gotten soft. She started getting attached to the people who were not even her own lineage," he said, giving Minoriko what was meant to be a meaningful glance. She stiffened further. "She even went so far as to directly help them sometimes, until one particular descendant of Suwako came about." He 'chuckled' again. "Even among the humans, I'd never seen someone dote upon a girl as much as Kanako did, and I don't understand it. She's a stilted, troubled girl, and not the smartest, so when her guardians died, Kanako was desperate to do something. So we moved the whole shrine here."
He bobbed his head, seeming satisfied with his tale.
"She is a fool, and thoroughly blinded. First she got beaten by that other shrine maiden for trying to steal space, now she has Suwako make me come down here and live around humans, thinking I could 'secure faith' or some nonsense." He scoffed. "It doesn't matter anymore," it continued, suddenly reminding me that we were in fact in the bloody, burning site of mass murder. "Those two will be along as soon as Suwako allows herself to be caught, and I can return to my rest."
"It 'doesn't matter?" Minoriko's tone on took on a dangerous quality, her fists clenched. "Did you see what you did?" She stepped forward, steeping her bare foot in blood in the process.
The god seemed to not take this as a thread - or, at least, it did not show it. It directed its blood-red stare towards her. "I see, you are like her. Old habits die hard, that's all," he said, dismissively. "What are you going to do about it?"
That was all the provocation she needed.
I'm basically closing my eyes, yelling "fuck it" and punching the reply button at this point. Man, what the fuck am I doing?
Next update in a little over a week tops.