Or "How I Ought to Stop Worrying and Love the Story"
I shivered upon stepping inside. A torrent of memories I'd rather not recall rushed through my head. I knew this place more than I wished to.
I recalled walking through the paved streets, after once wandering away in a childish attempt to escape: how absurdly wide the avenue had seemed and my innocent thoughtsa: "Why would anyone need so much space just to walk?" The walls of the mansions had all seemed the same: tall, an uncaring white. The people also - some scoffed: the ones in silken robes, riding in ornate carriages. Some made a disgusted expression, taking me for a peasant. A few showed pity in their faces, yet none extended a hand. The heart of the city had been cold as ice. I felt sick.
Then Minoriko was by me, and it was gone.
"Do you feel it?", she asked, brows knitting.
"Feel it?" I looked around - although not quite as wide as my childhood memory would suggest, the coldness was there as I remembered - it was if the very arquitecture of the place rejected warmth. There was also the fact that it was completely deserted. Not even abandoned carriages or signs that people were ever here remained. If I didn't know better, I'd have said we'd just walked into the legendary Mayohiga.
"I said feel it, not look. Here." She held my hand, and suddenly something lifted from my senses. I hadn't noticed it, but it was there. She let go, and it immediately returned. The air staled, as though suddenly rotted. A heavy feeling pressed against my skin, and more unpleasant memories bubbled to the surface of my mind. I scooted closer to the goddess involuntarily.
"I...I see. I think I have a good guess where we'll find whatever is causing this."
The walk towards the pillar of smoke in the distance wasn't too long, but the oppressive magic bearing down on me made it a challenge still. Thankfully Minoriko - of course - seemed to not be very bothered. By the time the gate of my old prison came into view, I was as close to her as I could without impeding her movement - her presence seemed to nullify whatever horrible aura this was.
We turned the corner into the property proper to be greeted with a scenery dyed in red. The calm, well mantained courtyard I used to know and roam were splattered, far more of it than could conceivably come out of one body - even pooling at some points, reflecting the inconsiderately bright sun. Highly inappropriate for the situation.
Minoriko made a choked noise beside me.
I forced myself to stay my eyes - I had to complete the picture still. The mansion itself was no more, as expected. The roof had since collapsed, sending great blazes and consuming the structure from the inside out. Looking closely, I could see some blackened... forms under some of the caved-in debris, which told me all I wanted to know about where all the bodies had gone. And then, a lone figure, staring into the fire. A figure I knew well, who had seen me grow.
Suddenly, she heaved, buckled and fell to her knees, and I knew that what came next couldn't be anything good. She fell to her knees... and something pushed its way out of her. Her entire head was pushed to the side and slipped open like a banana peel - I was suddenly grateful I wasn't close enough to make out details - and something far bigger slid from the inside. The rest of her body also folded and opened with some sickening crunches and meaty noises to let the being inside emerge. The disgusting discarded skin flopped to the ground and it quickly discarded it. The enormous pearl-white snake, far larger than what could have physically fit in that body, as long as 5 men and wide as one slithered our way, staining itself red in the way. I felt, as sure as I could see, that this was the same being as before - what she had been all along.
It froze in place as I did and locked its hypnotizing eyes with mine, its blood-red gaze beckoning me to do... something?
[ ] What are you? [ ] What's all this? [ ] ...Why? [ ] Wait for Minoriko to speak. [ ] Write-in
Pick one or two, I guess? Really you guys should come up with questions, but I didn't want to have a pure write-in option.
Also, if you're a little confused and don't know the canon background: To sum it up best I can: Suwako had a small kingdom which she ruled by taming the Mishaguji, big scary snake curse gods of death, murder and etcetera. Then, Kanako came over and conquered it. Going back and reading the Suwako scene might help.
Better turnout than I expected. Thanks for the kind words last thread, everyone.
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?
For a split second, I thought I might be able to stop her. To hold her, tell her to let it go - the thing was just going to drop the matter with no trouble, but looking at her, I knew it was impossible. She flushed deep red, and her face was set in a violent scowl reminiscent of a Nio statue - an ill fit for her soft features.
I could never for a second picture Minoriko, in her heavy, movement-constricting dress fight. She was too womanly, too kind. However, reality saw it fit to run contrary to my expectations. There was a flash of heat: Without warning, a white beam like concentrated sunlight stretched across the field, and the snake leaped, dodging far faster than something its size had any right to. It was coiled to strike after all. In a moment I realized: it was headed uncomfortably near me.
In what I instantly knew to be a pointless effort, I tried to throw myself backwards. I only succeeded in losing my footing, making it easier for it to clip me with its multiple tonne body. It wasn't aiming for me, it simply did not consider me to be an obstacle at all - and I wasn't: I was blown sideways like a small pebble, the entire side of my torso suddenly aflame with pain. The realization that I'd just broken more ribs than is advisable scrolled distantly through my mind, as if it was happening to someone else.
I blew through the air, spinning. Strangely, my only thought was hoping I didn't hit Minoriko at the end of my arc. My wishes were granted and I landed instead squarely on my injured side, sending another sharp bolt of pain up my spine. As I felt my bones scream at me, I was hit with an absolute certainty: I was going to die there. The realization settled in my mind when I saw the sickening black congealing blood on the floor, smelled the decay and the charred flesh, felt the breaking pain. It floated over my thoughts like a bloated corpse. Minoriko would die too, and our bodies would be tossed into the fire like the others. I would burn and die in the same cage where I lived most of my wretched life. ...waves of such thoughts came to my head, but I knew they weren't really mine. Minoriko couldn't protect me from the mental barrage from this far away. I shook it off: a few broken bones aren't enough to stop someone from moving.
I looked up through the dark miasma to see Minoriko narrowly avoid a tremendous tail slap with a deft dash backwards, firing off beautiful golden bullets with a wave of her hand - danmaku, my addled brain realized. But even I could realize that she was outclassed. While she darted through the air elegantly, barely keeping her distance, the other god was not following any rules I knew of. It simply rushed onwards with bloody snapping jaws, trying to body slam her with its absurd mass. The tired old man from before had vanished as if he was never real; there was only a bloodthirsty thrashing animal, red and white with blood and magic. Its long fangs shone the same pearly white its scales did.
She looked away for a single moment, turning her head towards me, and it was enough. In its frenzied movement, it barely managed to strike her in the shoulder with its head, sending her speeding through the air though it was barely a nick. She took the opportunity to fire off a few ineffective rounds towards the snake. It was clear she couldn't afford to waste time worrying about me.
Neither did I have time to worry about her. My chest suddenly lurched and I found myself heaving heavily, probably aggravating my injury. I was not at all shocked to find that most of what came up was an unhealthy volume of blood, adding to the scenery's gruesome decoration. I experimented trying to get up, and found I could at least hobble around unsteadily, leaning heavily on the side that wasn't half caved in.
Taking stock of my situation made me laugh and I immediately regretted it, clutching my ribs. What the hell was I doing here, in the middle of two titans hundreds of times my age? What was I doing next to godly beings who influenced the lives of generations?
All because I was picked up as a human pet, on a whim?
I felt a bite on my temple again: my own nails pressing against it, I saw after another second. I was losing it. I had no protection against the mental influence. Even through my wavering consciousness, I could see Minoriko was looking battered, not moving as steadily and she did only minutes ago. There's absolutely nothing I could do against that thing. It was millenia old god of evil, and I was an unarmed human boy. If I walked into it, I was dead.
[ ] Do... something. Anything. [ ] Bide your time.
There was no sense in rushing to my death, I told myself. Unfortunately, I wasn't very convincing, even to me. What would staying here accomplish? Delay my own death by a bit?
All I could do was trust Minoriko.
But it didn't look good. She wasn't faring well. Even from a distance, I could see her wincing and imagine the pained expression on her face. She held her shoulder close like it was injured, and her flying was unsteady, no longer tracing firm lines across the air. Still, her opponent seemed to be just barely keeping up...
Although it clearly wasn't following spell card rules, she still tried to keep her distance and pelt it with the colorful nonlethal bullets. The snake waved, moving through the air like an eel might through water. It tried to encircle her at every turn, apparently not having the same problem making sharp turns as her. The spiraling chains of red dots impacted against it again and again, making clear wounds, marring the pristine white scales with ragged holes oozing black rather than red. Still, it showed not even the slightest sign of pain.
It hurt to breathe. It hurt even more to watch, unable to do anything.
I realized the beast was just toying with her, closing more and more with each failed strike. The seemingly random lunges were in fact well planned: I could see it in the certainty of its movements. I felt stupid for even a moment believing that such a being would act like a wild animal.
Inevitably, she moved a beat too slow, catching the full force of a tail slap to the chest. She would have managed to at least stay in the air, had it not been for the follow-up.
A flash of white. Far faster than I could follow with my eyes and than its previous strikes. It split in two, opening its hideous body -- no, that's not it. It simply opened its maw wider than I thought possible, the inside of its mouth a perfect all-absorbing darkness.
And a single fang through Minoriko, the other one uselessly hanging in the air.
She tumbled and fell with a painful impact.
So waiting did nothing after all. I should've tried to do something. I might have stopped it somehow. I found myself moving towards her, shambling, painful step after step. I didn't have to. If I just walked out, I probably would just live. The thing wouldn't bother to follow me. But I couldn't. She saved me, healed me, fed me and cared for me. If I left then, I may as well have died.
It made its way down to the ground, circling her inert body like a dreadful parody of a real snake, its scowling red eyes trained on her. All I could do was go and stay by her. Stepping past it, ignoring it completely, I approached her.
She was at least still moving, her chest moving with barely perceptible, shallow breath. A black bruise already formed on the exposed area of her collarbone. My own injuries suddenly felt insignificant. She had received full force blows from this gargantuan creature, multiple times, and was still alive. She had a strangely peaceful look about her. And then there was the puncture. A neat hole through her dress and a ragged hole through her stomach, a surprisingly small amount of blood flowing from it.
I kneeled by her.
The nearby rough sound of slithering suddenly stopped. A large reptilian head came to rest in my peripheral vision. And stared.
"Hmmm." A very human pondering noise, as if it had done nothing at all.
It had circled itself to form a wall around us. The injuries I had seen inflicted on it were gone.
"So you two are the same, then." The same expression as before. Even though it couldn't have made another, I hated it all the same.
"The same as the shrine maiden and the silly girl, I mean. Although you would be the shrine maiden in this scenario." It snorted. "Not a very good fit." Very funny. It paused again.
"I have to say I don't understand, though." It crawls a hair closer. "Never did."
I saw its bifurcated tongue flick out as it pulled back for a final lunge.
Don't listen to people who tell you your life flashes before your eyes. It's not true.
Although, maybe I wouldn't know. I haven't died yet.
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?! A booming voice, somehow sounding simultaneously regal, utterly confused and angered. To me, right then, the voice of a saviour.
My would-be killer stopped in his tracks, turning to face the interruption almost disinterestedly.
I recognized her straight features, cropped hair, her absurd height for a woman, the way she commanded the attention simply by being there. She dressed in all red and had an odd, priceless looking round mirror around her neck. What wasn't there was the wickedness I'd seen before. Come to think of it, this snake-thing looked the same way before it transformed.
Floating lazily behind her was another silhouette I'd seen before, this one smaller and definitely creepier.
The one in red didn't slow down, touching down with a resounding thump that would certainly have broken the knees of any human. She was livid.
"What did you do?" She made an angry gesture at the dying fire that used to be a home. "What is this, Suwako?" She ignored me completely.
The small girl landed with a light skip, smirking mockingly all the way. "What are you angry at me for? You were the one who insisted on having the evil overlord do your bidding. Besides," She walked towards the snake. "You were the one who had to do the least work. You know how many people I had to convince to not come investigate the huge fire in the middle of the village today? It was a pain."
With a quick hop, she was atop the snake, patting its oversized head. It stayed strangely obedient.
Kanako's anger was very quickly draining into clear worry. Suwako apparently noticed it as well as I. Unsettingly, her smirk blossomed into a full grin. "It would be such a shame if a certain innocent little girl found out her loving parent ended getting so many people killed, wouldn't it? That would just break her heart."
"Don't worry though. We won't tell." She finished, taking pleasure in her partner's distress. I'd forgotten the hat eyes. They shifted to me, and I got the sense that it was a warning. It didn't seem like something I could refuse. I nodded.
"Is... Is she going to be alright?" Minoriko was at least still breathing. There's still some hope.
Suwako gave me a blank look for a second. "Of course she's going to be alright, stupid. Even if she got turned into mist, she would've been fine. You were the only one in any real danger here." I gave a breath of relief, at the same time feeling pretty dumb.
"I think that about wraps it up for us here. I'll just pick up my misbehaving children," She tapped the oddly silent snake-god. I thought I saw it tremble for a second. "And go home. At least one of them is due for some punishment."
It definitely trembled, then.
Kanako looked a little too busy despairing, both hands to her head, to say anything coherent. Despite everything, I felt sorry for her.
"I trust you'll be able to come up with a story for everyone else, right? Shouldn't be too much trouble."
"Wait just a minute. There's just one thing." She gave me the shivers, but I still had to ask.
"Couldn't you have stopped this at any time? You know, just come down here and pick your... friend up whenever you wanted?"
She pondered that for a moment, upper eyes swirling about. "I guess I could have."
"...Then why didn't you?"
"Because I didn't wanna."
A flat answer. I had trouble even processing it. "Any further questions? Objections?" Her grin returned in full force upon seeing my expression.
I didn't think I wanted to deal with her anymore.
"Well then, I'll be going. Best of luck to you." And that was the last I saw of them for a good while.
Minoriko didn't take long to come to, her wounds completely closed.
The way back was long, but not unpleasant. She carried me on her back, like before. I would have walked, but my ribs wouldn't have let me.
"And you just let them leave, after all that? All those people?"
"...What could I have done?"
"I'm sorry. I don't even know why I took you there in the first place. I wasn't thinking."
"I'm fine, right?" Except for all the possibly broken bones, but that's a minor detail. "So, it's okay."
A longer pause.
I buried my face into her hair, in a whim. Grapes again, today.
"So." I spoke into the nape of her neck. "What are we going to do now?"
She took a moment. I felt her smile, though I couldn't see it. "We do have a city to help rebuild."
"Gods? I wouldn't worry too much about them. They're just people, only more so." - First Head Priest of the Aki Shrine.
At least I managed to finish it.Aeolist2013/04/07 (Sun) 10:49No. 22313▼
Okay, so that's the story.
I suppose I have a few questions to answer.
The truth is, I've grown to hate this story, which is the reason this ending is kind of (really) rushed and half-assed. I lost track of the plot due to poor planning, and really if you read the story in one go and spend longer than one minute thinking there are all kinds of plot holes so glaring that they're more like plot event horizons. In fact, I think I would have dropped the story had this not been a convenient moment to end it. It's just a big trainwreck. I had things like a proper theme and (I think) robust characterization for Kanako in mind at one point, but they never got a chance to come out. There are multiple other problems, but I won't bore you.
To wrap this up so I can stop thinking about it, yes I plan on writing something else. No, I don't want to write an epilogue for this. Any questions about the plot you have can probably be answered with "That's because I was incompetent and fucked it up."
I hope you guys can forgive me for this awful first impression and give me another chance when I finish fleshing out (this time for real) my next story. Thanks for sticking with it for this long.
The plot was okay. But that aside, couldn't we get some more Minoriko romance, even as a spin-off short story or something? That dancing scene was wonderful, and it was completely separate from the main plot.
>>22323 >so don't view this as just me trying to hate on you or anything. Please, if this is what passes as hate to you, I'll welcome all the hate I can get. Yours is the kind of comment I've been looking for and strive to make.
You are right in all your observations. Unfortunately, it's too late for this particular story to benefit from them. Regardless, at the risk of sounding like I'm making excuses, I feel like it could have been worse for a first try. I learned a lot writing this and it's been a valuable experience, I think. Even in more fields than just writing and storytelling. But I won't get into that.
Of course, I intend to make use of the things I learned. The intention is to keep growing until I can make a story I can look back at and say "Man, that was good and enjoyable for everyone involved."
Look to /underground/ (probably) for a New and Improved™ story soon near you. I'll think these things through more before writing next time, I swear.