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File 169893915021.jpg - (106.73KB, 1500x999, PotteryWheel-56a147235f9b58b7d0bdbf7f.jpg)
PotteryWheel-56a147235f9b58b7d0bdbf7f
The hard, sturdy, and durable nature of clay has proved it to be an effective material of construct, as seen in their usage in potteries, statues, buildings, et cetera. But, part of what makes it so reliable is not limited to just that, it is due to its ability to soften its texture when mixed with water, making it easy to change its shape as one would like.

A dampened clay, like the one I am handling right now, will lose its tough exterior trait, and it will adjust itself to comply with the forces given to it. This one is no exception. When I mixture it with little water, it makes itself easier to change its proportion. Its structure follows as my rough skin - whose texture does not contain the characteristics of plump, living, mammal skin and is relatively similar to coarse dirt - guides it to shape.

With the help of a potter’s wheel, I change the clay mound in front of me to have a broad half-circle shape with its base facing upwards, then I press its lateral sides to shape it into a torso-like piece. After that, the wheel continues to spin as I pick one scraper from my side and use it to trim the base surface, leaving a hole in its medial area while the trimmed part peels into a spiral waste.

After being satisfied with my work, I bring the chest piece to my hold and turn around to the other being in the same room as me. The woman- pardon. The Goddess in my view is busy managing her latest project, a human-sized haniwa using a warrior helmet for its head and a lamellar armor for its torso, though the latter part is not complete yet as it is still in my hands.

I close my distance from my creator, her delicate blue hair flailing in the air as she solely directs her focus to her work. She is the being responsible for my existence, the only divine that is worth my faith, the sculpture goddess that has never committed any war crime throughout her time in Gensokyo.

“Keiki, my Highness.” I bow respectfully as I show the result of my hard work to her. “I’ve finished my part. Take as you like.”

The Goddess turns to face me, wearing her green apron that serves as a protection for her clothes from the dirtiness of the workplace. “Ah, thank you.” She says cheerfully, clearly appreciating my contribution. She takes the clay torso and puts it into the uncompleted part of the haniwa. Brushing the sweat on her forehead, she takes one thorough view at the idol before setting her arms on her hips, an expression to show her satisfaction. “That’s all we can work for now.”

I feel slightly uneasy by hearing that sentence, she usually completes these sessions after giving the idol a soul for it to live on its own.

“Hey, Pawn.”

I look at her face upon hearing her call.

“Notice that we’re finishing earlier than normal.”

I observe the lifeless haniwa. “Is there something wrong?”

“We ran out of souls, I can’t bring this one to life yet.”

Putting my hands on my chin, I make sure that she sees me quickly thinking of a solution. Gathering faith from the human village will not be practical since it risks for more trouble while finding help from another god is out of the list since it counts as betraying my faith in Keiki.

“Our primary source had also stopped producing more recently, all Rafflesia in our garden were dying.”

Rafflesia, the flower that reeks of a cadaver - which trait is the opposite of the common - and is one of the only flowers in its kind that is rich in souls, rumors say that the smell comes from its nature of absorbing the dead.

"There is none left in Gensokyo, unfortunately." I give her my answer. "Though, there might be some in the Animal Realm."

"I need someone to get there, then." She hums in her thoughts. "You're one of the few people that knows how its seed looks. You've seen it before, no?"

"Correct, my Highness. Perhaps, you want a favor from me?"

"This task might be too harsh, so I understand if you don't want to do this."

I hesitate for a second. “Surely this risky mission will grant me a good reward?”

A grin surfaces on her. “What is it do you want?”

She is giving me the option here and I better not waste this opportunity. I glance over the things that will be beneficial to me before deciding on one. “I want you to promote me as your favorite pawn.”

She gives me a smile that displays her teeth. “And what about the others? Do you want to get rid of your kin?”

“They can still work as usual, I just want you to deem me as your favorite.”

Her snark grows bigger. “I’ll do you a better one. If you complete this task, I’ll make you the only pawn I use for things involving sculpture. Clay is your specialty, after all.”

That surprises me to the point of disbelief. It will be an honor to have myself as her loyal clay thrower. “That sounds great, my Highness.”

“So, you want to volunteer?”

“I surely want to,” I say in a voice that, in my quick observation, does not sound desperate at all.

“I’ll make sure of it then.” She titters for unknown reasons. “No need to worry about the role taken from you. I’ll partner you with an elite soldier as your company for the journey.”

“Just one?”

“Sadly. I’m afraid the Animal Realm residents still have their bad view on us. Bringing an army might provoke another incident.”

“That is fine, I am sure I can manage.”

“Good,” She heads to exit the room. “I’ll talk to you again about this mission. Make sure you have everything ready while you wait.”

“Understood,” I say as she leaves me on my own, joy passing down on me. How can I not feel happy? I finally got the chance to shine brighter than anyone of my kind. With this, I will prove my worthiness as her servant, I will show her my unrivaled competence and get her approval.

I, as her pawn, will prove that I’m worth of my existence.

I will earn her validation.
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late is better than never they said
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Very interesting story concept.

There's been a few stories involving "creations" as MC, but I don't remember any involving one of Keiki's sculptures, so this is pretty cool to see.

>the sculpture goddess that has never committed any war crime throughout her time in Gensokyo.

I don't know if this is a reference I'm missing or not, but the overly specific denial rather humourously sounds an awful lot like some HANIPAGANDA.

Rafflesia seed hunting in the animal realm, huh?

Sounds like some hijinx waiting to happen considering the history Keiki and her idols have with the place.

The "elite soldier" is likely going to be Mayumi?

Another character we haven't seen much of.

But then again; as the head of the whole army and Keiki's right-hand woman, she might be too indispensible to send out like this and we get assigned some other elite soldier.

On the other hand, acquiring the materials (souls) for Keiki to actually do her work sounds pretty dang important.

Waiting warmly.
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Always interesting to see stuff with Keine and the beast realm.
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>>69196
Thank you for the kind words!

Perhaps one of the reasons I use Keiki's sculpture as the MC is because there's little lore for them as of now, so I can have creative liberty without disrespecting the original.

>>I don't know if this is a reference I'm missing or not,

Nah, that's just the way he thinks, don't worry about it.
and it's not like slavery is a war crime.

>Rafflesia seed hunting in the animal realm, huh?

Funny that you mention it because I was just bullshitting their reason to go to the animal realm lol.

>The "elite soldier" is likely going to be Mayumi?

Bingo!
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>>69211
So it was Haniwa propaganda after all!

WAKE UP PUPPETS!

FIGHT YOUR BRAINWASHING!

EMBRACE KIKETSU! Wait, what?

>I was just bullshitting their reason to go to the animal realm lol.

Nothing wrong with a bit of bullshit to get the story rolling.
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download
Granted, there are good things that stem from the bad. Our invasion of the Animal Realm is a prime example. Had the invasion never happened, the cerulean ceramic chair I'm sitting on now would have not existed, and the sunlight from the fancy window would have not shone on me either. Had it never happened, I would have no chance to enjoy the forest on my current view.

We would have never settled on the surface had the invasion did not happen.

Can I even call it an invasion, though? The whole incident started due to the many calls for help coming from the trapped human spirits in the animal realm, and my goddess, Keiki Haniyasushin, manifested to answer those calls. Seeing the condition of those poor souls, Keiki initiated making an Idol for them to pray on, which is an ingenuine play on her part because, with her unlimited creativity, she managed to make a living haniwa with just the faith of those humans.

Many people glance over the process of figuring out the design for the Haniwa, which is a shame since it is the most fascinating part of the story. Keiki managed to make a solid structure for her creation by using references from the anatomy of the human body. Starting from the framework, the sculpture goddess created a perfect one for our kind by replicating the human skeleton, with the most notable part being the thorax. Using hardened clay, she designed our chest with 12 pairs of costae, 7 of them directly sticking with the anterior bone called the sternum while 5 of them fused together to adhere in one spot of said bone. For the spine, she made small individual bones called vertebrae which consisted of a body, a foramen, a laminae, and articular processes that function as joints for each bone with each other.

Speaking of joints, Keiki also managed to make wonderful mechanisms for us to move freely. Rather than sticking our bodies together, Keiki put a simple connector for each of our limbs that granted us the freedom of movement. She built hinge-like joints for both our arms and legs so that we could flex and extend them, pivot joints on the neck for rotations, and ball joints on our hip and shoulder so we could move them freely like a living creature. Most of our joints were not covered under a layer of skin, making it barely visible from the outside.

She used fiber-like threads as replacements for our muscles. The best example of this is its usage in our carpal. Imitating the work of the biceps and triceps muscles, she assembled the string to work in synergy so that it would extend when the other string was flexing. All of which is proof of her intellect as the goddess of sculpture.

For the skin, my goddess used porcelain clay so that we would look appealing. But, because her focus on figuring out the design is mainly on the function, the first models didn’t look as humane as later haniwa. This would lead to our face only having limited facial features such as the three holes that represent the eyes and mouth of a man.

The first idol became the main model for the next haniwa to come. But upon finishing her work, she realized the need for more workers to help produce her creation, a group of helping hands that specialized in clays and anatomy for sculpture purposes. Thus, the first Pawn was created, blessed with the mind of a broad, general thought process whose main motive was to help proliferate more haniwa. The first pawn succeeded in civilizing our kind.

As time went on and the production steadily increased, the spirits of the animal realm saw us as a potential threat, and in order to fight back, Keiki made her second Pawn, blessed with a narrow, specific thought process with the purpose of designing haniwa specialized in offense, warriors that will strike the beast spirits down. The second pawn succeeded in creating an unstoppable Haniwa army.

After taking control of the animal realm, Keiki started to experiment more with her creation, and she asked for ideas from her pawns. However, she soon realized that their suggestions were either too broad or too narrow. So in order to solve that problem, she created another Pawn, blessed with a thought process that prioritizes exclusions and eliminations, a thought process whose results were not as broad as the first pawn and not as narrow as the second. The third pawn was created.

I was created.

Not wanting to lose with my predecessors, I chased for more ambitious tasks. Perhaps, my biggest achievement as of now came when the animal realm incident occurred, when the possessed humans were fast approaching our area. It was an emergency, and with the lack of actual weapons to fight back those humans, Keiki made an urgent announcement for the pawns. We were asked to think of a new design with at least one being submitted in the next hour. Other pawns, understandably, jerked their head upon hearing such ridiculous order.

I, on the other hand, went straight to work. From simple deduction alone, I concluded that the humans, despite being swift, were not as tough in defense. A regular haniwa would have been outsped by the humans. A warrior with bulky exteriors would work to fend them off. The humans' agility was also one of their key points. An army of offensive warriors would have trouble hitting them. However, an army of wide, defensive warriors would work to block their movements.

I submitted my design twenty seconds after Keiki finished her announcement, and it was mass-produced right after.

Despite losing in the end, my design could be considered a success. It even managed to chase them out, even if just for a while. After the incident, the Haniwa Army Corps - which did not suffer massive financial loss after its defeat - settled into the Forest of Magic and civilized a village of our own. Keiki even held a mutual partnership with the local puppeteer due to their love of craftsmanship. Had the invasion never happened, I would have not been sitting here recalling my past.



How long have I been waiting here?

My current order is to wait for more instructions, so I choose to spend my time glorifying history. It is certainly more productive than doing nothing. I take a view from the window and see the people of our kind busily working together. One of the retired soldiers is helping other haniwa in our village, bringing heavy logs and materials for the construction of our village. That soldier is one of the more infamous ones since she was known as the head of the Haniwa Army Corps in the past. Mayumi is her name if I recall it correctly. Her face had the human aesthetic of later haniwa, which I am not jealous of since I lack the capacity for such emotions.

From the window view, I see Keiki approaching the retired soldier before the goddess confronts her. The retired soldier halts her activity and listens closely before she nods and salutes in respect to her. She then leaves elsewhere, leaving my vision from the window. But before I can wonder what she is on about, the door of my room creaks open.

“Pardon?” The elite soldier, Mayumi, enters the room. “Keiki ordered me here.”
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i fucking spent 20 minutes of my life on a non-existent captcha
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I pointed out his thought patterns before, but I actually really like reading them.
It's hard to pinpoint why exactly, there's just something about his overly (and often unecessarily) analytical descriptions and considerations that I enjoy reading/amuses me.

Gonna enjoy seeing him interact with Mayumi.
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Th17Mayumi
The harsh reality of most war veterans comes not only when they are in the warzone, but also after when they are out of service, mostly due to the fact that they are too adapted to the cruel situation of the battlefield, making them difficult to adapt to a more civilized society. Even our haniwa warriors suffer from this. Specialized for battle purposes only, most of the army from the Haniwa Corps are left behind being a burden to our people.

Mayumi Joutouguu is the opposite.

After leaving the Animal Realm, the ex-leader of the Haniwa Army Corps devotes her life to the people around her. This leads her to be one of the most well-known haniwa in our village. Rumor says that she has such good reputation to the point that she develops a friendship with the ordinary magician near our village.

“What is your name, by the way?” The soldier asks me upon walking through the street of our village. The site is not in its best condition at the moment, as most of it is still under construction.

“We do not have a name,” I answer her.

“Then, how should I call you?”

“Keiki referred to us as Pawn.”

“Pawn, huh?” Her blonde hair flows in the wind. Our faces are completely different. Her head is lively, adorned with yellow eyes and fresh lips whereas my head - which does not represent a coconut in any shape or form except possibly the arches - only has three holes as its decoration. Her fashion consists of a white one-piece under a yellow lamellar armor. In a way, her design is similar to the last project Keiki worked on before. “What are we searching for, again?”

“I believe Keiki will explain that once we get to the garden.” The stressful traffic of noise hinders my sound. It happens that the road we are following intersects with the spot where construction is at its busiest. We keep strolling through the bustling place until a cacophonous scream breaks my focus.

“WATCH OUT!” A cue of a falling massive object catches my attention. Before I can react, the path we are following is shrouded under a shadow, but nothing comes hitting the ground. I look around my back until I see the person responsible for stopping the falling object.

Mayumi holds the massive wooden log that is dropping into our area, with only one hand. She scans her back to find the source of the trouble.

“M-MISS MAYUMI!” A constructor haniwa approaches us. “S-SORRY ABOUT THIS, THERE IS AN A-ACCIDENT!”

“It’s fine.” She turns to the haniwa with a smile. “Nobody’s harmed, luckily. You guys need some help there?”

The constructor bows. “N-NO MISS, WE OWE YOU ENOUGH. THERE’S NO NEED TO TROUBLE YOURSELF.”

“Oh, please.” Mayumi shrugs, bringing the massive log on her shoulder. “Come on, where do I put this.”

The haniwa points to a stack of logs of the same kind. “O-Over there, Miss.”

The elite soldier effortlessly carries the massive log to the stack and puts it where it belongs. “Be more cautious next time. Not all haniwa could withstand that thing.“

The constructor nods repeatedly. “Y-Yes, Miss Mayumi. T-Thank you.”

Mayumi then comes to reunite with me. “Sorry for that.”

I get confused by her sentence, what is she sorry for? Nevertheless, we continue our path to the garden, strolling through the hectic construction site to the more exuberant forest outside our village. There, we find an aggregated structure full of creeping plants of some kind.

“Explain your visit here.” Two guard idols intervene on our arrival.

“Keiki.” I reply, “Keiki ordered us here.”

After observing us for a second, the two guards step away from the entrance. “The two of you shall pass.”

The lush scenery of the Garden welcomes us as we enter our way. The sun illuminating from the cavity above serves as the only light source of the place. The ramping growth of vines furnishes the garden’s walls. A line of static idols is present in the garden’s outline with the purpose of collecting the souls stemming from the corpse flower. In our sight, we see our creator standing amidst the four-gridded lane. We descend to the garden in order to gain a better view of the Rafflesia patches. The flower petals, despite not looking fresh, bloom towards the air, showing their rigid insides. The corpse flower ranges from 60 to 100 centimeters in diameter. Their giant size makes our effort to cross noticeably harder.

“How are you, my dear idols?” Keiki gracefully uses one of her hands to brush the petals of a Rafflesia, while she uses the other hand to elegantly cover her nose.

“We’re in our prime,” Mayumi says as the two of us bow before her. “At your service, my Highness.”

“See the state of your primary source.”

We take a brief look over the rotting flowers around us.

“Rafflesia is less of your typical flowers and more of a parasite. It spreads its seeds to nearby plants until said seeds find a host. From its birth, the plant leeches the essence of others in order to survive. This trait naturally makes them rich in the essence of life,” The sculpture goddess blesses us with her smile. “Souls, as we usually call them. Ever since we migrated here, we can not depend on the faith of the human spirits for our souls. So I have no choice but to find an alternative.”

“We’re ready to serve you, my Highness.”

“The extreme terrestrial of the Animal Realm, supported by their general rule of survival of the fittest, makes them a suitable place for the growth of Rafflesia.” Keiki clasps her hands together. “Go out your way and find them.”

Mayumi and I nod in agreement before settling back on our feet. We then head to exit the place before Keiki mentions us once more.


“One more thing. Chances are the Animal Realm still holds its history on us. Make minimum conflict.”
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>>69240
Glad to hear that! It was originally an excuse for me to reach the word count so yeah expect more of these overly specific yet ambiguous descriptions in the future.
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>Make minimum conflict.

Well. Doesn't that sound like a promise we're definitely not going to be able to keep.

Mayumi is pretty badass.
Less stoic than expected when "off-duty", but I suppose that's exactly why she acclimatised so well to the new circumstances she found herself in.
A good leader should be adaptable; so it makes sense she was made to be. In every sense of the word.
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__niwatari_kutaka_touhou_drawn_by_ikiyouz__860e1de
How are they going to get there? Crossing the Sanzu, maybe? Meeting a chicken, maybe? Meeting best chicken, maybe?
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76296369_p0_master1200
Hell, or New Hell as they usually refer to as, is Gensokyo’s current and main place for souls of the damned to have their may or may not be justifiable punishment. The New Hell - which is not a place of sexual affairs for desperate people - is an entirely different place than the Former Hell, which is mostly not a place of sexual affairs for desperate people either. The Former Hell serves primarily as a paradise for the youkai and oni who live there, while the current works as an actual place full of demise.

Mayumi and I are venturing through the sanguine grounds of the current hell, seeing in action how the place tortures some sinners' souls. After nonchalantly passing through Higan - which is an experience I do not want to recall, not because the place is egregious, but because it will be a waste of my energy - we wander to the desolate horizon of New Hell, continuing our way to reach the Animal Realm.

“Let’s find shelter,” She takes a quick look at her back, stepping her foot to climb the hill we are processing. The place is full of ambient tortured screams, which is not a hyperbole, making it quite tiresome for our hearing senses. “Before the sun rises.”

The pitiful ground continues to greet us throughout our way, the sky as sinister as blood. “I am not sure of how long this would take.”

“Just keep…” She keeps scaling the ascending route before abruptly looking to her back once more. “Moving on…”

That marks my curiosity. “You’ve been doing that for the past three and a half minutes.”

“Huh? What are you…” Again, she takes a quick look at her back. “What are you talking about.”

I display her movement to her, copying her sudden twist of the neck. “This.” Behind me, I see the pile of inadequate dirt we just walked over. She has yet to give me an answer, posing to walk forward. I decide to follow her guide until we come across the peak of the unproportional ground, a profound canyon greeting us upon arrival.

“Let’s take some rest here, Pawn.” She does a sigh that looks borderline dramatic. “This journey got me real tired.”

“What?” Haniwa can not feel tiredness. “Where…does that come from…”

As I prolong my sentence, the soldier crosses her arms on her back while walking lightly in my direction until…

“We’ve been stalked.” She whispers as she continues to walk beyond me.



I am confident we have not done anything striking, yet someone is already on our tail. For what purpose? In haste, I scan my surroundings with my vision, only to find the uneven hills of rotten soil lie before me.

Mayumi puts her hand to cover her mouth, replicating a yawn while also scrutinizing her perimeter.

Perhaps, I can not take this lightly. We could have never known if the stalker was powerful enough to strike us in one swift. After thinking of a solution, I deploy one of my signature psychological tricks, colloquially known as ‘misleading provocation’. “It sure is a good time to not be followed. Hopefully, nobody except the two of us is present in our vicinity.”

!

A small mound of the ground noticeably shudders after my deceit. But before I could point it out…

"PwWAH!" Mayumi already got its back, pinning the stalker down with an elbow lock.

"TELL US WHICH INSTITUTION YOU are… working?" Mayumi's scorn trails off as she looks at her suspect, a creature with a winged back and a giant-sized eggshell as a helmet that covers half its head. She grabs the creature by the shoulder and lifts it off the ground, revealing its height that is no shorter than a bipedal youngling.

Still, we can not let our guard down. There must be something it is capable of considering it can survive the extreme nature of hell.

"S-So fast…" Our captive says. "They r-really weren't exaggerating about you guys."

Mayumi turns it around to examine its face, but the creature takes that opportunity.

"Fool!" It pulls out a small ball from its pocket and throws it, releasing a hideous smoke that abrupts our vision.

"Mayumi!" I call her name as the gas fills around us. As I try to scan my area, my back crashes upon something.

"Stay on guard, Pawn." Mayumi is the one pressing her back against mine. The smoke continues to fill the air while our stalker circles around us.

"The unstoppable idols of human spirits, the apex predator of the Animal Realm. Truly, those titles are rightfully given to your kind." The creature keeps her movement hidden, flying around in the smokescreen gasses. "But, prepare as you will counter a force of the hidden, where you won't even have a clue about what's hitting through your defenses!" The gas grows thinner, revealing the chicken-like creature. "Feast your eyes upon the prodigy from the hidden clan of the Animal Realm, RankpPWAAAAAH!"

It crashes upon a rock in its flight and falls into the canyon.



Good riddance. Now that our trouble is gone, I decide to continue our path alongside Mayumi…?

Mayumi is nowhere around.

"Pawn!" I hear her voice coming from the edge of the hill.

Closing my distance, I take a look at the edge of the canyon. Mayumi is hanging at the ledge, carrying the stalker with her and hugging it tightly to her body with one hand. She uses her other hand to pierce her haniwa-shaped sword on the canyon’s surface, stopping their fall.

"Ma…Mama…" It whimpers in her shoulder.

Mayumi's blonde hair brushes its face. "It's alright, you're fine."

It takes comfort in her hold until it seemingly realizes her situation. "Wh-Whaa…" Our stalker blushes as it looks at her face. "F-Fool! Y-You thought you could pity me? I-I was actually just tricking you!" It pulls out another smoke bomb and throws it to the canyon's wall, releasing another smoke. I see it flying away from the smoke right after its release. "We will meet again!" Its says in a voice that is not intimidating, leaving trails of yellow feathers behind.



“Well…” Mayumi climbs her way to the surface as the sun - whose size covers half of the horizon - rises from the corner of the horizon, turning the sky into blazing red. “Let’s find shelter before the sun scorches us.”





Apologies for the lack of updates. If I were to describe the main reason in one word, it would be "COLLEGE".
I'd try to compensate in the weekends.
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>>69254
Solid point honestly. As the ex-leader it is expected for her to have that kind of "stern" personality. To put it simply, that is not the direction I want to take for my story.

Stern Mayumi would be badass tho, might actually pull that out in the future
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>>69267
boy do I have some good news.
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Birds have been met, chicken will be socialised with.

Man, Pawn's such a dope, love him.

>>69270
I feel there might have been some misunderstanding regarding my post.
I meant to say that I think this story's Mayumi is badass.
Because of her being adaptable enough to conform to a more peaceful life, compared to the other soldiers.
If anything, her adaptability was shown again here when she immediately switched into bodyguard-mode to protect Pawn from an apparent threat.
Both kinds of Mayumi are good, I didn't mean to sound like I was criticising you in that respect and I apologise for my poor wording if you interpreted it that way.
Besides, I completely agree with the notion that you should write the story that you, yourself, want to write; stories should be fun for everyone involved, after all.

I'm not gonna say no to possibly seeing more facets of Mayumi's character, though.
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Calimero, is that you?
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>>69271
🐣 YEAHHH!!!!! 🐣
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__joutouguu_mayumi_touhou_drawn_by_gyouza_mhea5724
The gigantic sun of New Hell is one of the properties that make the place infamous for its absurd heat. Like any other star, Hell’s sun has its period when it sets and rises. This is known as the night and day cycle, which is the byproduct of the rotation of a celestial object when it revolves around a star. New Hell also has its own day and night cycles, at night time, most people use Hell to travel as it connects to many other realms, whereas in day time, tortured souls are dragged around, which is what gives Hell its famous reputation as a blazing place of torture.

I deduce that Hell’s sun can not be a different sun than the one in our galaxy, because if it is, that would mean Hell is located far far away from Gensokyo, and the Sanzu River needs to be way longer than the distance we just traveled before.

From this, I speculate there might be two possible explanations for Hell’s massive sun. My first speculation is that Hell is located on a planet that is closer to the sun than the Earth, possibly Mars, which in itself is a stretch but still a possibility. My second guess - which I am more confident about - is that Hell is located deep inside the layers of the Earth and Hell’s sun is less of a star but rather the Earth’s core itself. This means Hell orbits in a tiny plane located in the cavity around the core.

Both possibilities are applicable, and both explain the burning sun of Hell that is the reason for us frantically trying to find shelter now.

“Got anything?” Mayumi covers her eyes from the sun as she looks around, searching for a habitable place. The wide expanse of red sand reflects the sun’s light, making it difficult for me to see clearly until…

“Is that a…” I point my finger at a landmark in my vision, an uneven hill with an opening in front. “A cave! Let us settle there.”



Thanking the gods above - that I mean none other than Keiki - Mayumi and I are taking a breather in this suspiciously wide cave amidst Hell’s expansive ground. Our skin is already damp enough with liquid, which is not a good sign since we lack any sweat glands.

Being exposed to the sun outright melts our ceramic exterior.

“Nothing particular here,” The soldier kicks a corpse on the corner before sheathing her sword back. “We’d reside here until the sun settles down. I’ll look around for a while, just to be safe.”

I nod in agreement as Mayumi leaves on my own. Being as productive as I can, I sit down in a nearby dirt mound and plan our arrival in the Animal Realm before a sound disrupts my contemplation.

“Kaku…” The voice comes from behind me. “Kakuuu…”

I prance before the mound - which as far as I know is not a camouflage of someone - and hide myself from the possible threat.

“Please…Listen…” It growls like a dying mammal. “Don’t…Animal Realm…”

Some words could be transcribed, but most of them are just nonsensical gibberish. I take a peek from the mound - which again is not a camouflage - and try to scan the creature.

A brief peak results in a shade of white, brown, and yellow palette. Leaning in for more details, I see that those colors derive from her jacket, her dress, and most notably her wings respectively. From this position, the first thing I see is her gluteal region - also known as the buttocks - which I thankfully have no sexual attraction towards as I lack the necessary tools for such stimuli.

“For yama’s sake…” She mutters. I suspect that this creature might be sleeping and these sounds are just unintentional grumbles. My suspicion turns out to be true as I check further on her face, a bag of gloomy folds is present under each of her shut eyes. Her yellow hair is as disheveled as unkempt bushes. In its corner, her hair changes its color to red, which part resembles a small nest.

“Don’t…” It keeps talking in its sleep. Her folded hands function as her pillow. “Don’t go…”

I close my distance to her face, inspecting her poor condition. The fact that there are no bruises or cuts means that her exhaustion is not the result of an intense fight.

“Don’t…” Her breath fills the socket in my eye before the air reciprocates on its own. “Don’t…Pfft…PwWAAH!”

As she opens her eyes, she gets up to her feet in panic, backing away from my non-invasive examination.

“DON’T E-EAT ME! I’M STILL ALIVE!”

She flails her hands to me as she screams. Her screech quite resembles that of a chicken.

“I-I-I CAN DEFEND MYSELF! YOU SHOULD N-MWMPHFF!” Further rants of her are silenced as Mayumi captures her from behind, covering her mouth with her hand.

“Calm- Calm down, Miss Kutaka, is that right?” The creature struggles more aggressively, her eyes watering due to fear. “I’m Mayumi Joutouguu, the corporal of the Haniwa Army. We have no intention of harming you whatsoever.” The chicken-like creature flaps her wings desperately, trying to put away Mayumi’s lock before finally giving up, realizing the gap in their strength.

After she visibly relaxes, Mayumi releases the grip on her mouth. Frightened sobbing emerges from the creature. “I- I didn’t even get the chance to meet her again before my untimely demise…” She frowns pitifully, furrowing her brows while wrinkling her lips.

“R-Relax, Miss Kutaka,” The soldier lets go of her. “We genuinely won’t do anything to you.”

The moment she is let free, she jumps to the previous mound - which I am now confident enough is not someone’s camouflage as it stays still this whole time - and hides as if that will increase her chance of survival. Yellow feathers roam free in the air.

Seeing how she reacts, I conclude that miscommunications are happening between us. I contribute some reassuring facts to calm her down, “Miss, had we intended to kill you, we would have done so,” I raise two of my fingers to make a peace sign, punctuating my message.

“P-Please don’t…” Her voice comes out shaky, perhaps enthralled with my persuasion.

“Pawn…That’s not how you calm people down.” She comments even though I do not understand why. Mayumi picks her sword up and drops it to the ground near Kutaka, “Miss, that’s the only weapon we have. We don’t have any will to fight anyone.”

Kutaka stays behind the mound for a while until she peeks her head. “Y-You’re serious…?”

Mayumi nods, “Count me on that.”

Little by little she shows herself, revealing her worn-out face with her baggy eyes apparent. “T-That’s a relief…” She laughs a bit, “S-Sorry, I’m not in the best of mind right now.”

“It’s fine, Hell’s full of people with trouble,” Mayumi assures her with a smile, is that where I lacked before? “What brings you here, Miss Kutaka?”

“What brings me…Oh!” Kutaka straightens her posture. “Right, uhm, I was searching for this kid. A chicken, like me, but she’s a youkai, and, she’s quite short and um…And she uses an eggshell as a hat.”

That description strikes my memory. “Does she, by any chance, have smoke bombs at her disposal?”

“Uhm…Oh, y-yes she does that sometimes.”

“Miss, we just met her,” Mayumi tells her first. “They attacked us on our way here.”

“WHAT?” Kutaka slams her palmar to the mound “H-HOW IS SHE NOW?”

“She’s…She almost fell into a canyon, but we managed to escort her. Not long after though she flees from us.”

“Gosh, she’s such a troublemaker.” Kutaka exhales before bowing, “T-Thank you for saving her, I owe you much!”

Mayumi waves her hand dismissively, “It’s alright. We got it under control.”

“That means she’s still in Hell. Of course she is but where is she now? What if she didn’t find shelter at all? Oh gosh, she could’ve been roasted as we speak.” Kutaka sandwiches her face with her own hands. “Damn it! Why does she have to make me worry this much? The moment I find her I SWEAR she is in BIG trouble!” She punctuates with a slam to the mound.

!

The mound…shakes in response, being increasingly more active as the dirt cover falls off, revealing a white surface at the top.

“Why’s it so noisy…” The creature from the mound yawns as it stands up, showing more of her upper body. The eggshell hat reminds me of her previous appearance. “E-Eh? You guys!” She points to my face. “What are you doing here? Did you somehow manage to follow my track? Did you guys stalk me all the way here?” The small creature continues to blabble, “Oh, I get it, so you have a bone to pick with me! Just you know that I am more prepared than ever now. I am sure I can- Hey! Why aren’t you listening to…”

The small creature peeks at her back, being face-to-face with Kutaka before the kid looks back at us, pupils shrinking.

“Ma-” She freezes as Kutaka stares her dead. “Ma-Ma-MamaAAA-”

Kutaka pinches the kid’s ear and twists it like a doorknob. Face cold as a murderer's.

“MAMAMA-” Right after, Kutaka brings the kid with her to a secluded corner, leaving us to hear continuous screams and cries that might not resemble childcare in the slightest. “MAMAAA-”

“DO. YOU. KNOW. HOW. MUCH. TROUBLE. YOU’VE. MADE. ME?” There is a smack that punctuates each word.



An explosion of gas bursts, covering the corner in smoke. I see the kid frantically running away with her hands reaching her front before Kutaka bodies her, ceasing her attempt to escape. “DON’T THINK I’LL LET YOU RUN AWAY THIS TIME.”

“WAAAA I’M SORRY MAMAAA-”

I turn my face to look at Mayumi’s, seeing confusion display in her expression. I ought to leave this place as soon as possible, staring outside as the giant sun continues to burn everything in its radius.

I conclude that we are going to stay here for a while…
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>I'd try to compensate in the weekends.
As you can see I am a man that stays true to his words.

Another apology, college is NOT giving me any chance to breathe.

>>69272
Glad you liked Pawn! I sure hope nothing terrifying will happen to him in future events!
For real though I'm glad his excessive thought process isn't overwhelming as I felt the need to tone him down sometimes lmao.
About your previous comment, I actually took no offense from it. In fact, I am really grateful for your continued support! It even felt a bit unjust for you to apologize like that since it is MY fault for interpreting it wrong. But all and all, I'm happy whatsoever.

>>69273
I have no clue about that character so I thought you were referring to another author lmao.
Glad that my descriptions nailed the impression I'm looking for, though.

>>69274
And the plot chickens!!! I'm not sorry

Shoutout for all the anons! Really happy with the support this fic is getting.

Now that the update is done I'll try finishing the 37 assignment lurking in my corner...
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Liking this story and Pawn's perspective a lot so far. Rock on
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>possibly Mars

Absolute Mars slander going on in this story. Mars is the closest planet to Heaven in the solar system! It's VENUS that's the hotboxed flesh-melting hellscape!
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Amongst the oviparous animals, chickens have the most well-known maternal figure of all. That sentiment exists for the right reasons. Despite their reputation as livestock, mother hens will be the first to gather their chicks when they are faced with potential danger. I have already seen this nature firsthand, back when the Haniwa Corps recently emerged to the surface, I was tasked to a local poultry farm to collect chicken feathers. A Hen—in all its glory—covered its younglings under her wings while plucking the void in my face when I tried to get close. Mother hens are also amongst the most disciplined. Their daily routine consists of checking their eggs, carefully turning them for as long as the day passes, and using their body temperature to warm up their eggs to maintain the right condition for the eggs to hatch.

Similarly, in terms of necessary nutrients for survival, mother hens prioritize their chicks over themselves, sacrificing their food until the chicks are satisfied. I see this trait proven in action as Miss Kutaka selflessly burned herself—a noble act not to be laughed at—to move the corpse from the cave’s corner to a rock outside with the intention of using the sun’s ray to cook it properly.

“Ookay…” She spits in her palms, coating them in her saliva to protect them from the burning heat. Her skin is tainted in red from her previous attempt. “In and out, just don’t hesitate…”

She widens her wings, positioning one leg in her back while she leans forward, and before I can offer her my help—since Haniwa’s lack of pain receptors would torture me less—she launches herself outside, returning briefly with the corpse in her hold while squeaking.

“Hish- Hish- Hiiissh-” She flails her arms, fluttering the white sleeves of her jacket after laying the corpse on a much cleaner mound that is, this time undoubtedly, not a camouflage. “Gaaah! It’s- It’s still edible, I think?”

Relying on my intuition, the corpse is—superficially—burned too long. Its skin is charred completely on its ventral side—the front—where it was exposed to the sun.

“May I have a closer look?” I say as she confirms with a nod. In regard to whether it is edible or not, I flip the burnt corpse and peel the charred skin in its gluteal region, checking its muscles.

To my metaphorical surprise, the gluteus maximus—the largest muscle in the human body—is still in good condition, its brownish-gray color parallel to a well-cooked dish that definitely looks ‘appealing’, which to clarify I do not mean sexually. She must have known the correct timing to get it right. “It is very edible. In fact, I deduce that you have done this quite often.”

“That so?” Without much more thought, she bites the butt of the corpse and tears it apart, briefly munching it in her mouth before she regurgitates it into a nearby plate-like flat rock, combining it with the seeds and grains that are present on top of it. “It tastes… good, actually.”

She grins to herself as she mixes the food’s contents with her hands, seemingly proud of her work.

“Food’s ready!”

Her voice echoes through the spacious cave, supposedly reaching the two presence in the corner; Mayumi and the kid with an eggshell that I do not know the name of. The sulking child—crouching in the corner—stays silent before Mayumi interrupts. “Kid, Kutaka is—”

“I’m NOT hungry!” The kid retaliates in a not-so-acutely civilized way that is fully similar to a hormonally-charged teen who recently undergoes the process of physical maturation known as puberty. Yet, the growl from her stomach seems to betray her words. “Erm…”

Her stomach growls yet again, loud enough to reach our hearing senses. In response, Kutaka clears her throat to a loud extent that is not necessary. “Well, if nobody’s going to eat this delicious food…” She announces before puffing the air out of her pulmonary, “Then I’ll have to throw it out…”

The kid turns her back against the wall and peeks at Kutaka ‘in a heartbeat’.

“It’s been a looong time since we had meat. Real shame to just let it go away like this, but I had no choice~”

“M-Mama!” The kid approaches her despite her previous clarification. ”You c-could just give it to me, I-I mean it's not nice to waste food right?”

“Eh?” She snarkily smirks, “But I thought you’re not hungry?”

“I’m not! It’s just…just…just let me eat already!” The kid begs, her tiny hands reaching for the food. However, her attempt is immediately negated by Kutaka herself.

“Keep those hands away. Who knows what kind of stuff you’ve been touching this whole time!” She repels the kid’s manus whose five digits do not look like it has ever been met with proper, basic sanitation. They sit above the cave’s arid ground as Kutaka scoops a small portion of the food with her fingers. “Open your mouth.”

With less resistance, the kid obeys her order, opening the mouth in between her chubby facial muscles that are partially not revealed due to the eggshell on top of her head. Kutaka spoon-feeds the kid with her hands, letting her chew while making several munching sounds that I do not find annoying to hear.

“Where’s—” The kid says before Kutaka shuts her with her index finger. The eggshell kid devours her food before continuing. “Where's little sister?” She gestures to the red, nest-like extension of Kutaka’s hair.

“I left her home, of course. I didn't want to trouble her while I was searching for you in Hell.” Kutaka shoots a sharp gaze at the kid as the latter does not reply.

Kutaka Niwatari, the Chicken Goddess, though I do not know much about her, seems to be quite experienced with infants, as expected from the natural trait of mother hens. Even then, I am still curious whether her kids are biologically conceived or not.

“So…this is your daughter?” The blonde soldier seems to wonder the same matter.

“Yes. Not by blood, I mean. I have many chicken youkai on the spring atop of the Youkai Mountain.” She forces a portion to the kid’s mouth, “It's just this one IN PARTICULAR that is troublesome.”

The eggshell kid finishes chewing her food before answering, “I never asked you to search me!”

Kutaka lowers her face to the kid’s level, closing in with a sinister smile under those swollen bags below her eyes. “Do you know how long since I had my last sleep?”

The kid does not dare to answer.

“Seven. Days.”

The kid stutters to make a word but eventually resorts not to.

“Why…Hell, of all places?” The blonde questions, or to be more specific—since I realize there are two blondes here—the one who has yet to apply violence against their children.

“I don’t even know!” The other blonde feeds the kid a mouthful before facing back at us. “I told her to stay away, but for Yama knows why, she comes back AGAIN!”

“Again?”

“YES, THIS IS THE SECOND TIME SHE’S DONE THIS!”

Kutaka leans her back to the wall, slouching as the eggshell kid looks down to the ground.

“First time this happened, I lost her for three months! I was half-convinced that she was dead!” She fixes her brown skirt to cover the rest of her legs as she folds them. “I searched for her everywhere, put up some missing posters in just about every place I came across, even went as far as leaving my job in Higan!” She speaks loud enough for the kid to hear. “Couldn’t even remember how I managed to convince the Yama but luckily I didn’t lose my job!”

She catches her breath.

“And guess where do I find her? In the Animal Realm! Joining one of those shady organizations. Lucky enough, it wasn’t those of the bigger factions or I would have gotten into more trouble.”

Kutaka grabs the kid’s chin, forcing the kid to face her.

“The ridiculous part here is, after I brought her back, she IMMEDIATELY went missing again! So, I pleaded for the Yama to close all entrances to the Animal Realm so YOU wouldn’t have a chance to enter that place!”

“I’m s-sorry, Mama…” The kid lowers her head after the Chicken Goddess scoops another portion into her mouth.

“Wait,” Mayumi says, “The Yama closed all entrances to the Animal Realm?”

“Yeah, I made an offer with my boss in exchange for my…” She points her index finger to her chin, “Oh, right. My salary…” Her shoulder slumps, drooping off her yellow wings on the ground.

“That’s a problem. Pawn and I were assigned to go to the Animal Realm.” The Haniwa Soldier is not threatening her. “No pressure, Miss, but we will need to enter that place soon.”

“You guys wanna go there too?” The kid beams before Kutaka shuts her.

“S-Sorry for the inconvenience.” She bows, “I will resolve this as soon as possible. Right after I bring this kid home.”

“But Mama! I’ve come this far, I can’t afford to—” Her voice trails off as the God of Chicken stares her down.

To think that a youkai could do much trouble to a goddess proves that her reputation as one is questionable. The only real goddess in Gensokyo is, factually, objectively, and not obsessively, Keiki Haniyasushin.

Setting that aside, seeing this youkai starve makes me question something. I know that one nature of youkai revolves around them feeding on human emotions, such as fear, where it negates their necessity for food, essentially preventing them from starvation. If she is, supposedly, a youkai, she should not have been craving for a meal.

“I have something to ask,“ My turn to be answered. “As far as I know, youkai usually feed themselves with fear, don't they? The humans within the Great Hakurei Barrier should provide enough of it, but why does your daughter seem to be starving just then?”

Kutaka replies with nothing but silence while the kid looks at me with furrowed brows.

The dry wind brushes the dust off of my porcelain skin.

“Um,” Kutaka stutters, “Well, I’m not really sure I can…” She looks at the kid, “It's um…complicated,”

“Someone here thinks they’re funny with their sarcastic quips.” The kid remarks before she suddenly pulls out a weapon, a sharp metal with a triangular pyramid as its edge, pointed at one of the hollow pockets of what is supposed to be my eyes. “Not so funny now, huh?”

“I am sorry, did I do something wrong?” I genuinely ask alongside her not-convincing intimidation.

In haste, Kutaka puts away the kid’s weapon as she scolds her, separating the two of us from escalating further.

I do not know the reason for her aggression. Did I use the wrong lexicon? Or is it the context that I misinterpreted? Language barrier? Social expression? Is my understanding of communication skills so far behind that I unconsciously offended a social construct upon uttering a sentence?

“S-Sorry! I’ll explain later.” Kutaka says as she turns around, facing the kid. “I think it’s time for you to sleep!” She escorts her, leaving me and Mayumi behind.



The giant sun of hell continues to shine, parched wind passing through the cave’s entrance as the Chicken Goddess lay on her back in the corner, putting her worrisome daughter to sleep. I observe the dry, sanguine ground, countless particles of red dust grazing around my feet. Mayumi sits beside me as I wait for the sun to settle down.

“You’re okay?” The Soldier asks.

“Of course, that kid could do no harm to my body. You know that, hence why you did nothing then.”

“How about your mind? You have something to say?”

I look at the ground to contemplate for a second, “I still do not know why she attacked me.”

“Reading between the lines, I think you implied that she isn’t…’scary’ enough to be feared of, which is the reason why she starved.”

I let silence fill the air to show my willingness in the gravity of this situation, “Sorry for these hassles, it seems that conversation isn’t my strong suit.”

“Hey, it's fine. Probably on her part too. She’s a kid, after all.” She puts an arm on my shoulder, comforting me from the looks of it.

As the wall continues to support the weight of my back, the Chicken Goddess shifts from her position, slowly but surely waking from her rest. Kutaka rises from her position like a reanimated corpse, carrying much burden by looking at the lump of muscles below her oculi. Her hair is still as messy as the first time we met.

“Sorry about before,” She approaches us, bowing down after she is close enough. “I want to clear things up before I forget. My kid’s been influenced by the organization she’s joined for! She’s a kind and considerate kid deep in her heart.”

Her brown footwear clicks as she closes in to join my navel-gazing.

“I teach my kids to be polite, but she’s just more aggressive than others.” Kutaka sits beside me. “She’s one of the older ones, which makes other siblings heavily rely on her, so when it comes to defending her family, she’s usually the first to blow.”

“I am sorry about my impoliteness,” I confess, “I never meant to mock her or any of your kind.”

“It’s alright, I know that’s not your intention. If anything, it would make sense for people to question things like that.”

I tilt my head, “What makes her that offended? Is it because I mentioned starving?”

“No, it's not about that she was offended with,” She wipes the dust around her seat. “It was more of the reason they starved in the first place. Back in the day, when chickens were still in their prime, the Homo Sapiens feared chickens for what they are; strong skin, dominating sizes, sharp teeth. Chicken Youkai takes form accordingly to those depictions. I can faintly remember the days when other animals would run away just by hearing our footsteps, such good times.” She dreamily says, “Ah, my brain is filled with so many old memories that I can’t remember the new ones!”

She rubs her tired eyes,

“As time went on, chickens gradually changed, becoming less and less fearful in each generation. ‘Evolution’, think that’s what they call it. The final nail to the coffin came when humans domesticated us. People think of chickens as weak and cowardly, even those in the Human Village think nothing of us but mere food! Because of this, the traits of Chicken Youkai followed those portrayals! They became too weak to even defend themselves, nor to scare more humans. As the God of Chicken, it is my duty to give shelter to any Chicken Youkai I come across. Else, they would starve.”

I sit silently, respecting her.

“There are some Chicken Youkai who are stronger than their peers, like that kid. They set out to make themselves even stronger, hoping that they could reattain terror to those humans, but even that doesn’t do much.” She sighs, “That method is old, anyway. I could still hold their reputation with the faith collected towards me, but even that isn’t enough to raise our status, and it seems like there’s no real way to change it now.”

The sun illuminates our surroundings by bouncing its glow from the cave’s entry. Scintilla of dust sparkles around us as the God of Chickens, reaching her limit of exhaustion, yawns.

“Even then, I hope one day, people will value us more.”

I let silence fill the air, waiting for her next words, where, as it turns out, there is none left.

“Miss Kutaka…?”

Mayumi nudges the Chicken Goddess, checking her condition.

“She fell asleep…” I move my head to confirm that.

“P-Pwaah! S-Sorry, did I just sleep during our talk?

“It’s fine, miss Kutaka,” The blonde assists the blonde with her shoulder, escorting her. “You should’ve gotten some rest too, considering you haven’t had one for a week.”

Without any more dialogue, the God of Chicken accepts Mayumi’s support, transporting her to the spot where the eggshell kid is sound asleep.

“Ah, thank you.” Kutaka lays down next to her daughter, hugging the kid in her arms.

“You’re welcome, Miss.”



As we stand in front of the entrance, in the range where the sun would not burn our skin, Mayumi breaks the silent wait we are having.

“Miss Kutaka’s great, isn’t she?”

I do not agree, partially. “In my personal opinion, she is…” I think of a suitable adjective, “...normal? I do not see anything in her that strikes me.”

“I do,” She gazes outside, “Selfless, caring, kind in general. Her altruism reminds me of Keiki, in a way.”

“I do not think it is fair to compare their goddesshood with Keiki.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Keiki is and will always be in my faith. What I mean is, they try their best to nurture others, without thinking much of themselves.”

Her short yellow hair, alongside the buns in both its ends, creates a pleasant view as the sultry air breezes through.

“A person that’s helpful to others… A person that could lead their people for the better.”

Her arm reaches for her collar as it settles to the tiny haniwa in her neck, clinging the small pendant tight.

“That’s the haniwa I aspire to be.”



The sun kneels into the corner of the horizon, minutes away from being hidden from our view. I sit at the edge of the cave’s mouth, basking myself in the remnants of the sun’s death ray, pondering about Mayumi’s valuation of the Chicken Goddess.

Perchance, she has a point. Though I might not feel as related to Miss Kutaka like Mayumi did, I still hold a degree of respect for her. Her efforts to raise the public consensus of chickens, as futile as it is, are genuine, and I value her for that.

That pondering could wait for another time because a sudden loud thump from Mayumi directs my attention completely.

“Ah, um…” Mayumi scratches her head, looking upwards. “Something fell from above, and I think it shattered upon hitting my head.”

I observe her surroundings, pointing out some broken pieces of a stone whose size will not leave the average living creature to keep its head intact when being hit with one. Since a stone this big can not fall from the sky under any natural circumstances, I conclude that this is a conscious work of someone else.



I look at the cave’s corner, checking upon Kutaka who should be holding the eggshell kid in her hands.

Instead, she is holding a body-sized wooden log.

“Mayumi!” I call as some muffled sounds of flapping wings contact my hearing senses, “The kid is flying amongst the cave’s shadow!” The sounds grow bigger, faster, until for a moment, it pauses, and the flying creature comes to me at full speed.

“FEEL THE WRATH OF THE PRODIGY FROM THE HIDDEN CLAN! RANK—” Her dive-in gets halted by Mayumi, locking her—yet again—in an elbow lock. “PWAAAH!”

“What are you doing, Kid?” The soldier is not going to beat up this child.

“H-How did you— That rock hit you in the head!”

Mayumi lets her go and—before the kid could do anything else—pets her in the head. “You need more than that to take down a haniwa, especially with the likes of me.”

The kid grunts in annoyance, even though her faint blush tells me otherwise. She reaches for her pocket and pulls out—

“Don’t do that again, please.” The haniwa grabs hold of the kid’s hand, preventing her from throwing another smoke.

The kid exchanges a worried look with Mayumi before the former pouts, “Gah- Screw it, there’s no way I’m going to win against you, Lady.”

The small, winged creature turns around, putting her hand in her chin.

“All that training, all those times in the Animal Realm, just so I can gain more strength. But, how can I get stronger when I can’t even beat a haniwa?”

She walks around, going back and forth in rapid succession.

“Maybe I can’t beat her, but I still have a chance against a weaker haniwa.”

She stops her walk, slowly turning around that eggshell in her head to face against me.

“You!” She points at my face, “Fight me!”
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ok so uh some quick clarification before going to sleep
hey guys im back lolol
I know doing this kind of post is really unnecessary, and perhaps to some, annoying. but I feel like it's better to just clear up on things after like, y'know, not updating for 3 weeks.

First thing first, this story is, originally, an entry to the 2023 nanowrimo, in which the event itself had ended from 2 weeks prior i make this post. I just wanna say that i still want to finish the story. But, during november i really can't focus myself on writing as i am busy with college throughout the whole month.

another thing i wanna say is that update will continue to be scarce, as since nanowrimo has ended, the time i would write now is purely based on The Mood™. this and the fact that i have this unreasonable amount of self-satisfaction i need to reach combined with the inexplicable gut feeling to throw up everytime i open my docs has made the production overall sluggish.

good thing is i basically have the whole story planned out for around 32 posts. so chances are i will finish this story, no promises though.

so yeah, hope this message reaches you well.

also the anon in >>69292 is saying the truth and im a complete idiot

now if you excuse me i want to commit several acts of escapism parallel to shooting myself in the head.

someone please fix the captcha i got banned due to it not showing up.
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>>69292

Then I demand explanation for Mars' continued aggression towards me. I favor neither, either myself.
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The food chain is one of the main principles in nature, in which the stronger and more adaptable animals dominate the weak, the animals at the top devour those below them. In the Animal Realm, this principle stays similar. The food chain illustrates the hierarchy of animals based on their overall strength.

Where the strong rule over the weak, a person's viability to cooperate with others is the key to ensuring their survival. This particular rule of thumb has made it an absolute necessity for one to work together under the many factions in the Animal Realm. This cooperation, however, is not an act of altruism, as it is simply to ensure their position in the food chain.

Though Keiki mostly blesses me with the innate knowledge of Anatomy and its branches—which does not include Astronomy, where I am quite sophomoric in said subject—I can still recall one-two things regarding the accepted social construct in the Animal Realm. There exist multiple communities, where the mainstream ones can be dumbed down into three categories; The Keiga Family is a group of brute forces, this group is infamous for their strength. The Gouyoku Alliance is notorious for its greed. The Kiketsu Family, rumored to work under sly strategies, dominate their enemies without using as much violence as the other two.

Alongside these factions, there are numerous smaller groups that mostly specialize in stealth techniques such as traps and camouflage. These groups, just like how animals would, will fight and struggle, competing against each other to gain and keep their position in the food chain. Because my former job as Keiki’s sculptor required me to stay mostly inside, I never got the chance to see any of the people who were affiliated with these groups.

Up until now,

“What’s up with your neck? Are these your bones?“ The innocuous kid—who I do not have the ill will to bury six feet under this unholy rotten soil as it is perfectly logical for a child to behave improperly like this—drags my head down, leaving the gap in my neck joint visible to the naked eye. Her tiny legs settle in my shoulders, riding me in a piggyback.

“Please get off immediately,” I command her, “You do not have my informed consent to do a physical examination of my body.”

“These are your bones!” As if she does not hear me in the slightest, her curiosity in her voice is apparent. The hot air of Hell grips my spinal column.

"Any procedure without the patient’s consent is considered assault.” Even the sculpture goddess asks for her creations’ consent when she is maintaining them. A true proof of her honorabil—

I retract my head in reflex as she puts her hand in between the gaps of my neck joints, touching my vertebrae.

“Oh, does that tickle you?”

“Had you held a medical license, it would be gone in an instant. Or, perhaps, that confidence of yours would give you one instead." I jab an advanced expression of irony—usually known as sarcasm—with the assumption that her intellect is smart enough to notice it.

She exhales with a condescending attitude. “Do I look like I'm a doctor or something? Besides, don't think I need a license to inspect an old junkie coconut head like you.”

“... What did you just call me?” I ask without any resentment in my voice as I am not offended one bit.

“Hehe,” She leans forward to hang her head against my face, “I mean, it isn’t that far from the truth!” She drags her hands from the sides of my mandibula to the crown of my head. “It is SO round!”

“Please refrain from saying such things about others' appearance, they might not brush it off as I am.”

“Oh nooo, Coconut Head is angwyyy,” The eggshell kid—whose face might not look as punchable right now—cackles so loudly. “Think of this as ‘an eye for an eye’,” She slaps the lateral area of my head, making it tilt a little to the left.

Someone ought to teach her some ethics, for her own good, of course.

My hand reaches for one of her legs, “Eh, W—” Without any warning, I throw her to the ground with enough force that will not split her head asunder with the sole purpose of none other than education.

“P-Pawn!” Mayumi’s hand reaches my back, congratulating me for my act of mercy. “You shouldn’t do that! She’s just a kid—”

“AGH! hAHA!” The kid manages to chuckle beside her current position of being held down. “You’re that offended, huh? How does that feel?”

I calmly think for a brief moment before realizing what she meant. “Is this because of the previous miscommunication?”

“Hah, of course. Blame it on ‘miscommunication’ because there’s no way in Hell an apex predator of your kind would belittle a frail, lowly species like the chickens, right? Everyone thinks the same after all!!!”

She reaches for her pocket, searching for what I assume is another one of those smoke bombs before she halts. A little pause and she strikes me with the sharp iron weapon she once used to threaten me, piercing it into my elbow joint. I withdraw my hand in response and she moves away, keeping a distance.

“Alright!” She jumps back to her feet, beaming with a smile. “Think I’ve got it, Coconut Head, it’s over now!” She hums in repeated successions before the tempo grows faster, gradually switching into a more cocky laugh. “Hah! I’ve known your weakness now, oh, and I’ll even make sure to make use of it, Fooool!”

I stare at the chicken youkai, not knowing what she is talking about.

“The fight, Idiot, we’re going to have a danmaku battle, right here, right now!” I am caught off-guard, not because of the aforementioned fight, but because she is able to read my expression despite not having one. “It’s time for the show—”

“No!”

The eggshell kid startles, puzzled by the interruption. “H-Huh?”

“Sorry, Kid.” Mayumi declares with much firmness, folding her arms while standing in gallant. “I am tasked to make sure of his safety, and we really don't want to create any unnecessary ruckus, especially in a place like Hell.”

“But!” The eggshell on her head bumps as she elevates her head to Mayumi, “It's just danmaku.”

“Even if the fight is non-lethal, the topography of Hell is too dangerous for a fight. No one will have a danmaku battle, long as I’m here.”

“But! But!” The eggshell kid flails, the sleeves of her dark red one-piece scatter in the air. Her arms punch into Mayumi's lamellar armor in a futile barrage.

Leaving her alone, I settle my vision to the outside, seeing the sun that has settled down. “I think it’s time for us to move.”

“We can't really go anywhere.” The soldier clarifies while fending off the kid. “According to Kutaka, the Yama has closed all entrances to the Animal Realm, we’d have to wait till’ she settles it.”

That is a fair deduction. As much as I hate neglecting my—our duty, we can not go anywhere until the entrance is open again.

“Miiiss! It’s just danmakuuu! Pleaseee!” The kid—who I may or may not have grown quite annoyed with—insists on persuading Mayumi. “I have to fight him before Mama wakes up, or else I’ll return to the surface again! This might be the only chance I get to fight an actual Haniwaaa!”

Mayumi does not falter and neither does the Kid. That is until…

“Mmmnnh~” The god of chicken—sleeping in the corner—makes a loud and sudden grunt in her sleep.

“Eep!” The kid covers her mouth, lowering her voice. “Shh!”

Kutaka brings the wooden log—which she has been using as a bolster—closer to herself. Her rustles do not seem like it is stopping soon.

“Oh nononono!” In haste, the kid reaches for her pocket and throws a ball in her way, filling the air with another smoke. A moment later, she has already slipped under Kutaka’s arms, replacing the wooden log with herself without alerting the Chicken Goddess. She closes her eyes as if she has been sleeping there the whole time.

“Mmnh~ Good morning…” The blonde goddess stretches her back, waking from her slumber. “Wwwonderful sleep, mhmm…” She covers her yawning mouth using her palm. “What—What time is it?”

“Good morning, Miss.” I reply. “I can not tell you the exact time, as it is not within my capabilities, but I can confirm that the sun has set.”

“Ah~ That’s great.” She rotates her body, relaxing the muscles in her upper back. “Time to return home. Do you guys want to join us?”

“That’s very kind of you, but we have our own destination.” The haniwa soldier rejects her offer, reciprocating Kutaka’s smile with her own.

“Shame, I guess we’ll have to part ways soon. Come on,” She nudges her daughter. “Let’s go home.”

The kid stays still for a while, sluggishly getting up from her position after coughing several times. “M-Mama… I’m—” She coughs again. “I’m feeling sick…”

“Tch,” Kutaka rolls her eyes, “Don’t even try to pull that again, we’re going home, no matter how much you fake your sickness.”

“I—I’m being honest, Mama. It feels like I just got slammed into the ground by someone… evil. My body hurts…” I wonder about the person she is referring to, which is certainly not me.

The kid clears her throat as her mother figure checks her forehead. “What do you feel right now?”

“I feel cold, really cold, s-shiveringgg…”

Kutaka narrows her eyes, shooting a sharp gaze at the chicken youkai. “Seriously? That doesn’t even make sense, we’re literally in Hell right now, and someone with a fever should feel hot rather than freezing…”

“That is incorrect, someone with a fever may realistically feel cold.”

Kutaka turns her head around, looking at me with confusion in her eyes. “Eh? Is that true? How would you even know that?”

“I say he knows his stuff,” The haniwa soldier supports me, thankfully. “The sculpture goddess, Keiki Haniyasushin, built Haniwa like him to help create and maintain other Haniwa, our ‘doctor’ of a sort.”

“I happen to know the pathophysiology of fever, in which the process is initiated by the hypothalamus of the brain—” I realize the person I am trying to teach may not understand what I am saying. “To put it simply, imagine there are two variables; the body’s set temperature and its actual temperature. In the early stage of fever, the body’s set temperature is set higher than normal, tricking the body into thinking that the temperature is too low, thus gradually raising its actual temperature. In other words, the kid’s body might be thinking that it is cold because of her current set temperature that is too high.”

Kutaka looks at me blankly.

“Now, I am not saying that she is, in fact, having a fever. I just want to clarify your words, that is all. I do not, in any way, support the idea that she is sick.”

“Is there a way to confirm it, then?” Kutaka puts her arms together, her posture bowing down ever so slightly.

I put my hand on my chin, “Well, other than checking the temperature, we can look for other symptoms. Her coughs, for example.”

“Oh!” The chicken goddess redirects her attention to her kid, “Do you feel an itch in your throat?”

“I-I think,”

“Don't worry,” She puffs out her chest, proudly pointing her thumb in the direction of her sternum. “When it comes to throat illnesses, your mother is the expert!”

She reaches for the pouch in her colorless jacket, pulling out a small vial of transparent liquid. She twists the cap of the bottle and pours its volume into her hand. “Repeat after me, ‘What I can’t see cannot stay, make this throat illness go away.’”

The kid turns to properly face the chicken goddess, repeating her chants as the blonde sprinkles the water in her hand on the youngling.

This ritual piques my interest, the infamous chicken goddess’s signature power. I’ve heard that it works against every throat illness known to man. An all-cure procedure. Surely, if I can figure out the way it works, it would be a breakthrough in the field of medicine.

The kid coughs, somehow sounding harsher than before.

“E-Eh?!”

Both of them repeat the chant several times before the kid coughs yet again, perhaps due to the dryness of her throat.

“No way!” The god of chicken yells, stuttering subtly. “There’s no way this doesn't work!”

She turns her back against the kid, putting ‘two and two together’ before returning abruptly, shoving her index up in front of the kid’s eyes. She looks at the kid with a scrutinizing eye.

“You’re NOT sick, aren’t you?!” Her tone is oppressive.

The youkai is thrown aback, backing herself against a wall as she flounders her arms in her general direction. “W-Wait! Listen to me, Mama!” Just as the goddess approaches her, a drop of red trickles down from the kid’s face.

Kutaka stops at her track. “Eh, that is…”

A nosebleed. The common cause of this consists of accidents that result in applied force to the nose. It seems that I have thrown her a bit too hard back then.

She brings an arm to cover her nose, sensing the liquid before revealing it to the goddess.

“Mama! Blood! There’s blood in my nose!” She flaps her arms in panic. “I’ve never had a nosebleed from an illness before! I-Is this a new disease? A virus? Did I just get a new virus variant from Hell?” She brings a hand over her head. “I don’t wanna die in Hell, Mama! Oh, this is the end~”

She is… using her nosebleed to convince her mother of her ‘sickness’. Ridiculous. Any person who still has their primary somatosensory cortex functioning in their brain would have seen through this logical fallacy very easily. It should have fooled nobody.

“C-Calm down…”

It… should have.

“Calm down! Guh—” Kutaka mutters, much to herself than the kid. Her body trembles as she tries to control her ragged breaths.

I can not blame her, of course. As her mother figure, it is understandable that she might prioritize the kid’s well-being into her consideration, even if it is as ridiculous as this—the drawback of maternity.

“Think of a cure, Kutaka!” She scratches her hair. “There must be a way! There must be someone who can take of diseases like this! There must be—”

She stares at me.

“Please cure her!”

“What…?” How do I tell her? If I tell it bluntly, it might confuse her more. She might also think that I am undervaluing her intellect, offending her in return. I can not afford to offend any other person besides that kid.

“I’ll do anything!” She clasps her arms together. “You want the Yama to open the Animal Realm right? I promise I’ll prioritize it above all else! Just, please! Cure her!”


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this chapter was supposed to have more things happening but it became too big so I cut it in half

you can think of this as a filler chapter yeah (3 months of hiatus just for a filler what loser amirite guys ahahah)
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It's good to have you back! Thanks for the chapter.
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'Mayumi’s hand reaches my back, congratulating me for my act of mercy.'
Hahahaahaha I love pawn
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“Do you have any history of head injuries?” I ask the kid, lying on the ground as I check her symptoms. Not that I believe the lie that she is putting up, I just want to relieve Kutaka of her worry. The stain of blood is still present in her philtrum.

“No…” She adjusts her eggshell to hinder her face.

“Have you fallen head-first just before? Some event that involves hitting your face to the ground?”

“...Probably.”

It is without a doubt that she is not sick. Scribing an anamnesis will bring me no favor here. I have to find a way to make her give up her pretense. She seems to be the type to get easily tricked, as previously, simple psychological pressure would make her succumb. Perhaps, I can make use of her trait again.

I hear a hiss coming from her.

“Tell her…” She whispers, “I can not afford long travels, prevent me from going back home.”

“What will happen if I do not?”

“You have to… or…”

“Or?”

“Or… else…”

“H-How is it? She’s okay, right?” Her yellow feathers drift mindlessly in the air as Kutaka questions me, a glimpse of worry in her eyes.

I turn my head around, sighing metaphorically. “I have tried my best, but given the limited tools I have right now, I can not identify the exact cause of her symptoms.” Which is not a lie, in a sense. “I diagnose her with Idiopathic Epistaxis.”

She opens her mouth, failing to say a word. Her head tilts slightly to the left.

“A bleeding in the nose that happens for no specific cause. You do not need to worry too much.”

She releases her breath, thanking me.

“Unfortunately, epistaxis is only a symptom of many causes, opening many possible roots of new problems. I will have a hard time determining her condition because as we know it, a person can not have a nosebleed so suddenly. If it is not trauma, then it means the problem lies inside of her organs.”

“She didn’t just hit her head before, right?”

“Assuming that both the kid and myself are not lying, she has no history of recent trauma. But it is still a possibility. Patients do lie, after all.”

“What are you gonna do?” Her voice trails off, a mix of worry and frustration apparent.

“Observing the current condition, I might need to check further inside, which means…” I make sure that my voice is loud enough for the kid to hear. “I have to perform surgery on her head. And without a proper anesthetic, the possibility of it being a fast and painless experience is not ‘on the table’. It will be unbelievably painful for the patient. The equivalent of a thousand stabs going into her skull while being fully conscious throughout the process. I am sorry that I have to do this, but I have no choice.”

I hear a sudden jolt from behind.

“If only she gets up right now, I might reconsider my decision to… Oh hey, there she is.” I turn myself to face the kid and, not to my surprise, she abandons her previous position, opting to fly under the ceiling instead.

“YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SPLIT MY HEAD OPEN! NOT EVER!” She covers her nose with her arms.

“You are correct, there is no need for me to further check on you,” I clarify as she flaps her wings, keeping herself away from me. “You are thriving as new.”

Mayumi chuckles, lifting her ceramic mandibula to look at the frightened youkai. “I thought you were sick?”

Her face turns pale, eyes shrinking from the realization.

“Turns out,” I raise my thumb at the kid as Kutaka’s mouth is left agape. “She is not sick in the slightest.”





Kutaka lightly slaps her dress, breezing off the remaining debris. The atmosphere has returned to pertain itself. “We’re very sorry for the trouble.” She bows her head down to the Haniwa Soldier. As expected, Mayumi brushes it off.

“It’s really nothing, Miss.”

“It’s my fault, falling for such a trick, I should’ve known better.” She puts both her hands up to her face, hiding the embarrassment in her expression. Mayumi puts an arm on her shoulder, comforting the Chicken Goddess.

Setting that aside, I put my attention towards the kid as she stays alone in the corner, crouching silently with her arms around her legs. I ask of her condition.

“Go away.”

“I believe it is not fair for me to get resentment for what I do not do.”

“You ratted me out!”

“I do not, you declared it with your very own action.”

“Oh, so it’s my fault, then? Well, I don’t expect anything from an apex predator like you, always blaming their problems on the weak. Our society has always been like that.” I want to ask how any of this connects to the societal custom, but I figure that would open another unnecessary ‘can of worms’.

Kutaka calls for the kid, which surprises the latter.

“Oh no…” The kid murmurs, hiding herself away in her legs.

“Please don’t hide anymore, I swear…” She approaches our corner, setting her gaze on the child. “There you are.” She flatly states, as if she has enough of her antics. “We’re going home.”

The youngling does not reply.

Kutaka pinches her face, mouth twisting into a snarl. “I’ll drag you in three…”

Her back bends down as her wings drop on the floor.

“Two…”

Her face has started to sweat. And just as the kid makes an effort to look at her executioner, a reaching hand nearly grabs her by the ears, which she has luckily dodged in time. “Waa!”

“One.”

Kutaka proceeds without any caution and tries to punish the kid’s delicate ear, which the latter avoids with much effort. It takes no time before she gives up, pulling up the child by the arm instead.

“Mama! Stop!” The youkai pleads as she struggles away from her mother.

“Why are you so stubborn about this? I just want you to be safe on the surface with your sisters, don’t you want to meet them?”

“That’s exactly why I can’t go back, Mama!”

“Whatever project you’re doing on the Animal Realm is not worth it.” She tows her with more vigor than before. “And they’re lucky I haven’t shut down that ‘clan’ yet.” She mumbles under her breath.

“I’m not letting that happen!”

The child pulls herself away with all the power she has before Kutaka lets loose of her grip. The goddess casts her a questioning look.

“I’m sorry Mama, but it has come to this.” The kid raises her arm to her mother. “I have no choice left.”

The goddess ponders for a second before shaking her head, seemingly aware of what is about to come. “You’re not doing that on me!”

“Oh, I will. This is my last resort.” The kid braces herself, bending her legs and spreading her wings.

Until suddenly, she pounces…

And drops herself on the ground, kneeling before the goddess.

“Please! Mamaaa!” She begs at her mother with puppy eyes. “Pleaseee! Let me go to the Animal Realm this time!”

“I’ve said it, that wouldn’t work on me anymore. No matter what you do, we’re leaving.”

The kid stays on her stance, eyes starting to water. “But… I’m doing this for you… for my sisters, my friends, I’m doing this for our family, Mama!”

For a second, I see hesitation present in Kutaka’s expression.

“Please, just this one time. If that is too much, you can also go with me to the Animal Realm. I can talk to them, they’ll let you!”

“I can’t do that,” She groans. “I’ll have to go back to the Yama and ask her to open the entrance again. If I leave you down here, then who’ll be taking care of you?”

The kid rotates her head, scanning the room with one quick motion before setting her eyes on me. “Them! They’ll take care of me!”

What.

“You guys can do that, right?” She shifts her sight to Mayumi. “Please…”

“Well…” The Haniwa answers. “I suppose we have no objections for it.” We absolutely have.

“See? They’ll keep me safe!” She puts her hands together. “This is our only chance, Mama! I can’t—I can’t just let this go. I—” She casts her eyes down, lowering her back. “Please, just this time.”

The sight is nothing but pitiful to see, a young youkai with her knees before her own mother, knowing very well that her chances to shake the goddess’s judgment are very slim. But before I get the chance to voice my opinion, Kutaka turns her expression over. Her eyelids loosen as if to express sadness, yet they wrinkle in a way that tells the opposite. Her lips are shut, but the corners stretch just enough that I would not have noticed it had I not paid attention. Her eyes are neutral, supposedly neutral, had I not seen the ever-so-slightly dilated pupils.

At that moment, I see an expression I can not define.

After some moments to contemplate, the goddess finally releases her breath. “Fine. Just don’t lose your limb while I’m gone.”

The kid gaily inhales, beaming with the reassurance of her mother. “Yeaah! Thank you, Mama! I love you!” She embraces her in a hug, which Kutaka gladly reciprocates.

The two continue to graze each other as I let the moment unfold, giving my thoughts to the responsibility given to both Mayumi and me.

The kid is… going to be our responsibility.

I speak to her with urgency as I remember to speak my mind about this situation. “I am sorry, but do not you think it will be better had she—”

“Ah, by the way, it sure is great that I’m just faking my sickness before.” The kid gazes at me with the corner of her eyes. “Don’t you think it’ll be troublesome if, let’s say, someone were to be the cause of my nosebleed before? I’m sure Mama wouldn’t like that.”

… She is… threatening me…? Does she just—ever so subtly—order me to shut up? Unacceptable. Nobody could order a Haniwa so easily other than our goddess herself, the Idola Deus. Does she think such a threat would work on the idols that have no fear, the species that are made specifically to serve their goddess, with no will nor desire that even the beasts of the Animal Realm couldn’t touch? I will not let such mockery happen in front of my eyes. Kutaka has every right to know about the—

“Bye, Maaa~” Her loud voice breaks me from my train of thoughts as I am brought back to life.

“I’ll be back as soon as possible! Stay safe~” Kutaka shouts from a distance, waving her hand in our direction. Wait, I can not let this kid fool me, I have to tell Kutaka and prevent this from happening.

“It’s too late, Coconut Head. You’re with me for the rest of the day.” She bumps my fist with her own as the goddess fades from our vision.





“Hey, ah, can’t we go for a little walk?” The kid—who does not have the mental capacity to outsmart a Haniwa as her previous achievement is not a rather carefully carried out plan and is merely a mistake from myself therefore it is not qualified to be a legitimate feat—searches her pocket from her dark red dress. “I used my last smoke bomb earlier, I need to find some resources outside.”

“Bluffing would not work on us. You can not escape from our supervision.” I am not angry.

“Hit a nerve there, huh? Not that I have anywhere to go since the Animal Realm is, kind of inaccessible at the moment.” Her tone does not infuriate me, not in the slightest, as Haniwa is unable to feel emotion, therefore I am not angry.

“What exactly do you need?” I do not hope that Mayumi will pummel the kid. “Pawn and I have the responsibility to take care of you, so we can’t take any risk.”

“It’s just some dirt and water, we’ll get back before the sun rises. And, uh, you guys want to go to the Animal Realm too, right? We could keep an eye on the entrance in case it opened.”

We do not necessarily need to check that, but traversing Hell’s current condition might help us later. Mayumi stares at me as if asking for instruction so I give her a nod.

“Might as well.”
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The constant exposure from the sun, with the blazing winds emanating mounds of unstable dirt, has left the grounds of Hell unbearable for microorganisms—any organisms to settle on. No wonder vegetations are something I seldom see, that is if ever I see one in my time traveling the gripping yet wide expanse of Hell. Droves of dust particles, carried by the wind, slow my movement down despite my skin being made of the same material. The burning stain of red across the horizon might be enough to dry up the vitreous gel in the eye anatomy. It is nightmarish, and in theory, the smell would have been something similar to the trait. Though I can only guess, as each Haniwa does not have an olfactory sense. I imagine that Hell would have the same smell as those of roses and strawberries, as they are roughly similar in color.

My thoughts, however, are not focused on the landscape. Instead, it drifts away to the strange expression the Chicken Goddess had shown. I feel that it resembles something of importance, as if I had seen it before. I hypothesize that back in the day, I saw that face at times when I was sculpting the bodies of haniwa warriors alongside My Highness, Keiki. Then again, had it been something as ordinary as that, I should not have felt any significance for it in the first place.

I stop my mind from delving further, as Hell would not be the appropriate place to contemplate such ideas. I refocus my mind on the sight stretched out to me, a place of torture which only—

“Mister?”

—only belongs to the sinners. But do these people really deserve such cruel punishment? What kind of justification do they get to be labeled as such? Is there—

“Hellooo?”

—Is there truly a just system that can measure such a thing? Or does the Yama’s judgment come purely from her subjective morals? Can such imbalance be—

“Coconut Head~” Something invades the route of my walk, disrupting my thoughts as her high-pitched voice is too raucous to ignore. I stop in my tracks to face the youngling. “You see it too, right? Mama stored some water in her bottle when she tried to cure me.”

The kid—who I do not resent nor do I wish to do violent activities against—urges me with an unnecessary question. “I am afraid I do not get what you are about.”

“She said that she’s searching for water, right?” Her purple armguard rattles as Mayumi motions her arm. “Now that I thought about it, don't you think water is something you wouldn’t find in Hell?”

“There must be a source nearby! Think about it, if Mama had kept the water from before she visited Hell, it would've evaporated in just one or two days! Meaning she had found water somewhere before settling in the cave!” The kid leaps from the ground, nearly smacking her own face with mine had I not pulled back. “Trust me! I really need those smoke balls!”

Even though Hell is famous for its inhuman ground, there is still the possibility of it forming a puddle somewhere. The continuous heat from the sun may produce just enough water vapor before it ultimately accumulates in a clouded area. Though, searching that would be the equivalent of ‘finding a needle in a haystack’.

“What is about it?” I ask.

The haniwa soldier waves her hand dismissively. “Nothing, I just want to point that out. She seems a bit too protective about it, however." She leans to the kid, shifting her face closer. “You’re not planning something, aren’t you?”

“Of course not!” She shakes her head. “The smoke balls are one of the things the Hidden Clan took pride of! I would never lie about it!”

The Hidden Clan… I remember there is a small portion of the Animal Realm that specialized in stealth techniques. There is no doubt that this is one of those groups. To think that I would find one of the members from the smaller factions before the other dominating three…

“These so-called smoke bombs,” Further knowledge of the Animal Realm’s society would bring me no harm. “Is this a technique you learned from that clan?”

“Yep! The signature of that clan! Only a few people can learn how to use it but, well, they call me a prodigy for a reason.” She raises her head, twisting a confident smile that I do not find irritating.

“And that reason being?” I add in a casual tone that should not invoke her temper.

“Hey!” The kid stares me without malice. “Achieving that skill in less than three months is quite an achievement! I bet even the bigger groups like the Keiga’s would’ve liked to accept me now!”

I do not laugh, of course, as that would ridicule the kid. I look at the side opposing her, preventing her from looking at my figure while I use an arm to cover my mouth—the lone hole in my lower face.

“You apex predators never change, do you?” As I return to the kid, her face is up close to mine, grinning desperately. “Just wait until I bring them a head from one of your kind. That’d lift my position up in the chain.”

“There is…” Mayumi protracts her words, grabbing the kid by her shoulders while keeping us apart. “No need for unnecessary tension here, kay? I’m sure Pawn isn’t trying to trouble you. Besides, pride isn’t a topic that should be taken too seriously.”

“Easy for your kind to say that.” The kid pouts, crossing her arms. “The reason I ended up joining the Hidden Clan in the first place is because I failed my entrance into the Keiga Family. They said I was,” She gestures her arms in the air, raising the index and middle digits of both hands before flexing them. “And I quote ‘a lowly species’, apparently I didn’t meet the Kurokoma’s qualification in the Animal Realm’s hierarchy.” She clenches her fist, putting it forward. “That’s why I need to get stronger!”

“From my experience,” Mayumi folds her left arm behind her back while putting the other in her front, with her index pointing up. “True strength comes from your inner self. And the only way to gain that strength is by having a strong sense of your own beliefs.”

Quite cheesy, coming from the former corporal of the Haniwa Corps. With all due respect, I believe such words will not work for the troublesome kid, as even her own mother had previously failed at—

“Inner strength?” The kid sits on the ground, listening with enthusiasm.

“For me, as long as I keep fighting for my people, as long as I keep serving my goddess,” She picks on the tiny haniwa on her neck once again. “As long as I keep fighting and be loyal to them, I can overcome any obstacles in my way!”

The kid looks at her in astonishment, smiling with an open mouth. “So I only need to believe in myself? Yeaaah!” She throws her arms in the air… for reasons I can not understand. “I’ll become stronger than everyone in the Animal Realm, and then people will finally respect my kind!”

“Question,” I interrupt, “No offense, but how exactly are you going to prove said ‘strength’?”

“There’s no need to try to prove it,” Mayumi presents her ideas with such confidence. “Because, you see, said strength only comes at the right moment.”

“Mhmm, yes, yes~” The kid sets her hand under her chin, humming with herself. “Long as I believe that I’m stronger, I can even beat the top chains of the Animal Realm! And then everyone will approve my strength!”

… Can such thought even work? Though Gensokyo is primarily powered by belief, I think the mechanisms do not function as simply as this. “Perhaps, there is a more materialistic way to properly convince them? Not to mock, but I doubt they will believe you with just being loud enough.”

“There’s one easy way to make them believe me. I think it’s called something along the lines of ‘beating the shit out of them’.” She opens the palm of her hand, guiding it toward my face before diving at full speed, stopping just before it makes contact. She is offering a high five, or at least that is what I make of it. “I’ll teach some lessons to the top predators of the food chain.”

The top of the food chain can only mean one thing, an unrealistic goal that can only be pursued by pure naivete, and that is beating the matriarchs of the dominant alliances of the Animal Realm. I pity her in my mind, but my imagination tells me that there is no way a sane person might even think of this idea, unless she implies that there are other candidates for the apex predators…

…!

Something clicks in my mind.

The title of an apex predator can only be earned when a species is able to dominate any potential enemies they have, preventing a natural predator of its own. The matriarchs, despite holding the current dominating power, do not meet this classification, as there is another creature that has previously managed to take them off of their throne.

The haniwa.

I grab the hand in front of me. “Yesterday, when you stalked us for the first time. Do you have any particular reason for doing such?”

“Huh?” The kid flinches. “What are you- Let go of me!”

“Your goal is not to become ‘stronger’. You just need the people to believe that you are strong, with claims alike of beating the unstoppable idols of the Haniwa Army. Of course, they will not trust you so easily, and for that reason, you need concrete proof.”

I drag her by the arm, taking her body off the ground and bringing her to my level. The three sockets of my crane engulf her view.

“Mayumi was right, you were planning something to take us down.”

“Enough, Pawn.” The stern voice of the former corporal releases my grip on the kid instinctively, as if it is a direct order. “There’s no need to treat her this harshly.”

The kid runs away, choosing to hide behind Mayumi’s figure, her eggshell almost slipping off of her head. I tilt a questioning look at the soldier.

“She is also our responsibility, right? Kutaka gave us her trust to keep her safe.” The straight posture of her form radiates an inexplicable aura. “Besides, if anything happens, I can offer you my protection, that is also part of my job.”



I cast my vision to the ground before I make my response. “Sorry.”

Slowly, her flattened lips shift into a comforting smile. She subtly laughs. “Come on, no need to be all tense here.” She puts an arm around my shoulder, with the kid in her other arm, and shelters us under her hug.

The previous tension is gone as I feel relief wash over me.





The thermal convection coming from the magma pool obscures my vision as I watch over the kid, chipping away the lower walls of the profound abyss. A leather pouch is strapped to an arm, collecting the dust left from her scrapings. Her lithe wings flutter in an attempt to rival the gravitational weight of her body.

“You sure there aren’t any safer ways to do this, kid?”

“Don’t know. But it’s the fastest way at the moment…” She answers the haniwa while Mayumi and I stand at the ridge of the volcano, scrutinizing the environment. “Dust is one of the vital components for a smoke bomb, the volcanic ones happen to be the best out of the bunch.” The kid scrapes. “And since we need to return to the cave before the sun rises… There’s no reason to not take the risk.”

As if hearing her statement, the place responds with a short grumble.

“Yeaaa…” The kid swallows, quickening her pace.

The haniwa soldier leans into the crevice, taking better caution at the kid. In contrast, I put less focus on my vision as I ponder about another matter, perhaps said matter is not as important to Mayumi, but I feel that there is a deeper correlation between me and the previous expression Kutaka had shown. I still can not get my mind to understand it, but my limbic system rings as if it can consolidate an old memory if I keep wondering.

A greater quake comes disrupting my thoughts.

“You need to get out of there now.” The white cloth that is holding her buns trails away as Mayumi impulses towards the crater.

“Right away, just give me another—” A big surge from the magma pool terrifies the kid. In an immediate effort, she flies away…

Before another explosion occurs and the resulting wave of magma charges faster than the kid could fly…

“H-HELP!” The kid shrieks in an attempt to seek survival, a response from her sympathetic nerves that is unfortunately too late for her—too late to escape. The magma accumulates in a flood, resulting in a big, terrifying, stream that devours anything in its way until it can reach its escape.

And it ultimately succeeds. The crater of the volcano bursts in an explosion, unleashing its magmatic content. I watch as the eruption occurs, eating away its surroundings and leaving nobody behind.



The kid is gone.





It happens so fast that I have trouble processing all the information. Such sequence of events so bizarre that I am left air-minded about the situation…

“AH! WHERE AM— WHERE AM I?” A familiar young voice enters my auditory. I turn my back, looking at the source in which the kid is feverishly grabbing the limbs of her own body. It looks as if she is trying to confirm her very existence. “H-How did I…” She returns my gaze and I am left questioning the same thing. Does the explosion manage to propel her enough that she is unharmed from the lava? That is very unlikely, unless there is an outside force that aids her during the eruption. I turn my head around to search for Mayumi and…



I do not find her.

I dash forward to the crater, ignoring the leftover of the eruption. Forcing my way through the fiery liquid, my movement slowly but steadily pushes me towards my goal. I scan over the raging pool of magma, searching for anything that resembles a body.

To no avail… Anything I see is nothing but re—

A hand. A hand emerges from the whirl of magma.

“PAWN!” Mayumi shouts upon sticking her head on the surface of the magma pool. This is the loudest I hear her voice has gotten.

“Up here!”

She gazes at the opening above her, looking rather annoyed than anything. “Damn it…”

The body of a haniwa can outstand extreme heat, as it is a natural trait we get from the firing process in the kiln at the start of our manufacture. Even then, our resistance still has its limit, with the exposure of the sun as an example.

She spits the liquid magma from her mouth. “How about the kid?”

“She is not in danger. We should figure out a way for you to—”

“Return to the cave, soon as possible.” She gives me an order, despite her current condition. “I’ll find my way out. Make sure she is safe until Kutaka comes back.”



As much as I want her to escape, there is nothing I can do to contribute even the simplest of help. This is the most reasonable option at the moment. I have no choice but to oblige.





“She dashes towards you the moment the eruption starts, throwing you upward while leaving herself behind. That is what I deduced.”

The kid casts her eyes on the ground as we walk our way to return.

“In which, this would not have happened had you reacted faster.”

“Yeah.” She nods her head excessively at me. “Thank you for the reassurance.”

“You are welcome.”

As the ground is left with our footprints, the kid settles her eye on a strange-looking rock. She changes her direction, leaving me even without my permission.

“Unfortunately, I am tasked to watch over you. Leaving is prohibited.”

She rolls her eyes sideways. “Shut up and help me push this rock over.”

We move over the rock, revealing the content below it— Oh.

“Heh, would you look at that?”

We have managed to find water on our way back… How do we even miss it in the first place?

“Since we’re at it, would you be so kind as to give me some time alone to work on my craftsmanship? Don’t answer that, I’ll do it anyway.”

“You can make these smoke balls at the spot?”

“I wouldn’t have wasted my time to master this if this thing isn’t as efficient as it is.” She waves her hand up and down. “Now leave me alone. Shoo shoo~”

Fine then. I move away from her position, finding myself a seat on one of the rocks nearby. I would rather indulge myself in my ideas than watch the kid over. I still have some questions regarding the Chicken Goddess’s expression. I might need to spend my time recollecting my past to be able to fully understand it.
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Hey guys, in case you didn't know, Gooboi just gave this story a big, fat, juicy shoutout in Redo/Reimu and I can't help but feel really thankful about it. And in case you haven't read his work, I really recommend you to do so, the guy singlehandedly managed to revive thp with his work, and for the right reasons too.

While you wait for my next consistently inconsistent update, here is the link to said story
>>/th/205720

I think Bishop and Pawn should make out meet sometimes in the future.
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