Have you ever thought what makes someone human? I know that’s quite cliché for where I am, but that doesn’t stifle my wonder. That seems to be a lot of what I’m doing right now. Wondering. Or maybe wandering? Sitting in bed, or rather futon, at the early hour of a morning is always like this. Just a constant stream of random nonsense for which some piece of coherent thought may stay to be what I think of for the rest of the day. If it can get attention next to its neighbor, the hangover. This one is light but no less annoying, like a small buzz somewhere in the farthest corner of my head.
A call from another room, “food’s about ready! You should be up by now!”
Ah the dilemma, to trudge out of the comfort of sheets and start the day or to remain in comfort with a lighter belly. Not a choice for me, as the footsteps approaching the door forecast the next few seconds.
“I’m not your mother, so stop making me get you out of bed and start your day already,” she announces with an authority enough to vibrate the room. I follow the command to suit with no haste in the slightest. Bidding farewell to my light conscious and greeting my now painfully aware of fuzz in the back of my head self. That won’t make today fun. Seeing that I’m following orders, my host gives a quick harumph and returns to the kitchen. Leaving me to lift my body off the ground.
Enough dramatics, though. I get up with that little extra effort needed for a futon instead of a standing bedside and change into my usual day clothes. This is no more than a simple white folded sleeve button up shirt and some old brown khakis with amounts of pencil lead staining the upper legs. It sounds simple, but I think it looks good for any occasion. The look is only really completed by the shoes, but I need to leave them off inside due to tradition in Japan. Maybe I should wear a tie to recover the lost professionalism.
Thoughts for another time, my benefactor will kill me if the food goes cold before I’ve had it. A quick bathroom run to wash my face and I’m at the kitchen in ample time. Just a moment late, as the kind lady has already set out the plates and is now sitting down at the low table.
“Please tell me this won’t be a daily thing. You can’t have a caretaker if you want to convince the village that you’re a competent worker,” she admonishes.
My eloquent excuse being, “it was a long night of work, Keine. I’m getting close to finishing up my research on what the curriculum should be.”
“That is to say you still don’t have any presentable work finished.”
“Well, I mean…” She’s not wrong but setting up a class doesn’t happen in just a week. Well, at least not for somewhere that a teacher doesn’t know a thing about his students.
I remind myself of the food on the table to hopefully kill the conversation. Keine remains silent, probably deciding that it’s better if I’m taking care of my needs instead of starving again. The plate before me carries some strips of bacon, scrambled eggs, and a couple pieces of toast. Strictly western instead of the miso and rice from the last few days. Or the fried tofu the day before that. Not that it’s a complaint, something resembling home is nice after a week. “Keeping me in mind for your choice of grocery? I’m flattered.”
She remains unflapped, “I simply thought you’d want something you’re accustomed to, considering it’s been several days now.”
“A few more than that. I came last Monday.”
She gives a soft chuckle after a bite, “oh, I guess I got used to you already. Next thing you know I’ll be taking money for rent.”
“Yeah, real funny, I’m still hoping that I can find somewhere to call my own. Would be rude of me to take up a lady’s private space for too long.”
She remains quiet for a few more moments before I hear a click on her plate. She picks up with, “so about that. I’m being critical of your progress because of this,” she says, taking a scroll from the counter.
Ominous words aside, I’m unafraid. It’s probably someone wanting to know what the courses will be that I plan to head. She hands the letter over, and it’s still tied with a light purple ribbon. It reads as follows:
Hello Mr. Regis,
I am inviting you to a discussion on your current work and future participation within the village as a center of intellectual pursuits. As you have been frequenting my manor, I would ask that you come to me first thing today. I of course have no way of forcing you to come, but it is within your interest to do so for various reasons.
Sincerely, Lady Akyuu Hieda Ninth true head of house Hieda
Huh, I wonder why she is bothering with this formalism, she talks to me frequently when I’m in her library. Wait, shit, does she want to see my progress on the science and math curriculum? That’s what Keine was getting at. Oh god I should have stayed in bed after all if this is how today’s gonna go.
No, no. It’s fine. I can get through this, I’ll tell Akyuu that I’ve gotten the research done that I needed and can pull together physical progress within the next few days…
I’m so dead, aren’t I?
“So about your classes…” Keine remarks.
Finishing up breakfast, I make for the notes left on my desk. On my way out I can hear Keine cleaning up breakfast. She hollers for me to not stop anywhere for dinner as she bought for two. With my cured leather shoes on I feel complete once more and am out the door.
I take my practiced walk to Hieda manor. From Keine’s house on the western corner of the village, I walk through the trade district where various metal workers, woodworkers, and occasional academic type station themselves. Past that I cross the river running through the village over to the residential area which occupies a little over half the village. Or from what Keine knows, anyway. A bit further down and the multitude of houses and service buildings give way to a singular wooden wall for the equivalent of three blocks. This is one side of the Hieda estate. The closest thing to a noble class in the village.
Making my way past the side wall I continue my walk to the front gate. The guards let me straight through as it’s been five times that I’ve come by now. They already had enough terror from Keine strongarming them my first time here.
Moving inside the first thing I see is the servant seemingly waiting for me. They just assumed I’d come right here first thing in the morning? Alright then. The brunette leads me through the halls of the manor, mostly lined with the outside itself. She stops before one of the identical doors and states it is her lady’s office.
Entering, I’m sure to be on good behavior and greet as I should an official, “hello Lady Hieda. I accept your request for audience on this fine day,” and end with a short bow.
Walking in, it’s a complete library but also with the right materials for writing an entire novel should the need arrive. The desk at the back of the room houses a woman too small for it. Akyuu seems busy with some formal document I can’t be bothered to ask about. I sit down along the long table occupying most of the room. She said before that it’s too much to move rooms for formal meetings, so she just put a large table for company.
She seems antsy today, as she remembers my presence immediately. Her eyes hold a bit more authority than usual, so I guess she’s acting as my effective boss.
She begins, “Tanner. In good time as well. I did not mean to rush you here with my letter. I only wanted you here sometime today.”
“Really? The servant at the front door says otherwise, Akyuu.”
“My servants are used to watching the front door in shifts when I invite someone. They’re used to such antics,” she admits to no shame.
“Glad I’m only a normal bother, then.”
“Enough, enough. Like why I sent the letter, I need to talk to you,” please don’t ask about the curriculum. Please do not ask about my progress, “the village elders had their monthly meeting yesterday and have decided on a certain project for you to do.”
YES! Wait… NO! That means doing something I don’t want to.
She continues, “in light of your status as a new arrival, and despite your academic bearing, the elders wish for you to study various beings of Gensokyo as a way of helping the village.”
I tap a finger on the table, deciphering the consequences of this, “why would they care for such a project? I can understand using someone new as a jockey for unwanted work, but I don’t see what I can do that you can’t.”
Akyuu gains a solemn but sure look with her response, “While I do try to get out of the house, I can’t stay for field work and visit a Youkai in their daily life. The elders think that you can fill this niche. It’s possible this is a power play to know when some Youkai are out of line and planning something, but that might be stretching.”
I did want to be part of this new world, but diving into politics is not how I wanted it. Hell, I didn’t even watch the news in the outside world.
Guess I need to plead here, “Akyuu, I’m looking to be a teacher, not run into the woods watching a woman with wings host her grill stand with questionable ethics. Is there any way to skip past this hazing? I know I don’t have concrete progress on my classes, but still.”
“Sadly not, there’s a sum of money ready to pay you for the work and a partner for the project lined up. From how the merchant representative was speaking, I can only assume they need this done badly enough to make you consider otherwise,” she’s none too happy to say that. In fact, this is the most her brow’s furrowed since I met her.
There’s not much chance I can win against a bunch of old men the village trusts, so, “Alright, then what is this work? And what is this about a partner?”
“I’ll send you away with the full details, but effectively, they want information on specific subjects detailing their daily activity, their power and scale, and their general health or state of well-being. Again, more or less what I do, but without bringing the subject to the village. It’s possible they’re still mad from Miss Kagiyama entering the village,” Akyuu glances to the side at this comment.
“Alright, and the partner?”
“That would be our guest waiting outside,” she gestures to the door. “And please, remember to be formal towards me when someone else is here.”
On cue, the door opens, and enters one taller woman with short blonde hair, a blue tabard, and nine large tails. After reading through the Perfect Memento, I know who this is on sight.
“Akyuu why is Ran Yakumo in here?”
“What did I just say about formality?”
“Akyuu,” I glare at her. This is not a level of nonsense I can handle. We both know this isn’t some random Youkai for as much trouble as that would be. This is the servant of the most important figure maintaining the Great Hakurei barrier.
“I’ll leave the explanation to her. It’s her own reason for this,” Akyuu leans back in her chair, sitting out of the conversation.
“So why is it that you want to do this, miss Yakumo,” I don’t miss a beat to grill the newcomer.
The fox looks to me with a neutral expression, belying no emotion, “it is by my own will that I participate in intellectual pursuits. Nothing is wrong with using one’s free time on such. Also, please refer to me as Ran. Yakumo should be reserved to my master.”
“Ran, right. There’s nothing wrong with joining, but from what I’m getting, this is going to be a physicist attempting to do an anthropologist’s work. This is not going to be professional to the level of things you’re used to.”
She leaves no time to study my response, only replies the instant I finish, “I am not looking for professional, only to participate in academic study relevant to the village.”
“Alright, I guess I’m not leading this right. Why do you care? Is there some aim in this?”
“Mr. Regis,” Akyuu pipes from behind me. The fox raises her hand to halt the reprimand.
“This is something I am doing by my own will. Truly. You have information that Lady Yakumo rests for most of her time every day. The time for which I have no orders is of my decision on how to use. Therefore, I wish to bring myself to understand more of the academic setting those of intelligence within the village participate. Do not assume that I will not resolve myself to protecting and helping you where necessary, of course,” she claims to no uncertain terms.
In fact, it bugs me even more since foxes are supposed to be whimsical and flippant. To see one so determined of its place throws me. It doesn’t help that as I’m thinking of my next retort her slit eyes are intensely locked to my own. She isn’t angry, but she is the embodiment of intent. I remember being like that as a student asking for extra credit from my professor. I suppose a fox’s words are supposed to be trusted, too. A paradox for another time.
Looks like I’ll have to be strung along for a bit, “fine, so what is it that you’ll be doing for this?”
“I am acting as your personal security for the duration of the research. You will not be under harm from any Youkai you study for your research,” she says matter-of-factly.
“Uhm…” I think I’ve hit capacity for this dialogue. I can’t even think of any retort that falls under snark or inquisitive. Really out of character for me. I’m even rubbing my temples, it seems.
“Tanner, please just accept this. The worst that comes of this is you’re given enough money for a house because of research you won’t succeed in. There’s a lot more good I believe you can do if you get through this and start teaching. When you finish that curriculum, anyway,” Akyuu interjects.
I guess my life is now going to be running into the woods looking for man eating girls. I’d hoped Keine was joking when she said to not trust common sense here.
Akyuu senses my brain continuing to cave in and goes on, “if you’re in agreement, then I think I can get you started. The first thing you need is a travel kit with materials of recording and defense. The elders were kind enough to leave a forward payment for you to buy what you would need for this.”
“So I guess I’m taking a shopping trip as I digest this,” I don’t even know why I’m asking, I know where this is going. I have my hands on my face so there’s no wonder of how I’m taking things. I guess I just need think of where I’m going and if Ran is coming along.
What to do? (Write-ins are fine, as always)
[x] Check in the village commercial district for tools and supplies. Simple and fundamental items do best.
[x] Check the curios shop for useful magic items. Maybe I can find a magic infinite page journal or some shit.
[x] Check the Hakurei shrine. Maybe I can ask for protective talismans against the wilds.
Alright, it's time to do story. Reminder that this is based off the previous work I did for /shrine/ so you will know what story chapter is coming up, or at least what character. In terms of the format this will all be in, I will hold periods of in town activities and periods of exploration for research.
Even higher on the meta, I do not plan to include bad ends. There will be times that your actions will have consequences, though. I'll be sure to notify you when it's major.
[x] Check the curios shop for useful magic items. Maybe I can find a magic infinite page journal or some shit.
Enough dread. If I have to do work then I’ll be sure to do it well. I can understand what’s happening around me as I’m in the middle of things. But first, priorities.
I turn to Akyuu, “when exactly am I starting and what is the first topic,” I ask.
Akyuu says in turn, “you start as soon as you can. I was hoping this would imply tomorrow at the earliest. As for the topic, I can’t say who or what you will be researching. It’s possible a servant with the official papers I meant to give you knows. No clue what’s keeping them.”
Hearing ‘get this done ASAP’ is not something I like. It does mean I need supplies today since I can’t delay starting. I’ll decide where to go on my way out.
I think the conversation is done, but just in case, “any other advice you can give a poor soul, Lady Hieda?”
She contemplates a moment, deciding what nugget of wisdom to impart. Then she says, “watch for fairies. They’re worse than bugs.”
“Uh-huh…” not quite what I was expecting. You’d think a warning about Youkai would be the first thing to come to mind. “I’ll keep that in mind. Alright, well, hope to talk to you again, Akyuu.”
“I feel the same, o’ old American man,” she coo’s. She’s enjoying ordering me around after chewing through her library. I did occupy her home for the better part of a week, after all.
I get up to leave, to which I remember my new companion occupying the doorway.
She stares with a neutral face, expecting me to speak, “uhm… we’re going? Did I not say something, Ran?”
“No. I am awaiting your order,” she says, stepping back into the hall for me to lead.
Walking back out of the manor, we run into a servant carrying a pile of documents. In fact, it’s the same one that lead me in. A brunette woman with short hair. I’d question why she has brown hair in Japan, if not for the fact that the woman I just spoke to had naturally purple hair. Magic can be pretty stupid.
I hail her on approach, “Hello again. Lady Hieda has you carrying quite the healthy load of work, huh?”
“The lady is always busy. I can say that a bit of this pile is not for her, though,” she says, shaving off the top of the pile and handing it to me.
“Ah, the official documents she wanted to give me. You don’t happen to know what I’m researching right now, do you?”
“I would, Mr. Regis. I was given word that you are researching the ice fairy, Cirno, as your first assignment.”
So much for Akyuu’s warning. Figures this would be the case. Strange that it’s a fairy and not a Youkai, though.
Regardless, I forgot the first time, so, “thank you. You know my name, might I know yours?”
“Murano Saki. You humble me for wanting a servant’s name,” she states with a short bow added.
“Don’t worry about it, I just feel bothered how often I meet people without even asking a name. A bad habit, really. Thank you for the papers, Miss Murano.”
With that I continue my way outside. Now to organize myself and figure out what to do next.
Cirno means that I will be traveling around the Misty Lake. I won’t need exceptional cold gear for the middle of summer. I’ll take a blanket in case the fairy tries to give me hypothermia. I won’t have reason for overnight packing since the lake is about an hour or two walk away. At worst I’ll need to take around an extra three hours to get to another side of the lake, depending on where she is. Wait that would take too long. Maybe I could use a boat instead?
“Sir,” Ran speaks up, releasing me from my thoughts.
“Right, we should get moving and worry about things as they come. First thing: do you think that magic shop on the forest border would have things I could use,” I ask Ran.
“In terms of magical tools, Kourindou would have a large assortment. If it’s something specific the proprietor can be convinced to make it for a down payment. Check that there is money included with the papers,” she lists off. Oh, there was money with the stack. Oh that is a lot of money.
I confirm where we’re headed and set off out of the village. Pacing through the residential area is relaxed midday, so much that I wish to be at a tea shop. No time for that until after I get things I need. I don’t care for tea as much as coffee anyway.
Out the eastern gate I can see the day guards ready to fall asleep. They really don’t need a day shift for guards at the walls. Of course, I do get a chuckle when Ran passes them because they completely bug out. Poor guys must not know what to do for someone high on the metaphorical food chain.
Past the gate is a bit of farmland in use by villagers living outside and inside the walls. A good portion of these farms are rice paddies. Being close to the lake and forest of magic makes for good convertible swampland. Thinking on it, maybe this is why those elders want to know about a fairy. She could easily freeze and ruin the water fields of rice from what I read. Okay, maybe I’m reaching to try and rationalize some of this.
Speaking of ‘this,’ my companion hasn’t said a word yet. Dead silent the whole walk. We’re walking a nice raised portion of dirt trail over to the forest, but there isn’t anything happening otherwise.
I should bring up the subject, “you can speak freely with me, Ran. I don’t need peace and quiet to contemplate the greater meanings of the universe.”
“Is that what you do outside of this project,” she asks from behind me.
“No, I was being facetious, sorry.” I guess she’s not much of a comedian, “I was preparing a math and science curriculum for both young and old students in the village. What about you? From what I read you take care of the great barrier. I don’t understand how you have the time to just follow me around.”
“The barrier does not need any support at this time,” she responds… ah, robotically. I remember reading a bit about shikigami being like that. So does that mean that she’s in low power mode or something? Clearly she’s barely been in the conversation.
Let’s try something, “so why did you know about what the elders wanted me to do before I did?”
“I had Lady Hieda keep me posted of academic opportunities in the village.”
“Why did you decide to join in on the project?”
“I have told you already that I have interest in joining academic activities in the village.”
“Why do you have interest in academics?”
“Because I like it,” she admits.
“You like it?”
“I like it. Is that what you wish to hear?”
I grumble a bit, “it’ll have to do for now.”
I’d like someone I’m working with to give me their honest opinions on things. A very selfish desire, but something that I value. I just don’t like people being polite because they can be.
God I feel old.
Arriving to the front of the shop, the front looks… like I could spend a long time describing everything. Here lies the remains of various outside world knick knacks including street signs, bikes, furniture, you name it. This is an impressive junkyard here.
Entering a swinging door, the sound of a bell accentuates my steps. Its night and day to compare the organization from the outside, but that isn’t to say the place is clean. Things are on shelves, at best. Also part of the décor are three people: an oddly feathered girl in the rafters, a girl in a semi-classical witch outfit on a couch sitting below the front window, and a man at a desk at the back of the entry area.
I recognize two of these things from what I’ve been reading and it isn’t the bird girl. Side note: there’s a lot of bird girls, no clue why. The witch isn’t what I’m here for. I’ve already heard plenty of tales about the black and white, and thank gods for that.
I give a pleasant greeting to all involved, “hello, Mr. Morichika. I am here to buy whatever I need from your shelves!”
“What the hell? Aren’t you the foreign guy clammed up in Akyuu’s,” the notably tiny witch comments from the side. Okay, let me emphasize, Marisa Kirisame is about the size of a child and yet I know she has to be at least in her twenties. I should point out that she is human, last I checked.
“Clam no more, Marisa! I am out of my shell and need to buy things for field research! Oh, wait. Sorry, would you prefer Kirisame? I did that without thinking.”
“Nah it’s fine. I prefer my given name. Not much of a family girl. Little weird from such an old man, though,” she whimsically comments.
The shopkeeper looks up from a book to stare at me. “Foreign you say? I can see it. He certainly doesn’t look like he’s from Japan,” he says. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to have some free time, would you, sir? There’s some stock that I would like to have an older outsider look at.”
“On a time crunch, so no. My name’s Tanner, by the way,” I wave him off as I attempt to skirt over to the side shelf. Ran doesn’t catch what I’m trying to do and instead engages in conversation with Marisa. I’ve got to make sure that I don’t get caught in a conversation with Morichika or I might never be out of here.
As I hide behind a pile of stuff I catch some of their conversation, “so what’s going on, Ran? You with him,” I can hear Marisa asking.
“Correct. His competence is in question for choosing here to shop,” Ran replies.
“Oh come on, he seems no different from what you’re used to!”
“Is that an insult to my lady, child?”
“I think Marisa has a point. He can’t teleport, at least,” a third voice chimes. Must be the unknown bird in the ceiling.
The girls continue their conversation as I pour through the stock on the shelves. Although when I said at least things are on shelves? Yeah, there’s a bit too much on these shelves. They’re cluttered with all array of colors muted and vibrant. Light from the front window is obscured by varying piles of oddities, leaving less light to parse piece from piece.
One of the first items I notice is a small toy car. It’s like the size of those old Hot Wheels but not absurd and colorful in the way I expect. It’s a bright hot pink, first of all, and the frame looks like a slug bug. Picking it up, there feels like moving parts I wouldn’t expect from this scale. How in the world are the wheels like a textured rubber? What the hell is this even for? I should move on, this isn’t what I’m looking for here.
Moving over I spot something more my size, a shovel leaned against a shelf. I pick it up to find no searing pain or magic hand glue as I put it right back down. I need to be cautious of things in here. I doubt that anything really is cursed like that, but just in case. Well… the shovel doesn’t kill me, but that doesn’t help with anything. If it’s here it’s obviously magical. Asking Morichika will give him the opportunity to lead me on. Shovel of a great hero or some nonsense. I think Ran can help.
I call to the other side of the room, “Ran, can you come take a look at this?”
A quick stop to the conversation and some light shuffling has Ran beside me very quickly. I didn’t really mean that I needed her urgently. I feel a bit bad to interrupt her talk.
I resume my train of thought with, “thanks. So, can you tell the magical properties of objects when looking at them?”
“I am not an enchanter, sir. I can determine whether something is blessed or cursed, but not the nature of the enchantment’s use,” Ran states.
I pick up the shovel and present it to Ran, “can you tell me about this?”
She doesn’t touch the shovel, instead eyes it intensely. After a few moments of scanning she comes to a conclusion, “this is both blessed and cursed. The blessing is far greater than the curse, so testing may be required.”
“Huh, weird. I’ll give it a try, I guess. Nothing ventured and whatnot.”
“Your decision, sir.”
“You can stop with this ‘sir’ thing. Like yourself, just use my first name. Makes it less awkward for the both of us.”
“Certainly, Sir Tanner,” Ran says with a straight face.
“Drop the sir, you know what I meant. Let’s look at something else.”
I step through the shop towards the far corner, scanning through shelves and piles for things that could be useful. I stop at a book amidst similar books, this one without any label. I once more ask Ran to check the item.
She finishes her scan to conclude, “this appears to be purely benign. An empty journal, no less. How unlikely.”
“I won’t question coincidences if they end up helping. Call me simple if you want for that.”
Lastly, I spot something at the end of the room that could always be handy. A nice large sleeping bag partially unfurled to show its puffed glory. The extremely vibrant color and material tells me it’s an outside world item on approach. I ask Ran to check this too.
“It’s… strange. Not necessarily benign or malevolent. It could very well do anything, maybe good in some way but bad under other conditions,” she holds her face closer to understand the enchantment by staring at it. Unsuccessfully, as she hasn’t added a word.
“Let’s not think too hard on this one. A sleeping bag is hopefully meant to be used, so I’ll take it. If it ends up bad we can still use the cloth.”
With that we have a few solid items that I wanted for a first foray. Something to write on, to interact with the world around me, and a usable material and blanket. The last one might even be a sleeping bag if it doesn’t set me on fire or something. I’ll call that successful shopping.
After I pay, anyway. Morichika is eyeing me at this point as I walk up. He’s probably getting the names of the things to get the better barter from me. Luckily, I remember how his power only tells him the name and what something is used for, but nothing else. Therefore, he could only tell enchantments with his own enchanting knowledge, which should be minimal considering his stock is anything he could pick up anyway.
This train of thought crashes when he states the names of each item to exactness as follows: fire and water resistant journal, unbreakable shovel, temperature acclimating sleeping bag.
“Wait, I thought the shovel was supposed to have a curse,” I ask to try and gain back the advantage.
“It does indeed, it simply tires you out faster,” he replies with a bit of thought.
Bullshit. But without any verifiable way of checking that, I can’t call him out on it. Looks like I’ll be paying more than I wanted.
As I race to determine the price point before him, he instead stands up. He walks across the shop to find a small pouch he returns to the desk with.
“These are called flashing rocks. Them hitting something makes a blinding light. I’ll give you these and fix the price of what you have as if it weren’t enchanted,” he says.
“What’s the favor you want,” I ask in return. Business doesn’t know the word free, after all.
“Like I asked, Tanner. I take up a bit of your time crunch for my older stock. Or, maybe instead you could help explain to me some working parts of a metal box I have.”
I look back over to Ran, who has positioned herself next to Marisa. Seems they were mid conversation again. I look to my watch to find it’s still only ten.
“Mr. Morichika, I think I can spare some time to help you out,” I assent.
Only about an hour or so passes helping Rinnosuke understand the operation of an old computer. I’m not the perfect source to tell him everything, a lot of his questions are too detailed for me to explain with only the most basic working principles of circuitry, but we got through the whole assembly. As Ran and I make our way back out I try again to strike conversation.
“So what did you and Marisa end up talking about?”
She lapses her blank expression to think and say, “nothing pertinent to research. As for Mr. Morichika?”
“Guys talking shop don’t really do the gossip thing, so it was just about the computer. Glad to know you adore me enough to talk about me. At this rate I’ll get more than business talk before the end of the day,” I joke. The earlier conversation probably didn’t carry on, but I can’t not poke at it.
“Speaking of business,” Ran says, returning to a formal demeanor, “it will be close to noon when arriving back to the village. The best use of time would be to start networking.”
“What? Introduce myself to a bunch of people? Who is important enough to beeline before even starting,” I don’t exactly follow the line of thought yet.
She clarifies, “not individuals, but groups. If a group of importance learns about the research they may be inclined to support in some minor way later on.”
Ran continues, “if I may recommend a few groups:
[x] the Scarlet Devil could be useful to our assignment now,
[x] the Buddhists of Myourenji have a suitable network themselves,
[x] directly meet the aliens of Eientei as they’re the ones to heal you later.”
“Wait why do you say I’ll get hurt as an ultimatum?”
Second post. Realized quickly that I needed to extend the first scene, so now I sprint out of Akyuu’s. Otherwise, I hope the quality and votes are to your likings. Let me know where I can improve and all that. I’ll be trying to nail down the rude straightman role for Tanner for a while still.
[x] directly meet the aliens of Eientei as they’re the ones to heal you later.” Safety and Health are very important. Also I want to see how you handle it considering all the Canon characterization and exploration we got from it in CDS
[x] the Scarlet Devil could be useful to our assignment now As an intellectual Tanner would have the highest chance of getting along with SDM through Patchouli. Additionally, assuming Ran's goal is to entertain herself by studying rare (read: Western) Youkai, getting to know said Western Youkai helps. I also want to see more Flan.
I'm late, I knowPoingnant!ZaY0isljFw2022/06/04 (Sat) 22:30No. 43504▼
The Buddhists were the vote I've written up for! Halfway, that is. Yell at me if there isn't an update posted by tomorrow the latest. Also, I'll set a timer for future votes. I'm pleased by the turnout, otherwise!
[x] The Buddhists of Myourenji have a suitable network themselves
We’re still walking to the village, but I think I’ve made up my mind, “what can you tell me about the Buddhists, Ran? I’ve read the articles including them, but they don’t give as much sense on how they are as a community.”
Ran responds with the expected placative, “their views match their leader, Byakuren Hijiri. Articles including her have much concerning philosophic views.”
“Right, because I know everything I need with a little bit of reading.”
“That is…” she’s still stone faced, but the lack of response says enough.
“No, sorry that was a bit much. I’m guessing you just don’t know how they’ll act when I march in and start asking things?”
“All right, let’s stop by Keine’s house so I can drop off this stuff, then we’ll go over to the temple and hope for the best,” I say with the reminder that I’m carrying a sleeping bag and a shovel under my arm. Not weighty, but certainly cumbersome and an odd choice to walk into a temple with.
We continue our walk back to the village, returning to awkward silence for the rest of the way. Leaving the couple of random things in ‘my’ room while keeping the journal on me, we start making our way to the Buddhist temple. Out of the south gate lies the cemetery path, a very old path predating the Myouren temple. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the temple itself, rather the Buddhists took over memorial services when they came in. Weird that people just let them do that.
This is neither here nor there. I’m really just keeping my mind occupied as there is still no conversation happening. Never did I realize how vital the other person talking was to a conversation. I’m too used to lecturing for hours on end, I guess.
We approach the front gate of the temple to find the well known doglike Youkai, Kyouko Kasodani, sweeping up the entry way. Why is she supposedly always here? Is she the Buddhist guard dog? Do they even have an equivalent within Buddhist iconography?
Regardless, I make sure to give her as pleasantly quiet of a greeting as I can, “hello miss, I am hoping to find the head priest of this temple. Can you help me with that?”
She stops her sweeping to look up over toward me, “I’d love to! Can I get a name to pass over to her?”
Her response is quaint enough, but the volume is louder than expected. It’s like someone needs to explain to yamabiko that there is such a thing as too much of an outside voice. I wonder if they eventually shoot out their own hearing. Perhaps I’ll need to look into how to do a hearing examination or something to figure that one out.
Oh, and I should respond to the girl now that my ears have calmed down from the sudden volume. Well, I would if Ran hadn’t apparently responded already.
I look over to her, with her hands shuffled in her sleeves like always, “What did you tell her? I was distracted wondering where that loudness is stored within a humanoid body.”
“Tanner Regis of village research requests audience with the head monk.”
“Ah, so it’s now an audience. All right then. This won’t be any more awkward, no sir.”
“Happy to be of assistance,” she says, still stone faced as usual, but I feel like there must be some glint in her eye from that comment. Come on, nobody just says that with true intent.
“And what would you two be doing here at all?” a woman asks from the building.
I turn from Ran to the new voice, owned by one blue clad woman. Clad with enough blue that her hair has taken the same shade as her hood.
“Hello, miss Kamoi,” I greet the arrival. The lady in blue remains unhappy.
She responds sternly, “it’s Kumoi. Answer my question before I need to see you out. That goes for you too, Yakumo.”
“Please, just refer to me as Ran. Yakumo should be reserved for my lady,” Ran replies, not missing a beat.
I decide to properly introduce myself, “my name is Tanner Regis. I am a researcher under orders from the village and am hoping to meet with your chief priest. My intentions are purely academic, I assure you.”
“That only makes me more unsure of you, you know. The village doesn’t care about academics,” the blue headed woman responds.
“Then… I don’t know how I’d convince you.” I’m unsure of where to go from here. I know from incident reports that Ichirin Kumoi is temperamental, but I don’t know how far that extends to keeping outsiders away from the temple for reputation reasons.
“Are you here to poke and prod the Youkai of the temple to see if they bite? Is the village trying that one again, throwing some seedy looking old man our way to rile us up? And seriously, Yakumo, why are you here?”
“I am only here to escort Tanner for his duties,” replies Ran. I’m surprised she answered that since I think the conversation is still pointed at me.
Ichirin considers this for a moment, before saying, “I don’t buy it, but I guess I can’t really question you. Whatever, I’ll keep my eyes on you two while you’re here.”
Ran speaks up again, “Kasodani has been sent to fetch the head priest, so it is best to wait here.”
“Wait I can’t let that last bit just go. What do you mean seedy, do I look that bad,” I must argue my dignity here.
Before anyone else speaks, another voice chimes from the adjoining outer hall, “oh. How good of you to see to the visitors, Ichirin.”
The head priest has arrived fairly quickly. Must be a quiet day.
Her presence is more commanding than I imagined. The eclectic magician nun with distinctive purple and reddish gradated hair. She’s wearing more standard monk clothing than what I saw from drawn pictures and the like. Probably a way to try and standardize the temple as Kumoi’s is similar sans the hood. I do wonder why her rosary is so large. It really gives the look that she’s going to sermon any moment from now. Wait they wouldn’t call it sermons, would they? Oh well.
Time to be charmful, “hello, Miss Hijiri. My name is Tanner Regis from the village. I am beginning a research project studying Youkai and wanted to meet you for… uh… what was it, Ran?”
“So… would you care to chat in the gathering hall,” Hijiri offers, a little rigidly at that.
“Yes, that would be lovely,” I answer in haste. I feel defeated in some way, probably my middling first impression.
Hopefully a quick walk through the halls and resetting the conversation will make for less awkward atmosphere. The front entry yard is fine and all, but the rooms here are well kept with perfectly clean tatami in every room. Kumoi asked me to take my shoes off to even set foot on the outside wood walkway.
The four of us arrive at the gathering hall. A large double room with a low table stretching the entire way. Mats are laid out close together, so I guess this may be used for times like meals and such, too. A much more informal feel to the room, something that feels more like a tea room. Hijiri seats herself at the head, with Kumoi on her flank. I take a space away on the opposing flank. Partially as common courtesy for a guest, but also to keep an eye on Kumoi. She hasn’t let her brow change from a straight line the whole time. She would make a good Easter Island head. She must be reading my thoughts, she looks even angrier now.
Hijiri starts, “so what is it that you request of me, sir researcher.”
“Oh, please, Tanner is fine. Researcher is no formal position of hierarchy. Since I am going to conduct field based observations on Youkai and other magical beings, I am hoping to take information from you and your group that could help my understanding,” good first try. I’m sure I can still word that better for future use, but I think that was pretty good for coming up within elevator time.
Kumoi looks to Hijiri, “master Hijiri you can’t think this guy is serious, he’s with a Yakumo for crying out loud!”
“Whose intentions are normally benign for Gensokyo, Ichirin,” Hijiri refutes. “Tanner, what you say does please me. I’m sure you already know that I wish for Youkai and humans to live together equally, and that is why you came here for support. Other than that, though, I wouldn’t know what I myself can do for your path. I can tell my disciples to trust you, but not much else.”
“Master Hijiri, please reconsider! We can’t just trust someone on our doorstep because they say they share similar motivations,” Kumoi pleads.
Hijiri now leans to her definitely-not-servant, “what could convince you otherwise, Ichirin?”
Now that the opposition has been flipped to her, Kumoi seems stumped. She takes a few moments to concentrate on the question. While she does so, a pink cloud begins materializing. Her personal spirit must be wondering what has her in deep thought and worry.
She responds after a few more moments, face twisted and voice unsure, “maybe if he can prove that he’s an academic?”
The room’s gone quiet. The request is far more immature than I expected, maybe it can be seen as a statement of authenticity. Kumoi is certainly clashing her outfit with the shade of red on her face, she must have quickly realized how simple she’s being.
That said, it sounds like its down to a back and forth between me and Kumoi until we reach some agreement.
I try a solution, “so how would I prove my position to you? Should I bring a letter from Hieda stating my work under her general jurisdiction? Well, not directly under her, but my point stands.”
Ran chimes in for a different approach, “it would be simplest if you taught them something as a teacher. Gensokyo has more academics than it does teachers.”
“Wait, how did you know I was a teacher,” I ask.
“I was given a brief profile of you from Miss Hieda.”
Hijiri muses with the idea, “that would be nice. It can also be payment in information, if that would please you, Ichirin.”
“Alright, fine. What are you going to teach us,” Kumoi concedes the argument.
I now need to pick up a topic to teach on the fly. God I wish it were that easy.
“I need to know what you both don’t, first. I can teach mathematics and physics but I don’t know how much you’d care for those,” I say.
“Why not the current advances of the village? Something new seems to happen weekly,” Hijiri offers.
“That would be great if I were an actual villager, but I only came in last week.”
Kumoi seems to have something click, “oh I should have guessed you were an outsider. No villager would be bold enough to walk to the temple and ask for something other than being a disciple.”
“I already know the answer, but you don’t mean that as a compliment, do you?”
“Of course not.”
“You could teach us something from the outside world,” Hijiri opts.
“That could work. Ran, how different is Japanese technology of the outside world from America’s?”
Hijiri seems to have a stall in her thoughts. She then simply asks, “America?”
“Yes, it’s where I come from. I’m not Japanese.”
“And where is America?”
Oh. Oh wait.
“Miss Hijiri, how long were you sealed for again,” I ask.
“I’ve been told it was for something of seven or eight hundred years,” she answers.
I now turn to Kumoi, “you didn’t tell her about the rest of the world after she came back?”
“I was stuck in a ship underground for about half of that time, you know. Go yell at Nue or Mamizou, if anyone. I don’t know anything about this America either,” she deflects.
“So… would you both want me to describe a bit of western world history for you?”
“It would do us well to know more of the world since we left. I have some idea of Japan at this point, but not much else,” Hijiri assents.
“Just to make sure we’re on the same page, you do know about the rest of the world past the ocean, right?”
“The what,” she says, innocently.
“This is going to take a while, do you have some writing materials handy,” I begin lecture mode.
The next several hours are a constant barrage of questions from the people in the room (except for Ran, obviously). Convincing them that there was more world discovered around the time Kumoi and the other ship members went underground was a bit of a strain, as was discussing how the world was round, and not the center of the universe. It’s hard to teach people hundreds of years out of date, go figure. After a bit Kumoi left to grab the rest of the ship members including the ghost captain, the tiger, and the mouse. They all became enraptured in the conversation, even despite my shortcomings on historical background. Hijiri especially was enthralled with learning that there was so much more that happened in the world after her sealing even compared to before.
All in all it was some nice hours of teaching students again, especially since they showed a drive to listen and learn of what I could teach. The only thing better would be if I could have taught physics, because again, I’m not a history professor. Well, so long as no one asks me if Christopher Columbus was the real first European to discover the Americas for the European nations, I think I’m fine.
By the end, Byakuren (I started to call the whole temple by their first names halfway through) simply ended with a reminder that evening meals needed to be prepped, and I was thanked for my time teaching. It appears there really are no teachers for the academics, other than Keine, anyways.
Walking back to the village for the early evening time, I try once more at conversing with my companion, “I think that went quite well. It started awkward as hell but ended up just fine after it got onto the subject of academics.”
Ran remains stoic as ever, “they should remember your earnesty. As for remembering your original purpose, it remains to be seen.”
“Oh it’ll be fine. You’re worrying too much.”
“On worry, don’t you require food at this time?”
“I mean, yeah. That’s why they shuffled us out in a rush. I guess I’ll go do just that now.”
“Might I offer available options?”
“No, I’ve been out the house at least a few times, thank you very much!”
Now where to go for the evening?
 A local bar, there’s a few with decent food alongside the drinks.
 A proper meal of fine dining. I happened upon quite the windfall today.
 Wait, did Keine say something earlier?
Really did do this halfway last week, just needed to sit back down and do the other half. As usual shout me out on writing improvements, I'm especially unsure if I'm using enough gestures and ticks to dialogue. I'm getting more of a feel for voices in conversation at this point, though.
Wait, shit, timer
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2022/06/10 (Fri) 04:00
I think on my choice of location for the evening, but recall this morning instead. Keine had called from the kitchen to come back for dinner. Maybe I’ll be a good boy and listen. Nothing wrong with making my benefactor happy with me, after all.
That said, it seems I’m done for the day. Project given with details, a few tools acquired for the field, and some contacts made outside the village. Normally this would be something productive, but the job involves running out into the monster infested woods daily so that’s… yeah. Keine’s gonna need to learn about this, too. That isn’t going to be fun.
I stop inside the southern gate. It’s the beginning of the evening for the village and everyone is moving to their homes or choice of bar for food.
I turn to Ran and say, “Well, Ran, it was nice meeting you and all that. Where should I find you tomorrow to start work?”
“Elaborate,” she says.
“I mean that I’m heading back to Keine’s house to turn in for the night. We need to decide when and where to meet tomorrow.”
“That is of your discretion.”
“Uhm... so the northern gate 8 am?”
“So be it, sir.”
“Stop calling me sir. See you tomorrow.”
I stand still for a few moments. No response from Ran. I’m unsure if she understood me.
I give a short wave followed with, “Well if that’s all,” and start walking. Only to now hear footsteps behind me. Screw it, I’ll bother with it when I’m at the house.
A short jaunt in the evening air later, and we’re back at the craftman’s district, one which also serves as a congealed artisan and academic district since there isn’t enough space to house the latter two. Keine’s stout hovel is right up against the northern wall with the schoolhouse in view. For as small as the village is, even with its more city-like size, it’s still surprising to see that Keine basically owns two buildings.
I bought a bit of sake on the way back. Had to make up for the stuff I binged last night. Funnily, I think Ran didn’t say anything because it seems to be the most natural state of being for anything in Gensokyo to seek alcohol. Figures since half of every Youkai legend ends up being from a banquet, bar, festival, celebration, foodstand, etc.
Well now I’m at the front door. Ran’s still here, in case that wasn’t obvious. I think I’ve neglected to mention that she never walks at my side, only ever behind my flank.
“So, uh, I’m gonna go inside. You can go now,” I say.
“You do not require protection when inside Kamishirasawa’s home, then,” Ran says not in a questioning tone.
“I didn’t really need protection after we stepped foot in the village, honestly.” Is that what it’s about? Protecting me is her job so she plans to stick around? What about when she has to do upkeep on the all important barrier or her real boss calls her? She really leaves me with no information on anything.
“Incorrect,” she says.
“Danger is possible in the village as with anywhere. Gensokyo is unsafe.”
“I feel like there’s a level of paranoia in there, but we can argue this some other time. For now, go, leave, skedaddle,” I shoo her like one would a dog. This is getting ridiculous.
To my relief she finally takes a step back. I move into the door while she states, “As you wish, sir.”
I close the door to let the moment come to an end. I don’t need to tell someone to do something all the way through. Had enough of that from class projects. Did you know bottle rockets just barely have the right durability to break a door window? I do.
“Welcome back,” I hear from behind me. “I wanted to ask about the things you bought. Are you planning a day trip?” Keine is sitting on the other end of the room, working on a series of papers. There’s enough to make two neat stacks on the corners of the low table.
“Nah, that isn’t it,” I say, getting my shoes off and moving to opposite end of the table, setting down the bottle beside me. Keine gives the bottle an odd glance before returning to work, her rhythm unchanged. Looking at the stacks and a few loose papers taking over the space of the table she appears to be working on grading. Quite a bit, too. I guess I gave her extra paperwork last week before she could get back to this. Maybe even when there’s no central government a sudden live in would require paper pushing. I wonder if an outsider is tax deductible.
“I can feel your thoughts wandering,” Keine says.
I return my view to the table from its wandering across the wall behind Keine. Seems she just got done grading a paper c minus in Japanese grammar. Rough. She sets aside the paper to the slightly smaller stack on her left. She’s framed between the stacks of paper but cleared the space between us so she could rest her hands flat atop one another, addedly leaning in to talk. How does her hat stay on her head? Isn’t it square on its base? She must look like a lopsided shrine lamp from the side with her pagoda hat.
“People get the wrong idea when you stare, you know,” she teases.
“Would you believe me if I said you were just that enchanting?”
“From you? No. You would sooner be thinking about how my hair has uneven coloring.”
Actually, yeah, how does it do that? Usually hair gradients are laterally layered, but hers is longitudinal. Shit she's right.
She cracks a tired but whimsical smile and says, “You’re ridiculous, you know. People don’t think about such minor things so often. Enough of that, though, what happened at the Hieda manor?”
“A fair bit. I should preface this by saying I’ve been given a job with money upfront,” I say. Hopefully I can buy a moment to word this correctly. Or at least sound mildly confident.
“That’s very nice. What is it you’re doing?”
So much for that. It’s a nice trait that she doesn’t perk up at the mention of money, so that's good. I answer her with, “I’ve been given a research assignment from the village elders, and Akyuu told me the details this morning.”
Keine suddenly looks like she graded all the remaining papers at once and says, “Oh, them. I hope this is nothing bad. Really, what is it that you’re doing?”
“I’m studying supernatural beings out in their natural spaces. I’m reporting everything I can about them and their day to day.”
“Don’t omit things. I know supernatural beings would include any number of Youkai here. Ugh, Tanner why did you agree to this?”
“I’d love to not, but it seems I’m forced to here. I either do it or the elders make me unemployable in some way. At least I get pay from it,” I offer in hopes of silver linings.
“Wait… what?! They can’t do things like that! In the first place any academic project outside the village goes through me before that as the sole village guardian. Otherwise anyone working outside the village not by vocation is sent back. Even more so, the elders aren’t allowed to use their influence to force people into doing things!” Keine says. She’s thrown her hands in the air over frustration. Yet her pagoda sits pristine on her head.
“Hey, listen, I’m not that against the work since I’m at least being paid well,” I continue to input the silver lining into the conversation.
She’s now resting her forehead against an arm braced on the table. “Money won’t do much if you’re eaten in the woods, Tanner,” Keine retorts. Well, I can’t argue that without bringing up my personal protection. That’s a can of worms in of itself, though.
The door raps the second I finish the thought. Please let the can stay closed for a bit. I feel like Keine’s going to blow a gasket with anymore of this. But much to my dismay, she answers the door only to find the big fox standing there. Ran’s looking a little perturbed, though. Well, her hands are out of her sleeves, at least. That’s gotta be something.
Keine opens the conversation, “Ran Yakumo? What are you doing here at this hour?”
Wait so she comes by here at other hours? I’ll have to ask about that.
Ran responds with, “I appear to be having some trouble, but allow me to formally discuss this with the both of you.”
Keine’s head perks up at the implication there. She then turns her head to give me a great picture of the oni of old. Will I survive tonight without a concussion? Maybe I should break open the bottle now.
Keine takes a moment’s breath before returning to Ran, saying, “Please come in, I think this will be a while.”
Both women seat themselves at the table. The new arrival with her back to the outside facing wall at my side, arms returned to their partnered sleeve. Keine takes the ungraded stack out of the way to clear the space between her and Ran. Must be a courtesy thing for her.
Keine gestures for Ran to start the dialogue. I can tell that she’s in teacher mode as she has the expectant look of hearing excuses.
Ran says, “You know me, of course. Your tenant does as well. I am Ran Yakumo, normally working under Lady Yukari Yakumo, and I am working as a safety measure for the field research involving Tanner Regis.”
Keine turns back over to me, confused and says, “Tanner how the hell did you convince her of all people to help you? Also, did you not listen to a word I said about trusting Youkai? What in the world are you doing?”
“Now hold on. Ran is helping me, but this really is something she wants to do. I only met her today at the Hieda manor when Akyuu was explaining things to me,” I nervously tell Keine. Understandably, this is a very odd scenario I’m in here, considering this is one of the most elusive residents to listen to requests.
Keine turns back to Ran. “Is this true Ran? You didn’t care about village academia before.”
Ran perks up a little at the point of discussion, “Well, I’ve done everything I could on off time studies.”
A rather simple and disarming reason. It’s very appreciable considering who she always follows the orders of.
Keine gives some thought to the situation. Her exterior cools from previous rage and frustration, and eventually she says, “To be absolutely certain, you are not doing this under Yukari’s orders in any way?”
“Hmm. Then if that’s how things are go with it for now. I will try to find out what’s going on. I have a feeling a few doors need knocking for straight answers,” Keine states with a crack of her knuckles.
As good as it is to have two very powerful women protecting me, one does beg question here. “Keine, why are you going so out of your way to house and even protect me? I’m basically still a vagabond here,” I say.
“It’s simple, Tanner. You are in my house as someone of my field, and so you are under my protection. It helps that you want to stay here to teach, of course. You should not be exploited for your outsider status so openly,” Keine says with a resolute face. The kind expected of someone called the village guardian.
It’s nice to have someone so on my side. Haven’t really had this happen before. Hell, I’m about to break open the bottle in celebration of friendship I feel so elated! I’m actually smiling right now!
“Ahem,” Ran clears her throat to return us to her end of the conversation. Keine and I break eye contact with a bit of residual heat in our faces.
I think I finally realized the problem, and so I ask, “Ran, I thought I told you to go home. So why are you still here?”
Ran gives a flat look, probably hoping I’d realized sooner. “I attempted to go back. I am unable to at this time,” she says.
Keine gives a rather cautious look to the remark. “That is to say, Yukari did not allow you to go back to your home?”
Ran’s exterior poise cracks at the fact. She says, “Yes. I do not understand lady Yukari very well.”
“So you came back for somewhere to sleep?” I attempt to bridge the train of thought.
“Indeed. Might I impinge on your abode, Miss Kamishirasawa?”
“I’d very much sooner send you off,” Keine immediately answers. Strange, I thought this was going well.
“Wait, what? Why not help her? I know you have no duty to, but still,” I say in confusion.
“Tanner, remember that there are balances to be had here. I cannot lightly house a Youkai even should they be benign. You will eventually understand the importance of that,” Keine explains in no uncertain terms.
“As is expected. I shall take my leave,” Ran says, getting up from the table.
“Wait, what are you going to do for the night, then?” I ask.
“There will be a location in the woods that can be procured,” Ran says, already at the door with shoes on.
I’m at a loss for words as to how easily she accepted the situation. As for Keine, I understand that she’s headstrong in her own principles and duties so there is no fault in this. Nevertheless…
“I don’t agree with this,” I say. Not necessarily to Keine but she’s the only one present to hear my complaint.
“I know you don’t, but that’s how things are here.”
I guess the only thing left is to turn in for the night. That or screw around with something else.
[x] Nah, screw it. Early to bed means early to rise.
[x] Drinks for myself? Yeah, sure. Not like I can’t get more.
[x] Invite Keine to drink? That or she’ll rope me into grading with her.
I got more mileage than I expected out of this one scene. Tell me, should I perhaps reign in the dialogue a bit in favor of more actions/scene setting or am I not going enough on the back and forth exchanges. If I can make someone laugh by the dialogue alone I’ll consider it a win. Also, good pick to not get headbutt.
God damnit, timer
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2022/06/21 (Tue) 12:00
[x] Nah, screw it. Early to bed means early to rise.
We did eventually get around to eating dinner, Keine cooked some good fish from one of the more adventurous fishermen. It was a bit quiet while eating, but it was a more pleasant silence now that I didn’t need to worry about explaining my sudden change in work scope.
In my time waiting, I decided to get productive and skim through some of the details of what I’m doing. The pile of papers I was given detail a lot about different regions, their flora and fauna specifically. Strangely it even details areas like Higan or its connected river Sanzu. It’s wild that these places are just physical areas that anyone can travel to, bar the fact that the Higan is only accessible to the already dead.
Back onto more important topics, one packet had a specific list of wanted information. A lot of the points have to do with the power of any individual or how their power might work. I guess I should have expected this, but I still thought this would have already been done by Akyuu. Oh well, there are at least several points that want me to mention things like dietary habits or shelter method. Shelter method? Did they literally take a page out of some 101 class on biology?
Jokes aside, the shelter thing needs to be figured out. I did read an article detailing Cirno to live on the lake itself in an igloo, but the same article stated that the igloo was destroyed causing Cirno to also go on a rampage amongst the fairies. She couldn’t seriously just make another igloo afterward, right? I already know I won’t like the answer, but I can hope.
As I’m prepping for bed, I take a few moments to recall some points from the Gensokyo chronicle article on Cirno. I wonder if Akyuu internally calls it the Gensokyo chronicle or the Perfect Memento in Strict Sense. I’ve seen it sold in the village under the latter name. The information in them is really good for the day to day person that might find themselves outside the village walls. Some of the things mentioned on Cirno are suspect to me, though. Specifically some points on how her powers work contradict her nature. If she really can freeze things instantly, that should mean her power is many magnitudes greater than expected of any fairy.
I’ll need to meet the fae in person to get conclusive answers, but it does leave me wondering. With this persisting curiosity I grab my journal to note down information that I might want to double check the authenticity of. I skip the first few empty pages of the journal to start writing ; I don’t know what I want to write for a preamble yet, if I even need one. I’m not making a strict chemist’s lab journal.
After I finish my notes, I put away all the items I was using and crawl over to my futon. Keine’s complained already that I don’t put mine away, but I think it’s far too weird to put your bed away in a closet. In the same way I leave the futon in a corner of the room. So many differences from home here. The food, the culture, the language are all different. Speaking of, I haven’t properly stopped to question that last thing. I don’t know Japanese in the slightest but from day one I was able to read, write, and speak like it was second nature. Includedly, I can still write in English when I focus on doing so.
It’s much like an overly specific blessing, but there’s no reason that I have this. So why?
It could be some god’s divine power, but I’m pretty sure I was the same when I first got here.
This means that it must be some passive effect on the area. A passive effect on all of Gensokyo? I think I get what’s happening.
I open my eyes to meet the morning twilight. It seems what I was thinking about was caught right in a lucid moment just before waking. Whatever the case, I roll out of bed, the futon covers I mean, and skitter to the low table I’ve been using for my desk. I take the journal back out from a day pack I’ll be using and flip open the first page. Thus, I write the preamble:
These pages are for the use of discussing and observing things of the residents of this land, Gensokyo. Although every individual is quite the oddity in of themselves, there exists one being that almost has a mind of its own, The Great Hakurei Barrier. The barrier is what separates the outside world of science and technology from the mystic and fantastic, but is made to do so very strangely. Things that are common to the outside world are taken to be just the opposite inside the barrier. Simple logic doesn’t always follow through cleanly. Reality seems to bend like a street magician would a spoon. So to better understand the beings of this place, let me first explore different coincidences that may beg question of causation versus relation due to The Great Hakurei Barrier.
In other terms, the list of weird things The Great Hakurei Barrier does: - Language seems affected by the barrier. If I were to guess, the common logic is that wherever you go in the world a different language is used, and so within the barrier everyone may speak, read, or write the same language. Further discussion needed for why the language of Japanese was chosen besides the region with this reasoning. Cit. I don’t know a single letter in Japanese, yet I write and speak it fluently.
- The hierarchy of the region seems to be affected. I suppose I should specify this as the power dynamic between genders, for lack of more eloquent speech. Whilst most historical figures of importance to the outside world are male, nearly every name thrown around inside the barrier is a woman’s. This is to the point that the only male figure the people of the human’s village may point you to is a reclusive shop owner outside of the town. Albeit there is a “council of elders” that the people talk about, specific members are rarely discussed. Cit. The chronicled past of these lands detail the many individuals that live or lived here, and thus this correlation has been made.
- Similar to the last point, majority of important figures are of a young age or of a young looking age. Besides the council of elders, no individual in roles of power or fame have an apparent age of over forty. A majority are only half that, in fact. The reasoning may be identical to the previous point as well, in that figures of the outside world are normally prominent when they are well and aged, but inside the barrier the opposite may be true.
Oh wow, I went at that for a hot second. I think it would be better to stop there for now. Nobody is going to read those thick paragraphs I left over something taken to be so mundane. I’ll leave the rest of the introductory pages blank in case I think of more, though. It could come up as something explanatory. Maybe.
Packing my belongings back up, I move over into the main room where the seating table is. I take a moment to notice the odd sight of Keine’s dumb box hat enshrined on a set of shelves. I guess she leaves the hat there enshrined during the night, but seriously, why?
“I must be hallucinating for you to already be up,” Keine states, groggily from just waking up.
I set my papers out for another read through when Keine comes out of her room in her white dress. I didn’t even realize the white was a separate piece from the blue. She seems a bit oddified to see me awake and active so damn early, but that’s understandable. Maybe she can eventually come to trust me in my sleeping habits.
She makes tea and eventually some breakfast to a relaxed conversation between us, and then we both move to get ready for the day. In reality, I’m only getting my shoes on and heading out the door. No need to clean up when you expect to get a little dirty, after all.
Keine calls a wish of good luck for me as I’m moving. Now it’s over to the northern gate as I said last night.
The walk is the same as usual, with the active members of society moving about for their daily work to start up. Upon reaching the gate, I can find neither hide nor hair of my foxy attendant. I ask the guards where she ended up and they point me to a farmhouse a few fields out.
I find Ran handing a package over to a farmer. No clue what is in the wood box. I wait for her to find me instead.
She beelines to the gate before noticing me waiting.
She walks up and says, “You arrived faster than anticipated. Work will be done better the earlier it starts.”
“Do I really come off as someone that would be tardy to the first day on a job?” I say.
“It is not a servant’s place to comment.” Smartass. At least she seems more sociable this morning.
Speaking of, I ask, “What was that you were carrying?”
“It was a delivery of out of season vegetables from the Buddhist temple to that farmer.”
“You were running a delivery for the Buddhists?”
“They gave me shelter the prior night,” she says. I guess someone says shelter instead of place to rest.
“Let’s talk about this on the walk,” I say, moving toward the Misty Lake.
“Well I can’t fly.”
“I can carry you.”
“Pass. I’d rather keep my two feet on solid ground for as long as possible,” I say and wave off the suggestion. I’d also rather see the sights of the nearby area to get a better idea on the lay of the land. A very tourist approach to things, but it works well enough. Yep, that’s the lie I’m sticking with.
On the way, Ran in her usual scientific paper vocabulary, explains that a member of the Myouren temple was making a return trip from the mountain and found her wandering the woods just out of the village. It seems they interpreted this as her being disowned by everyone and left to fend for herself. Ran gave no objection to an offer of housing at the Myouren temple, of course. She had no reason to refuse at all.
“The Youkai present to those halls are rowdy, however. Meeting them in person gives better perspective that their lot are really nothing like Buddhists,” Ran comments.
“How should a Buddhist act, then?” I ask in return.
“Subdued. Much the inverse of them,” she puts her nose a bit in the air for the comment. Rare that I get a legitimate opinion out of her. Guess I should try theology and philosophy to get her more talkative.
“What’s your thought on Byakuren’s life goal, Ran?”
“To house and convert Youkai to a point of being peaceful and cooperant with humans,” Ran whispers inflectively. “It should be impossible. The goal itself is non antagonistic, so there is nothing wrong with her attempts. It’s already been discussed enough the paradoxical nature of a Youkai of faith, so I’ll not speak on it. Although…” She trails off.
I look over to her as she cups her chin in thought. “Although what?” I ask.
“Nothing. Semantics if anything.”
“Alright, well looks like we got to the shoreline anyway,” I state stopping at the edge of the waterline. It seems the trail goes directly along the edge the whole way.
The Misty Lake, a central location for some Youkai and fairies. The cold doesn’t make it a very popular hub for humans, but all other activity is present. Fairies dance and skip on the ice chunks in the distance. A mermaid sits on a rock viewing them in the distance. A village worker dragging a cart is walking the trail on the far side, whilst a fisherman takes position a short walk away. It’s the middle of the morning by now, so the mist is beginning to form some amount.
This is all well and good, except for the part where I don’t spot the ice fairy anywhere. In fact, the fairies I do spot all seem to be woodsy green, not some cold bluish colors. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that fairies are colored to their connection with nature.
There are several possibilities here for where she could be. From what I know, there should not by any right be an igloo on the water, but it’s absolutely going to still be there if we look. The Scarlet Devil Mansion is on the far side of the lake, and wow does it look tiny compared to the lake. I wasn’t expecting the lake to be this kind of size, this is going to be over and hour or two to walk to the other side.
I can feel my face slack into a tired frown. Ran is standing ahead and I can tell that she wants me to comment. I refuse to give in so soon. I will not be carried like a damsel, damn it!
I should consider my options, I don’t have forever here.
[x] Ask the locals if they’ve seen the fairy
[x] Check at the mansion
[x] Give in and fly to the igloo that definitely will but shouldn’t be there.
I can't channel my inner Suika like this. I'll instead give you internal ramblings about some oddities I like to think about. Please like this TED talk for more musings on the internal workings of a fictional setting. Now in seriousness, I didn't much like the mid section of this, but I can't place why.
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2022/06/28 (Tue) 12:00
[x] Give in and fly to the igloo that definitely will but shouldn’t be there.
In a moment of depressive sanity I consider the options. Stopping at the mansion? No, it would take some time for me to walk all the way around the lake with the least guarantee of finding the fairy. Asking the locals? Fairies are given to notorious attention spans fitting their childlike appearance while the mermaid likely doesn’t keep tabs on things above water. I wonder how deep the water is, anyway?
Anyway, the conclusion I have to finding Cirno is retracting my words from not even an hour ago.
I close my eyes and my brows now pinch, meeting with my disappointment at the situation. I can’t even go one day outside the village without flight. What an absurd required convenience. It’s like needing a car because the public transport system wasn’t designed right! In this case, though, the car is actual magic.
My eyes open to find Ran patiently waiting. She must have noted the surroundings and the optimal path before I even checked if Cirno was with the fairies.
Without enthusiasm, I shrug and say to Ran, “All right. We seem to need to fly if we’re getting anywhere. I still don’t like the idea of being carried, but I’ll suck up my issues for now.”
Ran remains almost the same as always. There’s only a slight lift of her eyebrows when saying, “Indeed. This is the most efficient use of my presence right now. Remain still.”
She briskly approaches, stopping at my right.
“Oh come on, at least make fun of how quickly I changed my mind! I just said I’ll never fly like ten minutes ago!”
“You came to a rational decision for the best possible solution after being presented further context. Shame on you.”
She takes her left arm across my abdomen and launches me onto her shoulder in a lumberjack carry. Before I get my next words out we’re already rising above the lake water.
My head feels like it’s hanging on a hook from this position. I swivel my view to try and get a look ahead or at Ran. I can get a good view of the water below but not ahead, and I can see Ran’s face by passing my view under my arm. I probably appear like a dead body. Or at least I feel like one right now.
I take my vantage and ask as calmly as possible, “Ran? Why are you carrying me like this?”
The upside down Ran responds, “This is the optimal carrying position as it allows one of the carrier’s arm free movement and both of the carried person’s arms free movement.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. Now how about in terms of comfort? Have you stopped to consider the blood currently rushing to my head like this?”
“Your position should not be changed mid flight. Further discussion on this topic can be held when the next flight is required.”
“Did I do something to piss you off? Was it not vouching for you to stay at Keine’s?”
“Perish the thought. These arrangements must be tested to know their quality. Is there any more to comment on this carrying position?” she asks, looking at me for response.
I scratch at my scruff. “Well… I do feel like my stomach is clotheslined like this. I’m also sure that this doesn’t look good for the fairies on the edge of the water.”
“These comments shall be taken into account for later.”
“Yeah, uhuh. Do you see what we’re looking for, yet? I can’t exactly search from my angle.” I’m crossing my arms now to get across my displeasure here. That’ll surely work.
“That should be it below us now. I had observed ripples on the water from some large perturbation earlier and so I’ve flown along the normal from our original position to the point of origin. The lake itself does not have flow, so the object we seek will not stray far from this path.”
“Why did you assume that the point of impact was near Cirno’s igloo? Seems like a leap in logic, even if it did work.”
“Happenings in Gensokyo love to be connected with specific individuals, Tanner. An empirical law that should help you once internalized,” Ran says with a wag of her finger during our descent.
Getting a closer look at the area, it is indeed an ice shelf. One with a lot of icy rubble scattered around. Remember when I said that Cirno shouldn’t have her igloo in the same location because the last one was torn down as a mean spirited prank? Deja vu.
Touching down Ran ensures my feet are on the ground before releasing her bear grip on my stomach. Those old chronicles didn’t lie when they said Youkai had a lot of strength. I give my back the feeling of unfolded liberation it deserves and begin to look around more. Cirno isn’t around, of course. I didn’t expect it to be that easy.
What is here is the base of the igloo still intact, so whatever broke it only targeted the home. That is to say this ice shelf is surprisingly sturdy, if otherwise. The shelf is about a canoe and a half in length. How long is that in actual units? About four meters in diameter I think. Unsurprisingly, there is nothing inside the once enclosed space of the igloo. I didn’t really expect fairies to have personal possessions. No wait, there’s a frozen sunflower under some of the rubble. Shining from another spot appears to be a badge with a trident on it. I’m going to pocket the latter as it seems like something that shouldn’t be lost in this wreck.
Though, the ice itself seems thicker than I thought. I carefully maneuver to the shelf’s edge to get a grip on the plate of ice and find it to fit my entire grip to the second knuckle. Damn, did that fairy really make this all by herself? Definitely need to ask her.
Concluding my observations I notice Ran is looking back out to the edge of the lake, or at least the opposite edge we came from.
I find my footing again and slide over to her. The ice feels so weird with how it lacks any dirt or snow on the surface; it has no shuffling sound and I’m unsure if I can slip more or less easily. It’s probably clean because it was made directly over the water. Wait it would be with the water, right? No, stop there, that’s a pretty scary thought.
I stop next to Ran and look out in the same direction. Whatever she sees in the treeline I don’t. So I ask, “What are we looking at?”
She removes a hand from her sleeves and points a bit above the horizon. “Do you see above the forestry? It is bright out right now but the light of a battle is also present,” she says.
“So naturally that’s Cirno fighting whoever broke her house? It can’t be that simple, right? I mean I heard people fight here as a form of greeting so it could be someone else,” I say while loosely waving toward the spot.
Ran considers the argument for a moment and follows with, “That is true, however danmaku duels are not so common that causation must be secondary to correlation.” With that she wraps an arm around my chest and locks me in a hug, then we start ascending.
“Ran, what is this?” I say with the vigor of a large dog that’s plucked off the ground. Well, maybe more than the vigor, I’m sure I have the same face as one.
“We are flying,” she replies. “Is there any problem with this arrangement? I’ve taken into consideration your comments from previously.”
“Am I a giant stuffed animal?”
“No. You are the human Tanner Regis. Might you require a psychological evaluation?” she answers dry as always.
“Ran this isn’t funny. Why can’t you just carry me with both hands like a normal person?”
“Is this truly the imperative topic?”
“I’d like to think so!”
Approaching the spot Ran pointed to I can see the flickering lights more clearly. Somebody’s fighting somebody. That much is obvious, but we’re hoping it’s Cirno specifically.
I insisted that we return to the ground when we started getting close to a clearing. I didn’t want to disturb whatever was happening. That and if Cirno is there it’s a good chance to see her power in action.
Breaking view of the clearing I now see the source of the lights. One childlike figure clad in blue… and red… and some white? Is that a fairy wearing the American flag? What the fu-
“Clownpiece! I will make you say sorry for messing with the strongest in Gensokyo!” there’s some familiar words. I think I know where those words came from. Above one end of the clearing is the fairy of ice, Cirno. It seems she’s no worse for wear as despite the scuff marks on her dress, she looks perfectly fine. If anything, she’s practically incensed right now. I think I could venture a guess as to why.
Now while the two fairies are above the clearing Ran and I are still in the treeline, intent on observing. They’ve been fighting, but I can’t tell for how long. I’ll need Ran to fill me in on some basics of the dueling system, since I only know of its basics. Currently they’re firing at each other, the flag fairy using large waves of star shaped bullets while Cirno blasts ice shards directly across the field. I just noticed the flag fairy is wearing a jester cap… and holds a torch? Seriously what is with that outfit? This makes Keine’s box hat look normal by comparison. Hell, it makes even Ran’s coupon sticker hat look normal.
While I am paying attention to the crazy fairy’s attire I’m paying more attention to what Cirno is doing. Inside the star waves she weaves through seamlessly, and when lasers occasionally accompany the spread she outright freezes the bullets in front of her. That’s a pretty insane tactic, just encasing the bullets in ice to cause them to fall or break apart. The speed at which the localized cold snap occurs is incredible, and the range on it acts more like a conducted shock propagating through connected bullets. In fact, it takes on a pattern I’d expect of a bolt of electricity attempting to tether to grounds.
The American(?) fairy shouts mid volley, “I won’t lose to some smallfry! I’ve still got a spellcard to deal with you.” She pulls a card with a slight flourish that also catches the torch’s fire. Raising her torch, a large object takes shape above her. Is that the god damn moon?
The new moon orbits the fairy and she couples it with a counter orbiting source of spiraling fiery bullets. Cirno doesn’t seem very phased by the fiery bullets as she glides along the contrail. As she preps to freeze the bullets for some breathing room, however, the fiery bullets don’t seem very phased by her. She dives with a yelp to move behind the moon for cover.
This barrage is a bit too much for me. I need to get closer to continue observing.
I look behind to ask Ran, “Is there any way that I can get closer without being hurt in that? It’s too bright to see what the ice fairy is doing to retaliate.”
Ran follows the pattern for a second, and then looks to the ground for where the spirals peter out. She concludes and says, “Though ill advisable, that set of bushes will keep you visibly covered and safe, should you remain supine.”
“Lying face upwards.”
I look at the set of bushes a walk around the clearing and begin through the treeline. I make sure to watch my footing and keep my steps quiet, as I don’t want the fairies to know they have spectators. Ran follows at a regular pace without concern of her footfall. I don’t mind since she’s light on her feet anyway, hell she might just be floating a small amount and fake walking.
My back and knees give a little argument against my slide into the ground, but I ignore the complaints to continue my army crawl into the bushes. I sidle into a sidelong position to look out from my plant cage. Not the most comfortable hiding spot, but I’ve had worse.
Thankfully this didn’t take more than a couple dozen seconds to get to, as Cirno is still dodging the assault, a little more rhythmically now. In her panic she’s fashioned herself a shield from some formed ice, but it’s pocked with dents from the fire bullets’ heat. Her open side is firing around the shield with baseball sized balls of ice. Their path doesn’t seem to go all the way to her opponent, as the fire melts them along the way. I can only barely feel the residual heat, but it must be immense near the center.
I hear a slight shuffle from my bushes, I look expecting Ran to be going for visual as well, but nothing is in sight. I must be going paranoid or insane.
I take another look at the avalanche of fire Cirno’s found herself in. She’s down to the thinnest bits of her shield, and no longer able to focus on firing anything at the opposing fairy. Now I catch a glimpse of her face.
She’s smiling, like a maniac. Something between pure joy and a raw fury. A face a street boxer wears on his sixth continuous round in the ring. I always considered this image to be something absurd or ridiculous, but apparently nature thinks it normal for her sprites.
I’m not the only one keeping my eyes on Cirno now, as her opponent is blanched by the false confidence displayed. The American fairy intensifies her fire in both senses at the insult. Cirno’s absolutely losing the fight, but she’s without a care in the world over it. In some way she’s won, but God knows what way that is.
I hear from my peripheral a quiet, “One, two…”
I pull my attention from the spectacle above and feel things grasping at my waist and legs. Things because I can’t see a fucking thing-
At the call my khakis are slipped straight off, the belt included.
“Augh!” I can’t help but shout.
My thoughts are in shambles attempting to process what’s happening, but my first coherent act is to look for the perpetrator.
I see none, but I do see my pants flying away, literally. I’ve got a clear view of Ran who’s outright surprised. And lastly, the lights from the fight are quickly fading, accompanied by a gentle thud in the dirt behind me. Oh what to address first?
[x] Pants, obviously. No way I’m walking around a world of women leaving briefs as my first impression.
[x] Still got shoes and a shirt, and that means I’m in service. Gotta prioritize the work here regardless of common decency.
[x] Surely I can think of something more than binary options! (write in)
Yet another update! I made sure to add a bit more to dialogue sections in terms of actions or gestures. Overall I quite like this chapter just on the fun aspect of things. Next update still contains Cirno regardless, since I am definitely not railroading or anything!