Sage-King !kAYNAy.qk6 2015/04/26 (Sun) 03:27 No. 184328 ▼
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[X] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [X] The Capital
No time like the present to get words read. I opened the book back to a page I'd dog-eared. For a second, I considered turning the page and going on from there. Then I thought better of it and flipped all the way back towards the beginning.
The Human Village -- Our Origins
At its very beginning, what was to become the Human Village was little more than a camp. Centuries ago, Gensokyo was like an unclaimed land of shadows, with feral youkai waiting perched on every branch and behind every rock. It was in the middle Heian period that Gensokyo became a subject of interest. Inatsuki, a small neighboring provincial power, sent a survey party to Gensokyo in search of a land route between the Yatsugatake mountains. Months passed and only a single surveyor returned, clutching the severed hand of one of his compatriots. The governor of Inatsuki, outraged at the loss of good men, sent the following message to a temple within his lands:
"This menace cannot be allowed to draw breath any longer. You monks serve the public benefit; it is your imperative that you cleanse these foul valleys of evil spirits by any means necessary. From now until this foulness is dealt with, Inatsuki shall not be your home."
Fifteen monks were selected from the ranks, charged with the mission handed down by the governor. Before heading out, they proceeded to gather a respectable amount of food and supplies from Kyoto, claiming Gensokyo posed such a great threat that if they were not properly equipped and supplied, all of Inatsuki would be dispossessed and fall into disorder.
Thus began the Human Village's first iteration as a handful of tents that served as the base of the fifteen monks who went to fight. Judging by the records, the expedition lasted for several weeks, likely due to the dense foliage which slowed travel and made landmarks rare. Despite facing grim odds, they managed to carve their way through Gensokyo and find strips of cloth with sigils matching those of the slain surveyors, along with scattered pieces of steamed wood and horse skin. When they returned, their message was bittersweet:
"It is only through constant vigilance and much careful fighting that we survived. We were forced to hide as often as we stood our ground, but we managed to slay several youkai and permanently eradicate them. However, a festering wound cannot be cured with a simple cleaning; it requires constant attention, medicine, and changing of bandages. To keep Gensokyo safe would be to be in constant war with it."
No sooner did the monks get a few days to rest and heal their wounds than they were sent back out again by the governor. From here, records become unclear. To the best of our knowledge, the monks travelled deeper into the darkness of the valley and found a grove of flowers and fragrant herbs, and a god slumbering peacefully on a bed of daffodils that did not bend under his weight. Reportedly, the clearing was a botanical miracle, with flora from the valley, mountains, plains and shore all able to grow within this small patch of land, and it shone as though it produced its own light.
The slumbering god's name escapes recording, but upon the monks' seeing him, he woke and instructed them to provide him faith. The monks took ropes from their own supplies and constructed a simple altar decorated with shimenawa, a branch from a nearby tree serving as the shintai, then spent the evening praying for the god's karma until they drifted to sleep.
When they awoke the next morning, the god had vanished. All around them, small beads of jade were left balanced on the stigmas of the daffodil flowers. The monks had only to sweep their hands over the flowers and hold a bag underneath and they would gather the tiny pellets as though they were winnowing millet. They triumphantly returned to Inatsuki, but the majority of their treasure was seized by the governor, and they were sent back again.
Offended by the governor's greed and enchanted by the idea of more treasure, the peasants of Inatsuki's other estates offered to join the monks, carrying supplies, performing night watch, and fighting alongside them in return for a share of the treasure.
Despite days and days of backtracking, the daffodil grove was never found again, but they found something almost as good lying tipped on its side near the Great River: the broken caravan that had started everything, still loaded with bolts of cloth, bags of rice, and a modest sum of metals for trading. The explorers came to an agreement that they would clear some of the flat land by the river and form their own collective estate, thinking it better to risk the threat of youkai than to subject themselves to the tension between governors and the estate-holders, whose impatience with Kyoto grew every day. Their resolve must have been great, for the death of two undertrained night watchmen did not stop them from spreading the word when they returned, claiming to be low on supplies.
For months, settling the mass of chaos that was Gensokyo was little more than a dream. As the provinces attempted to shrug off Kyoto's weight, regional powers crept closer and closer to Inatsuki, bringing the constant threat of assimilation. After several more tense months, the dream became a revolution, as several hundred peasants went in a daring night escape led by the entirety of the local monk populace.
The sudden loss of the peasantry sealed Inatsuki's fate. The exact cause of its downfall was not known, but when an emissary returned to Inatsuki, he found only a decrepit, abandoned town infested with youkai.
The group of several hundred that braved the valley of Gensokyo could be called its first true settlers. Finding fertile land free of the taint of aristocracy, their numbers were enough to provide sufficient self-protection, and they enjoyed ample meat from hunting and roaring fires every night.
Now separated from the rest of Japan, Gensokyo's records become fragmented. Excavations and explorations have revealed some scattered bits of history: Apparently, the remains of Inatsuki were at one point reclaimed, some houses being refurbished and others being stripped for material, which explains the sudden change of architecture to the north. The daffodil shrine was found much later and, the identity of the god lost to time, was dismantled to be replaced with a shrine to Inari. In fact, it's likely that the replaced shrine is the very same one that currently stands in the southeast quarter of the Human Village proper. Finally, Buddhism's hold on the native gods grew weaker, eventually fading out generations later.
This brief history of Gensokyo should give you a good idea of our local character and culture. The remaining historical records are too scarce to make much of outside of conjecture.
I blinked. Even the apparently official records wound about into a long-winded fairy tale. It was weird to think Gensokyo was some place that used to exist in Japan, just another clump of trees by the mountains that happened to be filled with magical spirits and beasts.
Leaning back to stretch, something soft touched me. I turned around to see Keine standing behind me. Her smile became a worried frown as she stepped back and straightened her dress.
"Sorry. Just looking for something to do. Dai-dai and Fuku are almost done."
I heard a loud smack from the kitchen and looked around the corner. Daiyousei was brandishing a ladle and glaring at Fuku.
"We do not eat rice out of a pot with our hands," she harrumphed.
"I do," Fuku said back.
"Well... stop it!"
Keine smiled at their antics and turned back to me. "What do you think of it so far?" she asked.
I paused before responding. "Wait. You've got history-erasing powers or something, right? Don't tell me you're hiding the real story."
Keine laughed softly. "There's some things even I don't know."
"Is there some kind of... magic-ey, shield-ey, curse-ey thing keeping you from looking at it?"
She shrugged. "It'd take as long to explain as it did for me to learn."
I glanced back at the book, then back at her. With little hope of a straight answer from her, I went back to reading. She stood back for a second before slowly creeping over to lean over my shoulder. Some of her hair brushed my face, but I did my best to ignore it, reminding myself it was only awkward if I made it awkward.
The Human Village -- Our Present
We have proven ourselves capable of handling the challenges that Gensokyo brings. The Hakurei Border -- that which separates us from the outside world -- has passed its 125th birthday, and we dare say that Gensokyo is seeing a level of peace and prosperity it has never experienced before.
The epicenter lies on a prime piece of real estate within Gensokyo: one of the largest flat pieces of land to be found here, not too far from the river but not so close as to be at a risk of flooding, and not too deep into the forests dark and thick with youkai.
Even so, the Human Village is far from 'finished' in any true sense. Construction can scarcely keep up with expansion, and fortifications become obsolete before they finish. More pressing is the divide of opinion on Gensokyo's government. Some are of the opinion that we have grown too big to stay organized without dedicated officials, respecting government as that which separates us from beasts. Others fear that assigning tax collectors and judges is the first step towards the burdens that our ancestors fled from.
While concerning, these issues stay under control thanks to the shared humanity that unites us. Though you may miss out on some modern niceties like telegrams and electric streetcars if you choose to stay, there is no denying the unique experience of living amongst the gods.
I looked up from the book and up at Keine. She stepped back again, smiling. "What do you think?" she asked.
"Quite... a thing."
"Some folks wonder why I'm so interested in the Outside World." She folded her arms, shaking her head. "They think it doesn't have any meaning to us, but learning is a noble pursuit in its own right."
I felt like I was supposed to say something, maybe offer up some juicy outsider tidbit, but I was interrupted by another thud. I peeked back just in time to catch Daiyousei bopping Fuku on the head. Seeing the smaller fairy's hand planted square in the rice, I cringed a little and missed modern food safety regulations once again.
Just pretend you didn't see. It'll taste that much better.
"I said no!" Dai hollered, tapping Fuku on the head again.
"Ow!" Fuku squeaked. "Who died and made you Miss Pretty Princess of table manners?" She wrenched her hand out of the pot, grumbling as she licked up a few grains of rice.
"I'm princess by divine right." Dai picked a stray blonde hair off of the ladle and turned to us, instantly transforming her scowl into a beaming smile. "Dindin is ready!"
I cringed again. Women with emotions that changed like the wind always made me nervous.
I followed Keine to the table, still feeling the pressure to say something. I opened my mouth and mentioned the first thing that came to mind.
"Do you know about vending machines?" I asked.
"Actually, yes." She took a seat.
"What's a vendy machine?" Dai asked as she set the covered tub next to the table, filling our rice bowls one after another.
"A lot of brick-a-brack makes its way through the border. Magazines, wrappers, things like that. So we've been able to piece together a fair amount of information," Keine said.
Fuku fluttered over, haphazardly plopping bowls of soup and little dishes of pickles. "But what's a vendy machine?"
"It's a big box with glass all on the front. You can put money in it and it'll give you toys and beer and cigarettes and stuff." Not that I knew much about the first one. Only a fool would spend his precious youth (and allowance) camping out train station vending machines looking for rare catches.
"Can you break it open and take everything?" Fuku asked. I saw that gleam of trouble in her eye.
"You'd get in trouble if you did." I took a sip of soup. Pretty heavy on the miso for my tastes, but I was a Kyoto boy, so what did I know?
"So, yes," Fuku said, grinning ear-to-ear at the thought of a free beer box. A mechanical Iwao, in other words.
Dai flicked Fuku's ear with the rice paddle before zipping back into the kitchen, Fuku on her tail. Keine shot them a look. Even though they both had their backs turned, they must've felt it, because they brought the rest of the food without much incident.
By the time the table was completely set, my stomach was already grousing at me again. I surveyed the spread. Rice, soup, and pickles -- we had the bases covered there. The side dish was some sort of mountain greens I'd never seen before. I held a leaf between my chopsticks and sniffed it. Not too bad. The first bite, however, was another question. Even boiled to mush in soy sauce and sugar, they were bitter and made me want some potato chips. It was free food though, so I didn't have room to complain.
"Do people know their history in the Outside World?" Keine asked suddenly. I noticed she took great care to chew and swallow after her first bite and not leave a speck of food in her mouth when she talked.
I shovelled rice into my mouth as if trying to make it harder for myself to answer. "Erm, sure, yes."
"Mister Iwao," said Dai, narrowing her eyes at me, "don't lie to Miss Keine."
I darted my eyes back and forth. "I mean, there's a whole lot more history to know. A lot of countries and stuff."
"The newspapers from outside have mentioned 'Yutori education' a few times."
"No comment." I held back a grimace. To me, nothing spoiled a meal worse than bringing up politics. Aside from dirty fairy hands getting in my rice.
"You should be aware of your local issues," Keine said back.
"It's a thing about cutting class hours. School delinquency was becoming an issue so they decided to ease up on the pressure on students a little." I braced myself.
Keine huffed. "That's no excuse. Delinquents need to be put in check and act responsibly, not be pampered."
"It's different in the Outside World. School is mandatory for quite a long time."
"I don't see how that makes a difference."
"It's controversial, anyway. A lot of people have said the same things." I hung my head slightly, feeling like a turncoat as I took my next bite. School was already tough enough as it was when I was there.
Keine picked at her food for a moment with a similar expression. "I suppose things must be going well for Japan anyway, being able to afford to put everyone through school."
"Yeah," I said noncommittally.
"Is it? The magazines never seem to agree. First it's an economic miracle, then a crash, then a lost generation." Keine drank some of her soup.
"We'll live," I said. The fairies were unusually quiet, with Dai not wanting to interrupt the somber moment and Fuku focused on her food.
"Hell, I don't know. I'm not a politician, and I'm too young to've lived through half of that stuff. I bounced from job-to-job for a while, but I don't know if that's because of the economy or just me." I swallowed and felt a small lump in my throat. My boiler repairing gig was the most steady job I'd had, and even that got interrupted by falling into a different dimension. Maybe my life was destined to be weird.
The table went completely still for a moment. Fuku looked at me, then picked up some slimy greens with her fingers and put the whole piece into her mouth.
"Do you want to stay here?" Keine asked after the silence. "In Gensokyo, I mean."
"Couldn't do that to my parents." That was what I'd kept telling myself, and it did seem awfully mean to leave my parents without a trace. Sure, I hadn't spoken to them since...
I gripped my chopsticks hard. Come to think of it, dinner that night felt a lot like this up until the end. Up until Dad opened his big, self-important mouth.
Gee, Iwao, it's not like staying in Gensokyo could get you away from all that nonsense or anything.
Then I remembered that Gensokyo also had murderous deer living in it and I drove that thought back.
"Yeah. I should go home," I said quietly. I pushed my empty rice bowl aside. Dai leapt up to grab it, probably eager to get away from the table.
Keine set down her chopsticks, stacking her bowls together and scooting them over to Dai. "I respect that. Family is important."
"Iwao?" Fuku spoke up.
"If you leave, can I take all your stuff?"
That got a smile out of me. I couldn't resist. "No."
"What? Why? You aren't gonna need it!"
"Maybe I'll leave you a pittance."
"Hmph." She glared at me, then went back to picking the last few rice grains out of her bowl with her fingers. Dai leaned in and snatched the bowl from her.
"I was eatin' that."
"And I'm doing dishes. Maybe use a utensil next time and I'll let you finish." She grabbed another bowl and disappeared into the kitchen. Fuku trailed after her again, yapping at her like an angry dog.
"What's the plan after this?" Keine asked.
"Tying Fuku to a tree," I said. The meal was enough for me to feel vaguely full, but it wasn't all that satisfying.
"I meant for finding a place to sleep."
"Oh." I shrugged. "Inn?"
The ruckus in the kitchen died down as Dai put Fuku in a headlock and loaded the dishes into the sink with her free hand.
"Well..." Keine lowered her shoulders and looked back and forth around the room.
There was the sound of dishes clattering. Fuku flew past us fast enough to make Keine's hair blow and went out the door. Daiyousei chased after her. I couldn't tell if it was part of a game or they were fighting again.
"There, that's better." Keine cleared her throat. "You could stay in the guest room if you don't mind some dust. I didn't want to say it with the fairies here. They like to jump to conclusions."
"That's very nice of you, but I couldn't impose like that."
"I'm not going to kick you out to the curb."
"I'll be okay. I have money. Kinda."
She looked me right in the eyes. "I insist."
I sat and thought. Fuku and Dai zipped back and forth across the open door every so often.
"Well, if that's how it is..." I glanced out the door. Being a habit by this point, I had to ask. "How about Fuku?"
Keine breathed in through her nose, then gave me a pitying look. "I suppose I can't talk you out of it."
No, I thought, it would be quite easy. She wouldn't even have to say anything. Just close the door and lower the blinds while they were still outside and I could stop being such an overly-concerned goober.
"Alright, thanks." I nodded and screamed at myself internally.
I looked outside again. There was still a sliver of sunlight left in the day.
"Mind if I read again? I'd better finish this book and return it before I leave or Motoori might hunt me down across dimensions."
"Sure. I'll be busy with other things, so you don't have to worry about me looking over your shoulder any more." Keine stood up with a quiet grunt and moved to her desk.
I thumbed through the book for a minute, not looking for anything in specific, silently dreading and being excited for tomorrow. After the third time of flipping through the book in search of somewhere to stop, I took a deep breath and flipped back to the beginning. This isn't procrastination, I told myself. This is research. You never know when you'll find a helpful tidbit.
[ ] Chapter 1: Gensokyo From Above
-- [ ] The Capital
-- [ ] Hamlets and Provinces
-- [ ] The Great River
-- [ ] The Outskirts
[ ] Chapter 2: Gensokyo From The Ground
-- [ ] Economics
-- [ ] Government
-- [ ] Notable Persons
-- [ ] Our Shared View
[ ] Chapter 3: The Four Occupations
-- [ ] Administration and Government
-- [ ] Farming the Blessed Lands
-- [ ] Artisans and Crafters
-- [ ] Merchantry
[ ] Chapter 4: Defense Against Youkai
-- [ ] Organized Defenses Against Invasion
-- [ ] The Everyman's Duty for Protection
-- [ ] Shrines, Seals, and Magical Protection
-- [ ] Spellcard Duels
[ ] Chapter 5: A New Era: Cooperation with Youkai
-- [ ] The Tengu
-- [ ] The Kappa
-- [ ] Common Spirits
-- [ ] Trade With The Mountain