So here it is. I said I was preparing to write something, and, well, it's happened. I haven't written much in at least three years, and this format in longer, so it might be a bit rough, so just bear with me. If you have any feedback, I'm here to listen to my audience, too.
With all that said - Let's begin.
It’s dark. A shivering, swallowing, oppressive darkness. Not a darkness of the world, but of knowing there is a world and being unable to see it. My other senses report back to me, letting me know that I’m not alone. A soft voice – not speaking to me, but making noises to itself. A soft touch, the fluffiness of pillows and the delicacy of thin fingers that work across my face.
“ ––––––, wake up.” The voice calls to me. “I’m almost done, so you should wake up.” I hear a ‘word’, but I can’t understand it. I know it has to be my name, it just feels like it. How does one even describe the sensation of hearing their own name? But that means I need to wake up. Am I even asleep? Or was I already awake? Were my eyes closed in slumber, or incomplete, like me? I move my mouth a little to reply, but I can’t understand what comes out.
...This is pointless. I need to wake up. Pushing those that thought to the forefront, and willing my sight to return, I start to move…
...my eyes open, and my senses correct themselves. Neither the softness of the bed, the pillows, nor Her fingers remain, and I’m left with the familiar sight of the blood-red sky. There’s no helping it, so I pull myself up off the ground, and try and take stock of my situation.
I’m on the ground. Outdoors, too. That much is obvious, but I have to start with the basics, and leave the questions for later. Even as my mind starts running through all the things I want to ask, like ‘how did I get here’ and ‘why was I sleeping outside’. The scenery isn’t itself familiar to me, but I feel like I’ve lived my life underneath this sky, so I’m not in some totally strange place. I might be able to orient myself toward home from here.
The grass is soft and lush. It seems healthy. There are sparse trees, and off to one side they seem to get thicker, like a forest, which could provide cover. However, I can hear a burbling noise, like water flowing down a stream from the other direction. It would be more open, but I might be able to drink there – at least if it’s as healthy as the grass here. It’s a good thing to keep in mind… but there’s one more problem on my mind before I decide where to go…
...and that’s what to do with these eyes that are upon me. Something’s hiding between the trees as they start to turn to forest, so they aren’t that close… but once they leave cover, it may already be too late to make up my mind.
If I hadn’t woken up when I did, I wouldn’t have noticed it. This legitimately might have been dangerous… but it feels like my instincts are used to it. Where I got such a sense, I’m not sure… now that I think about it, I’m not sure about a lot. I had naturally accepted so much about my situation in order to try and escape it, but… there’s so much I’m not sure about. Not this place, but this person.
The revelation nearly staggers me, but I have to keep my head. It’s not safe. It’s not safe, but I can’t stop thinking it. What’s watching me? Where am I?
Who am I?!
[ ] Head into the forest, but not toward the eyes. [ ] Head further along the grassland. [ ] Head toward the river.
>>16043 Well, glad to have you, though that's pretty funny. I intend to update this pretty regularly, taking whatever opportunity I have to write.
[X] Head toward the river.
It’s across the open field, but I decide the river – directly away from my watcher – is probably my best bet. The grass blows in the wind as a light gust picks up, and I take that as my sign to pick up my feet and start moving. The first thing I notice is that I’m surprisingly fast; when I push my body into a jog, I can keep a pretty high speed. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the speed of the thing that tears from the treeline toward me once it’s clear to it that I’m going to get away.
The seconds before it catches me, I’m gripped by a sudden sense of terror. Clearly I should run, but in that moment I can’t even tell my body what to do. It just… jogs a little further, as if this is absolutely normal, while my mind screams at me to do anything else, to escape, to duck, to fight-
The moment the word crosses my mind, it’s over in a flash. I have to go back and think about it in my head, try and replay what’s just happened.
In one motion, I draw my sword, (where did I get a sword from?) and lean down, bringing the blade up across where I just was. Of course, that’s the instant that creature would have taken my head off with its attack. I don’t have to think about it too hard to understand the power behind it; though it looks like a woman, the force behind that wasn’t anything someone’s body could take. It was ‘strong’. And with my bladework, I had cut through the offending arm before I’d even noticed what I was doing.
Suddenly unbalanced, it careened a bit off-course and landed on it’s now-heavier side, bouncing along the ground a bit on it’s good arm before flipping over and landing in a crouched position....How tenacious. I don’t think I’d be standing if someone had just taken my arm off like that, but this thing is clearly a ‘creature’, not a ‘woman’. Attacks like that won’t kill it, and I can already see the arm starting to extend a bit, beginning a regeneration process. Devil, perhaps? Youkai? Demon? It doesn’t matter. I’m ‘strong’, too, it seems.
My feet start moving without so much as thinking about it, and my blade flashes horizontally, intending to separate it from its legs. The creature’s stopped underestimating me, though, and manages to react, leaping over the cut and attempting to claw down at me. It’s certainly ‘strong’, but I’m definitely faster. I lean back and slide across on my knees, going just barely under the blow and stabbing upward into the heart from below. My black dress is coated in a small spray of blood, and it stops moving, collapsing down onto me as it’s momentum is halted by my blade, and then gravity takes effect. I simply toss it off to the side with an ease I didn’t expect from moving something as heavy as a corpse.
...at least, I’d thought it was a corpse. It twitches a bit… and I’m not that keen on just killing it, since it probably knows better than to mess with me, now, so as long as it stays down, I’m back on my way toward the river…
Along the way, I let some thoughts flow through my mind. I have the time to reflect on some of those questions, now, so I might as well answer them as best as I can.
I was being watched by a monster that looks like a woman. That much is obvious. It doesn’t feel weird to see one, either, so I’m probably pretty used to it. Maybe I’m a monster hunter? It would explain my effortless combat skills, at the least. I’m also not somewhere unfamiliar to me. This is either my home or somewhere I’ve visited enough that I am still familiar despite losing my memory. I’m no further along with the questions of how I got here or why I lost my memory, though.
So we’re just down to “who am I”? The name ‘Carol’ floats across my head, but it’s not familiar enough. I don’t think it’s my name, but it’ll have to do for now, since I have no idea what it actually might be.
Pushing on like this, I walk lost in my thoughts for a bit longer than I’d thought it would take before I catch a glimpse of the river. The mountains on the horizon are that much closer now, and they seem to be more like giant crystals than what my head normally associates with ‘mountains’. But that’s a good thing. The shimmering blue landmarks make it really easy to navigate, and I’m certain I’ve seen them before. It shouldn’t be too much harder to get home from here. Wherever home is.
Looking into the river, I take a moment to stare at my reflection. It’s so clear that I can mostly see through to the rocks and occasional fish below, but it’s just mirrored enough that my face reflects into it. Blonde hair that goes a bit below the shoulder – probably longer if I let it down from the twintails I’d found it in – and amber eyes. Fairly youthful features, I think… honestly, I’m surprised that I’m kind of pretty. But with my face confirmed, there’s no more time to vanity.
I bend down and take some of the river’s clear blue water into my hands and sip it, looking for any kind of refreshment, since I haven’t eaten or drank and I don’t know how much longer it will be until I do so, since I’m lost.
...But that seems to be a mistake. The moment it passes my lips, I feel lightheaded and nearly throw it back up. Crouching a bit as I try and regain my thoughts, the last thing that crosses my mind is ‘Ah, so that might be why I passed out earlier’.
It’s dark. A comforting, warm, familiar darkness. In the lightless night sky, I dance through the air like a fairy, holding a small someone in my arms. Neither of us get out much, so we treasure these moments together, owning the night skies, far above the sleeping peasants who toil during the day. I’ m not really that excited to fly through the air, but I don’t mind it at all… this dance is for her sake.
She says she’ll learn to fly someday, and while I don’t doubt it, she’s far too weak.
Sometimes I wonder what ------ was thinking, bringing such a weak girl, but every now and then I see a glimmer of her future potential. Until then, I’m her guardian. A knight who protects the princess. ...If anyone in the city heard me thinking like that, they’d probably laugh at me. But she wouldn’t. So I’ll protect her, our little -----.
...my eyes open, and my senses correct themselves. Neither the night sky, the wind around me, nor the girl in my arms remains, and I’m left with the familiar sight of the deep blue sky. I pick myself up, and stretch out a bit. What an odd dream… no, that’s not quite it. There was something between those dreams, there…
When I try and push my head to remember what’s going on, nothing comes to mind. Why was I sleeping over here, who I am… it’s all oddly familiar. No, rather than that… I was wondering what all these questions were before I woke up. I don’t know what to make of it, but… well, my goals haven’t changed, it seems.
...At the very least, this place is different from where I went to sleep, that’s for sure. The ground isn’t a field, but a forested part of a mountain, and it’s a normal kind of mountain, instead of the weird crystal ones in my dream. I think I can see some stairs not too far away, leading both up and down the mountain, but I could also just fly off somewhere else.
...Thinking back on my last experience, I reach for my sword, and find it sitting snugly by my side.
Just to make sure everything’s cleared up, I check it for blood, but there’s nothing, despite my dream. Why is life so complicated?
Still, I need somewhere to go.
[ ] Up the mountain. [ ] Down the mountain. [ ] Off the mountain.
>>16044 > that's pretty funny All in a day's work. If I had a way to weaponize the random stupid shit that keeps happening around me I could take over the world.
On topic: we wouldn't happen to be Yumeko would we? Dream sequence is obviously Makai, there are the right number of hyphens for it, Shinki and Alice, and we can apparently summon swords... her canon dress isn't black, but people can change clothes.
I don’t know anywhere about where I am or where I’m going, so just flying off into the distance doesn’t seem that helpful. Eliminating that option means that I should probably just follow the stairs. Going down might not lead anywhere – they’re probably for people who come out to this mountain, so there may not be people right at the base – which means they’re meant to provide access to a place at the top. With that in mind, I should probably check out just what lies at the top of the mountain.
...But really, stairs seem like a giant hassle. Gripping my sword tight, I lift off from the ground and fly low, almost hugging the mountain with my path upward. Nothing about this place seems familiar, unlike the last one I woke up in. Strange steps, strange mountains, a strange blue sky. I’m not sure what it is about this place, but I feel almost claustrophobic.
Pushing the unwanted thought out of my mind, I press forward as I see the end of the staircase, surging forward when the goal is in sight, and rising up above the mountain more than I normally would. My path brings me up into the air, and I find myself looking down upon a shrine. The torii invite visitors and symbolically bar the way to evil, and behind it is a building that seems rustic and enticing. The style it’s built in is not what I’m used to, but something within me just knows ‘this is what a shrine should be’.
I don’t have too much time to appreciate it, however. My instincts flare up, and I cut my flight, dropping toward the ground just in time to see what appear to be slips of paper fly through where I’d just been. I don’t need to touch them; something about them just feels like it repels me, and I’ve no urge to test what happens were I to get hit.
I don’t even have time to pinpoint my aggressor. The sky is almost full of the things by the time my eyes return to it, evening out my fall and dodging off to the left as yet more come speeding by. Affording a single glance behind me to gather information, I watch only as long as I need to, seeing their impact along the ground. A bright flash, like an explosion, but the stones it lands on remain unscathed. Something about it makes me doubt that I would, though.
Focusing entirely on defense won’t get me anywhere, but these paper bullets don’t afford me time for an attack, especially when I’m not yet sure who’s attacking me. With their lack of damage to the stone, though, I can try something, and maybe force my way through. Whoever it is… I’m ‘strong’, you know? Three talismans come in my way again, and this time I don’t need to put thought into it. My body acts with practiced grace, and my sword bisects the paper with a single stroke. It’s not like I’m happy about cutting through paper like it’s paper, but at least it works as intended.
I push backward, expecting an immediate explosion, but the blast this time is delayed. I can make use of this, I think. The timing is close, but… if I push forward as fast as I can, I might be able to get through without getting hit. This time, when the next group of shots heads at me, I accelerate toward them. Even if one direct hit might spell the end, I’ll just make sure nothing hits directly. My blade flashes, and the sound of the paper being split disappears from the wind as I speed by. The light of the blast flashes, and my feet feel slightly singed, but it’s only a slight discomfort.
With this, I’ll turn the tables and find them…!
“Dream Sign – Duplex Barrier!”
The voice is cute and feminine, but hard and angry. With that call, the senses that have kept me around so long pinpoint her immediately in the haze of paper bullets. I’m starting to get pretty proud of them, because they’re so reliable. This body of mine is so convenient, I can’t help but be amazed.
As the talismans fade out, I get a glimpse of her. Red and white, like purity and fresh blood, with dark hair that hangs around her face and intense eyes. I almost lose track of what’s going on for a second as I stare into them – there’s something about her expression that reminds me of someone, even though she’s completely unfamiliar herself. Holding my sword out, I get ready to defend myself… and the world itself seems to grow walls, putting two layers of what seems like hazy air between me and her. The talismans from before once again start to fly out in all directions… but this time, they disappear when they hit the first layer.
I almost stop to ask her what she’s doing, but then I see them coming out of the inside of the second layer, aiming toward the outside of the first. This… what is this? A girl like that can distort space like that? Just who is it who’s attacking me? Still, I’m just about to put my guard down when I put two and two together, right before it happens, and boost backward.
Upon impacting the outside of the inner wall, they come flying out of the outside of the outer wall; at me, and everything around me. The world becomes a maze of talismans once again. This time, I don’t think I can cut through- even if I did, I’m not going to risk getting lost in those compressed walls, especially if I move through them in the same disorienting manner as the talismans.
Racing along as fast as I can, I give thanks to whoever this shrine is devoted to that her set of walls doesn’t seem to be able to move, and direct myself toward the shrine. This building of faith will be my sanctuary against this person, as I put the walls that the talismans don’t pass through between me and them, and weather the storm.
...I can vaguely hear what sounds like the girl shouting at me, but I’ve gotten enough distance that with walls between me and her, even my own senses can’t make it out. Eventually, though, the flashes of light from the talismans against the ground cease. ...am I safe?
I tilt my head up, and am quickly met with the red-white staring down upon me with that furious gaze. “...What are you even doing, you cheater? It’s your turn.” Her mouth is turned up in a distinctly displeased expression, but I don’t let it get to me. Her words are the more confusing thing here.
“...My turn?” I don’t even bother to hide how little sense she’s making; attacking me out of nowhere like that, and then complaining that I cheated or something. On the other hand, my senses aren’t screaming at me that I’m in danger anymore, so she doesn’t seem to be preparing to launch another attack.
The girl just sighs and rubs her temples. “The bar just dropped rather dramatically, didn’t it? Your spellcard – spe ll car d, you know?” Surprisingly, she catches on rather fast when the look on my face doesn’t change at all. “...wait, really? Just who are you?”
I can’t really just say that I don’t have a name, but I don’t really want to lie either, so I pick out that thing that’d popped into my head a bit back. “...Um… Carol? I don’t think that’s my name, but it’s something to call me at least.”
The look on her face when I put it that way is pretty skeptical. “I knew you were suspicious. An alias? Be honest with me.”
“Really, I am.” There’s not much more I can tell her about it, since I’m the disoriented one. “I woke up somewhere down the steps from here. I don’t remember who I am or how I got there. I’d just headed up, thinking that I’d find something at the top and someone tried to kill me.”
“...I wasn’t going to kill you. We were having a duel. A nonlethal, spellcard combat.” The girl corrects me. “But really, showing up here after all that’s gone on...” She floats down to sit on the wooden floor of the shrine’s back porch, eyes leaving me and going toward the pink petals on the trees behind it. “It’d just be weird if you weren’t part of the incident, you know?!”
I don’t know what to say about all this, so instead I just take a seat next to her. Not too close, though… and I don’t quite sheathe my sword, either. I’m not sure how much I can trust her, but she’s calming down, at least.
“Reimu. Hakurei Reimu.” Reimu finally introduces herself to me. “I’m the shrine maiden here, and in charge of incident resolution. If you’re really not related to this at all, then just go somewhere else.”
Not the friendliest person ever… but she’s the one who knows what this place is and where I might be from, so I could try and get some information from her.
[ ] Question Reimu (Pick up to three. Less questions will test her patience less.) - [ ] Where am I? - [ ] Who am I? - [ ] Where do I go? - [ ] What incident? - [ ] What are spellcards? - [ ] Write-in.
[ ] Don’t question Reimu, and just leave. - [ ] Down the stairs. - [ ] Off the mountain. - [ ] Explore around the mountain.
>>16064 Unfortunately, I can't mark as an update without using a trip, *and* I can't use a trip different than the OP. So since I didn't start with a trip, I screwed myself on that until next thread. Whoops.
I warned you guys I was new to using this!
Anyway, with that, I'll call the voting for now and write the next segment.
Been a bit. Sorry about the delay, things got busy over here. But I should be free for the next few days, and able to update as quickly as usual again.
[X] Question Reimu - [X] What incident? - [X] What are spellcards? - [X] Is there anything I can do to help?
Leaving without any information would leave me pretty unsatisfied, but this girl looks really surly, so I won’t push her too hard. Starting with the most important thing, at least that I think – just what happened earlier?
“So… what was all that about earlier? You said something about spell cards, but I don’t remember anything like that at all.” I refrain from mentioning that the only thing in my memory of combat is bisecting a kind of humanoid creature. Reimu makes a soft little groan, but seems to decide that what I’m asking is kind of important, at least for wherever I am right now. Is it some kind of cultural thing?
“Spellcards are danmaku patterns. You put your power into a display, and compete for the most beautiful and effective techniques. It’s a nonlethal combat system designed to keep Gensokyo running without everyone murdering each other.” The words are almost alien to me. It’s like… half spectator sport, then? Battle is?
“So, how do I make them? Since I might need to defend myself...” I start to ask a question, but she just raises a hand to cut me off.
“Don’t look down on spellcards like that. They’re an expression of your own making – don’t go asking someone how to make them. It comes naturally if you have the talent for it and put thought into it.”
...I really don’t know how to take that. But since I’m not going to get taught what to do, it seems, might as well not push her on it, especially because she seems like she’s in a bad mood. “...Right. Sorry about that. So what incident did you think I was part of?”
Reimu frowns. “...Well, it’s… a little hard to explain. Some people are turning into things that they shouldn’t be turning into. And it’s not like it’s just the humans, either. Youkai are becoming different, as well. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’d just gotten back from checking with the others, and so far the numbers are small, but...” Her fist clenches. “...Well, I’ll just have to fly out and beat up everyone I come across until I find the bad guy.”
...isn’t that a little reckless?! I force back the cry that wants to come to my lips, since I don’t really understand the incident from just what she’s said, and definitely not how she plans to stop it. “...r-right… Is there something I can do to help?”
“Yeah. Don’t turn into a monster.” The curt reply comes instantly and effortlessly, and the shrine maiden floats up, ready to take off. “-...and don’t mess around at my home while I’m out.”
Honestly, I don’t really plan to cross her like this. That was already nasty enough as it was, that… ‘spell card’ thing, and I don’t have any of my own, so I’m probably better off not fighting here. I just give a curt nod instead of replying, and quickly she zooms off through the sky, and I lose sight of her.
...She’s pretty fast. Faster than me right now, at least, and I thought I was fast. Is everyone here this strong? That’d be a problem. She felt like a normal human and everything, too.
Since I can fly too, and I don’t really want to hang out here after that ‘warning’ I lift off and start scanning my surroundings. It looks like I’m in a mountainous area – but at the edge. Behind me is nothing but mountains as far as the eye can see… something about that doesn’t seem right, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing helpful’s going to be found out there. To my left and right and forward a bit are large forests, and straight ahead from the shrine is the winding path down and… across a pretty significant distance through fields and farmlands. I have to narrow my eyes a bit, but I can make out what might be a settlement. Who even comes to a shrine this far out of the way?
Regardless of which way I’m going, I start heading down the mountain first, thinking upon what she said about spell cards. I probably need at least one if I’m to do much of anything here. But can I really even make one? I don’t think I can produce anything that can be fired off as fast as those ofuda, so I might be out of luck.
...I guess I’ll have to deal with it later, when the time arrives. For now, I make my way toward the village.
By the time I get close, the sun’s started its arc back down across the sky. The bustle of the town has started to wind down, but most people haven’t returned home yet. ...I’m not really sure what I can do here, but since I don’t see anyone else flying, I land and make my way on foot into the village. There’s food stands, but I don’t have any money… and just thinking about it makes me kind of hungry.
I might need to get a job that can pay me quickly. ...Or dine and dash.
Unless I notice a posting, it’s better to save that kind of thing for when my business here is concluded, so I can get out of town and not miss out. But what am I even missing out on? The world continues on around me, everyone with their everyday lives, driven by purpose to go somewhere and do something… but mine has been lost. I can’t remember who I am, and I don’t know what I’m doing here…
Apparently the air I give off as I stalk around town thinking things like that is noticeable, because more than one friendly person asks me if anything’s wrong, though I mostly wave them off and tell them I’m fine. ...Ah, I’m jealous. I haven’t had feelings like this in a long while, I think. I’m jealous of the life these humans lead… so vibrant and full of life when I’m just a wretch who struggles to survive, with no clue where the future leads.
After getting a good look around the town, I try and remember some of the places that seemed interesting. I should at least check out one of them to try and give myself some kind of plan to go on.
[ ] There was a school around here. Though my functional knowledge is intact, there might be things about this place I could learn there. [ ] There looked like some kind of lecture hall a few blocks back. If there’s someone who’s qualified to talk to everyone like that, they might have some kind of leadership position, and I might be able to get a job. [ ] There was a library or something I passed a while ago. Books might have the kind of information I want. [ ] There was a place that looked like it was for entertainment. I don’t have any money, but I could try and distract myself by sneaking in and watching a play or something. [ ] There were some people selling food back over there. Sating my hunger first might be a good idea, but I could have to get out here faster than I want. [ ] Write-in
[x] There looked like some kind of lecture hall a few blocks back. If there’s someone who’s qualified to talk to everyone like that, they might have some kind of leadership position, and I might be able to get a job.
[X] There looked like some kind of lecture hall a few blocks back. If there’s someone who’s qualified to talk to everyone like that, they might have some kind of leadership position, and I might be able to get a job.
This one was actually a tough decision for me, since I was torn between a couple of options... but it strikes me as the most reliable way to learn more, plus the possibility of work, to avoid dine-dashing appeals to me.
[X] There looked like some kind of lecture hall a few blocks back. If there’s someone who’s qualified to talk to everyone like that, they might have some kind of leadership position, and I might be able to get a job.
[X] There looked like some kind of lecture hall a few blocks back. If there’s someone who’s qualified to talk to everyone like that, they might have some kind of leadership position, and I might be able to get a job.
I choose this because it gives me a Princely aura.
Things have been stupidly busy, but I'll certainly update by thursday. Hopefully I'll have it up tomorrow, though. It is my promise to you guys that I will never keep you waiting over a week for an update, though.
I DID IT. It's done, I did it. My promise is kept. Hopefully faster updates from now on, but I remain committed to my maximum of one week.
[X] There looked like some kind of lecture hall a few blocks back. If there’s someone who’s qualified to talk to everyone like that, they might have some kind of leadership position, and I might be able to get a job.
Stealing food isn’t exactly the kind of person I want to be, so I might as well go visit the place most likely to get me a job. With that in mind, my feet start carrying me back toward the lecture hall, almost completely reversing direction since I’d passed it not that long ago.
...I really do need food sooner rather than later, though. The rumbling of my stomach tells me that I need something to eat, and an impulsive thought races through my head of just reaching out and eating anything within reach. Of course, were I to do anything like that, I’d be like that beast in my dream, so it’s shoved into the back of my head immediately. A human like me who falls to depths like that will undoubtedly become a monster, and I don’t want to be the kind of person who becomes a monster.
With thoughts about what kind of person I want to be floating through my head, I can’t help but think about it. The kind of person I was, the kind of person I might be… they can be very different things, if I don’t remember what I’m doing or who I am.
I could be a killer who could barely be considered human. I definitely have the skills with a blade to do it. On the other hand, I could be an established monster slayer, since I ‘remember’ that kind of past a little. Was I someone who killed to survive? Was I someone who killed for the sake of others? The more I think about it, the more I realize it. These convenient instincts and ‘strong’ body – they couldn’t have just been natural. They’re something given to those who’s life has been dyed in blood.
...But regardless of who I am, or what I was, all that’s left for me is the future. If I can continue like this – continue to go forward as ‘the kind of person I hope I was’, then eventually I’ll be ‘the kind of person who I want to be’. ...At least, that’s what I think, lost in my thoughts as I travel the slowly emptying streets.
A bit too lost, actually. I miss where to stop for the lecture hall, overshooting it by a block, and end up turning around to go back. It’s a good thing I’m fit; I’ve walked around a lot today, instead of flying, and it would be pretty hard on my legs if I wasn’t.
Heading indoors, it looks pretty deserted at this hour. Maybe I’ve messed up… or, at least, it seems like my main goal is almost certainly not going to happen. Still, there’s a few side rooms for use, so I call out. “Hello? Anyone here?” My voice echoes through the empty room, and I rest my palms forward onto the back of a seat while I wait to see if there’s a reply.
...I’ve seen some weird things, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. In the deserted lecture hall, a girl floats up from underneath the floor. Her legs end in white ‘tails’, and her expression isn’t exactly good. Ghosts exist[i/]?! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised considering the flying shrine maiden and monster who looks like a woman, but I don’t think I’d ever considered them anything other than fictional.
“The hell you want here?” The ghost crackles with a bit of sparks and her ‘tails’ swish against each other. It’s obvious that she’s not happy with my intrusion, and I’m not sure how to defuse this situation… fighting in the middle of the town isn’t good, either. One hand instinctively goes to my sword, but…
“I-I was just looking for a job. I woke up with amnesia, I’m hungry, and lost… I figured I could find someone who could give me something to do in exchange for food here, but it seems like I got here too late.” It’s not much of an explanation, but it’s all I can do when short on time and dealing with someone so clearly impatient.
The ghost frowns and cocks her head sideways, resting it on her fist. “You’re saying you just happened to come by the Crown Prince’s lecture hall after she left?” I fight back the urge to make a comment on calling a ‘she’ the ‘Crown Prince’, but thankfully she continues on before I have to risk succumbing to it. “...I suppose it’s not [i]too weird, IF[i/] I trusted you about the whole ‘missing your memory’ thing.”
I can’t help but scowl about that. “I can’t really prove I [i]don’t have something.” The frustration is obvious in my voice, as much as I don’t want it to be. “But I really mean it. You or this Crown Prince or whoever – just give me something I can do so that I can eat.”
The ghost crosses her arms, and nods. “...Well. I’ll go track you down tomorrow, if you’re that eager. If you’re telling the truth or not, it’ll be proven then. Until then, get out. Nobody should enter this haunted lecture hall after dark.”
...Not happening today puts me in a bit of pinch, but since I’d rather this not come to blows, I don’t really have much choice. “Alright then. Not sure what kind of job you’d have for me, but I won’t complain. Anything’s better than starving.” With that, I start heading out. Apparently I’ve just been employed by a ghost…
...but with no money, that means that I’m out of luck for tonight.
[ ] Though I don’t really want to, dine and dash is probably my only option. – [ ] There was a ramen place I could go to. Noodles could be nice. – [ ] There was a dango place I could go to. Something filling is probably best.
[ ] I’ll just have to skip on food for tonight. I’m not sure when I’ll be paid, but I have no choice. [ ] Write-in
That said, have another before-the-deadline update. This time, hopefully with 100% less broken tags. And definitely with 100% more actual attached images.
[X] Though I don’t really want to, dine and dash is probably my only option. – [X] There was a dango place I could go to. Something filling is probably best.
I literally don’t remember the last time I ate. My stomach is complaining something fierce by the time my nerves and guard have dropped from this latest near-combat encounter. Of course, having only spent one day without food, it might not be bad… but really, I don’t want to put up with this. Letting myself get hungry will only make me weaker, and if there’s anything like those monsters, I can’t help but want to be at full strength to defend myself.
...and so I go for something filling. The dango stand I’d seen earlier should probably still be in business since it’s only recently dark out. As I near, I notice the rabbit ears on the heads of the two girls behind the adjacent carts for the first time. These are… yet more demons? Still, they don’t seem to draw attention from the other humans around, so they probably aren’t dangerous. Or I’m the only one seeing the bunny ears.
I’m… just going to file that thought away and not think about that again. Down that road lies madness, and I’m not crazy. At least, I hope not. The thought that it could be an illusion effect springs to mind, but I squash it back down. I’m not doing that, period.
With a casual greeting, I start looking over the dango that have been freshly prepared. Though it’s just sweets, the doughy nature of them should help keep me full… but I have no idea what these types are. Honestly, taste is a little irrelevant, however. I’m not eating here to enjoy it, but to stop my stomach from growling.
The blue-haired rabbit girl smiles at me. The way her expression perks up and way her eyes shine a little in the dark makes me think she’s kind of cute, but it’s just customer service, obviously. Looking between the two, the other one is munching on her own product. ...Is that really good for business? Rather than voicing the concern, though, I need to think of a way to get away with the food.
Going over the facts in my head… there are two dango stands, right next to each other. That can’t really be that good for business, so they have to be rivals in some degree to want to stay in the exact same location despite competition being literally at hand. If there’s an emotional investment, I can use that… though honestly, this whole line of thought makes me feel kind of scummy.
But it’s for my stomach, so it can’t be helped.
But it’s for my stomach, so it can’t be helped.
The words echo back to another place, another time, and my mind with it. The darkness of the night, the redness of the sky, and the pure and terrible red moon. The world, stained in the crimson of my hands that dances across the night and drips down to the ground below.
It’s for my stomach, so it can’t be helped.
The juicy, red liquid stains my tongue a deeper color as I lick it from my fingers, feeling sated in a way I couldn’t have imagined. The fullness of my stomach warms me from deep within. So this is what it tastes like… The savory feeling of meat, the richness that lingers even after the meal…
The hoarse voice of people nearby cries out into the night, but it doesn’t matter. Even though they sounds like it’s been screaming for a while, cracking and broken… A chorus of agony, of dying shadows, doesn’t mean much to me at all.
...but one of those voices is livelier than the others. One of those voices is familiar. A voice of agonizing sorrow mixed in with the cries of pain, coming together in unified despair.
I clench my teeth shut to try and muzzle it. It hurts a bit, and it needs to stop.
It’s for my stomach, so it can’t be helped.
Another dream, another day. I pick myself up off the ground and reach for my sword. ...It’s still here, of course. This time, my memories aren’t entirely gone, and I can remember that I had forgotten where to find it or that I could use it.
The red sky above me is fading into slightly lighter hues, as if dawn is on the horizon. Not that this place seems to really have a horizon… I get the familiar feeling of days just passing how they wish, instead of a circle of the sun through the sky.
My black dress is covered in stains. I didn’t think I’d received that much splatter from the beast that looked like a woman who’d attacked me, but here it is. Shaking my head a little, I try and account for my surroundings.
The river I’d headed towards is gone. Since I probably wasn’t moved, the tainted water might have had me walking around in a feverish dream. I don’t feel all that great, either. My throat feels sore, and my body feels heavy. It’s such a weird contrast to last time I woke up that I have trouble understanding it until I start trying to stretch and move as I’d used to.
Until now, I’d taken the continence of that trained and light body for granted, but the difference is like night and day. I kind of wish I could just undo whatever put me into this situation (probably the water), but I don’t exactly remember how the water here works, either.
...Though, I don’t think I have to worry about more water. The place I’ve found myself in is like a deep forest, and I don’t hear the familiar burbling of a stream or anything like the last time I’d wandered out. The trees are definitely unfamiliar, though – last time they had looked ‘normal’ enough, but here they’re like… fossilized or crystallized where they stand, the bark unnaturally treated in a way I find it hard to describe.
This world is weird. Like the weird mountains from before, I find myself amazed at everything I find.
...But it’s there that I start picking up something worrying. The crackling sound of a fire. I don’t know if these trees are resistant to flames due to being… whatever they are, but I don’t exactly want to be roasted alive.
On the other hand, it doesn’t sound that big yet, so maybe somebody’s set up a camp, and I’ll meet someone human in this weird world for the first time. But the chance of finding another human… maybe it’s just another monster like the last one, that was ‘human enough, but not really’.
...There’s just too many unknowns, I have to pick something.
[ ] Go toward the fire – [ ] There might be a human I can finally get in contact with. – [ ] There might be a monster, but I’m not scared.
[ ] Go away from the fire. – [ ] I don’t think it will harm this weird forest anyway. – [ ] It’s dangerous to get close.
This is why I didn't want to let things go late, because it's hard for me to write during the week. Sorry for the delay, folks, but we're back on schedule once again.
[X] Go toward the fire – [X] There might be a human I can finally get in contact with.
I keep walking toward the sound of the fire. I’d never expected it to be far away, even with my body’s great hearing, but the further I walk the more I wonder how much longer it will be until I see it. What’s worse is that it just… keeps getting louder.
After several minutes of walking, I get the feeling this isn’t really the campfire I’d hoped it would be.
The crackle slowly builds into a roar – weak, the sound of a dying fire, but a large one nonetheless. My instincts scream at me to not go closer, but I can’t just turn back now. Monsters hate fire, so I shouldn’t be in any danger… whatever is going on here, I just need to keep pushing forward and see it for myself…
...Through the treeline, my eyes catch a glimpse and my heart sinks.
Buildings, houses, burning, dying, a village lost in a blaze that consumes everything. Nobody’s screaming – not anymore – so the chance of survivors is slim. My feet start moving faster, my body breaking into a sprint. There’s no way that everyone is dead. There’s no way that the humans I’d been looking for are gone entirely…
The heat is unbearable, but since I’m not getting actively burned by it, I force through anyway. I glance around, flicking my vision this way and that as I try and find anything that might indicate another human exists here. Another person that could be saved.
...It takes me a while to realize I can talk. The fear that had gripped me just strangled my voice, and I have to work my jaw a bit to get anything to come out.
“Anyone! Can anyone hear me?! Is there anyone here?!” The words leave my mouth, but don’t make it over the sound of the fire at first, so I find myself slowly making my way through the burning town, calling out every so often, trying to pause and give anyone time to respond without me shouting over them between my own attempts to get heard.
...The smell gets to me, once I notice. As I get deeper into the wasted village, the scent of roasting flesh meets my nose. It’s terrible, and yet sickly enticing at the same time. But this almost certainly isn’t the kind of meat I’d want to be cooking… any farm animals would have been on the outskirts on the other side, out toward the pastures, and away from the forest. This ‘meat’ is definitely casualties…
I try and push that out of my head. All that’s left now is to help deal with it.
As I get closer to the other side of the village, my heart starts to sink. Nobody responds… not a single one. What happened here? Why did this village burn? Who could have done this? There’s so many questions, and… they’ll never be answered like this.
I almost want to say I’ve given up hope, but I’m still pressing onward for some reason. Like some kind of sense of mine still believes I’ve got a chance to save even one person.
It goes on for what feels like forever. A desperate eternity between moments. But finally… I hear a call back. I can hardly make out what it says – the voice, a woman’s – is weak, to put it mildly. Though I break into a sprint toward it, I hear what I never wanted to hear.
...quite clearly, these are her last words.
The crystal spires of the forest are beautiful today.
It’s been a while since I last got out on my own like this, and this is one of my favorite places to go during free time. It is not like I even desire the alone time much – I have my purpose now, and this is time spent not achieving it… but even so, I love the beauty of the tree-like pillars. The order within chaos – growing from the ground at random angles, the ‘trunks’ of the crystals dotted with ‘branches’, reflecting the colors of the light until the entire forest is like a sparkling dance.
Something about it, as otherworldly as it is, is also homey to me.
Describing these things as ‘otherworldly’ feels a little strange as well – I can’t imagine living anywhere but Makai, where things such as these are not uncommon. A world only bound by the limits of its ruler’s imagination, that of the divine queen of demons. Despite that, it’s what initially comes to mind. This forest, too… something about it is familiar in a way deep within me, though I can hardly tell what.
The idea that there’s something I’m missing… something I can’t remember… As much as I love this place, this feeling I get around it dampens the mood just a little.
After all, I’m a wonderfully splendid demon. I was created to be perfect and elegant, and my swordmanship is second to none.
I wake up with a groan, finding myself face-down in a paddy field. ...Must be near the human village, if that’s the case. That place was surrounded by them, since they’re presumably used to support the entire village’s main food supply.
My stomach isn’t growling at me anymore, so it seems like I’ve gotten food… but my head is all blurry about what happened last night. I’m clearly not supposed to be taking a nap here, though, and my dress and thigh-highs are all dirty now.
...It’s been a while since I changed clothes, anyway. I should probably bathe and clean them. But I don’t really have anything to change into lined up…
[ ] Go find a river or lake to bathe in, and wash my clothes. Just deal with wet clothes and put them back on. [ ] Go back to the village and try and find something to dry clothes with, or spare clothes. Of course, since I don’t have any money that means more stealing… [ ] Save the bath for later, once I have something else to change into. – [ ] Go back to the village and try and figure out what I was doing last night. My memory is a total mess. – [ ] Go visit Reimu, maybe she’ll let me borrow clothes. – [ ] Write-in
A recent addition to my schedule has caused a bit of a delay - since this seems like it will be ongoing, I'm changing the update day of this story to Sunday (I.E. today), and finishing this up today. Stay tuned for the update.
After moving the schedule back a day, we're back. New chapters will be coming weekly (faster if I get enough people responding earlier).
For full transparency, I don't tend to start organizing everything and begin working on what I want the next part to contain until about mid-week if I don't have 3 votes for the same thing. If there's just two, (and especially when it's split between two different votes) I generally let it sit longer since other people might trickle in and read it and want to vote. Once I have where I want to go with it, I write it once I have the free time (which is why having something added to my friday schedule cuts into my writing free time for saturday).
With that all said and done, let's get to the reason why you're actually here.
[X] Go find a river or lake to bathe in, and wash my clothes. Just deal with wet clothes and put them back on.
It’s really easy to find a river to bathe in, thanks to my amazing ears. But as convenient as this body is, it doesn’t clean itself, or make clothes for itself. A soft liftoff, and I’m flying through the air with little more than a thought – heading in the direction of the water that tickles at my hearing from far away.
...I really wonder what happened last night, though. I don’t have a lot of memories, so the fact that I’ve lost another chunk of them is pretty worrying. The only thing that comes to mind is that it was right before I fell asleep, apparently, so I’ll have to keep an eye on what I’m doing before I pass out to see if I can usually remember it, or if something about last night was different.
Though the stream is easy enough to find after a moment, it doesn’t really look good for a bath where I’m at. The water is too far downstream and slow at first, so I start heading up toward the source, hoping for a spring or waterfall basin or something that would be better for diving into or getting under, and running faster so that it’s less gross.
I almost slip back into my own thoughts along the way, but I can clearly sense other creatures around as I fly low, entering the cover of trees and reducing my speed so that I don’t end up running into one. It’s almost like I’m being followed, since the feeling doesn’t go away at all, but I don’t feel like I’m in danger, either. I’ve fought dangerous beasts before, I think, and this isn’t so much like that at all. Perhaps the words I should use are ‘killing intent’? I don’t sense anything like that, like when the shrine maiden attacked me. There’s a certain kind of aura something that intends violence has, and though I can hear the movements of at least one creature nearby, they don’t seem to have any such ill intentions.
...But I’m still a little shy about bathing in front of an audience.
Pushing on, I hope they just decide to leave me alone before I have to decide on something like that in the first place. My progress is definitely slowed by the tree cover, even if trees don’t grow directly in the middle of the river. My body is super convenient, but I’m not sure to trust my flight perfectly. I’m aware that my movement through the air isn’t one-to-one with what I’m imagining in my head when I try and move, so I’m not sure just how much to correct, and I don’t feel like smacking into a tree anytime soon.
Though I haven’t been paying much attention to the scenery the entire way here, as I grow nearer, the river starts opening up into a larger tributary that splits off into other channels besides the one I was just following. At the same time, the soft sound of water rises to almost a roar, and I have to actively try not to focus on the sound and reduce my hearing sensitivity. Though this body is really convenient in a lot of ways, I’m starting to find a weakness in it. Loud noises drown out everything else, and if I was caught off guard by something incredibly loud, it would almost certainly hurt like hell. At least my attempts to turn down that sensitivity seem to be something I can control, with how the roaring fades out into the background the more and more I think about it, despite growing closer every moment.
Eventually, the river opens up into what is a grand waterfall off a mountain, with a large lake-like basin. I feel somewhat stunned just looking at it. There was nothing like this where I was from, I’m almost certain. Or at least I never went far enough out to see this before. Rather than feeling like I’m triggering any kind of memory, it’s the overwhelming beauty of something I’d never even imagined before.
My first instinct is to fly straight into the lake, but I hold back on that. The thought of my ability to move freely potentially turning off the moment I hit the water is immensely worrying – I don’t even know if I know how to swim or not. Not tearing my eyes from the majestic falls, I use peripheral vision to navigate myself near the shore and tear off my shoes. I don’t want to be dealing with wet shoes, even if I’m just going to have to bathe in my clothes, due to the eyes on me and lack of anything to change into. Setting my sword aside next to them – let’s not rust my only weapon – I start to step into the riverbank, but stop.
My thigh-highs are already muddy, but part of this is to clean them. I can’t just walk around in the mud of the bank and expect them to come out cleaner. Stripping them from my legs, I just put up with the feeling of the mud beneath my feet and between my toes. I really hate it, but there’s no better option. A soaked skirt floating in the water and weighing me down isn’t great either, but I start washing the mud out of my clothes, first. The work is tedious and takes a bit, but it’s all I have. Though I don’t like it, until I have a better place to bathe and clean my clothes, I’ll just have to do this as sparingly as possible.
Ah, but the running water around me is nice. If anything’s an upside of this, it’s the beauty of the scenery and the feeling of the water flowing around me. I could come here just to hang out, though it’s not like I have anyone to hang out with. Aside from my current stalker, at least. Once I’ve scrubbed the mud out of my clothes and scrubbed myself enough I can hope I smell relatively not terrible, I check again for their presence and find myself calling out rather boldly.
“Do you really like watching girls bathe that much? Come on out already.” I make sure my sword is close by when I call out the ‘enemy’, just in case. I never want to have to fight without having my weapon, though I don’t like the risk I’m taking. These waterlogged clothes aren’t the easiest to move in, though thankfully my ability to fly should help with that kind of mobility, since at least my legs aren’t going to be restricted by the wet skirt if I fly.
Something I don’t expect at all follows next. Something just kind of melts out of the air, like a shield around it was dissipating, and now becomes visible. I immediately go on alarm, but there’s no aggressive intent in her face or stance. ...She was a lot closer than my instincts had been telling me. Whatever was going on with that was no joke.
“Ahaha, sorry about that. I didn’t think you’d noticed me, either. You’ve got good eyes to pick me out through my upgraded Optical Camouflage suit.” The girl makes a polite little bow and continues. “They call me Nitori, and I’m a kappa of the valley. But you’re… weird. Who are you? I don’t think I know anyone like you who comes out here.”
...valley kappa. Right. There was something I could tell about her that warned me she wasn’t human, and yet… she acts like she expected the same of me, like I was something that could be dangerous. “...I’m going by Carol right now. I don’t know if that’s my name or not. I can’t remember much of anything.” The first thing I can really say about her is she’s pretty nice-seeming and, well, very blue. Hair, outfit, hat, nothing but blue. Is that just how kappa fashion works?
Nitori’s eyes light up. “…Nothing, you say? Oh, this seems like a great time to get some data! It’s rare you run across someone with amnesia. Would you mind coming with me and subjecting yourself to a few tests? For science? I’ll see if it reveals anything that could put your mind back in working order, and let you know if it does.”
Something about the way she says that causes a little bit of a warning sign in my danger sense. “...I’ll consider it, but right now I’d like to know more about what’s going on and where I am. I ran into a shrine maiden yesterday – do you know her? She seemed in a hurry about something related to an ‘incident’. I’m also not really sure what I’m doing from here on aside once I finish this bath.” Nitori’s expression scrunches up a little. Good, so I’m not the only one confused by that shrine maiden’s behavior.
“...If you’re talking about incidents, you mean that red-white, right?” I don’t even bother taking a moment to think about it – those colors are burned pretty vividly into my mind. With the confirmation, Nitori continues on. “Alright, good news and bad news. Good news is that I know what she’s doing, bad news is that I have no idea what the cause is.”
“...Ah, so that is…?” It’s all nice and good when someone provides you with the answers, but if you don’t actually say them it just turns into a frustrating little waiting game. Thankfully, not one that Nitori keeps up any longer than it takes me to reply.
The kappa crosses her arms and gets a serious expression. “...Gensokyo is currently suffering from some kind of plague, we’re guessing. Something that changes people and youkai into ayakashi.” The word isn’t familiar to me, and Nitori probably gets it from the look on my face. “Monsters. We’re calling them Ayakashi for now, until we have a better idea of what they are. Reimu’s flying around trying to hunt down whoever’s responsible, but she hasn’t had any luck yet. The shrine maiden of Moriya is probably setting out soon, too, since we just had a case of Ayakashi appearing on the mountain.”
...I have no idea what Moriya is, but that’s not the relevant part. People are turning into monsters? No wonder Reimu was struggling to put it into words. It takes a bit for me to just put my own thoughts into words at having heard it for the first time. “...I, um… Wow. That’s a problem.” I feel stupid just saying it, though. Obviously that’s a problem. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like she takes it against me at all – it must have been a shock for everyone back when it first started happening.
“Yeah. But don’t worry too much, the usual incident-solvers are on the case, so things should go back to normal soon, and hopefully your memory, too.” The girl gives her a little wave, that’s half cheering her on and half indicating the conversation’s coming to an end. “So, unless you’ve changed your mind on the science…?”
Um, well… I still don’t have a good feeling about it, but she doesn’t seem bad at all.
[ ] Self-preservation comes first. Let’s get out of here. [ ] Let’s let Nitori down gently. Don’t want to lose one of our small number of nice acquaintances. [ ] Make it clear that you’re not going to be a test subject at this time or another, but don’t be rude. [ ] Just tell her that you don’t trust her science at all.
>>16103 Currently, the character isn't in a state where she trusts immediate strangers enough to accept it; it'd be possible to accept later, if she gets to know Nitori better, or is less worried about nonhumans killing her.
Getting this out a little late due to computer troubles, but it's not even the next morning yet, so it's okay for now. Time to sleep soon, since I stayed up to get it out at least somewhat promptly.
[X] Let’s let Nitori down gently. Don’t want to lose one of our small number of nice acquaintances.
I don’t really want to get caught up in this rather shady science. But Nitori… isn’t bad at all. I wouldn’t mind spending more time around her, and she seems rather nice. I don’t really want to push her away just because of the shady deal she’s pushing. “I’m not sure about that, and I have someone I’m expecting sometime today anyway.” The words slip from my mouth fairly naturally. It’s true – there was that ghost-thing who I was supposed to be getting a visit from today.
Nitori, at least, seems to take it pretty well, which takes the little bit of stress off. “Ah, I see. Well, if you have the time and change your mind, just come back here. I’m sure we’re likely to meet.” I’m a little surprised that she can be so sure she’ll be around the one waterfall that often, but at the same time… well, this place is beautiful. I could come back here pretty often.
“Whether I change my mind or not, you’ll likely see me again, then. I plan to come back here pretty frequently… It’s really quite an amazing place.” The praise isn’t insincere, and Nitori doesn’t seem to take it that way. Her face kind of lights up a little, glad that someone so different from her shares the same interest – but then gets a complicated expression that I can’t tell the source of.
“Well, be careful, alright? You might not always be able to get here so easily. And definitely don’t try and fly up to the top of the waterfalls.” The warning is… absolutely baffling to me, but the way she says it doesn’t make me think she wants to talk about why (or else she’d have been more specific from the beginning), so I just take it to heart at that.
“Right. Well, I’d like to dry these clothes off quickly, so I’ll see you later.” Our pleasantries ended, Nitori and I part for the day, and the whistling of the wind around me takes the place of her cheerful voice. Air-drying is a thing I know exists, especially in the sun, so I fly and turn a bit at times so that the sun can beat down upon each side of my clothes until the sogginess starts to alleviate more.
My flight doesn’t really go anywhere… or rather, it goes nowhere in particular, since I end up pretty far away from where I started, but over a forest I’m not familiar with, by the time I actually pay attention. Rather than getting caught up in something else, I depart from the forest of towering bamboo stalks and head back toward the town.
My clothes aren’t quite dry, but it’s close enough that I don’t think I’ll look totally out of place around the human village while I wait for the ghost to come find me. So, thinking that I’ll kill some time and try and get to know some actual people, I touch down, and…
Wait. Something’s wrong here.
I’m at the end of the rice fields as usual, not that far from where I woke up this morning. I touched down not far from here and walked into the town before, too. So why…
Why is this an empty space?
Why are their untouched fields where that town should be?
What is going on here?!
At first, I just start pacing along through the fields, as if trying to confirm with my feet along the ground that nothing is there. That nothing had ever been there. Everything is confusing, now. How much of my time here was real? I met Nitori earlier, right? ...I met that shrine maiden, right?
I’ll definitely go visit Reimu, and see what’s going on here. Resolving that to myself, I take off flying in the direction of the shrine, keen to put this behind me with the relaxing freedom of taking to the air. But even then, I can’t quite get it out of my mind.
...I feel almost sure that I had seen the village on my way there…
It doesn’t really take that much longer to get back to the shrine. The trip just feels a lot longer than it did the first time, when I was heading to it from the mountain instead of the other way around. But that’s probably just everything weighing on my mind right now.
The first thing I sense as I arrive is the sudden ‘killing intent’ that separates Reimu from Nitori – but it fades almost immediately, as she announces herself with an exasperated sigh. “Okay, what are you doing back here?”
I set down on top of the Torii, sitting myself so that my legs are hanging off the edge. It’s weird, how I can feel like I might fall if I’m sitting like this, and yet have no problems when I have nothing supporting me. “I went to the village, but it disappeared.”
Reimu just stands there in shock. “Disappeared? No, that shouldn’t be…” Floating up, she soars over my head and stares out into the distance.
...She has pretty good eyes, I guess.
Eyes that narrow at me, a little later.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the village.” The words are baffling but they lift a heavy burden off my back. I don’t have to question everything, anymore. I don’t have to worry about if I can trust what I’ve seen, I’ve heard, and who I’ve met. She seems pretty confused by my sigh of relief instead of defensive comments.
“That’s good. Everything’s where it should be, then. I didn’t understand what happened, but whatever it is passed now, at least. It was like a village had never been there, so I didn’t know what to do, or if I could trust my own memory.” Reimu’s expression just starts to get more confused.
“...Well, it doesn’t seem like you’re lying about it, and I might be able to narrow down the source… there’s not really that many people who could do such a thing, and I’ve seen something like that once before.” Well at least someone knows what’s going on here. It’s frustrating how many people know what I don’t, but don’t feel like sharing, but I can’t exactly force them to talk… especially someone like Reimu, who seems way stronger than me in battle.
“Right… well, I don’t really know what to do with myself, and I was looking for a job in the human village, but if it disappears if I get close to it, then I can’t do much of that.” I put my current predicament in as easy to understand terms as possible, kind of hoping that Reimu will get the hint and help do something about it, but the shrine maiden just kind of seems a bit too surly for that, and waves it off.
“Yeah, well, unless I can find the source of this incident, I’m not in much of a place to help you with your issues, so sooorry.” Her arms cross and her head turns. “Can you get off my Torii and find a new place to hang out? You’ll scare away the visitors.”
“...Visitors? It kind of seems like I’m the only one who comes out this far, and who’d be scared of a lone girl, anywa-”
My instincts flare up.
It seems I made a mistake.
[X] Find a new location to muse about your issues. – [ ] It’s a bit early for another visit, but let’s go back to the waterfall. It looks nice, at least. – [ ] Let’s see if the village will really disappear on us again. – [ ] I passed that forest by earlier, maybe I can find it again. – [ ] There might be a nice place if I follow the river down, instead of up to the waterfall. – [ ] Hiding behind the shrine worked last time.
Well, damnit. I lost my cat and a bunch of non-essential things got kind of lost in the ensuing depression. I'm here, but need to sort out my work again. Hopefully I'll be on-schedule to producing an update for Sunady.
A shorter update today, but only because your feedback on how to deal with this is needed before continuing from here.
It's good to be back, though.
[X] Find a new location to muse about your issues. – [X] Let’s see if the village will really disappear on us again.
In summation, I decide to get off of Reimu’s Torii and find a new place to hang out. At a speed which is courteous and understanding of my host’s temperament.
As I head back through the sky, I once again keep my eyes out for the village – I thought I’d seen it from a distance, and Reimu could, too, so it shouldn’t be hard to find, even if it vanishes on me. And true enough, due to the height advantage of flying, I can make out the houses and buildings in the middle of the rice fields.
As much as I fly, I can’t stop taking some enjoyment in the sense of freedom from gravity, the wind in my hair – even if the wind in my eyes is annoying. I feel like I blink at least twice as much when I’m flying, but it honestly doesn’t matter. There’s something so liberating about the lack of cares I have when I’m in the air…
Of course, if I land, my cares have to come back – and this is another one of them. When I land where the village should be, it… well, it’s where the village “should be”. It disappeared. It definitely disappeared on me. Trying to pinpoint the moment when it disappeared is like trying to memorize a ton of things in only a few seconds, my brain just kind of slips and loses the information. What is even going on here?
My curiosity and confusion lasts a bit, but doesn’t really take up too much time as it is broken by an unfamiliar voice.
“Oh? I'd heard from Tojiko, but this truly is something interesting.” I look up at the source – what is it with people getting the drop on me? - and, well... The woman above me is... striking, at the least. She's dressed regally in pinks, purples, and yellows, carrying both some kind of sword and some kind of scepter, with dirty blonde hair in a shape that looks like ears.
It's not her appearance that leaves an impact, though. The way she carries herself, the way she speaks... it's familiar, sure, and important. I feel like I'm struggling not to bow to her as I try and maintain eye contact. “...Who are you?” The words themselves struggle to come to my lips.
She folds her arms closer to her body, placing that thing she holds up to where the top slightly obscures her mouth from my view as she holds it in both hands. “...Yes, how very interesting indeed. Your desires are all jumbled, like I'm hearing many voices at once.”
...I don't know how to react to this. My words catch in my throat and I just sort of... raise a hand a little, wanting to protest. It takes too long for my thoughts to form into something productive, and she's already talking again. Just who is this? Just what is this?
“So very interesting. No wonder Tojiko didn't know what to do with you. Though I cannot read your body or heart, no doubt such warped desires are a result of twisting of more than just the mind.” She continues on like that, saying such things without any regard for me, standing here dumbstruck.
...It's offensive. I hate it. It might be irrational, but when she starts calling me 'twisted' and 'warped' like that, I can't help but have this feeling boil up inside of me. My blade is simply in my hand before I notice I've drawn it, consumed by the disgusting feelings that boil up beneath the surface. “Shut up! What do you know about me?! We've never even met! What kind of person goes around calling others such rude things!”
It doesn't even get a rise out of her. Either she's unflappable or something, because I don't feel like I'm weak. In her eyes it feels like I just... am. Angry or not. Strong or not. She looks upon me no matter what, and I feel smaller than I have in ages.
“...Ah, I suppose you're right. Forgive me, I didn't mean to offend you with it. Compared to the other desires I've seen, you're simply all up in knots about yourself. Do you mind telling me... who are you?” The woman floats down so she's on my level, but somehow the action makes me feel more looked down upon than before. I hate those words. She's being 'nice', but I can't imagine she means them in the way I want her to.
I bite my lip, burning in frustration. I can't answer that question, and I don't want to. My sword flashes, and I shift position. “I'm not going to introduce myself to someone who shows up and starts bashing me without even giving so much as their name!”
The distance between us closes, and I feel smaller than ever. That 'sword' at her waist isn't even partially drawn – the item in her other hand just presses against my blade with a grace and ease that I haven't seen before. As if turning away worldly desires, she turns me away as well.
“Forgive my rudeness. I am Toyosatomimi no Miko, Advisor of the human village. Some surprisingly drastic measures have been taken recently to avoid letting you run loose inside it, so I came out of Senkai to check on just what kind of person you are. I surely found something more interesting than I'd expected.” Miko's expressions remains calm, almost kind.
Something about her rubs me the wrong way. Something about her is ever so familiar, and ever so disgusting. I feel like I know the type just from listening to her words. A liar, a manipulator, a 'king' who controls the masses.
…And yet, something about that isn't fully infuriating. My desire to cut her down is conflicted with some other kind of desire, and my 'intent to kill' falters. No, rather it was never there in the first place. Of course she could turn aside such a halfhearted strike like that. If I need to strike down a tyrant, I can't be holding some kind of affection for them in my heart like this.
The thought alone disgusts/reassures me.
Gripping my head, my sword falls to the ground as I sink, barely able to support my own weight for any longer. I feel exhausted for some reason, like I've been straining myself really hard for a long time. The words come so easily this time, but they're even more painful upon the lips than ever before, carrying with them a fundamental failure, instead of a missing piece.
“Who am I?”
[ ] Ask Miko for help. [ ] Take up your blade. [ ] Run. This woman is dangerous. [ ] Write-in.
I'm a bit late, but at least you're getting it before you're up in the morning. Now, it's time for me to get some sleep.
[X] Ask Miko for help.
The words slip from my lips, and I feel heard for the first time.
“Who am I?”
Like paper carried upon air, they float from my grasp and fly away. But that woman hears them. She definitely hears them. I don't have to worry about that, I can just tell.
Miko nods slowly. “I'm not sure, but we'll find out.” She nears me, taking my hand gently. It's... surprisingly soft. I haven't touched anyone else since... well, since I woke up here, on that first day. It feels like it's been an eternity, even though it was only yesterday, and I'm drained just thinking about it.
The woman seems to understand my desire to rest without me saying anything, and before I know it, we're somewhere else, and I'm being guided into bed. I vaguely remember passing through something, but my head can't quite grasp it, and doesn't seem to want to. Once I'm settled in, she takes a seat next to me.
“You really are interesting, you know.” Miko tells me. I shake my head a little. I don't get what is so interesting about someone like me, but she continues on anyway. “I think you're the first, actually. The others have had to have been put down, but among the Ayakashi, you're reasonable enough. If we forgive that little incident last night, at least.”
Suddenly I'm off the deep end again. Just when I was starting to put things together about myself, this woman says something completely incomprehensible. “A... Ayakashi?” I feel like I've heard that before... That's right. Earlier, Nitori, that Kappa, had talked to me about it. People and Youkai were changing into Ayakashi. Some kind of monster.
“But... but I'm not a monster.” My protest is weak, and something deep within me sinks when I hear it. Like something's not right.
Miko shakes her head. “It was hard to notice, but all Ayakashi have one unusual Desire among theirs. It's a single one I can't understand, and I could hardly even call it a desire, but there it is. Your body is definitely less like a monster than what we'd seen of ones before you... but perhaps you're a new model, or maybe an old one? Whatever it is, you have that one, telltale desire all the same.”
I don't even get it. What's all this about desires, and what does that have to do with me being a monster? My head pounds, pleading for answers that I hardly even have to bring to my lips. It feels almost like she's known from the beginning that I wanted to know more about myself, so Miko already understands. Her words only seem to reinforce it.
“The desire to Obey. It's quite clear that whatever is creating Ayakashi is doing it for a purpose, for someone's gain, because all these rampaging monsters have an 'Obedience' in them, like something was supposed to command them, but isn't yet.” Miko explains. “It is why you struggled to raise a hand to me, even when you were so inherently upset – as long as I know it's there, I can exploit it.”
The thought alone sends bubbles of rage popping in my head. Like I'm not supposed to listen to her, like this woman is a betrayer and a snake who used me. But I fight it back. She has answers, and I need answers more than anything. That rage that boils... is that related? Because the wrong person is taking advantage of that desire withing me? If so, who is the 'intended' target... and just what am I? The words struggle to leave my mouth, but this time I can force them out. “...I don't understand. What does it mean, that I'm an Ayakashi? Who am I supposed to be listening to, with that desire you're talking about?”
Her tan hair shakes a little. “If I knew who it was, I wouldn't have had to guess at the purpose for it. But it's not likely anyone I know. As for what it means... You were not originally you. You've been transfigured, and I'm not sure the depths of what was changed within you.” I almost have to fight back the urge to cringe when it sinks in. Is my memory gone because it didn't exist in the first place? Am I really two days old?
One thing is out of question, at this point, though. This is why Reimu attacked me so suddenly. She thought I was an Ayakashi, which, though I don't want to believe it, looks likely, and at the very least I seem to be one to residents who know how to tell the difference. “Then... who was I?”
Another shake, as her head waves the question off. “I only know what you are, not who you were.” Miko smiles a little. “But I can at least try and help you become what you want to be. Just, no more incidents like that, alright? The way of Tao provides power, but how you use that power is up to you, so I don't want it in the hands of someone bad.”
...That's right, she mentioned something from yesterday. Some kind of incident. “...Um, what do you mean by that? Did I do something wrong?”
Miko's face actually changes, scrunching up unpleasantly. “...Don't try and play innocent. You know exactly what you did.” ...It doesn't really matter what she says, I definitely don't know anything. Rather than try and convince her, I just sit there, confused. She tried to be nice to me, but... at the same time, she calls me a monster and says that I've done something horrible. I don't really know how to feel about her. She's all over the place, sending the most mixed messages I've had since I got here.
But really, she's probably my only hope. So I just wait.
The woman stands and leaves after scrutinizing me for a while, and I'm left alone, the light slowly dimming. ...I'm pretty exhausted from this whole ordeal, so I might as well take a nap.
The world around me glimmers and dances. The fires in the sky reflect off the crystal-clear pool, causing the world above and below to burn as I spin slowly between. It's not often I get out like this, into the wondrous nature that was made here.
These moments are when I truly feel alive, that soaring feeling within my heart. My job is wonderful and fulfilling, but it doesn't quite compare. Perhaps it's because of how much time I spend at it – these sights and sensations might not be as meaningful if they were not points of light within my world.
So, I'm grateful.
I'm grateful that I was born, I'm grateful that She made me.
The joy within my heart never ends, even if the hardening of my heart never ceases. Every time I come out to these wondrous landscapes, I feel like I'm less human than before, that a little more of this demonic world carries with me wherever I go.
And I fall in love.
Perhaps that's being too dramatic for someone who's life is restrained within the reflection of silver, but it's how I feel, in this moment. A moment for me, that will never leave, no matter what happens. No matter what I might forget. I'll definitely never lose sight of this dream-like day.
Isn't that right? After all, here I am.
I leap from bed with a startled cry. What the hell was that all about? The dreams I have are getting increasingly nonsensical, and that ending was somewhat terrifying. Like I was looking on a memory, and the memory looked back upon me. That kind of thing just isn't okay. Let's decide never to do that again.
Staggering out of the strange bed – just where exactly did she take me? I was too caught up to really focus, earlier – I stumble toward a mirror, sat upon a dresser with a bowl of water beneath it. Taking the time to wash my face, since what else would that be for, I examine my reflection and flinch away a little.
It's kind of unpleasant to look at me. Not like I'm hideous or anything, I just look bad after rough sleep like that, and this sort of instinctive aversion crops up, so I tear myself away rather quickly. There's so much that had happened earlier, that it's hard to process, even now. Rather than trying to sort out everything and come to some kind of real truth, though, I need food. Humans have to eat, after all – well, I suppose a monster might need to eat, too.
Before I can go any further, a voice rings out across the room. Standing in the door is roughly who I expect to see – the woman from before, the, uh, ears person...
Ears person speaks up again, making sure I'm paying attention. “Well, at least you're up. Even if it's the early morning hours, now.” If it's that early, then why is she even awake? Does Ears even sleep, or is that something someone like her doesn't do anymore?
“...I'm really kind of hungry, sorry. We never really got around to that job I was trying to look for, and if I don't have money for food...” I don't even get to finish my thought.
“You'll cause another scene, right.” Ears starts turning off to go get something.
[ ] Follow Miko – [ ] Question Miko – [ ] Get some food
[ ] Wait for Miko. – [ ] Explore the hall outside. – [ ] Search the room.
Since I'm not sure where she's going, and I'd really like that food right about now, I start moving as well, following along behind Ears. The words of the woman continue to echo in my ears as I walk along in (otherwise) silence. What happened last night? Was that really me? I just went and got some food, and then I went to bed...
...no, wait, that's not quite right. I woke up, I didn't go to sleep. So I'm definitely missing some kind of memory there. I was intending to steal that food, though, so I probably got caught stealing, and that's what made a scene in the village. I think making the village disappear whenever I get close to it is kind of overreacting, though. I can hardly be the only one to ever perform a dine-and-dash, after all. Or do they normally banish those who do? That seems even more like overreacting, if I think about it that way.
The soft patter of our footsteps makes me realize something. I don't have my shoes anymore, and my bare feet have been walking along the wooden hallway of the compound. “Um, do you mind giving me my shoes back? It's kind of weird walking around without them.” The look I get is positively confused, which only makes me more confused. I hadn't said a single thing that had caught her off-guard before now, and all of a sudden she's like this over shoes?
“...Do not wear your shoes inside someone's house. That's obvious. You can have them back when you head out somewhere.” Ears' statement is super confusing. What kind of rule is this? The homeowner steals your shoes? I realize I'm making a face, but I can't really help it, and Ears notices for sure. “...Ayakashi sure are an unusual type of creature, I suppose. But if you weren't interesting like this, it would have been better to exterminate you in the first place.”
“You keep calling me that... I still don't even know what it means. What exactly is an 'Ayakashi'? What am I? Who am I?” The desperation might have leaked into my voice, but at the same time it feels like Ears can just understand me in the first place, and she reacts kindly, placing a hand on my head and rubbing my hair gently. Something about the gesture seems to calm me down, even though I feel like it shouldn't, since my hair's getting messed up a bit. ...Oh well. I had some bed head anyway.
Ears lifts her hand from my head. “Don't worry too much about that right now. We're still looking into this incident ourselves, after all. We hardly know enough about Ayakashi at the moment to explain to you the details of what you are – but hopefully, by studying you, we can learn more about this problem, and what exactly you are.”
...Ah, this sucks. Not only do I not know who I am, but the wise one I'd run into didn't know either. “...Carol.” I say softly, as if answering my own question. The patter of feet stops ahead of me, and I stop moving as well. “...I vaguely remember a name, 'Carol'. That's all I know about 'me', if that is even me.”
Ears stares long and hard at me. “Well, I've never heard of a human or youkai by that name, but I am a fairly newer arrival to Gensokyo. Immediately, though, I know one thing; your name does not sound 'of this place'. It is very western, like the vampire in the manor. Perhaps she knows something of you. I will send for her later.”
The difference between 'western' and presumably, 'eastern' is pretty beyond me, but this is a definite ray of hope in this darkness. “...Thank you, so much, uh... Ears.” I accidentally say the name I've been keeping in my head out loud and Ears once again pauses for a moment before realizing that I've been having trouble with her name.
“Miko is fine. Seriously, what a troublesome child we've found here.” Her tone is amused and jovial, so I don't think she actually regrets helping me, like her words indicate. Which is itself a relief at least. I don't exactly have many bridges off this island left, after burning that one last night.
The trip continues mostly in silence, and Ears leads me to a main chamber where several others are already waiting. A girl in white with the silliest hat I've ever seen is kneeling on a cushion on the left side, while... oh! That ghost girl from before, is sitting on one on the right. I take up my indicated position between them, while Ears sits at the head of the room, and both study me as I cross the room and take my seat, rather intensely. As expected, Ears seems to be the leader, since they both wait for her to speak... and so, so do I.
“Futo. Tojiko. This is 'Carol', our resident Ayakashi. Since the incident going on endangers the humans, and the Shrine Maiden has yet to solve it, she is our biggest clue toward the perpetrator and the goal of such events. If we can solve this without the Shrine Maiden's aid, then we'll certainly expand our influence by proving that we can secure the safety of Gensokyo without her.” Small cheers come from either side around me, but they're definitely directed at Ears' plan, as opposed to me. “So, we need to find out what exactly has happened to 'Carol' here, and for that, I have tasks for each of you.”
...this is going on a bit too long. My stomach rumbles a bit, and my tongue traces along my teeth unconsciously. It's like I'm surrounded by ways to eat, but starving to death, since nothing in this main chamber really seems edible. I bite back the urge to interrupt her, and let Ears keep talking, though. God, I need food, though. I've only had, what, one meal in two days? How am I supposed to survive like this?
Ears continues her speech, looking directly at the ghost and naming her, making it a lot easier on me to try and figure out what to call my new acquaintances. I'd had a 50-50 shot, but certainty is always better. “Tojiko, I will request you to meet with one of the vampire's servants – or the vampire – and bring them back here. Someone at least high-ranking enough to keep track of her acquaintances. The name of our Ayakashi is suspiciously out of place, so one potential theory is that she is someone who did not fully complete a transformation into an Ayakashi, and retained her sense of self, and some degree of her name. If this is the case, surely someone in Gensokyo knows of her, and the most likely one is that western vampire.”
“Let's do it!” The ghost – that is, Tojiko; jumps up and bows a bit to Ears. Her stupid hat nearly falls off her head when she does so, too. Seriously, those things are too tall and not secured well enough. What is it with this place? At least Ears isn't wearing one. Maybe that's why she's the boss? Almost immediately, the ghost just sinks through the floor and is gone. ...Well, she didn't really get along with me much anyway, so I'm not disappointed we don't have time to socialize.
“Futo.” This time, the other one bows to her. “Please fetch a meal for this one. Prepare the three marked containers I brought, if you would. There is some experimenting to be doing.” Oh, hell yes. Finally, something to eat.
The girl rises from her cushion and gives another small bow. “Then, if thou dost excuse me...” She patters off the other direction from where we came from, and my stomach growls again, this time probably excited by the prospect of being filled.
I don't receive any instructions like the other two, leaving me to wait with Ears until the food comes back; three containers with something in each of them. One is some delicious-smelling meat scraps, the other clearly some kind of steak, and the other a pair of rice balls. The two of them seem to watch me curiously, but I can't be bothered with whatever they're thinking of. There's food, and I want to sate my stomach.
I treat the meat scraps like finger food, before eating through the rice balls, and finally filling my stomach with the delicious steak. All the meat is so savory and nice, but the rice balls are a great change of pace. I don't think I'd gotten a chance to eat them much before, despite how common a food they are. I can definitely see the appeal. But when I look back at the other two, Futo is on her way out, and Ears has a curious look upon her face. “...So what next?”
Ears shakes her head a little. “Nothing important for now. Since your stomach is full, we'll just wait for Tojiko to return with the vampire or one of her close associates so that we can try and confirm your history.”
“Right. Sure.” The down time is not unwanted, but I don't really have much to do if Ears isn't 'supervising' me, so I don't know what to do with it.
[ ] Train – [ ] With your sword. It's your trustworthy companion, isn't it? – [ ] With spellcards. They surely know how these things work, right?
[ ] Relax – [ ] Try to play a game with Miko. – [ ] Try to play a game with Futo. – [ ] Try to find something to play on your own.
[ ] Question – [ ] Ask Miko something. (Write-in up to three questions.) – [ ] Ask Futo something. (Write-in up to three questions.)