You reach into your pack for a pear. Taking a bite, you find it refreshingly cold and juicy, just what you need right now.
>puppetMaster204: Hey, Mizuhashi, what do you do for fun outside of painting? Being in the boonies and all.
“Um, normal human things.” You say as you take another bite out of the pear, “I socialize at bars, talk to people crossing the bridge and...play video games.”
>Yujin444: what’s your favorite band?
“The Prismrivers.” You say the name of the only named musical group you can remember, “They’re pretty obscure. They only have a presence over here where I’m living. I know none of you would’ve heard about them.”
>I_Am_Fire: I personally like Mili the most, you heard of them?
With deft fingers at an angle where chat can’t see you, you do a quick Google search. “Yeah, I really like uh...Iron Lotus.”
>I_Am_Fire: Oh! That’s my song
>I_Am_Fire: *my favorite song
>SandwichEnthusiast: do you take commissions, Mizuhashi? I really enjoy your style.
You consider that option for a few moments, and decide that more money is always nice, even if you can’t spend it right now. “Sure, I’ll put up the prices on my channel soon. What are you looking for?”
>SandwichEnthusiast: my wife’s expecting soon, so something warm and comfortable for the nursery
A sudden spike of your own jealousy strikes you, making you seize up enough to chomp right through the core of the pear you’re eating. Married people watch your stream? Didn’t Twitch’s own stats say that people on here are mostly young adolescent human males still wet behind the ears?
“...Sure, I can do something like that.” You physically swallow your jealousy, incarnated in the flesh and seeds of the pear. “I would like a more concrete depiction though.”
>SandwichEnthusiast: gimme a moment, let me talk to her
>drunk_cucumber: I think a cute dog or something simple like that would work
>I_Am_Fire: Or a panda! Kids love pandas!
“God I’m so jealous that you have a family.” You mutter out loud, before realizing that you’ve just said it live on stream for everyone to hear.
>WolfgangMozart: you’re an orphan?
“Sort of...” The memories of your first life barely hang on like laundry in a storm, and the faces of those who raised you have long since been lost to the ravages of time on your memories. “I don’t know my parents, nor any aunts, uncles or similar.”
>WolfgangMozart: oh no, I’m sorry!
>Hjarkbjorn: [Biblethump] [Biblethump]
A stream of more crying emotes and short condolences follow them. You frown, that’s not what you really want your audience to feel about you.
“It’s fine, I try not to think of my past too much.” It is indeed a fruitless endeavor. Only pain lies there. You’ve ventured into your memories numerous times and the result has always been just that.
>Yujin444: but you can still start one right? like, get a boyfriend...or a girlfriend if you’re into that.
Oof, another stab at your sore spot. “That is not an option available to me, for many reasons. Please do not ask me questions along those lines in the future.”
>SandwichEnthusiast: okay, so she said she wants a hedgehog
>Hjarkbjorn: GOTTA GO FAST
A hedgehog? What a simple request. “Yes, I can do that. A hedgehog shouldn’t take too long to paint. Probably done in one stream, the one after the next one. You should probably be on that stream so we can hash things out while I paint.”
>SandwichEnthusiast: damn you really are consistently fast
>Yujin444: You got a scanner now? You probably can’t do commissions by using the camcorder for the drawing.
“I got a printer with a scanner.” You say as you retrieve the box from within the pack, “When I stepped out earlier.”
You continue chatting with your loyal audience for a while longer while eating, going back and forth about even more topics of your life (which you are having trouble finding things to say since you really didn't really do much outside of tending to the bridge) and the latest video games (which you haven’t been playing). During the times when they’re talking about things you either haven’t touched or Outside World subjects too distant for you to know or care, you just nod and carry on.
There wasn’t much jealousy to be had, but you said you were going to chat after the stream and you damn well were going to do it.
“Alright, I got to go now.” You say as one of your viewers finishes wrapping up an anecdote of how they fell into a lake when they were little. “See you guys in two days!”
>BobRoss: Good job today, I’m proud of you.
You stare at the last one as you clearly recognize that channel name. After staring at it for a bit more, you blink...and the chat message is still there. None of your other viewers seem to notice it in the stream of byes...or perhaps they couldn’t see it, but it is there, and clicking on the username brings you to Bob Ross’s official channel.
Is this another one of those hallucinations? You go back and forth between your stream chat and Bob Ross’s channel a few times. If it is a hallucination it’s oddly consistent with reality.
You need a nap.
Shutting off the stream, you swiftly shed off your outer layers of clothing and climb into the futon. It is high noon, and the Artificial Sun is at its brightest. Still, you feel unusually tired, and you doze off rather quickly.
Knock knock knock.
“Ugh.” It doesn’t feel like more than an hour before you are woken up by noise.
Knock knock knock...tap tap tap
Someone’s at your door again, and they’re not knocking in a regular pattern. Dreading who it could be, you throw on your shirt and cautiously approach the door.
Tap tap tap tap
“Coming!” You throw open the door. There’s just empty space in front of you. “WHO THE FUCK IS-”
A rasp below you diverts your eyes downwards. There’s a lot of blood, like enough to make you instinctively jerk back. You don’t quite recognize the pile of torn clothing and bleeding flesh that’s the source of the blood at first, but the torn yellow blouse, green skirt, and the somehow still intact tube holding a slashed eye.
“Komeiji Koishi?” You gasp. Of all people to end up like this...her?
The body stirs, recognizing the name. A mangled hand is still raised, and you can see its remnant stains on your door.
You hurriedly carry her in and place her on a spare futon (the one you won’t miss the most). With your kitchen scissors, you cut off as much of her torn clothes as you can, leaving a pile of rags on the floor. For the still-bleeding wounds, you bandage them as best as you can, disinfecting them with the strongest sake you have in the house and spending all of the gauze you have lying around to bind them, substituting in torn pieces of clothing when you can’t.
She’s breathing, but has fallen unconscious somewhere along the process. Looking over her wounds, you can see a combination of what looks like bite marks, whipping welts and lacerations all over her form, randomly distributed as if she was being torn apart by multiple entities at once.
[ ] Carry her to Satori as soon as possible. Her sister, her problem. [ ] Maybe wait until you get some answers out of Koishi when she wakes up before deciding what to do. >>16546
[x] INTO THE TRASH IT GOES [x] Maybe wait until you get some answers [...] -[x] Lock the door and stay 'noided. -[x] Maybe barricade it for good measure. Creepy shit happenin'. Somehow I doubt it's a good idea to head out in search of the monke right now. Even if it'd be better to just get rid of Koishit.
>an anecdote about how they fell into the lake Splendid THP reference!
>I know none of you would've heard about them. Mizuhipster Parsee
[x] Carry her to Satori as soon as possible. Her sister, her problem.
It'd be great if Parsee knew anyone (besides the Kappa) having working phones in Gensokyo. Going off a tangent here, wouldn't it be theoretically possible to have nigh instant first aid service if Eirin had a phone and Kaguya used her ability of manipulating the instant and eternity to cut down travel time? --- So we might as well meet up with Saori; she's better equipped to house and take care of her sister. Should it come to that, Parsee'll have the best chances with her to confide the nightmares and hallucinations since she can see what she saw through her mind reading.
[×] Maybe wait until you get some answers [...] - [×] Lock the door and stay 'noided. -- [×] Maybe barricade it for good measure.
Listen, she's just got hurt outside. Whether she came from the top or the bottom of the hell cave systems, the fact is there's freakin' danger outside. Remember that we saw something back in the underground city, and the last few days have been a bit weird overall. The perpetrator might very well be why Koishi is in the state she is now. Let's wait for her to recover first, inside the safety of our house.
[x] Maybe wait until you get some answers [...] -[x] Lock the door and stay 'noided. -[x] Maybe barricade it for good measure.
Maybe it's just me, but I've always viewed Parsee's job as being a glorified security guard. We mostly just stand around, keep the bridge in decent condition, and pop our head out if someone tries to cause trouble.
Now if someone gets injured on our bridge, it is suddenly our problem. Given that it is currently Koishi off all people who was injured (someone who should be incredibly hard to attack) I say we take the excuse not to go outside and guard Koishi.
[x] Maybe wait until you get some answers [...] -[x] Lock the door and stay 'noided. -[x] Maybe barricade it for good measure.
Door bar? Lain across and firmly in the slot.
Cabinet? Blocking the door. It won’t stop an oni but it’s better than nothing.
Windows? Shuttered tightly. You don’t have any planks and nails on hand so this will have to do.
Now, the waiting game. You sit in your armchair, with Koishi and the door within view and a knife in your hands. You...are not a martially disposed person. In fact, you are pretty sure you’re going to hurt yourself with the knife rather than hurt whatever’s coming through that door. But your instincts, residual human ones most likely, are making you feel uncomfortable without a weapon in your hand.
You stay like that for one hour. Then two hours. Then three. Unable to resist, you move the laptop over and surf the internet while Koishi continues to not wake up. You make sure to keep an eye on the door while you’re browsing though, and occasionally you’d turn to see if Koishi was vomiting on your futon with something. Surprisingly, she’s rather well behaved when unconscious. Appropriate.
After about five hours of waiting, as the Artificial Sun begins to dim through the windows. Koishi stirs from the futon.
“Hey you, you’re finally awake.” You can’t help but recite something you got tricked to watch on Youtube while you were browsing. “Got caught in that Imperial ambush huh? Same as us, and that horse thief over there.”
“Horse thief? Wha...Owww...” Koishi moves as if every part of her body is hurting, which to be fair, they are. She stares at the bandages and rags that make up her new clothing, and then at the dried blood caked all over your futon. Finally, she draws her attention to you, who hasn’t moved from your position in the armchair yet.
“Miss...Mizuhashi?” She says, rather hesitant in tone as she surveys the rest of the living room. “Where am I?”
“You’re in my house...you’re telling me you’ve never snuck in here before?” You ask, with some dulled surprise.
“I thought you lived in the river under the bridge! This is your house?” She looks around some more. “It’s a really nice house!”
“Thanks?” You’re unsure if the feeling you’re getting is jealousy or not. From the few interactions you’ve had with the younger satori, her emotions are of a vastly different flavor than those of a sane person. “So, mind explaining how you ended up like this on my doorstep?”
You blink. She doesn’t. “Trees?”
“Yeppers. I stumbled into some trees and they did this to me! They tore and whipped at me with thorned branches, even as I tried to get out of their range. The squirrels, birds, there were also strange. They were foaming at the mouth and screeching the whole time as they attacked me.”
Your mind tries its best to make some sense out of this. “Like, tree youkai? No, that doesn’t explain the animals. We don’t have that many trees underground in the first place, where was this?”
Koishi takes a really long time to recover her memories, and you note with some apprehension that he slashed eye appears to still be moving despite the fact that you bandaged the whole place. “I think it was a little ways into side of the way to the surface? It was a cave that I hadn’t seen before, and there were a lot of trees I haven’t seen before inside of it...then I got attacked :(”
You cringe as you feel your subconscious being assailed by a wave of pained memories. “Argh, you mind not doing that? Also, were the trees moving?”
“Just the branches were moving. Hey, Misses, have you seen moving trees before?”
You take a peek through the windows. No trees.
Cautiously, you un-barricade the door, shoving the chairs back towards the dining table and pushing the cabinet back to the side of the living room where it belongs. You then slowly raise the door bar and open the door just a bit. Nothing outside on this side either. You let out a sigh of relief.
“Miss Komeiji, quick question, did you have your uh, usual thing activated when you were exploring that cave?”
That is not good. If such a grove of monstrous trees exists so close to your house, then you might be getting either more injured guests, or less people crossing the bridge. This is technically your responsibility to handle too, as Satori would likely maintain.
First you’ll be carrying Koishi back to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, then...
[ ] Tell the elder sister about this, and invite the hell raven for a little spot of slash and burn [ ] Don’t emphasize it too much to the elder sister, and inform Yuuka about this new development. [ ] Do something else: ________
[x] Don’t emphasize it too much to the elder sister, and inform Yuuka about this new development.
I was going to go with getting Okuu, but: 1) we've already brought in Yuuka for the other tree 2) she might get upset at us burning down a forest, no matter how justified we were 3) Yuuka is just as good at Okuu at burning everything to the ground when necessary.
[X] Don’t emphasize it too much to the elder sister, and inform Yuuka about this new development.
Carrying Koishi on your back wasn’t an altogether unpleasant experience. For starters, the girl is a lot quieter than she is usually, only occasionally speaking out to comment on some piece of Old Hell architecture she finds interesting and wished to share with you. She is also a very complacent rider, not fidgeting or squirming, or at least you can’t feel it if she was doing such movements.
“MISS KOMEIJI!” You call out as you touch down in the courtyard of the Palace of Earth Spirits. “MISS KAENBYOU! I have the younger mistress here and she needs tending to! Bring all the first aid stuff you have!”
Loud scuffling and the sound of animals yowling can be heard immediately after you call out. Seems like the elder sister was busy tending to her massive menagerie of pets. The pitter-patter of slippered feet can then be heard resonating through the house (your pointy ears aren’t just for looks after all!) for a good minute until the door is thrown open.
Komeiji Satori rushes out with a large bag of medical supplies. “KOISHI!” She shouts as she sees her battered sister on your back. “What did you get into this time!? You’re all...cut up! This is terrible!”
“I didn’t do anything wrong, sis!” The younger satori whines as her sister lifts her from your back and hurriedly, with fleet footsteps you don’t expect from such a recluse, into the mansion and up the stairs. You have to remind yourself that Satori, for all of her habits, is still a youkai just like you, and someone who was born as one, no less. She can easily carry the weight of a person and run without any issues.
Naturally, you follow her, floating up the stairs after Satori.
“Oh for hell’s sake, I can’t...” Satori, after settling down Koishi on a bed, stares at you for a few moments with her third eye. “So you just found her like this?”
“What you can read is what happened. I’m hiding nothing.” You reply, coolness in your voice even as you replay the events of the past couple hours in your head. Just like most people, you’re not exactly thrilled to have your mind read even if you are cooperating.
“...Thank you for helping her. Miss Mizuhashi.” Satori says after finishing the scan. You note that while she’s reading your mind, her hands are busy re-dressing Koishi’s wounds. “I will have one of my pets retrieve a replacement futon for you as well as replacement medical supplies.”
“Just doing my duty as bridgekeeper.” You force a smile to your face.
Satori pauses, her third eye squinting, before nodding. “I will give you something extra this month.” Turning towards Koishi, she then asks, in a voice both firm and concerned, “Koishi, tell me what exactly did this to you?”
“Trees! Very mean and nasty trees and the animals which live in them.”
Satori raises an eyebrow, “Trees?”
You clear your throat, “She said she was attacked by trees with thorned, whipping branches and animals with frothing mouths. It’s probably a new group of feral youkai that have grown and taken up residence in the caves near the bridge.”
“Feral youkai?” Satori looks positively incredulous. “Koishi, did you really let feral youkai see you, much less let them get the better of you?”
Koishi vigorously shakes her head. “I didn’t let down my guard, not one sec! But even so, the trees somehow knew I was there, and attacked without any warning!”
Satori begins to say something, then stops as she scans your surface thoughts again. “Miss Mizuhashi, you’re going to take care of this yourself?”
“Affirmative, I know somebody topside who specializes in dealing with flora. She’ll handle this situation.” You’ve known Yuuka only because Ibuki Suika, that oni who comes down regularly to drink with her fellow Diva of the Mountain and historical heavyweight, told you about her. She did so in the context of you asking for someone to help with decorating your front yard.
Yuuka was surprisingly pleasant about it. That still didn’t stop you from quivering the whole time she was at your house. Even now you’re not exactly comfortable dealing with her, but for this sort of thing there really is no better option.
“Very well, I shall leave it in your hands then, bridgekeeper.” Satori turns and gestures at several animals around the doorway to the room, who scurry off. “My pets will retrieve your compensation. Do you wish to enjoy a cup of tea in the parlor while waiting?”
“Thank you, Miss Komeiji. But...” A thought comes to your mind. You don’t get to meet with Satori very often. While normally you’d consider that a good thing, right now…
“...You have something you wish for me to examine in your head?” Satori finishes your thought.
“As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’ve been having nightmares and hallucinations recently, and they don’t seem to be letting up.” You confide, “If anyone can tell the reason for them, it’ll be you.”
Satori looks over Koishi again, then nods and says, “Let’s go to another room.”
You follow her into the solar of the mansion. It is a very nice room, with the full glory of the Artificial Sun shining through its great windows, illuminating the tastefully arranged paintings along the walls. The furniture here is notably more ornate than those in the rest of the mansion, and a western-style fireplace blazes merrily in the corner of the room. You get more than a little jealous. Why do you have to stay in a relative hovel?
“Sit down and relax.” Satori orders, pouring you a cup of tea from a teapot carried over by a bird. “Calm yourself down as much as you can, and try your best to not resist.”
You slowly drink the tea, while doing as Satori tells you. Her intrusion is gentle, but very noticeable, as she slowly sorts through your memories, going through the past couple of days one after the other and filtering out everything mundane. It feels much like someone breathing in your ear and through your brain, very unpleasant, but endurable.
Satori freezes up and closes her eyes as she seems to reach one of the memories, then coughs as she reaches another. Slowly, she goes from her upright position into a slouch, and then her head tilts off to the side, as if she’s straining against something.
Then, her eyes, all three of them, open wide and stare at you, causing you to recoil. She lets out a couple panting breaths, then composes herself and sits back upright again.
“Miss Mizuhashi...to put it in a cliched way, I have some good news, and some bad news. Unfortunately, they’re the same news.”
“And that is?”
“You’re not hallucinating.”
You involuntarily spit out the tea you’ve been drinking all over the table. “I’m not hallucinating?! Then what are the things I’ve been seeing?”
“I have not the faintest clue.” Satori says, her tone full of concern, “But none of the memories I went through with the unusual things you were seeing had the frayed marks of a hallucination on them. Even worse, this includes the nightmare I was able to dredge up. From what I can gather at least, everything you saw was real, one way or another.”
You slump down in your chair. All real? How in the world is that possible? Does that mean….
[ ] Maybe you should get the shrine maiden to take a look at things now [ ] Getting Yuuka to annihilate the current problems is the best step [ ] HELP ME BOB ROSS!
[x] Let Satori decide your further course of action
She's the one in charge of Old Hell and since the stuff in the not-hallucinations could be impacting the whole of the place it should be her call, honestly. Since it feels slimy to make a choice that amounts to 'You choose, OP', I'm gonna add:
-[x] [Suggest] Getting Yuuka to annihilate the current problems is the best step
Maybe a logical argument will reveal itself to me later, my reasoning for now is: "Sleeping Terror waking nightmares." I will not elaborate on this.
>>16842 We don't know how 'real' these not-hallucinations are (I won't call them premonitions - yet). For all we know they could just as well be outside world concepts bleeding in or effects of thought manipulations that Parsee's mind perceives as real cooked up by a someone we (don't) know.
On the off-chance it is someone else's doing and on the off-chance they're malicious I wouldn't want to lean in further into the illusion world created by them.
That being said, I just don't see this choice resulting in more than a short comedic Bob Ross cameo that's shoved inbetween the plot.
You don’t want to. You don’t even like that man, not one bit. But he’s the friendliest of your not!Hallucinations, so you don’t have much of a choice but to consult...Bob Ross.
“Help me, Bob Ross.” You mutter to the air as you take ahold of the teapot. Taking another cup from the shelf, you pour a cup of tea and set it aside. Satori watches you silently, and not commenting even though she can see your intentions clearly.
“This is a fine cup of tea, thank you.” Comes the gentle, baritone voice.
You don’t notice him appearing in at the side of the table. But he’s there, afro and all, sipping on the tea with none of the grace of the Japanese style, but all of the honesty of a Westerner.
“I can see him in your mind. I cannot see him with my own eyes.” Satori replies before you finish your thought.
You watch as Bob Ross sets down the cup of tea, having drained it. “You must be worried sick about all of these things happening to you Parsee, and you want answers.”
“I really don’t want to beg a hallucination for answers,” You sigh, “But you seem like a person who would cooperate.”
“I’m not some sort of fixer. I’m just a painter of the world.” Bob Ross looks off into the window, at the dimming Artificial Sun shining upon the streets of Old Hell. “But I know this much, Parsee: keep doing what you are doing, and eventually you’ll have to realize something about yourself. As for why you are seeing these things...it is because you’ve established connections to the Outside World. But, you have one misconception.”
“That the Outside World is limited to the facts you can see and hear.”
You are confused. “What do you mean? That the internet is a limited view? That because I haven’t stepped foot outside Gensokyo in a long time, things are happening beyond my knowledge?”
Bob Ross smiles, and shakes his head, “No, my friend. You wouldn’t know even if you did live Outside. What I’m saying is that in our wondrous world, there are hidden things, mysterious things, some might say...frightening things, hidden between the lines.”
“So what you’re saying is that one of these hidden things...came from the Outside World into Gensokyo?”
“I wouldn’t call it a thing. It’s more of a concept. A thought. From my perspective, it’s an infantile one, but that’s just the observations of an old man.”
You are even more confused now than before. “What do you mean, a concept? Can you explain it like you do with your paintings, Mr. Ross?”
“Again, I’m just a painter. Such things are above my comprehension aside from surface observations. An occultist or someone similarly versed in the studies of the supernaturally unusual would be better suited to answering that question.”
Your confusion boils over into laughter, “Ha! Mr. Ross, aren’t you and I both part of the supernaturally unusual already?”
“Yes, but do you really know yourself?” Bob Ross gives you a wink, and then vanishes.
You drink, emptying your teacup as you turn back towards Satori. “You have any idea...?”
“My eye hurts just observing that.” She says while massaging said organ, “From my mundane senses, you’re having a conversation entirely inside your head. However, your thoughts are clearly receiving stimuli from an external source...oww...this is something the youkai of boundaries is better off dealing with.”
Again, Yukari probably has the answer to your questions. The problem is that the damn gap hag is never around when you need her. “And what are your thoughts on what Bob Ross said?”
“So that was the Bob Ross I’ve heard the oni mention? He has a soothing voice, and doesn’t seem like the big tough guy they were describing. Still, he’s definitely a spirit of some sort, right? Not a living person?”
“Something like that. My sources say that he died several decades ago.” You honestly have more questions than you did before, but at least Bob Ross gave you a general idea of where to go next. “Thanks for helping me with this problem, Miss Komeiji. I’ll get to the bottom of this and make sure that the people crossing the bridge are safe from any flaying trees.”
“My pleasure.” Satori replies, before turning to one of the cats coming into the room (obviously Orin, with the two tails) and ordering, “Please help Miss Mizuhashi carry the goods back to her home.”
The cat meows in reply, and goes off into the hallway. You set aside the teacup, give a courtesy bow, and turn to leave.
“Oh, Miss Mizuhashi, if I may comment on something else.”
You turn back around. “And that is?”
“You’re acting much more open and happy than you usually are. Did something good happen to you recently?”
Instinctively, you are about to dismiss her like you did with Orin, but then a better thought comes to mind, “Yes, something good did happen, a very good thing.” You answer her with a satisfied smile, careful to hide the details from your surface thoughts, “I no longer have to hunt for my food. I have another source now, and it is delicious and bountiful.”
“Oh, that must be why the oni report the bridge being easier to cross these days.” Satori answers your smile with a small smile of her own, “Enjoy yourself then.”
The animals, birds mostly, but also Orin in cat form, carry the things all the way back to your house. Feeling generous, you share some of the contents of your pantry with them. Rice for the birds, and a smoked small fish for the kasha. They seem to appreciate it, enough that you don’t feel guilty for directing them inside the house to store the items as well.
“Must be really nice to have so many servants around all the time.” You mutter to yourself as you watch the animals fly off back to Satori. As usual, you are jealous of Satori.
Now, back to your job. You ought to take care of those trees, wherever they are. For that you’ll need to call in Yuuka. But what about the subject Bob Ross mentioned? You don’t know any occultists, but…
[ ] You’ve heard there’s a Great Library at the vampire’s mansion. Maybe somebody there can help? [ ] If there’s anyone who knows about occult things, it ought to be the shrine maiden, right? [ ] There’s that new god who showed up recently who’s allegedly a Sage. Her domain is hidden things, so perhaps she would know something? [ ] Write-in
This is seriously looking like Sumi's bailiwick, outside world supernatural shenanigans. That said, she's not in the options and I hate write ins that aren't small tweaks, and I also don't know if Parsee knows she exists so [X] There’s that new god who showed up recently who’s allegedly a Sage. Her domain is hidden things, so perhaps she would know something?
[x] There’s that new god who showed up recently who’s allegedly a Sage. Her domain is hidden things, so perhaps she would know something? How do you even summon Okina? Do you just shove your ass in the air and hope a door pops open?
[X] There’s that new god who showed up recently who’s allegedly a Sage. Her domain is hidden things, so perhaps she would know something?
You’ve only visited the Garden of the Sun a few times, despite the fact that it’s fairly close to the entrance to the underworld. It is indeed very pretty, but in a way that puts you ill at ease. The sunflowers that grow tall and proud along the paths always seem a little too overbearing for comfort. The fairies that dart in and out amongst the flowers are also unusually reticent, preferring to stay away from visitors rather than engage with surprise danmaku. And the fruits that you can taste are just a bit off in flavor.
Of course, that could just be you being weird.
“Miss Kazami!” You call out to the youkai standing in the middle of a meadow. “I could use your help with some more plants.”
“Mizuhashi, is it?” She turns around, and you involuntarily step back. She has a slasher smile on her face, to a degree which is just above “I’m going to kill you.”
“The tree you introduced me to has been...extraordinary.” She points with her parasol at a distant patch of dirt.
There stands the tree, withered and drooping, clearly dead...alongside all the plants in a three-meter radius around it.
“It is by all identifying marks a normal American Red Maple, but it is a really hungry urchin. Sapping the life out of the soil and giving nothing back. Until it starved to death, anyway.” Yuuka swings her parasol over her shoulder. “So, what are you here for?”
“Um...I think there’s more of them, growing in a cavern near my bridge. They’ve gotten someone hurt so I’m looking for someone to, well, take care of the problem. And you’re the expert here. Also,” You say in a careful, measured tone. “One of my, um, sources told me to seek out someone with experience in the occult and the hidden, so I was wondering if you know how to find that one god with the doors and stuff.”
“Matara-jin?” The youkai of Four Seasons tilts her head, “Matara-jin...she is a god, have you tried praying to her?”
“I don’t need her blessings as a deity, I need her expertise in hidden things.” You reply, “I need someone to personally come down underground and see what the hell is going on with these trees and the weird dreams I’ve been having.”
Yuuka’s smug look abruptly changes to one of concern, “Strange dreams? You’ve been having strange dreams too?”
“Wait, you too?” You are surprised...and somewhat relieved that someone is in the same predicament as you.
Yuuka quickly shifts back to her dangerous expression. “Well, I suppose the root cause would be the poisonous tree I received from you, as the dreams came right after planting it in my Garden.”
“Does it involve a giant tree overtaking everything in a city?”
“No, it does not. My dreams were of walking through a desolate, grey desert under an equally grey sky, with no signs of life anywhere. Occasionally I’d see the husk of a tree, a battered ruin of a house, or the skeleton of an animal...or human...sticking out from the dusty sands. All the while, I was watched by something in the far distance, but the howling wind blowing the sand around makes it difficult to see.” Yuuka frowns, “I had three or four of these dreams, and they stopped after the tree withered up.”
“So the tree causes bad dreams, eh? What a weird youkai.” You don’t quite know what to make of Yuuka’s dream. It doesn’t sound similar to the creepy dream you had. But it does sound creepy in its own way. “Regardless...”
“It’s not a youkai, Miss Mizuhashi.”
“It’s not a youkai.” Yuuka’s face reflects just a shred of genuine worry, “It doesn’t have a soul. In fact, it responds less to songs than the other plants. I can only discern that it is poisonous, but not much more.”
“Huh...” You scratch your head, “No soul...well, it sounds like something we ought to consult Matara-jin for. You have any idea of how to get her to show up?”
“Considering how you’ve been calling upon her name repeatedly, she’s already sent a servant.” Yuuka tilts her head at something behind you. “See?”
You turn around and let out a very human-girly shriek as you see the person crawling out of a door that had opened on your back without you even noticing. Dressed in a tasteful magenta dress with a rather neutral culture, and with an eboshi on her head, this person is, well, someone you’re not familiar with. But she is definitely a Gensokyean.
“Hyeh!” She springs out of the door and lands with an agile tumble on the ground. The door closes behind her, and disappears shortly after, leaving you somewhat bewildered.
“Nishida Satono, answering your call.” Satono dusts herself off and bows, “What might this seeker of Lady Matara be in need of?”
“An explanation for the mysterious bad dreams and poisonous trees we’ve been getting.” Yuuka answers for you, “As your master trades in hidden information, consulting her is a logical thing to do.”
“Poisonous trees?” She follows Yuuka’s pointed parasol to the circle of desolation left by the sapling. “Ah, that kind of poison! We’ve never seen it come from a tree before, but that grey-ish desolation is a sickness of the mind. It’s a poison that latches on to the soul, and can induce despair in even plants and bacteria!”
“Eh? Can bacteria even feel despair?” You ask, incredulous.
“With the proper magical intervention, they can. This is very rare though, very very rare. Last time we’ve seen it was during a...” Satono freezes up, and then coughs loudly, “Ahem Ahem. Before I reveal that knowledge, I must follow Lady Matara’s directives and purify both of you first. I can draw out the bad mental energy of the disease, but you two will have to sever it yourselves.”
“And how will we do that?”
“It’s different for everyone, and probably easier if you do it to each other rather than yourselves.” Satano moves to a position between you and Yuuka, and begins a gentle, fluttering dance. “Turn around, and close your eyes.”
With some suspicion, you do just that. Then you feel a sudden jolt, as if you are falling, and you involuntarily open your eyes.
You find yourself still standing in the Garden of the Sun, except it seems odd. The sunflowers are all drooping, and their petals are a pale, deathly yellow. No sound of insects or fairies can be heard, just the sound of a large wind blowing through the plants, making a crumbly sound. Wait, a crumbly sound?
You look past the sunflowers. All of the other plants appear to be dead.
The sky is unusually grey despite there being no clouds, and you can’t see the sun. You try to fly upwards to get a better look, but nothing happens. Flight magic doesn’t seem to work here. You do succeed in conjuring up some danmaku bullets though, so you’re not completely defenseless
You then turn your attention to something that is in front of you. What appears to be Yuuka is standing under the tree, with her back turned to you. From what you can see, however, her hair is greying, and her dress is tattered. She doesn’t have her parasol either.
[×] Ambush I'm not sure this is the right option even if ots the one I'm choosing. If its a matter of despair then it very well may *require* us to talk. But my hindering is telling me shoot now, so I'm going to vote to shoot.
'Sickness of the mind' 'latches onto the soul' leads me to believe what we're seeing are the particular symptoms the 'grey desolation' has on Yuuka. If I had to guess it's something like a parasite and I'm basing a lot of my conclusions that follow off of that. If it were that, it seemed fitting that Bob Ross would describe it as an 'infantile thought'. Comparing it to Parsee's nightmare, I'd equate the zombified underground dwellers with the wilting flowers and the grey skies and desert with the missing artificial sun. The difference looks to be that Yuuka has not directly encountered the core "being" of her dreams; while she found dried up bones, dead trees and empty huts she was 'watched by something' but it never revealed itself to her. She simply wandered a grey and desolate place. It could be that whatever "it" is doesn't want to confront Yuuka directly. Parsee is far easier prey or rather a less resistant host, thus more volatile dreams and hallucinations. There's also the voice that exploits the painful memories of her past life; remember her trip to the surface. It all comes from the same source, I think.
I honestly doubt that what we're seeing is really already 'the sickness' but rather, repeating myself here, one of the apparitions it spawns. Instead I'd want to walk away and see if we can find what has been watching Yuuka in her dreams. I've already had the thought that it the distant figure could have been Parsee somehow, but it fails to make sense since it was specifically the planting of the tree that caused her dreams. This seems like a pretty important coice right now, so I want to know what you think.
>>16866 This is a well-thought-out argument, and I agree with your interpretation of Withered Yuuka. However, Saitono is currently drawing "out the bad mental energy of the disease”, which requires Yuuka and Parsee to "sever" it themselves. These instructions, which come directly from Okina's servant and by proxy Okina herself, imply: >That Parsee and Yuuka are encountering the manifestation of each other's disease; and >That this disease is to be attacked and destroyed. I think Parsee should attack Withered Yuuka with extreme prejudice. Not convinced that I should change my vote.
If this disease needs to be physically severed, then you must go on the attack. You’re not used to fighting without danmaku, but you’re still a youkai, with all of the flesh-ripping strength that implies.
Taking a moment to get ready, you then lunge forward, crossing the distance between you and “Yuuka” in an instant. Aiming for her neck, you succeed in stretching your fingers around it and squeezing.
Bones crack and blood vessels burst as you compress, distorting “Yuuka”’s flesh like so much taffy.
Then, with a loud “pop”, the head comes right off in a spray of dust. It rolls for a bit in front of you revealing a heavily cracked face, like the surface of a dirt road after months of drought, and empty eye sockets. You can’t help but stare into those pits of darkness for a few moments, until you suddenly feel something grab ahold of your wrist.
“Yuuka” flings you aside with great force, sending you crashing into a copse of dead flowers. Gritting your teeth, you look up to see the headless body flail around for a bit, swinging at the air with great force. It moves oddly, the limbs flapping in a way that reminds you of a marionette. A strange light is also coming out of the neck stump, with a strange color that you can’t quite discern.
“So it can live with out a head?” You mutter to yourself. “Let’s try the heart then.”
You walk around the “Yuuka”, looking to see if it reacts at all to your movement. Seeing no sign, you make another lunge, aiming to drive your fist straight through its chest.
“Yuuka” lets out some strange noises as it flings itself away from your strike. Again, like a marionette, without any leg motion other than a drifting movement. It then flings itself back over immediately, much to your surprise, and knocks you down.
You roll immediately to avoid the puppet’s fist punching down on you, and sweep your leg in response, aiming to trip it. You succeed in making the legs flail, but it doesn’t fall down. Rather, it only continues to “stand” in place, aiming flailing arm after flailing arm at your general direction.
You scoot back and pop yourself back upright. The thing isn’t very smart, or perhaps it can’t sense things as well with its head removed? It sure can’t use magic, but it is very tough, and quite agile. If only you had some spell that could cheat your way past its martial skills…
Oh right, you do!
“Tongue Cut Sparrow: Large Box and Small Box!” You declare, holding your spell card up in the air. Bullets begin firing out from your location, bright but harmless danmaku bullets. More importantly though, you conjure up a doppelganger, formed of foam and shadow.
Your doppelganger moves first, with a springing pounce onto the marionette. It is easily dodged as the marionette leaps away...right into a massive burst of bullets from your hand. Danmaku bullets don’t kill, of course, but they do hurt like hell, and throwing enough mud at the wall will eventually bring some sort of result, right?
The marionette crumples back slightly from the danmaku barrage, then rears up, and charges straight at you. Thinking quickly, you step off to the side and have your doppelganger come in for a block. It steps in, crossing its arms as the puppet connects with its fist. The doppelganger is sent flying back, but it buys you just enough time to step back in while the marionette is wide open.
You stiffen your hand into a claw, yell, and thrust. Your hand pierces its cracked skin and shatters glass as it penetrates the thing’s chest. Feeling something pulsating, you squeeze. Something splatters all over your hand, and the marionette jitters a few times, before finally falling still.
You pull your hand out, allowing the body to fall to the ground. It is covered in some strange fluid, again with a strange color you can’t quite discern. It feels like a cross between red and green, but any effort for your brain to compare it to something you’ve seen before just generates headaches.
“Done here?” Satono’s voice calls out, seemingly from above. “I can sense her mental energy clearing up.”
“I suppose so.”
You blink. The blue sky is laid out before your eyes on the front, and dirt digs into your hair on the back. With aching limbs you push yourself back up.
You’re back in the real Garden of the Sun. The saturated colors come as a relief. You had worried that you might’ve been trapped in that mental landscape.
“You’ve been out for almost ten minutes.” Yuuka says, “Was my infection that dug in?”
“Ten minutes? It felt much shorter than that.” You scratch your head, getting some of the dirt off of it. “Your infection was agile and hard to catch, and I’m not exactly a fighter. Not everyone can just blow apart foes with magic like you...”
“True.” Yuuka then turns to Satono, “Miss Nishida, there’s a grove of similarly possessed trees underground. Would you mind accompanying us down there?”
“Um...” Satono acts stiff for a few moments, as if listening to a voice only she could hear, before resuming talk. “Yes, I will. But I must ask that Miss Mizuhashi not to accompany us.”
“What?” You protest, “The bridge is my responsibility! I should definitely be there to make sure that other people don’t get all the—-I mean, to make sure that the extermination process is complete.”
Satono sighs, “Miss Mizuhashi, can I share something with you?”
She leans in and whispers in your ear, while Yuuka pretends not to notice. “The disease affects those with unresolved issues the most. If you go, the chance of re-infection is high. It may even be worse that what you had, since you reported that there’s an increased density of the trees.”
“What no! I don’t have...issues...Hey, what is this disease's origin anyway? You haven't told us...”
“No seriously, trust Lady Matara on this one. The threat posed by this disease is beyond your duty to handle as a bridgekeeper. It is...not something from Gensokyo.”
[ ] Insist that you go along anyway [ ] Take Satono’s advice and stay away and do something else
[X] Take Satono’s advice and stay away and do something else
When people I know have issues they don't do pansy stuff like "confront them in a safe and controlled manner," or "attempt to seek help with their developing mental issues," they go find the nearest place with alcohol and get blackout drunk like really mfs. Go get so riddled with alcohol that a stray spark could immolate the surrounding area within a seven meter radius parsee!
Or do something that isn't intensely self destructive, if you want to be boring.
[X] Take Satono’s advice and stay away and do something else.
Something else eh? Something else...well, you could always tour around the surface for a bit. You’re well stocked up on fruits, but there’s always more to look around and grow jealous of.
You are Mizuhashi Parsee, and today you will have some fun on the surface. Your wallet isn’t quite as full as it was right after the art sale, so no frivolous spending, but there’s always sights to see and things to hear, particularly since you don’t visit the surface much at all.
With nothing particularly in mind, you pick a direction randomly and fly, keeping low to the ground so as to remain aware of anything interesting that might be going on. You pick up fairies playing amidst the trees, the occasional youkai or human traveling by foot, and wild animals, many of whom are not really seen underground.
Thinking to pick up some pictures for reference, you descend upon some of the unsuspecting creatures and snap shots of them with your handy-dandy smartphone. It’s apparently not one of the latest models according to the internet, but for you it does the job. You scare away many of them before you get a chance to take a picture, but some of the slower, or perhaps dumber, ones remain still for just long enough for you to obtain reference material.
You could just open up Google and get material that way, with the internet and all, but you’d rather get your own. After all, you are from the “boonies” as you claimed on stream, so you should be sharing things from this very “boonie”. Gensokyo’s flora and fauna aren’t much different from those of Outside World Japan, if Google is to be trusted, but you’d wager that there’s just enough divergency to be noticeable in art.
Before you know it, you’re flying over the Misty Lake, which isn’t quite as misty as it usually is due to the time of day. It’s almost noon, and you’re getting rather hungry. Today’s mental exertions in the Garden of the Sun have made you quite tired, and your stomach is growling.
There’s that Scarlet Devil’s mansion nearby. You’ve heard that they spontaneously take in guests, but that’s a high bar to clear.
The lake itself has some fish swimming near the surface, and you can probably grab a few of them if you’re willing to get wet, but then you can just dry off by a fire. You are knowledgeable enough to put your things by the shore if you’re going to dive.
Or...you can only eat the rice balls you brought along, but that’s boring.
[ ] Go up to the Mansion’s gates [ ] Jump in the Lake [ ] Do neither of the above
The water is freezing, the deep lake largely unaffected by the sun. But you feel like engaging in some physical activity, and you really want some fish right now.
You set up a fire pit by the shore first, coaxing a spark into a flame and then into a roaring bonfire. Taking off most of your clothes and setting down your traveling pack near the fire, you stretch for a few minutes, making sure to get all the tension out lest your muscles cramp up in the lake. Then, you fly back up near the lake’s surface, flying so close to the surface that you can feel the mist touching your bare skin.
You spot some fish, and immediately dive. Unfortunately, the shock of the icy cold water immediately numbs your upper body despite your mental preparation, and you wind up having no fish in hand and jittering hands. The fish all get away.
Muttering a curse of jealousy for the fish and their capability to swim and tolerate these cold temperatures, you take a deep breath and begin skimming along the surface, letting your body acclimate to the freezing waters through its cold vapor. Your skin burns from the cold, and you can feel your heart work faster to avoid frostbite.
Spotting another group of fish, you rush in, sending as much of your magic into flight speed as you can.
You break the surface with your knee first, shocking the fish. Then, with clawed fingers, you grasp at them with enough force to choke out a human. The fish are slippery, but since you’re using enough strength to leave indents in their flesh, they do not escape...well, it’s more that you kind of killed them instantly by breaking their spines.
[x] Call for Tewi
Who’s Tewi? The faint compulsion to call for a small white rabbit enters your brain as you raise your head out of the cold water, gasping. You kind of feel like doing it, but your stomach isn’t really in the mood for rabbit meat, you think to yourself as you emerge from the lake, dripping wet.
[x] Cook eggs
You didn’t bring any eggs, and you’re not really interested in plundering the nearby bird nests. Shame, they would’ve gone well with the fish.
You plop down next to the fire and hurriedly gut the fish by ripping it open and tearing out the unsavory bits. Then you close the fish back up tightly (again, sort of by smushing the flesh together with your strength), cover them in the mud dug up from the lake side, and toss them into the fire.
After cleaning your hands off in the lake, you get back by the fire and lie down on the grass. You didn’t bring a towel so you have to wait for the heat to dry you off completely. It’s definitely not an unpleasant feeling. In fact, it sort of feels like a bathhouse. Except unlike the onsen underground, here you can see the clear blue sky, the tops of many trees, and the chirping of many more birds than the paltry few that dwell underground, even after the Artificial Sun allowed some limited forestation to take place.
It’s nice and tranquil, and the air smells sweeter than it does underground. Perhaps sometime in the future you can transfer to a bridge above ground? That is a possibility, but you’re sure that nobody really wants a hashihime to occupy a bridge. It’s just common sense. The oni can tolerate you, but you are sure humans won’t.
But who knows? Maybe the surface would get tiresome and you’d long for your previous abode underground.
“Hey you! Whatcha doing here?”
You turn your head. Someone’s head and shoulders are protruding from the lake. Another swimmer? No, those are fins instead of ears on her head. And is that a...giant fish tail flapping in the water behind her.
“A mermaid?” You say, slowly and with confusion, “When did the Lake get a mermaid?”
“I’ve been living here for a long time! You must not come to the Lake much.” The mermaid frowns. Just what are her clothes made of? You wonder. She’s wearing a frilly kimono in accordance with Gensokyean fashion, but it’s noticeably not soaked with water. Could it be one of those synthetic fabrics? Or is it just magical?
“Must be nice having such fine fabrics for your clothes.” You mutter darkly, before deciding to answer her question, “Actually, I haven’t been to the surface world much at all, I live underground, you see.”
“Living underground?” The mermaid says, inquisitive, “Is it like living underwater? Can you breathe underground?”
“No, I live in a huge cavern which was once Hell. Well, not in Old Hell necessarily, but I manage the bridge that leads there.” It feels weird telling a stranger about your occupation. Why is this mermaid so willing to talk anyway? Must be nice to feel so comfortable with strangers.
“A bridgekeeper? That’s interesting, even when I lived in the rivers I haven’t met more than one or two people whose living was from keeping a bridge.”
“It’s a very big bridge, enough that I have my house under it. It’s a full-time job to take care of it and look after the people who cross it.”
Well, look after may be too kind of a phrase to describe your routine harassment of people, particularly couples, crossing the bridge, but this mermaid doesn’t need to know that.
“That’s so interesting! A bridge that can fit a house underneath it! Is it noisy?”
“Not that many people cross the bridge, it’s mostly oni looking to trade stuff on the surface and spiders coming down to the city. It’s more that the bridge is very old and needs someone to look after it constantly lest it falls apart like a rusty cart.”
“Oh, speaking of falling apart!” The mermaid disappears underwater for a few moments, and then comes back up with a large, rusting metal box. “I found this at the lake bottom. I had no luck opening it, mind having a look at it?”
“Uh, sure?” You walk over to the mermaid and take a closer look at the box. It is very definitely rusty, and there are gaps in the metal. You can’t quite see what’s inside though, but…
“I have just the tool for the job!” You fish around in your pack for the claw hammer you always carry around, mostly so you can quickly nail in a few straw dolls wherever you want (you don’t usually leave the bridge much before these times, but you keep these tools in your pack just in case).
With the mermaid holding the box down, you slowly pry away at the side with the most amount of gaps with the claw, tearing apart the rusty joints as your combined strength overcomes the remnant stability of the box. Finally, after a couple of minutes, the side of the box is pried wide open, and inside...
What’s in the box, what’s in the box, what’s in the box? It’s a set of knives! Antique, but somehow still pristine and unrusted by the water. It is a very odd collection: There is a wavy dagger, with an ornamented handle containing shapes that hurt your brain just by looking at it. A kitchen knife, with a handle that feels like it’s been used for hundreds of years. A razor, still smelling of hair products, somehow. And finally, a painting knife, which is technically not a real knife as it isn’t sharp, but still, it is part of the set. None of them look like they were made after the Meiji era.
You look at it, awestruck at the randomness of the selection. The mermaid just looks disappointed.
“Aww, I was hoping for gems or at least, shiny rocks.” She pouts and says.
“Really? These seem to be rust proof, surely someone like you will find them useful!”
The mermaid considers the knives for a few moments, then brightens up. “If that is the case, then I’ll take this one!” She picks out the kitchen knife. “This will be useful for cutting lakeweed and cleaning fish.”
“Aren’t you a...”
The mermaid looks at you a bit weirdly, “Fishes eat fish, is that strange?”
Your impression of mermaids is rather warped by western stories, “No, no, just ignore me on that.” You say as you gather up the other knives, “You want one of my baked fish? Since you provided the box and all.”
“Without you, I wouldn’t have gotten it open, and besides, I prefer my fish raw.” The mermaid says.
Wrapping up the knives and putting them securely into your pack, you watch as the mud around the fish crack and dry as the fire roasts, before pulling them out with a stick. Slowly, you peel the mud off, and the scales come off along with them.
“You sure you don’t want these?” You say, as your green eyes glow, “My my, these are some tasty looking fish.”
“No thanks, raw only.”
You frown. This mermaid really is one of those “need not, want not” types, eh? Nothing much to bait or evoke her emotions with. “By the way, I don’t believe we’ve properly introduced ourselves to each other.”
“Oh right! My name’s Wakasagihime, I just, err, live here, in the Lake. Sometimes I keep outsiders from falling in.” “Eh? Outsiders? Anyway, my name is Mizuhashi Parsee, bridgekeeper of the underworld.” You don’t particularly like this person, but maybe you’ll find something to make her jealous of in the future, if you ever do decide to come by the lake.
“Nice to meet you, Parsee!” She skips right over your last name and directly calls you by your first. “Err, um, I don’t quite know what to say after this...”
“Hmm? Not a lot of visitors?” Your eyes flare up again. “I get many people crossing the bridge, every day.” You lie.
“No, I just don’t talk to many people. I talked to you because I saw you jump in the lake and thought you were one of those suicidal outsiders that keep coming in and ending up as corpses. But then I saw you making the fire and got curious.”
“Really, nobody else fishes in the lake like that?”
“People usually fish with fishing poles, so...”
You wonder why wild youkai aren’t fishing here like you were, and then you recall how freezing cold the water was. “That makes sense, right.”
The fish is delicious, or perhaps you are too hungry to taste the difference. It could use some salt though, but really, it’s mud-baked fish, what are you expecting? If you want fine dining you’d head to a restaurant.
Speaking of heading to places, where are you going after you’re done eating?
[ ] Head back underground [ ] Head somewhere else on the surface [ ] Somewhere in particular? _______
[x] Head somewhere else on the surface - [x] You need somewhere to stay while Yuuka is clearing the infestation. Maybe the Myouren temple is a good place to stay? This is no longer an /underground/ story.
[X] Head somewhere else on the surface [x] Somewhere in Particular? Kourindou. Check back on Rinnosuke.
Finishing up the fish, which fill up your empty stomach with a pleasant smoky aroma, you get dressed, say goodbye to Waggysaggy, and head off towards Kourindou. You did ask him to keep an eye out for Yukari for you, so now’s a good time to check up. Maybe you’ll get some answers to how people have been sending you things through the Border.
You fly over to the Forest of Magic, following your memory to where the shop is.
As you approach though, you hear...shouting, coming from the three people in front of the shop. Unwilling to get directly into an argument without preparation, you opt to land behind a tree near the shop instead.
There’s Rinnosuke, arms folded. He’s confronting a woman with strangely mechanical-looking horns and tail, who’s holding the hand of a very young girl, no older than eight. The girl has bandages around all of her right forearm.
“Thou gave word of this sword’s endurance, majesty, and excellent craftsmanship. It however hath broken in twain and injured mine charge on a practice swing. What more, it hath revealed itself to be no more than a simple toy in its internals. What say you, charlatan?” The older woman says menacingly.
“It still hurts.” The little girl says, sniffling.
“Please contact the manufacturer regarding your complaints.” Rinnosuke drones in a carefully maintained professional tone. “You have signed a waiver regarding the purchase of this item, which absolved this store of all responsibilities. The manufacturer is located at the Yakumo household, accessible through Mayohiga.”
“Thou art relying on trickery of pen and paper to stay mine wrath?” The older woman snarls, and you can see smoke coming out of her nostrils.
“If you want to complain about the laws of this land please contact a Sage of Gensokyo, one of whom is also the manufacturer you seek.” Rinnosuke rubs his head in irritation. “I gave you a return on the item, but that’s it. Now, unless you want to buy something else...”
The woman looks as if Rinnosuke just slapped her in the face. More smoke comes out of her pores, and she begins unsheathing the straight sword she’s carrying. “I would advise thee to choose thy next words carefully...”
“Sword of Kusanagi, a dragon felling blade.” Rinnosuke responds by unsheathing his own sword. “I know how to use it, miss.”
With a “harrumph”, smoke stops pouring into the air and the woman backs up. “Brutish. But I shall concede the argument. Urchin!” She grabs ahold of the little girl’s hand, “We are leaving now.”
The little girl sticks her tongue at Rinnosuke, who reacts with an eye roll. The duo departs into the trees, and right afterwards you see something...big, and metallic, erupt from the canopy of the forest, disappearing quickly into the sky at a flight speed you cannot hope to match.
Rinnosuke is still staring at the departing monster when you come out from behind the tree, “Bad customer?”
“Can’t say that. She paid for the item initially at full price, that’s better than most of my regulars.” The shopkeeper sheathes the Kusanagi. “Miss Mizuhashi? You’re not here because the printer doesn’t work, right?”
“Oh, I haven’t really used it yet.” You admit, “I’m here to see if you’ve talked with Yukari recently, but it appears from your argument with that customer that you haven’t.”
“No...but I did talk with her shikigami.” Rinnosuke says as he kicks at the broken greatsword on the ground, which you can see now is hollow with a bit of electronics embedded within. “Nothing too productive though, Ran has no idea of how you’re getting items shipped to you, and from what she knows about the Outside World company there is absolutely no way they can ship anything here, breached border or no.”
“So...you’ve found out nothing then.”
“Well, Ran did raise the possibility that it could be a magical entity masquerading as the company, but she has no idea why it would be interested in sending you ‘streaming’ equipment.”
Sudden realization, “Oh...”
“Hmm?” Rinnosuke looks at you, “That was relevant?”
“Someone WAS masquerading as Twitch staff and messaging me, and that person was the one who also told me he was sending me stuff. So that thing was supernatural after all...a supernatural hacker...”
“Well I guess that answers your question. Someone or something was giving you these things. Now the question is: how can that thing do it, and why?” Rinnosuke scratches his chin, “You mentioned that your connection weakens the barrier around your local area, but how does that thing physically move across the barrier? And why you in particular?”
“Maybe...they like me?” You say hopefully, involuntarily jiggling your ears, “I have been getting positive attention on the internet when I stream. So perhaps this mysterious hacker wanted me to succeed in streaming.”
“That could be a possibility,” Rinnosuke says in a tone that indicates his relative disbelief at your assumptions, “But I wouldn’t be too optimistic about it. The Outside World is a complicated place that we can understand little of. It is more than likely that this entity has ulterior motives.”
Rinnosuke is mostly right. While at this point you probably know more about the Outside World than him through the internet, you have no idea of what magic users and similar entities are like out there. It is entirely possible that they are using you in some sort of Yukari-esque ploy to accomplish some unknowable end.
Or maybe it is just Yukari fooling around again.
“So, just asking for your opinion...should I keep streaming?”
“You never did explain what you were doing on the internet, Miss Mizuhashi. What’s ‘streaming’?”
You take a few minutes to explain to Rinnosuke what streaming is, how you record yourself and broadcast the footage to many people around the world live. You also explain how streamers operate, how most of them play ‘video games’ (Rinnosuke seems to recognize what those are, at least), but some of them do talent streams instead, like yourself. You mention how streaming is very interactive, how the people watching you will talk in chat and how you are expected to respond to them.
Rinnosuke mostly nods along, not entirely understanding but getting enough to comprehend. As you finish explaining, he remarks, “So, it’s like one of those newfangled ‘interactive plays’ the Village kids and younger youkai are into, but on the internet?”
“Pretty much, I guess.”
“Hmm...given you’re only known over the internet to these people, as long as they only know you as Mizuhashi297, and not your full name or occupation, it should be safe.” Rinnosuke looks away for a moment, then back, “Of course, I’m just an inexperienced observer in this. Asking someone who has had experience with the internet is probably better. However, neither Yukari nor that outsider are here right now.”
“Well that’s a shame.” Something else suddenly crosses your mind, and you take out the knives from your pack, “Hey, Mr. Morichika, I found these knives in a box in the Misty Lake today, can you identify them?”
“Paint knife, used for western-style paintings.” Rinnosuke says as he goes over the knives one by one, “Shaving razor. Men’s. Used for shaving beards in the morning. Sacrificial dagger, used for...”
He frowns, turning the wavy dagger over and over.
“Sacrifices? I’m having trouble discerning the exact purpose of this dagger. It’s definitely used to sacrifice something, but not humans, animals, or anything you would expect a dagger like this to target. It doesn’t even appear to be meant for anything living.”
You take the dagger back from Rinnosuke, who is quite glad to unhand it. It is cold and sharp, and gives off an eerie aura of stillness. Rinnosuke’s observation is most likely accurate though: This dagger doesn’t look like it’s very good at stabbing into flesh with how wavy it is. It does however, look very good for stabbing into curse dolls.
“Thanks for the identification.”
“No problem.” Rinnosuke moves as if to leave, then stops. “Say, Miss Mizuhashi, would you like to stay over for tea? I desperately wish to know more...err, the internet sounds like a very interesting entity, and I would like to hear you talk more about it.”
Sure, why not? It’s not like you have a lot of people to talk to IRL about the internet. Wait, did you just think with the word “IRL”?
You talk with Rinnosuke about the intricacies and diverse offerings the internet has throughout the afternoon. You have much to say about the many sites you’ve been on and the people you’ve encountered, especially during your first week on the internet where you just went nuts. Enough that by the time you ran out of things to say, the sun is setting.
“So, I guess I’ll be taking my leave then.” You say to Rinnosuke after finishing up the last cup of now cold tea.
“Feel free to stop by any time.” Rinnosuke says. He waves you off.
It’s getting dark, so you fly straight back to the entrance and down the tunnels without pausing to sightsee along the way.
Yuuka is floating past, muttering something with Satono. They perk up when they see you.
“Oh, hi Miss Mizuhashi,” Satono says, “We took care of the trees…but there’s a slight problem.”
“What’s the issue?”
“We cleared out the grove in that cave, but some of them looked like they’ve bore seed.” Yuuka explains, “Some of the seeds might have drifted off to other sections of the caves, so exterminating them could become an ongoing activity.”
Great, more things to add to your plate. “I’ll get some flyers printed and posted around this area to have people remove any noise-making trees on sight.” You sigh.
“Good idea, just make sure that you yourself don’t come into contact with them.” Yuuka stops talking for a few moments as Satono whispers something in her ear, “...Make sure to tell us if you spot a grove of them, we’ll handle it.”
Yuuka is acting really uncharacteristic. Normally she has this smug, poisonous aura around her, but right now she’s behaving just like a perfectly normal, helpful person. She’s not even smiling!
“...Got it.” You carefully reply.
Back at your house, you plop down in your armchair and try to get your affairs straightened out. First you need to go to the printer in Old Hell to get the warning flyers printed. Next you need to finish up some repairs on the bridge. Then you have to look into getting a water heater for your house, and also...
Oh right, your commission for SandwichEnthusiast.
[ ] Get your commissions page set up [ ] Get someone online to set up a commissions page for you [ ] Forget the commissions page for now and just DM SandwichEnthusiast to work out a price
Yes, Parsee, sink into the depths of internet-speak.
[×] Forget the commissions page for now and just DM SandwichEnthusiast to work out a price
With all that's going on, I think we should limit having too much actual contact with outsiders. At the very least, test the waters first; if everything goes well with SandwichEnthusiast, then we can start opening actual commissions.
[X] Forget the commissions page for now and just DM SandwichEnthusiast to work out a price I shall slay thee poseidon! Also I feel like a commissions page isn't *that* urgent since as long as Parsee makes sure she's paid before she sends them a scan she should be fine. But mostly death to poseidon!
[X] Forget the commissions page for now and just DM SandwichEnthusiast to work out a price
First though, you go and finish up repairs on the bridge while the Artificial Sun is still bright enough for you to see. Mostly you just have to replace a support beam which is rotting, which takes some effort to pry out the nails. But afterwards, replacing it with fresh timber is easy, since you have more than enough experience hammering in nails.
You briefly wonder if using the wood from those weird trees will increase the amount of time it takes before the timber rots, and then immediately dismiss it as a bad idea.
Finishing it up, you coat it with waterproof paint and then redo the pattern of trees and mushrooms you’ve painted across the bridge. It’s quite aesthetic, you reckon. Maybe more people will show up at the bridge if you make it pretty enough.
You’ll probably hit up the printers tomorrow since they’re closed by now, and you’re going to have to make a special trip to hit up the kappa for a water heater. Hell, you’re probably have to convince a kappa to come down here with you to rig up the water heater to the piping of the hodge-podge water tower and filter system that feeds from the river to your house.
So, you sit down in front of your computer, pop open Twitch, and look up SandwichEnthusiast’s profile. He’s online! You click on the option to send a whisper, and a chat box opens up.
>Mizuhashi297: Heya, SandwichEnthusiast, let’s work out what exactly you want for the commission and decide on a price for it.
You wait a few minutes. Maybe he’s AFK.
>SandwichEnthusiast: Hello, missus, I’m his wife.
>Mizuhashi297: Did you just call me “missus”?
>SandwichEnthusiast: I call men mister and women missus, what’s odd about that?
>Mizuhashi297: Nevermind that. Mrs. SandwichEnthusiast? Is that what I should call you?
>SandwichEnthusiast: My usual online handle is dark_quietude.
>Mizuhashi297: Alright, dark_quietude. You said you want a hedgehog painting for your nursery right? What amount of effort do you want? Detailed background? Life-like detail on the animal? Also, I’m afraid I can’t ship the actual painting over since I’m way out in the boonies, so you’re getting a scan and I hope that’s okay. But you also won’t have to pay full price for the commission!
>SandwichEnthusiast: It’s fine, we can get a replica made of your original work for cheap. What me and my husband really wants is your particular brand of art. Persian artists who are willing to do work are very hard to find.
>Mizuhashi297: So, the specs, Ms.dark_quietude?
>SandwichEnthusiast: A detailed background, preferably a flowering garden or something cute and fluffy like that. Only one subject, the hedgehog, obviously. Canvas would be whatever you use usually, missus.
You take a few moments to look up commission prices for amateur artists on the internet. There’s a wide range, but most of them also deliver the original painting, so...
>Mizuhashi297: Yes at email@example.com, only way I can get money from the Outside World right now.
You put your hand up to your mouth as you realized that you just typed something weird.
>SandwichEnthusiast: You’re that cut-off? It really is a miracle that you still have internet where you live.
You really need to watch what you type. People will begin thinking you’re weird if you begin talking about Gensokyo and the Outside World as they are. Outsiders don’t know of this place, after all, and a Sage might come down on your head if you don’t hold up the masquerade.
Again, why did Yukari give you in particular internet access?
>Mizuhashi297: $100 first, the rest when I finish it. Acceptable?
>SandwichEnthusiast: Oh, of course! I can’t wait for the painting to be finished, missus.
>Mizuhashi297: That will be tomorrow.
And so you’ve secured yourself another sum of money that you can’t access. Maybe you can ask Rinnosuke’s pet Outsider to pull you the funds from the Outside World? You’ve heard that she can bring in things from the Outside World along with her, so perhaps using her as a courier service wouldn’t be too far off?
Your jealousy flares up at the thought of her abilities. How come some teenaged loser like her gets to hop through the Border like it's made of holes? How come you are prohibited from reaping the fruits of your labor directly?
But that is definitely a solution. You’ll make sure to get into contact with Sumireko or whatever if you meet her at Kourindou. She’ll probably agree if you let her keep some of the money, and it’s not like she can just take the money and run, right? You have control over the Paypal account and thus where your Twitch and commission money goes.
Selling paintings to the oni, getting donations for doing the painting on stream, getting commission money from people asking you to do the paintings...you can easily double or triple your low income as a bridgekeeper from your skills.
Why didn’t you do this sooner? Even if you didn’t have the internet, you always had the oni and the spiders to impress and farm jealousy from.
Because you’re a scummy hashihime who spent her time tormenting travellers just to fulfill your appetite for jealousy.
You end the chat and lean back, looking at your canvas and easel. You can probably take a couple of commissions with the speed you can work, and…
Lording it over these humans with your cheating, stolen lifespan is bad, Parsee.
Make even more money that way! Maybe that water heater won’t break the bank after all!
It’s nighttime now, the Sun has shut off, what do?
[ ] Just go to bed [ ] Go hit up the bars in celebration of your new business plans [ ] Go chill and drink at the hot springs
The hot springs are an infrequent haunt for you, even in relation to your already rare outings to Old Hell. Mostly it is because those places are full of oni like the rest of Old Hell, but those oni are also naked and almost as drunk as they are at the bars. While you are content feeling jealous of their muscular bodies in the springs, you’re not particularly fond of dealing with their rowdy behavior.
But that’s before. Tonight, you feel like a big shot. You’re going to hit up the springs to feel jealous AND there’s nothing those oni can stop you from doing it!
You confidently stroll into the bathhouse with your wooden tub of toiletries, attracting the curious glances of many an oni who are unused to the sight of someone like you doing things in public. After quickly washing yourself up, you practically skip over to the massive pool that constitutes this primary onsen of Old Hell and hop in, making a splash as you enter the water.
It’s a busy day, and the pool is filled with oni chatting and drinking from the numerous floating coasters holding sake. Normally an onsen is separated by gender, but the lack of concern typically displayed by oni means that they haven’t even bothered paving the perimeter of the pool, much less set up a separation barrier.
Drinks and snacks are paid for at the front, so you just grab an empty cup and pour yourself a drink. For humans, getting drunk in the onsen is something to be avoided, but you can handle alcohol better than that, obviously.
The warm sake goes well with the heat, and you soon find yourself practically melting into the onsen. It is so soothing, especially after the manual labor and other physical activities you were doing throughout the day. That’s right Parsee, just relax and let go of your worries…
The oni nearest to you has bright red hair and a very chiseled set of abs. You don’t quite want to get that shredded, but you could use some more muscle on your body. Why do these damn oni get to have these kinds of bodies seemingly without effort and on a diet of roughly 60% alcohol anyway? That’s so unfair. Last time you allowed yourself to indulge on homemade halva you actually gained flab on your arms!
You hum to yourself as you pleasantly stew in your jealousy. It’s comforting, like warm blankets in cold weather. This one has more luscious hair than you. That one has a curvier body than you. The other one over there...well she seems content, which is something that your very existence cannot support. Jealous. Jealous. Jealous.
You do make sure that you don’t dwell on any particular individual for too long. That would be counterproductive to your experience of relaxing at the onsen. The uncomfortable atmosphere that would be caused by the oni giving you a wide berth is bad both for your non-jealousy seeking instincts and your jealousy ones. However, the opposite of that, their gregarious nature…
“Hey, bridgekeeper! Interesting seeing you here!”
The voice is faintly familiar, and you trace it to an oni with a single red horn on her head and a body that you would cut off an arm for. Hoshiguma Yuugi, one of Old Hell’s chiefs as one of the Four Devas of the mountain. You weren’t around in Japan back when she was really in her prime doing oni things with Shuten-douji, so it is safe to say that you don’t quite respect her station as native Japanese youkai tend to. Still, she is ridiculously strong, and had once knocked you all the way across the bridge in a danmaku fight.
“Miss Hoshiguma...nice to meet you...” You cautiously say, maintaining a neutral expression in response to her beaming smile.
“Nice seeing ya too! It’s not often that we get to see your face in Old Hell!” She wades over, making tremendous ripples in the water along the way. You cower a bit as she kind of towers over you...and most of the surrounding oni, who appear to be quite entertained at the interaction. “So what brings you out here t’night?”
“Can’t a bridgekeeper just use the onsen in peace—-”
You blink. Out of the corner of your eye is an afro, and a winking face.
You blink again, and it’s gone. This bit of stimuli throws you off completely. Your brain short circuits.
“---Since my shoulders were sore from working all day. Oww...”
“Ah yeah, that’s definitely a good reason.” Yuugi reaches over and pours you another drink. You on the other hand, have partially frozen up at being so open about your problems. “So, word on the street is that you’ve been going into painting, eh?”
“I...I’ve always been dabbling in painting.” There wasn’t much to do under a bridge, after all. “It’s not a new thing for me.”
“It’s just a bit curious to us that this Bob Ross fella turned you off from your usual occupation that you’ve been doing for centuries.” The oni takes a swig from her dish. Does her arm not get sore from holding that thing up all the time?
“He really pissed me off, okay! Bob Ross made me very jealous of his success and influence, so I vowed to take away what he has...by defeating him in views!”
“Um, like, the amount of views our paintings get from people. Bob Ross has had a boatload of people view his paintings in the Outside World, so if I can surpass him, then I can take what he has!”
Out of the corner of your eye, the afro appears again, with a thumbs up. You seethe a little.
“That’s a weird way to measure success...but I suppose it does make some sense.” Yuugi sips on her sake dish, “Popularity is a powerful magical force after all, and leads to all kinds of unexplained magical phenomena—-my specialty.”
“You mean, like that Hopeless Masquerade incident?” You’ve watched some of the battles during that, but didn’t quite know anything other than the cheers influencing the outcomes, unlike most danmaku battles.
“Exactly.” Yuugi seems quite happy about this topic, “Popularity empowers a person. Primarily, it gives them influence over the minds of their followers, as a non-magical effect that applies even in the Outside World. If you’re popular, people will listen to what you have to say. The thing is, popularity also works on things that are not people, or even sentient. Spirits and winds of magical power are drawn to the popular like moths to a flame. In a magic-sparse environment like Outside, this just means that popular people have strange bonuses to their features, like a more charming voice or a stronger grip strength, along with an increased likelihood for bizarre incidents. In Gensokyo...you become stronger in all respects, full stop.”
“Stronger?” Come to think of it, you have been getting way more things done per day than you did before you started streaming and sharing your art. “I suppose I did get stronger, but that’s not enough.” Your eyes gleam with emerald emotions, “Bob Ross is far stronger than I am, and I cannot beat him, not yet.”
You don’t have the heart to tell Yuugi that Bob Ross was an ordinary human with no powers, and is currently not even living.
“From the way you talk, Bob Ross really is a force to be reckoned with.” Yuugi sinks down into the onsen, submerging her body again and no longer shadowing you. “I sure would like to trade blows with him, especially since he poofed away just like many unexplainable phenomena.”
So she’s taken an interest in this human as well. With the other oni, it’s whatever. But with this Deva whose core ability revolves around modulating supernatural phenomena...hmm...
[ ] Tell Yuugi that Bob Ross has been “manifesting”. [ ] Keep quiet
[X] Tell Yuugi that Bob Ross has been “manifesting”. Bob, you really shouldn't be doing this while Parsee is in the hot springs. I think it would be very much in-character for Parsee to mention Bob out of her own current annoyance, especially if he currently falls under the subject of what Yuugi has control over.
[X] Tell Yuugi that Bob Ross has been “manifesting”.
Sure actual bob ross wouldnt be a great fight, but we dnt know if this is actually bob ross or not, so it might be an idea to get the help of an expert on bullshit we dont understand. And even if it is bob ross (Lord bless all us happy little accidents) he clearly needs to be reminded that respectable men dont peek on women in the bath! They get permission to join them in it instead. Make the peeking all mutual-like.
[X] Tell Yuugi that Bob Ross has been “manifesting”
“Oh? So this fella has been popping up around the place, and only you can see him?” Yuugi asks with great interest.
“It’s really been annoying me lately, especially when he did it just a few moments ago.” You complain. Bob Ross has been somewhat helpful, but you really don’t appreciate someone butting into your life like that.
“Let me see if I can replicate this particular phenomenon now that I know what’s going on.” Yuugi drains her dish, and clutches her fist. Immediately you feel the sensation of being pulled into something, as if someone is tugging on your head and dragging you in Yuugi’s direction. However, you notice that you are not physically moved.
“Hmm, it’s reacting with you...oh!”
You turn towards where Yuugi is looking. There he is clearly, Bob Ross, positioned between two male oni and just enjoying the onsen, apparently.
He waves at the two of you, but doesn’t say anything. The other oni in the onsen don’t appear to see him.
“See, there! That’s Bob Ross!” You shout at Yuugi.
“That’s Bob Ross?” Yuugi says incredulously, “That can’t be right. He’s way too scrawny. Even you can probably beat him in a fight, Parsee.”
“Uh...” Oh shit, you never did expect Bob Ross to actually show up for Yuugi. Now how are you going to explain that you were intimidated by him just because of his Twitch view count?
“Hey, Bob!” Yuugi calls out. Strangely, you don’t see any of the other oni react to her shouting. “You mind explaining how and why you got here?”
Bob Ross calmly wades over, “Hi, my friends. I came along with Miss Mizuhashi here.”
“Eh?” You can’t help but immediately protest, “I don’t remember you coming along with me!”
“You misunderstood, friend. For you see,” he smiles sadly, “I’m not the original Bob Ross, I’m a digital shade of his legacy. As such, I am bound by the rules that govern such shades...I believe, in your country, I am considered a type of living urban legend.”
Oh, right. THAT incident. Things have apparently been coming in from the Outside World at a regular pace. No wonder something like this could happen. “That still doesn’t explain why you are following me though?”
“I am bound to you Miss Mizuhashi, because you have stepped into the domain I haunt. By accessing my domain while positioned in an isolated land like yours...”
“You got dragged here by the osmosis effect that most unexplained phenomena obey.” Yuugi says, crossing her arms. “So you’ve been messing with the Outside World, Parsee?”
“I...uh...yeah...” You lower your head. “It’s this thing called the internet, and it’s what the Outside Worlders use to talk to each other, from one side of the world to another. A Sage gave me access though!”
“A Sage? Could Ibaraki...nah, she wouldn’t do it. Either way, this manifesting phantom is your problem.” Yuugi shrugs, before turning back to Bob Ross. “Though fighting an unexplained phantom sounds like it’ll be fun!”
“Oh no, I’m afraid that I will crumple in one light jab from you, Miss Hoshiguma. I really am not one for violence.” Bob Ross raises a palm, “How about a match of table tennis?”
“I suppose fighting an oni is too much to ask of a normal human, even an urban legend.” Yuugi’s been looking disappointed since she saw Bob Ross’s build. “Come then, the table’s in the recreation area over there.”
You watch as Yuugi gets out of the water and puts on her yukata. Bob Ross...wait, was he always wearing that bathrobe?
The recreation area is a large thatched roof structure with shogi tables, mahjong sets, and similar things. There’s a large space cleared for the stone table tennis table, which makes you wonder for a few moments at who exactly introduced this relatively modern sport into Gensokyo. Probably an outsider.
The oni use hollow metal balls and hardwood rackets. Yuugi takes up position with a racket at one end, while Bob Ross stands at the other...without a racket.
You are confused. Yuugi isn’t, as she tosses the ball to Bob. “You serve.”
“Thank you.” Out of seemingly nowhere, Bob Ross whips out a paintbrush and draws in the air. In front of your eyes a black racket of paint forms in mid air from his painting. Bob Ross then tosses the ball into the air, and quickly draws a speedline, causing the racket to chop at blinding speed which sends the ball flying at a grinding backspin towards Yuugi.
“Ohoho!” The oni retaliates with an overhand loop, using the maximum amount of strength she can use without denting the ball. Bob Ross rallies back with another chop, which is countered by a far-standing slice from Yuugi, sending a surprisingly soft ball you wouldn’t expect from an oni towards him.
Bob Ross draws an overhead smash line, but the racket hits the ball off to the side rather than towards the table. It veers off wildly and misses.
“Nice move. Nice little bit of unexplained spin mixed in.” Bob Ross says with a chuckle. “My pleasure.” The ball rolls back towards the oni, who picks it up. “Shall we go further?”
You, already somewhat dazed by the exchange, go “Huh?”
“Of course, let’s get some more little rackets up.” With a few strokes and dabs of his paintbrush he draws two more rackets in mid-air...with creaky tree branches to hold them.
Yuugi grins, tosses the ball all the way up to the ceiling, lets it fall down in an odd drift, and gives it a firm, simple hit with no spin. You can however feel the air flow from a spin as soon as it crosses the net.
One racket intercepts the ball and lobs it upwards, another racket comes down with a smash. The ball goes speeding down on Yuugi’s side of the table and bounces high, and she does a soft block, sending the ball flying even higher towards Bob Ross...before inexplicably plunging straight down like a dropped rock.
Bob Ross flourishes his brush, and two rackets engage the ball simultaneously. The ball skims forward from the double slice, catches on the edge of the net, and drops on Yuugi’s side, bouncing twice before she could reach it.
“Nice shot, buddy. Very sneaky” Yuugi grins, tossing the ball back over. “What say you, three rounds to 21?”
“Aha my friend, you’re on.” Bob Ross returns with a warm smile, and begins the serve with three rackets as one.
Round after round, the oni and the human exert their powers over the table, and with each serve the environment gets just a bit more crazy. They occasionally ask you for the score, and while you’ve been keeping it, your eyes have began turning crossed from watching the ball.
By the time the third round has ended. Bob Ross has painted a small forest of branches with rackets on them on his side, and Yuugi’s hits are sending the ball. flying in the pattern of butterflies. You are more than a little dizzy, and can only just barely stammer out, “12-10...round over, Yuugi wins 3-0.”
The oni’s strength and manipulation of the ball into unexplained movements were too much even for Bob Ross’s gang of rackets, but he put up a good fight every round, and often overtook Yuugi in score for increments.
“Good game, my friend.” Bob says as he swishes the paintbrush around, wiping away the branches and rackets. Yuugi laughs, and toasts him with her dish. Did she refill it in the middle of the match? Huh.
“How...how did you do that?” You ask the shade as he cleans off the brush, “There’s no urban legend that Bob Ross can paint things into existence!”
“No there isn’t. Miss Mizuhashi. This is something you can do as well.” Bob Ross says as he hands you the paintbrush, “This isolated land you live in is fraught with wonder, and with enough passion you can will your art into reality. Much like how one of your gods, Haniyasu, can breathe life into idols with her...uh...their gathered faith, so can you manifest your art through willpower.”
“And...you know this how?”
“Being a digital shade means I come into contact with many things I didn’t in life.” The shade does a few stretches, “Oh and, by the way, the thing that you asked me about earlier...it’s still here.”
A sudden chill runs down your spine. “You don’t mean...”
“Just a friendly warning. I believe that messenger of the hidden god wasn’t telling you nearly the whole truth.” And with that, the shade disappears in a blink.
“...So yeah, that’s what’s also been happening.” You say to Yuugi after explicating the entirety of your experience with the trees, the weird dreams, and the melting hallucinations. “A lot of things which remain unexplained.”
Yuugi looks concerned, “That’s odd. Bob Ross was the only unexplained phenomenon I was able to extract from your immediate influence. These other things...must either be of a separate origin...or are actually phenomena with logical explanations.”
“I’m sorry, how is a dude melting into a puddle right in front of me an event with a logical explanation?”
“Dunno, Parsee, I don’t make the rules.” The oni shrugs and takes another drink. “My powers don’t work on it, so at the very least, it’s caused by something. Something deliberate.”
“Oh, so someone’s out to get me. Great. Well, at least we know that Bob Ross is a different strain of thing.”
You swallow the rest of your hot springs egg and sink back into the water. Was taking up Yukari’s offer for internet access worth it? Okay, it totally is but this business with the hallucinations and the trees is bothering you more than it already is. It really doesn’t help that you live by yourself quite a distance away from Old Hell proper. Normally you wouldn’t mind the isolation at all, but with creepy stuff happening, you suddenly feel very alone.
“Parsee...what sort of person would be out to get you?” Yuugi says.
“Uh, for starters, all the couples I broke up. And adding to that, all the people I harassed on the bridge.” You say, sinking down trying to use the hot spring water as a blanket against your worries. “Plenty of people have reasons.”
“Feeling regretful now, are we?” The oni chuckles.
“Shush. I’m just stating the facts.” You snap at Yuugi. “If not someone from Gensokyo who also has access to the internet, then it’s possibly a ghost from my past. Taking revenge on me for my actions is just a reasonable course of action, after all...they would be mad...and jealous.”
“Dunno about that last part. But if neither I nor Satori nor Bob Ross’s shade can tell what the source of the problem is, you’ve just got to put up with the issue until they show their hand. Or until that shady Matarajin tells you the whole truth.”
“Well that’s just great. I can picture the tengu paper’s headline right now.” You mimic holding up a newspaper, “Hashihime of Old Hell found dead in her own house flayed and strangled. No evidence of the perpetrator found other than some tree bark.”
“You’re assuming the hallucinations targeting you have something to do with the strange trees.”
“Satono said that the trees cause some sort of mental pollution, so that’s almost definitely the case. The question is who’s spreading these trees, not if they have anything to do with the hallucinations.”
“In that case, you’re just going to have to count on us and the spiders to clear out the saplings when they spawn.” Yuugi cracks her knuckles, “If they’re attacking people indiscriminately and are potent enough to pierce Koishi’s ability, then they are a serious threat that needs to be taken care of.”
“Are you implying that you wouldn’t take them as seriously if they were just targeting me?” You sulk, eyes glowing.
“Well yes, that would make them less dangerous.” The blatant honesty of an oni pulls no punches.
You stare at Yuugi’s smiling face for a couple more moments, before moving to get out of the water.
“Leaving now?” Yuugi calls after you.
“It’s getting late, and I’ve got something I need to do before bed.”
After drying yourself off, you get dressed and retrieve your things from the lockers. Making sure that the small paper package you’ve kept in along your toiletries is intact, you exit the bathhouse and make your way down the street.
Following your memory of just a few days prior, you trace your steps back to a certain apartment. Unwrapping the package, you proceed to vigorously knock on the door.
“Oh hey, Parsee.” Saishiki yawns as she opens her door. “What brings you here at this hour?”
“This.” You present her with the painting you made of her on stream.
“A portrait of...me?” Saishiki looks up and down at the painting, amazement in her eyes, “Oh, I don’t think...why me?”
“Had you floating around in my head that day, so I painted you.” That’s the truth, you kind of just paint whoever’s been living rent-free in your head for the day.
The oni blushes. Hard. “Painting me...ah...You are too kind, Miss Mizuhashi.”
“It’s just a painting. I’ve got a lot more of them coming down the pipeline. Better ones too.” You flash an emerald gleam at her, “You know how artists like me work.”
“I don’t actually!” Saishiki exclaims, “You just started painting out of the blue, and with such skill! You’re an unusual artist, at least!”
“Uh...” You are just about to say that you worked for centuries on-and-off in the dim light under a bridge, lit by stolen candles and working with paint you got from scaring passing artists and merchants. Mostly since you’ve got nothing better to do when no one’s crossing that bridge in Iran. Then you thought about how Saishiki currently views you, and zip up your mouth.
Mizuhashi Parsee, an artist? A positively perverse premise for even a fictional story!
“Oh this painting is just awesome.” Saishiki begins walking around her apartment, looking for places to hang it up. “I always thought getting a portrait of yourself was only for rich folk, but you just did it for me for free!”
“Well, not exactly...but it doesn’t cost you anything I guess. Consider it as thanks for introducing me to the art show.”
“Oh, for that? I wouldn’t say it’s anything worth thanking me over, but...sure!” She sets the painting down on the table for now, before taking out a pot in her cabinet, “Let’s drink to you finishing another painting!”
“I’ve already drank a bit this evening. But...sure!” You unconsciously echo her as you accept the slightly too big cup and the poured sake. “Just a little more can’t hurt. Cheers!”
Everything that happens afterwards is kind of a blur. You do manage to make it back home though, and you distinctly remember vomiting into the river from the bridge. You get the vague sense that it was fun, but the details are absent.
You’re just letting the oni take control of your life. You think to yourself as you collapse into the futon.
You yawn as you turn on the stream. You didn’t wake up until noon, but it’s not like you have a supervisor for your job. Besides, today’s an off day and the bridge isn’t falling apart. You’ve already flew over to the printers to get the posters out, and those will be here the next day, assuming the oni don’t drink too much on the job again.
“Hello, everyone! Mizuhashi297 here.” Your eyes move over to the viewer count. Oh dear, 120 people were waiting for you! You’re getting quite a bit of traction!
>Hjarkbjorn: Hi! I told my friends about you.
>angery_robot: told my friends too
>BlackteaBlackbirds: Hello, child
>supercoffeeman: Hey there~
>ASimp: Hi. I was beginning to lose faith in finding a traditional artist on this platform
>Traitor31: It seems that the art section outside of the Bob Ross stream is vtubers, furries, and vtuber furries.
>suicidal_drunk: but that’s regular Twitch too
>Traitor31: It’s so nice to see a proper cosplay streamer!
Again with the cosplay moniker. You sigh. At this point, you’ll just have to bear it if you don’t want to give your viewers a really confusing and potentially rule-breaking explanation.
“Alright, today we’re going to be drawing a hedgehog!” What else to say, oh right, gratitude, “Thank you to SandwichEnthusiast for the commission money, this one is for you!”
You start off by drawing the outline of the animal, using a picture you got off of Google for reference since you didn’t find a hedgehog on the surface. For the background though, you’ve got plenty of photos from your smartphone to draw a nice bit of Gensokyean scenery for these Outside World plebs to enjoy and feel jealous over.
“And here is its little nose, little beady eyes...”
You might as well show off a bit with such a simple subject.
“Hey SandwichEnthusiast, mind if I give Mister Hedgehog here a friend? A free second hedgehog!”
>SandwichEnthusiast: Er, let me go see if the wife’s online...
>Yujin444: Eh, that’s a black-colored hedgehog, right? Why not give it a gun?
>knife_bunny: yeah a gun would be really cool
>nikolai1964: You want her to get sued by Sega?
“Well it’s hard to use a gun while lying prone on the ground you know. Nevermind a hedgehog who’s crawling all the time.” You say without thinking. Then you remember that Gensokyo’s extant firearms are two centuries out of date compared to what you can see online.
>knife_bunny: I can use a gun while on the ground, it’s not that hard with training.
>BlackteaBlackbirds: This is turning out to be a nice painting, child.
>SandwichEnthusiast: Speaking of guns, that reminds me of the time that crazy dude jumped my wife at the bar we went to.
>SandwichEnthusiast: she kicked his ass but I had to stomp on him when he pulled a gun while on the ground
>SandwichEnthusiast: fucker might’ve shot up the whole bar if we weren’t there
>BlackteaBlackbirds: Child, he just began attacking your wife without any warning?
>SandwichEnthusiast: He was just mashing keys on the bar piano really loudly and my wife asked him to stop. Apparently that set him off.
Why does it seem that your entire chat is full of weirdos or had close encounters with weirdos?
>puppetMaster204: Speaking of near death experiences, my son almost got ran over by a steamroller once
>puppetMaster204: he’s not the brightest kid but I love him
>BlackteaBlackbirds: That is an amusing anecdote, child.
>puppetMaster204: Oh come on! Be nice!
>dark_quietude: Can you add in a few more trees in the background?
>SandwichEnthusiast: oh hi honey
>dark_quietude: Aren’t you at work?
>SandwichEnthusiast: slow day
>dark_quietude: Yeah, also go ahead and add the second hedgehog. Like its roommate or something.
>SandwichEnthusiast: A roommate, not like a...instead?
>dark_quietude: Like what?
“A roommate. Hmm...” You mutter to yourself as you begin painting the second hedgehog, “A roommate...”
Yeah, why don’t you get a roommate? At least until this whole creepy business blows over? Your house isn’t the fanciest thing in the world, but given how it fills up the corner of a very large bridge, there’s plenty of space. And you can trivially install some walls to make a new bedroom out of the empty storage areas in the back of the house. Sure that means you have to put up with another person in your house, but it’s just a temporary arrangement, and it might even be a source of jealousy you can obtain right next to you!
[ ] Solicit a roommate > [ ] From the underground, though it’s probably slim pickings down here > [ ] From the surface. There’s plenty of drifting youkai and such who would probably appreciate a roof temporarily, given how capricious as their instincts are. > [ ] From the internet...wait, how are you even going to get them over? This is a silly thought. [ ] On second thought, a roommate is too much trouble
A/N: I have some grad student shit to take care of in the following weeks, so this story will be on pause until after the third week of November at least. Maybe sooner, but doubtful.
>Mizuhashi Parsee, an artist? A positively perverse premise for even a fictional story! kek nice touch
[x] Solicit a roommate - [x] From the surface. There’s plenty of drifting youkai and such who would probably appreciate a roof temporarily, given how capricious as their instincts are.
Parsee would have the best chance of getting someone from the surface to stay with her. Get Waggysaggy to come, she's already acquainted with Parsee and Parsee can let her live in the water under the bridge.
[x] On second thought, a roommate is too much trouble
My impression is that Parsee's been getting exhausted being around people even though she had found a sociable side to her. Soliciting a roommate would mean she wouldn't have a refuge from the toils that come from being around people. What seems more sensible instead would be to invite people over, maybe even have regular visitors (granting downtimes inbetween). Possibilities include a Kappa engineer for that hot tub installation, a charming gallery owner to discuss art with or a shopkeep who would love to explore the digital world.
>>16962 There's obviously a link between Bob Ross and trees. Apart from that, there have been repeated implicit juxtapositions of trees representing outside/surface and fungus representing inside/Underground. Flowers also have been a common theme in Parsee's Persian Miniatures similar to, again, Bob Ross and his trees; One could argue it was a meme of his before the term was even conceived. Yuuka's involvement only makes sense. In summary, I don't think it is (about) a meme. I think it's a story theme, a part of the incident.
>>16968 Why isn’t that a hallucination? On the face of it it’s ridiculous. In fact, this whole “internet” thing may just be the fracturing of Parsee’s poor psyche. After all, would the Gap Youkai really take interest in a lowly little bridge keeper? How would humans even find the time to watch these “streams” for hours on end? Don’t they have to work? And if by chance they did have the free time, wouldn’t they play these “video games” themselves instead of watching someone else play? If they wanted to watch someone paint (for some strange reason) why wouldn’t they go to the local artisan? Do you really think anyone would appreciate you, you miserable Hashihime? Why would someone ever say nonsense like “Poggers”? When you add it all up it, how could something like this “internet” ever be a real thing and not just a delusion from isolation, unresolved trauma, and/or water polluted by the local power plant?
>>16969 Gone with you, voice hidden behind the veil, unearther of pain of past lives, seed of discord and lastly, but not least, Parsee's brain parasite!
Let her live in the illusion for it leads her to awake to the reality around her Let her mingle spirits for she begins to love the living for their company too Let hear bask in the jealousy of make-believe for it lets her make-true Let her past live stay buried for the dead deserve their rest!
She has been more whole than ever. Even if all around her were a mirage... Who are to say what is real? Who are we to say epiphany isn't truth? If the girl finds her true self in a place born of lies who are we to judge the world - or the girl?
>>16972 Now I don’t say that Satori doesn’t exist. Far from it, I hold it highly probable that Satori, Yuugi, Yukari, etc. exist. Indeed, it is even possible that this “internet” exists in some form or another in the outside world. Parsee’s conversations with the above mentioned vis-a-vis the “internet” and related matter are however largely or entirely fantasy. Apparent validation by 3rd parties is a way for the mind to reinforce and rationalize delusions. Note how Parsee’s beliefs are in turn given an origin (Yukari), affirmation (Satori), and external interaction (Yuugi). In this systematic way the delusions grow in strength and become ever more difficult to dislodge.
[X] Solicit a roommate > [X] From the internet...wait, how are you even going to get them over? This is a silly thought.
You continue considering your roommate decision as you work on the hedgehog. Yes, the youkai of Gensokyo would be averse to moving in with you given your prior reputation, and even without that, a hashihime’s very state of being is off-putting to any pretense of cohabitation. Nobody wants to be used as a dummy to extract jealousy from, of course. And you are most definitely going to milk jealousy out of your roommate, so their concerns are not unfounded.
Gensokyo doesn’t exactly have a demanding housing market, so it looks like you’ll have to look elsewhere. You have access to the internet and it seems like things can slip through, so why don’t you pull a Sage move and invite someone over?
You can’t help but giggle to yourself as you consider it. You, a bridgekeeping hashihime, meddling directly in the affairs of the Hakurei Barrier. It’s like a toad trying to eat the meat of a swan. You’re just going to dive in without regard for caution or tradition now.
Well, you are streaming yourself in front of over a hundred Outside World humans right now, so inviting one over to your adobe shouldn’t be too much of a step up in your desecration of the secrecy of Gensokyo.
>puppetMaster204: awesome hedgehogs!
You swiftly finish up the second hedgehog. They are both staring at an empty space in front of them. What could be there?
“Hey, you disgustingly adorable couple,” You say with a heaping of fake appreciation, “What do you want the hedgehogs to be interested over? A cute flower? A toy? A...”
>dark_quietude: Yeah, pancakes sound good.
Pancakes it is then! You sketch out a dish with three puffed up pancakes on top, and then you paint the lines swiftly. Using warm browns and light yellows, you color in the pancakes, ensuring that they look appetizing enough that people would want to eat them, but cannot! And isn’t that envy as well?
You pause, paintbrush in the air. It’s a commission work that’s going to end up in a nursery in the Outside World. Why are you getting so involved?
“Forest? Meadow? Lakeside?”
>HjarkBjorn: Pancakes! Pog
>dark_quietude: lemme think for a sec
You take this opportunity to pour yourself some tea from the kettle and sit down in front of the computer. You’re not a Western wet-on-wet painter like Bob Ross and the layout of a Persian miniature means things don’t overlap, so you don’t really care how dry the painting gets while you take a break.
>suicidal_drunk: your art’s like, far out man
>supercoffeeman: It is rather pleasant to look at, though I don’t really think it’s my favored style, sorry~
>justBreathe: Ooh! Do you do this as your job!
“Nah, justBreathe, I’m an amateur. I take care of a bridge as my day job.” You reply.
>Traitor31: that’s really hard to believe, considering that...speed
“Hey, I guess I just have a talent with these things. Luck of the draw...heh.” You chuckle at your own pun as you lie. “I don’t really spend a lot of time painting either.”
The jealousy is palpable through the screen. As usual, you drink deep of the emotion with your mind as you imbibe the tea with your body. Delectable. You don’t even have to really stare at them with your green eyes for this.
Oh right, now’s probably a good time to try and get a roommate from the internet...somehow.
“So you guys.” You begin, careful not to let any of your true intentions (jealousy source and meat shield) go through while talking, “I’m looking for a roommate right now since...err...my old one moved out. No rent money needed, as long as you can pitch in for chores and pay for meals you’ll be welcome.”
>SandwichEnthusiast: Don’t you live in the boonies?
>knife_bunny: shouldn’t you use something like Roomster for this?
>angery_robot: Yeah we don’t know where you live and you really shouldn’t share information like this on Twitch since people can SWAT you
“SWAT?” You quickly google the term, “Ah, call the police? Don’t worry, the ‘police’ here don’t have internet, or even phones. Like I said, I’m way out in the boonies.”
>angery_robot: Wait what? Where the heck do you live?
>suicidal_drunk: a weird Amish community or something
>angery_robot: BUT SHE HAS INTERNET
“Anyways, I’ll make a Roomster listing and put a link to it. If anyone wants to come live in the boonies with me, you’re more than welcome to come to my door and I’ll see if you fit.”
You do just that, making an account on Roomster and verifying your phone and email account. “Listing: One room. Rent: Starting at...five USD I guess.” What’s a USD anyway? Who cares, you’re not going to charge them for rent. “Availability date: Immediately. Address...uhhhhh.”
You think for a moment. Then laugh. This is basically a joke anyway. “123 Bridge to Old Hell, The Boonies, Whoknows Prefecture, Japan.”
“People in Household: 1. Household Age: 700. Amenities:...” You fill out the conditions of your house without much thought. Who cares anyway? Lmao.
“...Roommate preference. Age: 1-200. Smoking: Yes. Students Only: No. And...submit.” You post the listing up on the site and copy the link right back into your stream chat. “Alright guys, here’s the listing. Feel free to peruse and talk to me about it.”
>Yujin444: Oh so you are in Japan. Hi!
>I_Am_Fire: weird, where in Japan is a bank not accessible? Are you living in some weird cult village or something?
>dark_quietude: I got it, a forested background please, missus
You finish your tea and get back up to the easel. “A forest, eh.” You color the immediate area the hedgehogs are in with streaks of green for grass, and then you begin working on the trees. “A happy little tree here, a happy little tree there...” Swishes of brown paint form the twisting, curved trunks and branches. Swirls of green and yellow form the leaves and tops. You take more time on the trees than the hedgehogs, given how there’s more of them and you like emphasizing the background more than the subjects of the painting.
You pause to let the trees dry off for a moment. “Let’s wait for a few moments, then I’ll add some pretty little flowers to the trees and we’ll be done.”
>dark_quietude: looking good!
>I_Am_Fire: Wow, the address is actually working in Google Maps
>LockAndChain: Same, can confirm
“Well if any of you are interested, feel free to stop by.” You say without much care. So you did enter in a legitimate address somehow huh? Strange. Maybe one of your viewers may accidentally pay some poor confused sod a visit, who knows?
>LockAndChain: I actually could really use a place to stay right now, am broke
>LockAndChain: watching on my phone right now in a cafe
>LockAndChain: being in the boonies is a good thing for me too
Shouldn’t he be worrying about that rather than watching your stream? You think to yourself.
>LockAndChain: I’ll see if this is legit
>Yujin444: good luck lol
>SandwichEnthusiast: And we never hear from LockAndChain again…
You protest at this, “Oh come on, a hashihime...er, I mean, I don’t eat people! This is a legitimate listing for a roommate!”
>HjarkBjorn: wait you eat people over there?
>I_Am_Fire: something something creepy cult village
“No, we don’t eat people over here.” You half-lie, “There’s no possibility of LockAndChain disappearing without a trace. I’ll even show him on screen if he decides to stay.”
>suicidal_drunk: HE DED
Sighing at your chat’s obstinate nature, you get up from the computer and go to work on the flowers. Nice pink blossoms to contrast the overall greenness of the rest of the painting, one by one, dotting the boughs and smaller branches of the painted trees. To get the balance of color right, you paint a lot of flowers, even adding in some roses on the ground next to the hedgehogs. All along, you continue to keep up with the chat messages.
And the end result is…
“A conceptual nightmare, but not as bad as Koishi with the cartoon frogs.” You mutter to yourself as you step back and appraise the painting. “At least it’s appropriate for a nursery.”
Turning back to the camcorder, you say to the audience. “And that’s the conclusion of this painting. You just gotta wait until it’s dried off before I send it to you! I’ll post a lower quality version on Twitter as well.”
>knife_bunny: your stream is really enjoyable with a tub of ice cream.
“Thank you, thank you. See you all soon! Bye bye!” You close the stream and check your follower count. 40. One step closer to getting that vaunted Twitch Affiliate status. How well does Outside World money convert here in Old Hell anyway? This place mostly uses the gold left behind by the Ministry of Right and Wrong for day to day trade.
You check the time. The stream took three hours, mostly since you painted everything in one-go this time around. Not much to do while the paint dries so you can put it on the scanner, so you decide to boot up Divinity 2 and progress in that game for a bit.
Around your third quickload due to some bad decisions, you hear a knock on the door.
“Eh?” You walk over and open up. A person is standing there, wearing a large backpack.
“Hello, Miss Mizuhashi297.” The young man, who looks just barely old enough to not be considered a boy, greets you while looking down at his shoes. “I’m LockAndChain, but you could call me...um...Ian.”
“Yeah, it used to be spelled with a ‘Y’ instead of an ‘I’, but for convenience I don’t use that anymore.”
A western name. His facial features imply more of a mixed heritage, and his clothing doesn’t seem to reflect any culture in particular, resembling an Outside World postal worker’s outfit like the ones you’ve seen on the internet. His most noticeable feature is that he wears his black hair in a long side ponytail. Definitely not a hairstyle you’re familiar with in Iran or Japan. “No family name?”
“I’d prefer to not share it, if that’s possible here.” He continues to avoid your gaze. Does he know about your powers somehow?
You look around in your yard. Nothing weird seems to be going on. If the youkai of boundaries is behind this (a very likely case), she hadn’t left any signs of her handiwork behind. “So, how did you get here? This is way out in the boonies and I honestly didn’t expect anyone to make it.”
“I used your address followed my phone’s map and took a short train ride. A few turns down some alleys and under a bridge and I ended up here. It’s kind of a blur.” He turns and looks up. Pale blue eyes. “Are we in a cave?”
“Yes we’re underground, and...what?” Your made-up address on Roomster actually worked? You don’t even get mail here! How in the world did this happen?
Nevermind, you have more immediate concerns. You have a human standing in front of your door right now, and from your cursory appraisal he doesn’t have any red flags for a roommate. Time to know more about him and see if this is really a good decision.
[ ] Be aggressive, let Ian know his place here and what the boundaries are [ ] Be gentle(ish), get him some tea first and discuss the boundaries from there [ ] Be formal, get some paperwork drafted up to establish the boundaries [ ] Or…(write-in)
[ X] Be gentle(ish), get him some tea first and discuss the boundaries from there
Been expecting this for a while, anyway im going to very quickly try to put names to names. im not a LoR nerd but i played the games. someone else can fill them in or correct me. or they're all red herrings ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ SandwichEnthusiast | Roland and Angelica Yujin444 | lmao. Yujin. I_Am_Fire | Xiao or her boytoy dark_quietude | dunno suicidal_drunk | feel like this covers half the LoR cast. maybe more. drunk_cucumber | dunno (i googled 'ruinia cucumber' and got nothing lol) HjarkBjorn | dunno BlackteaBlackbirds | binah. (feel like she'd fit in Gensokyo tbh. tea drinking weirdo with stupid amount of power n.2335) knife_bunny | resident grass muncher, Myo puppetMaster204 | if the name is literal, Jae-heon. if it's not literal, some other random control freak. there's plenty. WolfgangMozart | dunno angery_robot | Angela or one of the other angry robots trapped underground for 10k years. IMogMyBro | dunno supercoffeeman | Chesed ASimp | dunno Traitor31 | dunno CreepyGirlFromTheRing | dunno justBreathe | dunno
Yeah gonna need some ruinia nerd to fill in the blanks. Also, we can assume this is pre-Ruinia probably and everyone is still stuck in the shithouse that is LobCorp.
>>16978 Holy shit. I thought all those names were random. Also I thought in LobCorp the apocalypse happens. How come everybody is talking as if everything is fine? I wonder if the weird plants are an abnormality from LobCorp.
>>16979 I'd probably need to reread this story to make an educated guess, but I'm going to assume the Purple Tear is involved, because portals and the laptop is effectively a portal into the awful, awful, verybad world of project moon. Guess we'l see the moment Punishing Bird flies through the laptop screen and starts slowly beating parsee to death for the crime of being a cunt.
>apocalypse nah. just dystopia. in the grim dark world of project moon there is only chuuni koreans.
>plant anomaly there's a few, but none specifically do what our one did. glad it wasn't pic related at least
I'm not very familiar with the series being referenced here so I'm kinda lost. Anyone willing to give me a primer? Also a bit disappointed that the surface youkai option didn't win. Would have liked to see Waggysaggy move in, she seemed to get along fine with Parsee.
>>16985 Finished the game a few months ago -- didn't buy the artbook or go much further than laughing at people stuck at lategame bosses on 4ch. I'm expecting major bullshit since it's you writing the story.
>>16982 >CreepyGirlFromTheRing Now that I think about it she might be that one completely irrelevant girl with long hair. Had to google her name: Martina. absolute literal who.
[X] Be gentle(ish), get him some tea first and discuss the boundaries from there - [X] Press for more specifics on how he arrived here. Why was it beneficial for him to have a place to stay that's so far out.
“Well come on in. Don’t just stand there.” You say as you usher the young man in. You can’t really bear to describe him as anything but that, for while he composes himself like a twenty-something person and does have a deep enough voice, he most definitely does not look his age.
Ian...no, you’re going to mentally use his old spelling before you find out why he’s acting weird like changing his name superficially and wandering here into the “boonies”...Yan cautiously takes a step in, then another. He moves as if fearing that your parlor floorboards (you never did tatami this area, make it easier to clean) will reveal a trap and snap around his legs.
Ignoring his cautious behavior, you set out the other chair for your dining table, and bring out two cups. You pour the tea from the kettle without looking away from him, intentionally doing it just slow enough that he’s forced to sit down, backpack leaned to your couch, with you close by, even at his slow pace.
Just as slowly, you ease yourself into the other chair, across from the table. Yan doesn’t fidget in his chair as you would expect, but instead sits as straight and composed as a statue. It's a far cry from...another guest you’ve received, a long time ago.
“So, let’s get to the topic, shall we?” You daintily point a hand to your collar, “My IRL name is Mizuhashi Parsee, and I welcome you to my residence.”
You gesture out towards your kitchen, which is actually a sectioned off portion of the parlor, and the short hallway next to it which leads to your small bedroom, the bathroom and the storage room that he’s going to be staying in. “It’s not the largest house, if you’ve come from a western background...”
“It’s far larger than where I was staying before.” He says. A collected, emotionally-neutral tone. “Though I lived in a highly crowded city, and this area appears to be rural.”
“Glad to hear that then, because we're definitely missing many creature comforts compared to where you're from.” You say to your future human shield, “Now, Ian, I did say that I won’t be charging rent, but you will be responsible for your own upkeep. We’re out in the boonies, like I said, while I have internet access, most people living around this area do not, and most facilities and utilities are at least a century out of date.”
“Question. If I may.”
Yan pulls on his collar, “We’re not just out in the boonies, are we? I daresay we are in a separate dimension of sorts?”
An awkward pause strikes you for a moment. You did not expect him to directly broach the subject that way. “W-What makes you think that?”
“For reference, I started my journey in Seoul, Korea.” Yan swirls his tea, “The directions given by Google Maps seemed intentionally convoluted, as if the software itself was conspiring to make the user lose its location. However, since I’m a Messen-” He stops that motion, ”Er, I mean, I worked as a postman, my sense of direction is better than most, and I realized that the directions simply led me in circles until the train ride which started at an effectively deserted station. The software lost signal halfway through the ride, before reacquiring and putting my location in Japan.”
He takes a careful sip of the tea. Good, at least he thinks enough of you to not expect poison in the cup. “When the train stopped at an equally deserted station, the software took me through several empty alleyways, arranged in a nonsensical manner in terms of urban design, before sending me under a bridge, where I emerged in your yard. At this point, any sane person would suspect that something is up, and the first thing I can think of is that this is a separate world of some sorts, with the train ride and the alleyways being the barrier.”
“I mean,” He figured it out, might as well be honest. You’re not a Sage, and it is clear that Yukari or someone else with that title let him through. “You are correct. This isolated world is called Gensokyo, and as you’ve probably also deduced, is populated mostly by magical beings.”
Yan blinks, opening his mouth in surprise, “No, I did not think that. I thought this was something more like the Bermuda Triangle, not some sort of fairy land. Do you mean to tell me that you’re not human?”
“I was human, a long time ago.” You say before realizing what you just admitted. Eh, might as well admit it if you’re going to live with him for a while. “Now I am what is generally known as a bridge princess...a hashihime.”
“Hashihime...I’ve heard of those Japanese legends. A woman so scorned and betrayed that she turned into a youkai who haunts bridges.” Yan’s gaze turns to your ears, “So you’re not just an elf cosplayer.”
“Nope!” For the first time in front of a human, you happily wiggle your ears, “A side effect of the transformation wrought so long ago. Centuries ago, in fact.”
“Centuries ago...” Yan looks skeptical, “Surely, that would lead to an inhuman psyche, yet you are talking as if you are no more than a normal woman of your body’s age.”
“You would be surprised. Gensokyo is host to all sorts of beings with centuries or even millennia of age, and yet they will talk and play as normal.” Yan does raise a good point, why aren’t you, or most other youkai with enough sapience to speak, acting like ancient monsters? Come to think of it, what do ancient monsters act like? It doesn’t matter right now though. “I suppose time grants a dulling effect on the mind, causing us to revert to our instincts and behaviors to when we were human? Oh, we’re getting sidetracked.”
“Sidetracked? I think this is important information that should have been disclosed earlier!” He protests.
“It really isn’t that relevant. Back to the topic, prospective roommate!” You take a deliberately exaggerated swig of your tea cup. “The room is free, but the board isn’t. I don’t make enough money to support the mouths of two people. You said you worked as a postman, right?”
“Good, just so you know, while this house is technically in a rural area, just across the bridge is a large city. The remains of a Hell, in fact.”
“A Hell? So Gensokyo is...”
“No, just this part,” You assure him, “We’re underground, remember? Naturally a Hell would be underground. The yama moved to a new locale though, so Old Hell is just a city for oni now.”
Yan tilts his head. “Aren’t oni demons? So what makes it no longer a hell?”
“The souls of the damned aren’t processed here anymore, that’s the difference. So instead of torturing sinners the oni here just drink and fight all day.” That’s not entirely fair to the oni, but you don’t really care. “As you may expect, the demand for an actual hard worker who wouldn’t drink and take detours on the job is high. A messenger who isn’t constantly seeing double would be quite welcome.”
“A job amongst literal demons.” Yan sighs, “So that’s where...that...lead me to. I suppose I cannot be unhappy about easy employment though.”
“Oh?” You lean forward. You are rather enjoying lording your existence and experience over a petty human right now. Makes you feel like a big shot. “You don’t have have reservations about your situation? You are acting very static with these revelations.”
“I don’t have much of a choice, and I’ve been through worse.” He’s regained some of his composure lost when you spoke of Gensokyo’s inhabitants. “So you are seeking a roommate with steady employment, what other conditions?”
“Huh.” You honestly didn’t put much thought into it since you didn’t think you’d get this far, “The usual, I suppose. Clean up after yourself, don’t make a ruckus during bedtime. Keep food in the kitchen, and obviously don’t screw with my streaming setup.”
For the longest time, your house was just a box you lived in. You usually stewed in envy and bothered people on the bridge. Now though, not only do you have valuables in your house, you’re also sharing it with someone else. Much like your prospective roommate, you are stepping into unfamiliar territory.
“So you’ll be sleeping here, Ian.” You tell him as you slide open the door to one of the empty rooms you’ve been using as storage. This room connects to a few other rooms that are barely insulated with thin walls that’s also “storage” space, but you don’t really use them. “I have futons and spare tatami, don’t worry about that part. If you want more furniture though, that’s coming out of your own wallet.”
“That seems fine.” He experimentally toes the floor, checking for dust. There’s a thin layer, but not much. It’s going to be covered by tatami mats anyway.
“And here’s what the bathroom looks like...and here’s my bedroom...” You show him around to the rooms you use. “Don’t go in my bedroom, obviously.”
“What sort of man do you take me for?” Yan snaps at you, but in a tired tone that mollifies any aggressive aspects. “Of course I know that.”
“Just making sure.” Now’s a good time to broach the subject that you’ve been waiting on. “After all, you’re someone special enough to intentionally seek a residence in the boonies and follow questionable directions to get here.”
“Following questionable directions is a summary of my life...err, I mean…” Yan coughs, intentionally, “I wanted to get away from Seoul...from the city...from civilization in general. Your living place, out here in Gensokyo, seems like an ideal place to get away from the crowded thoughts and wills of other humans.”
“Well you’ve come to the right place, because Old Hell is anything but civilized and you’re almost definitely the only human down here.” Bob Ross doesn’t count. “Say, on that note...”
[ ] Take Yan out for a night on the town and familiarize him with his new oni-filled life [ ] Wait until next morning when the oni are less drunk and rowdy
When two rivers meet, one has to merge into the other.
>>16988 >Implying this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.
[x] Wait until next morning when the oni are less drunk and rowdy
More time to talk without getting interrupted.
Unless I'm forgetting someone, there isn't a touhou who is specifically a postman-type character, is there? We have newspaper reporters, stage performers, spy networks but nothing as benign as a messenger. Might not seem like much at first glance but a guy like that, a courier, can change things up a whole lot.
[X] Wait until next morning when the oni are less drunk and rowdy He is technically an outsider, might be an idea to find out if we can get out new peon roomie the same protections as someone in the village, just incase.
[X] Take Yan out for a night on the town and familiarize him with his new oni-filled life
You can’t help but let out a wicked smile, “Why don’t we go and visit Old Hell right now? Ian? It has a wonderful night life. It’ll be fun!”
“Being a part of this new city’s night....” Yan mutters to himself, “I might as well get familiar with the local street layouts.”
You lead him out of your house and across the bridge. The Artificial Sun is dimming, but he doesn’t appear to have any problems seeing in this unnatural dusk. Thinking about this, you wonder if you should ask Satori for supplies to put up lampposts on the bridge. Probably not, since most youkai can see the dark well enough to navigate. But what if some day humans wish to come down here?
Yan doesn’t show any fear or apprehension as the dirt path becomes cobblestone, and the loud sounds of Old Hell at night become clearly audible. Sounds of fighting, debauchery, and drunken singing fill the air as usual, and right as the two of you cross the gate to Old Hell that hasn’t been closed in over two centuries, a large oni stumbles out of a door near you, gives you a clumsy wave, and then falls onto her face in a drunken stupor.
“Welcome to Old Hell.” You say to Yan, “Where the primary business and entertainment is alcohol and the primary population is made of hideously strong demons.”
“These are oni?” Yan looks at the passed out oni, and then at the several groups of them walking down the street. “They look like humans. Tall humans with horns and sometimes weird skin colors, but still humans.”
“There’s something about Gensokyo that makes us easier on the eyes for humans...” Another good point...why did the powers-of-be in this land decide on that? Could it be that they really want humans to mingle with youkai more than their official stance? Woah there, Parsee, that’s not something you have to worry about. “But they definitely are oni. Even if their exterior is humanoid, their thoughts are anything but human. Unlike me, most oni are born as youkai.”
“I see.” Yan frowns as the two of you continue to the center of the city, encountering denser packs of oni along the way, “Truly inhuman minds...but they revel, laugh and talk like humans still.”
“What are your standards for inhuman behavior then?” His opinions are giving you some mild irritation, “Do you expect us to act like mechanical beings or esoteric hermits?”
“Perhaps?” Yan shrugs, “I might just be viewing everything through a human lens.”
The two of you walk for some distance without drawing much attention, likely due to the oni being too drunk to notice. It isn’t until you’re well within downtown Old Hell that someone notices Yan. “Oi! That bridgekeeper brought a human down here! Looks like an Outsider too!”
You’re not extracting jealousy or anything from this, you just think it’s rather entertaining to see a human experiencing oni culture for the first time. Yan seems to be taking it all too well however, as the oni gather around to look at him. He doesn’t break his stoic expression at all.
“He’s got that old-fashioned mainland-looking hair-style. Never saw an Outsider with one of those.”
“I never saw an Outsider down here before! I’ve only ever ran into them on the surface.”
“He smells strange, not like a human at all. So cute though.”
“If he made his way down here, that must mean he’s strong! Let’s see how he does in a fight!”
You perk up with alarm at that last sentence. Cheering, the oni clear out a danmaku duel sized area with Yan in the middle. In front of him, is a large oni who’s just had enough drink to be happily violent, and who’s also taking up an aggressive stance.
“Wait no!” You run out, putting yourself between the two. “Hey you, don’t pick on a human like that! He’s mine…I mean, he just arrived and is built like a twig! What are you doing?”
“I can fight.” Yan quietly says, nudging you from behind, “You don’t have to intervene for me in that regard.”
“Of course I have to protect you. You’re a human, an Outsider no less, and that is an oni.” You point at the man challenging your roommate. “Don’t just think that it’s a muscular human. An oni can pick you up and toss your tiny body all the way across the city.”
“I’m not that short, come on.” He sounds mildly annoyed, “And while that does sound like a challenging opponent, I can handle it.”
“Are you sure about that?” You ask as Yan walks out from behind you and takes up position in front of the oni. “I’m not responsible for any injuries, and healthcare isn’t the best down here in Old Hell since youkai like us just regenerate from most things.”
“I have...methods.” Yan says, not breaking composure as he stares down the oni slamming his fists together. After a few tense moments, he throws out his right hand and emits a flash of light from it, temporarily causing you to look away.
When you turn back, you can only stare in shock as Yan hefts a sword...no, that thing was too big to be called a sword. Too big, too thick, too heavy, and too rough. It was more like a large hunk of steel. Adding to its impracticality, it even has a heavy-looking chain and lock on it, further throwing off the weight distribution. You’re not exactly a martial practitioner, but even you can see that this weapon is too indulgent to even serve as a ceremonial weapon, let alone to wield in combat against an oni by a human.
Yet, Yan seems to be swinging it around without too much issue, despite the sword being almost as tall as he is. He flourishes it around a couple of times, then settles into a careful defensive stance as the oni all cheer and whoop at the human showing up to fight like this. They likely expected a firearm or similar ranged weapon, but now they get to see an actual brawl!
Some of the more elder oni look worried, however. Especially Yuugi, who is carefully making her way over to you through the crowd.
The oni challenger pounds his chest, and shouts, “Excellent courage human! To face me down like a heroes of old. Such honor!” He spreads his arms out. “Come! Strike the first blow! I can withstand it!”
Yan grimaces. He takes a foot forward experimentally, and feints a swing. The oni doesn’t react.
Seeing that, he wordlessly draws the sword back, crouches down, and then springs upwards in a great leap. Aiming for the head of the oni, he lets out a sharp exhale of effort as he smashes the sword down in a great swing, landing a blow that would split the skull and spine of any human…
...And merely send an oni stumbling a few steps backwards.
“Woah, that smarts!” The oni laughs as he clutches his forehead. “That is some mighty fine bladework you’ve got there. I’ve never seen an Outsider swing around something like that before.” He stands back upright and raises a fist. “Now it’s my turn, human!”
Yan, partially stunned at sight of the oni simply shrugging off a blow like that, still manages to raise his sword to block right as the oni comes in with a punch. Midway through the motion, the oni ducks and moves his straight punch into an uppercut. It is blocked by the sword completely, and to your surprise it doesn’t buckle under the usually metal-crushing strength of an oni. However, Newton’s Second Law still applies here, and Yan is not someone with high mass, even adding in the sword.
“Uh oh.” You watch as your roommate is flung skyward by the blow. You are just about to fly up and catch him when you see that Yan isn’t flailing in mid-air. Instead, he uses his sword as a weight to guide his trajectory downwards, and falls down sword first, allowing it to spear into the ground as he uses the decreasing momentum to land upright.
“Seems your new friend is a good fighter...and maybe an acrobat.” Yuugi mutters as she emerges from the crowd next to you.
“You’re not surprised that a human like him is fighting like that?” You watch, not quite getting over the shock, as Yan pulls the sword out of the ground and settles back into a defensive stance. “He’s an Outsider who I’m pretty sure doesn’t know magic!”
“I know, which makes him an unexplained phenomenon. Mayhaps he be a protagonist of a story?” Yuugi chuckles.
“No...he doesn’t give off that vibe.” You’ve interacted with the shrine maiden a few times, and you know quite well what a person with that sort of reputation is like. “However, I am definitely going to interrogate him on why a postman knows how to swing a giant sword around.”
The oni moves in for a swing, and Yan ducks, swinging his flesh back in a cleaving counterblow. He catches the oni on his midsection, and the heavy blade bites deep into flesh. A laugh is heard as the oni shrugs off the pain. He then pulls his arms back, and rams forward in a shoulder tackle.
Yan, having overextended, isn’t able to dodge. You watch as the boy is lifted off of his feet and knocked back all the way to the other side of the arena. This time, and lands flat on his back, tumbling into a stop at your feet.
“I think you should stop now.” You say, concerned that your ward against creepy things may expire sooner than expected.
You then notice dark liquid dripping off from his body, “Oh for…you’re bleeding! Hold on, let me get some bandages and.”
“I…I’m fine.” Yan grits out, using his massive sword as a crutch to prop himself up.
“With all that blood?” He’s dripping enough to form puddles…puddles that give off a soft sizzling sound. Wait, what the hell is that? Humans don’t bleed black liquid! “Yan, what’s happening to you?”
“Don’t worry about it, Miss Parsee, it’s nothing.” As Yan talks, you swear you can hear the clickety-clack of a typewriter echoing through his voice. “I just need to get up and…”
“Stop.” A firm order from Yuugi silences the din. You watch as Yuugi strolls on over to the oni who started the fight and grabs his collar. “Taro, what are you thinking, picking a fight with a human?”
“He looked like a fighter, and given how the last human Miss Mizuhashi brought down here was strong, I thought he’d be a strong fighter too.”
“Bob Ross isn’t a fighter, and…” Yuugi then remembers that the others are just going off of rumors of Bob Ross. “Now listen here, Taro. It’s rare for humans to come down here at all, so why in the eight hells are you scaring him off like that?”
“If he didn’t want to fight he could’ve said so…OW OW OW!” Taro yells in pain as Yuugi twists his arm with her free hand.
“Some humans are less perceptive than others. You should know that they are frail and weak, in body and mind…” She turns towards you, gazes at Yan, and gives her head a quick tilt away.
You nod, “Come on Ian, let’s get away from here.”
“Now.” You grab ahold of his hand and drag him away, through a parting crowd. Some of them move to follow you, but a green-eyed glare at them convinces the oni to stay away for now.
The black liquid coming out of him drips along the ground, but gradually lessens as you continue pulling him. His sword is held limply on his other hand, and with the speed you are pulling him, it leaves sparks as it’s dragged along the cobbles.
“You’re not hurt, are you?” You ask. “That dripping…”
“Please do not worry about that. It’s just a condition…a skin condition, yeah.”
Yan’s hiding something again. “I don’t know of any skin condition that causes someone to drip black fluids like that.” You say, without hiding your suspicious attitude.
“It’s something new in the Outside World.” Yan mutters, “You won’t know about it. It’s not on Google.”
You can't hear that typewriter sound in his voice anymore. That's probably a good thing.
You stop at one of the taverns that doesn’t appear to be having too many customers at the moment. One would think that such establishments are rendered redundant by the fact that the oni treat the whole city as one giant pub, but some of them still enjoy a place to sit down, socialize, listen to a musician playing the biwa, and more important have somebody to mix drinks for the oni with finer tastes. This one has a couple of customers sitting around, but not so much that you have trouble finding an isolated table.
You order a round of drinks for the two of you. Umeshu, since you take him for someone who would enjoy a sweet and fruity drink, and also because you yourself like it as something to drink when calming the nerves. After getting two rounds with an oni and getting trounced both times, you figure that Yan could use something like this.
If he likes it or not, you can’t quite tell. His face is largely neutral as he drinks, though you think you can catch the barest of smiles as he gulps down the umeshu. As you watch him, you try to think of something to say…
Oh right, you’ve been fiddling around so much with humans that you’ve been nearly forgotten your core principles. First order of business, find something to be jealous about on him. You’re not sure if you’re able to tolerate having him around if you don’t have anything to be jealous about. Ought to be a good conversation starter too, if you’re going to pry into him some more.
[ ] Must be real nice to have the strength to swing around a giant sword as a human, paru paru~ [ ] You have such a pretty face, paru paru~ [ ] A postman is such a respectable job, unlike being a basically forgotten bridgekeeper, paru paru~
[X] A postman is such a respectable job, unlike being a basically forgotten bridgekeeper, paru paru~ Really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
>black blood >“Don’t worry about it, Miss Parsee, it’s nothing.” As Yan talks, you swear you can hear the clickety-clack of a typewriter echoing through his voice. “I just need to get up and…” Confirmed post-Ruinia (either that or a completely fucked canon divergence considering Roland appears to be having a good time) and that Yan is a horrific manifestation of negative emotional energy or some shit -- not much different from a lot of youkai I guess. Also explains why he expects monsters to act like monsters, considering the philosophical gibberish all the distortions (nasty negative emotion construct thingies) waxed on about. If distortions are on the table, I hope abnormalities are on the table. They're funny.
[X] A postman is such a respectable job, unlike being a basically forgotten bridgekeeper, paru paru~ It sure must be nice, not being stuck in the same place, day after day, nothing but the wind and distant lights for company. Paru. Paru.
[X] “What a pretty face you have, Yan, it easily ranks amongst the prettiest ones I’ve seen, moreso than the actual princes and princesses I’ve had the misfortune of seeing. If only I could have a face as pretty as yours.”
Yan chokes on his umeshu as you, eyes glowing green, say that to him. Some of it goes out his nose, and he coughs up the rest of the mouthful he just imbibed.
“Um, thank you?” He says in a very much confused tone as he wipes his mouth, “I’m…happy that you find my visage attractive…um…I don’t want to see you die as well.”
You giggle at the sudden drainage in his stoic composure as Yan struggles to find the right words to reply. From an outsider’s perspective, you are hitting on him out of the blue, but to you, it is merely another indulgence of your favorite sin.
Still, this is your roommate, you might not want to mess with him too much. “Don’t think too much about it, all I am doing is mirin’. You really should be a model, you know?”
“Th-thanks, but I don’t think I have the right body type to be a model.” Yan speaks in rather relieved breaths as he attempts to shrug off the exchange and return to his previous composure. Even with his clothing all scruffed up from the brief fight, he’s still acting like a royal courtier with his unflappable attitude, or attempting to, anyway. “I’m rather small, and frail.”
“Well you can be a great model for my paintings, if you want.” You grin as you pour him a second cup.
“I might take you up on that, actually.” Yan perks up, eyes gleaming and brows raised, which surprises you, “I do wish to try my calligraphy skills on a painting. If you will allow me to decorate the painting of myself, of course.”
My calligraphy skills. “You can do calligraphy?” You exclaim.
“Seoye calligraphy, yes, of the Korean tradition.” Yan looks around him, and notes an obvious fact, “Much different from the shodo style of Japan, and I also have no experience in the Islamic scripts which would likely go well with your style of painting.”
“As if that matters!” A whole new world of possibilities just opened itself to you. Paintings sell, but paintings adorned with calligraphy SELL. From talking to people at the art show, you’ve figured out that wealthy oni (and likely human buyers), are quite eager to obtain illustrated poems and such partially due to their rarity, but partially because they can say things directly rather than subtly themed at through a painting while still retaining the aesthetic appeal of one. Oni calligraphy styles, which consists of massive performative strokes on large pieces of paper, do well as standalone works, but do not go well at all with the confines of a painting.
If you have a human calligrapher in your clutches…well then.
“I would be MORE than happy to have you decorate…no, I would be happy to paint around your words, even.” Your thoughts churn with the potential of this arrangement. Partially in regards to material wealth, but mostly by just how much jealousy you can get out of the oni by being a source of both paintings and calligraphy. As long as Yan decides to not move away of course, but still.
“Eh? My works aren’t that good…”
“Neither are mine!” You take a great swig of umeshu to punctuate, “We’re both amateurs here, so…”
“Amateur? Finishing complete Persian miniatures in your timeslots…”
“It’s nothing professional.” Odd, you’re feeling drunk before you took the drink. Fishing up a peanut from the snack dish, you pop it into your mouth as you continue to speak to an increasingly befuddled Yan. “There are humans who can do miniatures way better than I can, and my jealousy for them knows no bounds. None of them stream though…”
You give your left ear a wiggle. “I guess that makes me a professional streamer-artist? Whatever, your contributions would be welcome. It’s not like I have problems hashing out a painting anyway.”
Yan quietly downs his umeshu. “If you think that I can be helpful with your artwork, I’ll be more than happy to contribute what little I know.”
This boy is really pliable. You think to yourself as you pour another round from the pot for the both of you. During this moment, you take a look around, and note that the other patrons of the tavern haven’t really noticed you, and no oni from the previous gawking group has followed you here. Perhaps Yuugi told them to stop bothering the human? What was going on with Yan back there anyway?
“So…your skin condition…”
“Really, it’s nothing you need to worry about.” Is that redness you see on his cheeks as he talks? “It’s just, um, something common in the Outside World that you may not have heard of, here in Gensokyo.”
“Common in Korea, I mean.” He coughs, “It’s a rather embarrassing affair for the country, so it’s not commonly seen on non-Korean language websites.”
Ah, taking advantage of the fact that you don’t know Korean and have no intention of learning it in the future. “I see, I just want to make sure that it won’t raise any issues while you’re living with me.”
“It won’t.” Yan says with clearly faked confidence in his voice.
You down another cup in silence. His condition may be an inconvenience, but it’s likely not something that you can’t deal with through violence, if only because you live close by to the oni. You could do a lot worse for a roommate. This one is easy on the eyes, can work, and even his hobby is conducive to your projects…
“Paru paru…” Why couldn’t you be more like him, dammit? Why did you have to exist as the moldering used rag of some…
“Hmm?” Yan turns his head towards the door. You follow his gaze.
Once again, there’s a figure standing in the doorway. The light from the streets shines behind it into the dingy bar, obscuring its features.
You gulp down your drink.
“I think they’re looking at you, Miss Parsee.” Yan says as he stares at the figure with you.
“Of course they are.” A cold chill comes down your back. The last time you confronted a person standing in a doorway didn’t go so well. But you’re the bigger (and much older) person here, so: “Let’s see what they want.”
With step by leaden step you approach the figure, dread building up in your veins. How are you going to handle it? Are you going to scream like a little girl again? Or maybe…
“Parsee!” The figure steps out of the light and gives you a big hug. A big, suffocating hug to be exact, with all of the strength you expect from an oni. “I was going to go to your house but then I found that you were leading a human around in the City!”
“Saishiki?” Your stomach stops turning as you recognize your acquaintance…friend maybe at this point? “Why were you looking for me?”
“A present! I gotta pay you back for that neat painting!”
She reaches behind her and pulls out a…
[ ] Painter’s apron! With handy pouches for brushes. Complementary from the supplies shop. [ ] A pot of high-quality shōchū, way better than the swill you usually treat yourself to. [ ] Small statuette of a kirin, for good luck and warding off evil spirits. Recently popular underground due to the effect apparently not affecting sapient youkai. [ ] Surprise! Write-in: _____
[X] Small statuette of a kirin, for good luck and warding off evil spirits. Recently popular underground due to the effect apparently not affecting sapient youkai. Parsee needs to call some ghostbusters
[x] Small statuette of a kirin, for good luck and warding off evil spirits. Recently popular underground due to the effect apparently not affecting sapient youkai. Something to deter the bad juju would be well appreciated.
Tell 'em they're pretty; gets 'em pretty boys every time.
Among the ideas that bubbled up for the write-in were a dark souls reference about painting pigments, a illustrative encyclopedia of the history of flowers and their meaning or an art book, particularly James Gurney's "Colour and Light", which would introduce another internet-present but living artist into the mix. (if you have an inkling of interest in painting check out his blog or YT if you didn't know him already)
[x] A pot of high-quality shōchū, way better than the swill you usually treat yourself to. Buuuut I want Parsee, Saishiki and Yan to have an evening of comradely drinking, comfortable jealousy and uncomfortable flirting together.
[X] Small statuette of a kirin, for good luck and warding off evil spirits. Recently popular underground due to the effect apparently not affecting sapient youkai.
Unfortunately, it does still have enough effect to make your hair stand on end. While Yan is admiring the statuette with curiosity in his eyes and Saishiki is telling the story of how she convinced the grouchy bronzesmith to sell one to her, you are just nodding along and trying to pretend that everything is fine with the gift despite being a wicked hashihime: Something that the statuette was supposed to ward against.
Yan notices. “Uh, Miss Parsee, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. There’s no need to worry.” You say as you accept the kirin and quickly put it back into its box to dampen the effects. “It’s just so nice of a gift, too nice for someone like me.”
“Oh, don’t be like that, Parsee.” Saishiki says, before turning and noticing Yan, “Oh you still have this human with you. Who is he anyway?”
“New roommate, an Outsider. Ian, this is Saishiki, my, er…friend I guess.” You are used to having acquaintances, but saying you have any friends still sounds weird.
“Oh, who would’ve thought that Mizuhashi Parsee of all people would allow a human to live with her? And a man no less?”
You reflexively let out a breath through gritted teeth, “Saishiki, this one is a boy at most…”
“I’m 25!” He protests.
“Sure you are. And it doesn’t matter when everyone down here has a couple centuries up on you at least.” You condescendingly pat his head, evoking an irritated look from him, “Though I can comfortably say that you are more mentally mature than most of the oni.”
“Oh come on, Parsee, you know that’s not true.” Saishiki laughs, “At least I won’t charge at a stronger looking guy with just a sword if I knew I was just a human.”
“How did you conjure up that big sword, anyway?” You ask Yan, “Do you know magic? Is it some Outside World magic? Does the Outside World even have magic?”
“It’s technology. Again, you’ll only find information on it on Korean websites.” Yan doesn’t seem too uncomfortable with this information. “I’m not well-versed in its technical details, but it works by storing things in a dimensional pocket. It’s very convenient for big and heavy things like my sword.”
“That sounds like the ability of the gap youkai who gave me my computer.” You’re getting rather buzzed at this point, having not rationed your umeshu consumption at all. “Hey…why do you have such a large hunk of metal as a weapon anyway? I know the Outside World has extremely advanced firearms, and there’s no large monsters in Korea that I know of that warrant such a weapon. Though things may have changed over the past century.”
“Korea has VERY strict gun laws. I can’t get a firearm without forking over money that I don’t have.” Yan manifests and shows his sword to Saishiki. “This sword is a gift from my previous employer…well it’s more like company equipment that they let me keep.”
The oni takes the sword with one hand and experimentally takes a few light swings. “Hmm, it is awfully unbalanced, moreso than even the heaviest kanabos I practiced with. And what’s with these chains on it? That skews the weight distribution even more. Is it a ceremonial weapon?”
“It is.” Yan takes the sword back and shoves it into a ripple in the air with both hands. “I was trained to use it as a…”
“Messenger?” You ask, “Hey…why does a messenger need a huge ceremonial sword? Wouldn’t a lighter blade be sufficient?”
“That is a very good question that you should ask my former employer about, assuming they’re not blindly pursuing another senseless scheme.” Yan grumbles as he fiddles with his cup. He’s really not drinking that much, compared to you, much less the oni who’s ordering another pot already. Ah, humans and their need for livers is nothing to be jealous about.
Although, you then consider, you might’ve been happier if you just remained human and died.
“Oh Parsee, what’s with that crummy look on your face?” Saishiki says as she leans over to pinch your cheeks, to your GREAT annoyance. “Come on, you ought to be celebrating now with how much you’ve gotten done.”
You swiftly push her hand aside, “Don’t. My job is still living under a bridge watching people with actual prospects in life go across it every day.”
“Every week, you mean. People don’t cross that bridge often.”
“Ah, damn you, Saishiki! That just makes it worse!” You take a swing at the oni, and yelp as you proceed to hurt your hand on her iron-hard shoulder. “Fu—Ow!”
“Didn’t you just say that fighting an oni is dangerous?” Yan comments, without any malicious snark in his voice.
“Grrr…” You relent and go back to drinking, under Saishiki’s laughter and Yan’s…Yan attitude. Seriously, is there anything that will shake this boy?
“It’s dangerous for Outsiders like you because you ain’t protected by all these laws surrounding humans in Gensokyo. Taro could’ve cracked your skull there and there wouldn’t be anything Parsee can do about it.” Saishiki says to Yan, “You took two punches from him without breaking though. Are you sure you’re just human?”
“Err…” You see Yan’s hands clench and unclench as he talks, “Human as far as Gensokyo would be concerned with, I’m sure.”
“Then you have got to be careful around here. Us oni may have lost our appetite for human flesh these days, but there’s plenty of youkai around that would be more than happy to take a bite out of you.”
“These other youkai aren’t as strong as an oni, right?”
Saishiki slams her cup down, “Of course not! Oni are stronger than any other youkai, and the Devas in charge of us are stronger than anything else in Gensokyo. Wait…are you saying that you want to try your luck against them?”
“I’m sure I won’t lose in a fight against something that’s not an oni.” Confidence seeps into Yan’s voice, “I have some other tricks up my sleeve that I can pull out if worse comes to worst.”
“Oh no, while they may not be strong, other youkai have all sorts of nasty tricks and special abilities to make up for them being weaklings. Like giving you night blindness, infecting you with diseases, or inflicting you with so much jealousy that you lose all of your friends and family…” Saishiki stops and turns to look at you.
You shrug. You’re definitely not going to use your powers on the boy at this point. Well, maybe a little bit.
Unexpectedly, Yan lets out a slightly strained laugh, “I’ve been trained to resist mental attacks, and my friends and family are quite…a ways away. I’m a Messenger, after all!”
“Is a messenger some sort of warrior in the Outside World?” She asks, curious. “Surely delivering packages and mail wouldn’t necessitate being trained like that in a world with no youkai.”
“Seoul is a dangerous place, and I doubt Gensokyo’s deadlier, although…” He sounds a bit unsure, “If their mental attacks are as strong as an oni’s punches…”
“Oh no, none of them except for the big names are as potent as us. If your body can withstand an oni’s punches, then you can fight a non-oni without too much problem. Are you familiar with the spell card rules though?”
“Hmm? Spell card rules?” Yan asks, “What are those?”
“The basis of a stable society in Gensokyo.” You say, shaking your cup of umeshu, “Wherein conflicts are settled by exchanging heavy barrages of beautiful but ultimately nonlethal magical danmaku. The Hakurei shrine maiden drafted and enforced this a few decades back, and now everyone, down to the dumbest fairy, knows to fight with danmaku or risk unbalancing the system.”
“So violence is used to resolve problems here too, yet you softened it up so it takes no lives…” It appears the alcohol has loosened him up, as he smiles and gives a single-handed palm-up shrug. “What a kinder place than Korea.”
“Korea is a rich and civilized country, is it not?” You point out, “Surely you humans there have laws and institutions to uphold order rather than resort to ad-hoc violence.”
“Some of the older people said that the past used to be like that, but it’s not the case for all of my life.” Yan closes his eyes, “Perhaps it’s better in the countryside, but in Seoul the government only enforces some arbitrary laws like the restrictions on firearms. If you want to not get robbed and murdered, you better hire security, either from registered professionals or from less professional and more informal organizations like my former employer.”
“Eh?” You scratch your head, “If Korea is really like that wouldn’t there be more attention given how the news reports online repeatedly state it to be the most advanced nation in the world?”
“For foreign investors and business partners, the violence doesn’t matter. For tourists, the government enforces more reasonable laws on their behalf.” Some severe bitterness is crawling into Yan’s voice despite his casual tone. “One of the things the chaebols keep telling us is that the lack of laws is necessary for Korea’s growth and development, and that we should be glad to…nevermind. It’s not really worth talking about. It’s got nothing to do with where we are right now.”
“It—Hmph.” You decide you’lll ask him about it later. He’s probably just reading the atmosphere and deciding not to spoil the casual mood too much.
“So, how about some food?” Saishiki suggests.
After an adequate dinner of bar grub, you decide to take Yan on a tour throughout the city before heading to the couriers’ office. Old Hell is mostly a function-over-form place owing to its isolated nature, but the buildings here still do reflect the Japanese spirit. A city of oni naturally has a lopsided distribution of industries, but everything that one would expect from a civilized society is still here. You’ve got an overabundance of watering holes and breweries, sure, but the infrastructure to support these operations, such as relatively clean running water, smithies, ceramic shops, farms…the list goes on. The oni may be oni, but their self-isolation has definitely tempered their wild and uncontrollable natures into something that can function without raiding humans for sustenance and entertainment.
Are oni even true youkai now? Don’t youkai need to feed on humans in one way or another? They are non-humans, of course. Perhaps the belief from the distant Human Village is keeping them alive? You’re not well-versed on the metaphysics of Gensokyo, but now you are wondering about these things with the boy questioning you on it.
With Yuugi’s order to not mess with the human, the sober oni largely gave Yan nothing more than curious stares and courteous replies. Some further inquisitive glances were raised at the Korean won currency he used, and there were discussions about exchange rates for this new money against the mixed yen that runs Gensokyo’s economy.
For his part, Yan is unfailingly polite even when dealing with the drunken oni who are a bit too happy to intrude on his personal space. You wonder what this boy had gone through that he could deal with these freakishly strong youkai without any change in attitude. It’s better than having him cringe and cower as you predicted, but something about him just feels a bit unnerving. Just a bit.
“And here’s the couriers’ office.” You say when the two of you reach the doorfront of the humble establishment next to the makeshift warehouses. “We don’t have a post system proper here underground, or above-ground for that matter, in Gensokyo. When folks in this city do need someone to carry a package or letter to someone, they come here and ask for a courier to both find the recipient and deliver it. I’ve never used the courier service, but I’ve heard that it’s used mostly for personal trades with people on the surface.”
“Interesting. A land without a proper mail network in the 21st century.” Yan tilts his head, “Though I take that its absence is not the only thing Gensokyo is missing compared to Japan proper.”
“I moved here during Emperor Meiji’s reign, Ian, I didn’t know what the modern Outside World was like until I got internet access. And I’m also not a native Japanese person.”
“Hmm, well then. And you took me here presumably because you think that I can find a job?”
“Indeed.” You check the door. It’s open! “Let’s get to it, shall we?”
The inside of the courier’s office is lit by oil lamps, owing to the lack of electricity in this area of town for now. The dark wooden paneling combined with the lighting gives the place a slightly dingy feel. A small amount of packages are neatly stacked up on one side of the office, while the other side is equipped with storage compartments for packs and other equipment. You smell the scent of the surface here, not quite as strongly as when you were up there, but still very noticeable.
The owner of this business is a scrawny-looking tsuchigumo, the same species as your acquaintance Yamame. You can see his brown hair draped over his face on the desk on the far end of the room as he pores over a heavily annotated map of Gensokyo, carefully moving markers and taking notes.
“Hey there.” You call out, “Horosha, was it?”
“Hmm?” He looks up, using one of his not-even-bothering-to-be-hidden extra legs to adjust his glasses, “Oh, the bridgekeeper, what could…and a human?”
“Horosha, let me introduce you to Y—Ian,” You gently nudge Yan to step forward, though you note that he isn’t nervous at all, just slightly confused. “He is an experienced messenger who moved here recently and is looking for an employment opportunity.”
“A human who moved here?” Horosha looks at you with narrowed eyes, “I find that hard to believe. You didn’t kidnap a poor man from the Village, did you? The shrine maiden will have your head for this if you did.”
“‘Course not, right Ian?”
“Yes, I moved over here for my own personal reasons,” Yan firmly says, “It may not be a permanent relocation, but for now I am resolved to live and work here. If you’re concerned about me living and dealing with youkai, don’t be. I’ve dealt with much worse back home in Korea.”
“You do smell different from any human I’ve dealt with.” Horosha skitters over, “How much weight can you carry?”
“Five hundred pounds without slowing myself down.” answers Yan without skipping a beat.
“And how fast can you travel?”
“Thirty kilometers an hour at a steady pace over long distances if it’s my second time running a route.”
Horosha looks at Yan with one eyebrow raised, “I would contest your ability to do that considering I can’t smell any hint of practiced magic on you, but I’m also smelling some very strange and sharp scents from your limbs…and your torso…and even parts of your head. You also smell less like a human and more like a dried cadaver stuffed with incense and ink…”
Yan noticeably stiffens as the spider says that. You’re confused. You didn’t smell these things…oh wait, you can barely smell the difference between a human and a youkai. You never hunted, after all, or interact with humans that much.
“Tell you what, I’ll give you a tryout. Come here tomorrow morning and I’ll have you do a couple deliveries under my supervision. If you can get them done on time without help I’ll pay you for them and take you on as one of the contractors. Sound good?”
“See you tomorrow then.” With a dismissive hand, Horosha waves the two of you off.
As you turn to leave, however, you hear the earth spider grumble something about, “Newcomers, so fresh and unknowing…”
You spend another hour in the city with Yan, helping him buy furniture with his foreign money. He insisted on carrying all of it, and true to his statement to Horosha, he can indeed carry a stack of tied-up used furniture three times his size on his back without issue. As usual for oni, the furniture store owner offered a toast for the large purchase…with a whole pot…and had the human drink a third of it.
“Korea really is an incredible place if the humans there can do this.” You comment as the two of you make your way back across the bridge.
“It really isn’t.” He’s not struggling to carry the weight, but his small frame and the laws of physics means that he’s constantly adjusting for the furniture bundle shifting around. You stay behind him with a hand on the bundle just to make sure that he doesn’t end up falling over the railings and into the river.
“Don’t be so humble. Even I have trouble carrying that much weight. So strong a body in so lithe a frame.” You feel the heat flare up in your face, “I’m so jealous…”
“Don’t be so jealous, it’s just the necessary augmentations needed to do Messenger work in Seoul.” He stumbles, but doesn’t come close to falling, “To live freely like this without the weight of a whole city pressing down on you, I’m the one who should be envious.”
“You do know that I am bound to the bridge, right?”
“Aren’t we all? It just so happens that your bond is magical, while our bonds are legal and financial. Ah—” His cheeks swell and he holds his hand up to his mouth. Seeing what’s about to happen, you take ahold of the furniture bundle as he leans over the side of the bridge.
He vomits, as you expected. But what comes out isn’t stomach fluids and half-digested food, but more of that same inky-black fluid you saw him “bleeding” earlier. Is this what’s inside of his body? Are humans like this in the Outside World? No, you’ve seen people vomit on Youtube, it’s probably just Koreans that are like this.
“Sorry.” Yan apologizes as he wipes his mouth, “I have a weak stomach for alcohol.”
“You don’t seem drunk though?”
“My brain can take more than my stomach.”
Nothing else in particular happens as you walk the rest of the way to your house, though you do feel much less nervous with a more attractive target right next to you. After all, who’d attack a nasty youkai when there’s a delectable human right next to you?
“Home sweet home.” You throw open the door. “You need any help getting the desks and chairs in?”
The furniture he got were for young oni children, that were sold off due to the kids growing up. With the average oni being at least twice his size, these were pretty much the only things that could fit him.
“I got this,” he says as he sets down the bundle, unties it, and begins carrying the furniture inside. “You’ve already helped me enough with these.”
You’re not one to insist on doing manual labor. “Alright then.”
Sauntering over to what is now effectively your computer desk, you shake the mouse to wake the screen and open up a browser. With someone from Korea living with you, you really ought to learn more about that country.
Google. “Korean news.”
Several headlines pop up, each more indecipherable than the last.
>”Seoul Metro Corporation and Hyundai unveil new “warp-speed” rapid transit train system” - Associated Press
>”Mysterious ‘Red Bird of the Apocalypse’, first seen and photographed in Omsk, recently seen headed towards former North Korea” -TASS
>”Korean private security associations protest against ‘Gravity-Manipulator Tech Prohibition’ bill proposed in National Assembly” -The Korea Times
>”’Second-class citizens’, the continuing plight of former North Koreans after Reunification and the environmental scars of the 72-Hour War.” - The Guardian
Wow, Korea split in two? You’ve really got to catch up on Outside World history. Of course, you never really cared about the surrounding nations of Japan, or Japan itself for that matter, even though you live here. Gensokyo is its own thing for all intents and purposes, even if the Outside World leaks in from time to time.
Which is something you are contributing to right now.
You open up the Wkipedia article on Korea and scan through the part about its history. Apparently it was annexed by Japan not long after you entered Gensokyo, only to shake it off after that World War II thing that you hear about a lot. Apparently a large wave of immigration into Gensokyo was caused by that. Then one half got occupied by the Russians and one half by the Americans (the country Twitch is based in, you note), which resulted in two Koreas being formed. A North and South one. This state of affairs continued on for a few decades, the North remaining an authoritarian communist state while the South became a capitalist dictatorship, then transitioned into a democracy…sort of. There’s some disputed and  lines on the article about how the institutions of South Korea have remained under the control of the same group of people.
The article continues on to note that South Korea’s economic and technological progress have exponentially increased since the 1990s, easily surpassing Western nations by 2000. South Korea apparently kept this massive lead by both continuing to invest more into scientific research and never sharing the technology with others, no matter how much money other entities offer them. The secrets of the chaebols that came to dominate the country are well-guarded, and only the Korean Intellectual Property Office have copies of their research.
Almost as a footnote, the article states that after a routine round of harassment from the North in 2012, South Korea abruptly mobilized a huge military response, spearheaded by the ROK Armed Forces but with large amounts of private contractors, including both independent mercenary groups and the secretive “Defensive Security” forces of SK Group’s Bioscience division. North Korea was swiftly overran in three days and conquered at the cost of several nuclear bomb detonations along the border. The death tolls on either side were not disclosed.
There were also some  lines about how North Korean prisoners were sold to corporate research divisions for “inhumane experiments”. What doesn’t have  states that the North Korean areas remained largely ignored after the invasion, with people only rarely let in through the border. In fact, it appears that a routine sentence for criminals is to be “deported” across the border, despite the two countries being officially Reunified.
That was a long and heavy read. You look back and see that Yan had carried and apparently set up all the furniture in his room without breaking a sweat, and the boy is now brushing his teeth in your washroom. Everything in there looks functional…except for a weird pendulum he has sitting in the corner. It looks kind of like those seismometer things you saw in a geology video. A fear of earthquakes, perhaps?
Shutting the laptop’s lid, you stretch and look over at your bag. The box with the kirin statuette is still in there, and while it does make you a bit uncomfortable, it is something that should help against the freaky things happening to you. Weighing your minor discomfort against the increased security, you take it out and look for a place to set it.
“Ah, I’m still very much an evil spirit, unlike oni in modern times.” You sigh to yourself as you set the statuette on an end table in the corner of the living room, where its presence would be the least noticeable to you. “Oni mostly keep to themselves now, but I guess I still continue to trouble people by my nature.”
“You sound regretful of what you became.” Yan says from the washroom, before gurgling and spitting up water.
“Do I? I don’t recall saying that any of that was negative, or asking you.” You say, turning away from the statuette.
“Is that so? Then I apologize for misinterpreting your tone. I always thought that you sounded unsure of yourself when you were streaming, and perhaps my assumptions have clouded my judgment.”
“Just finish brushing your teeth so I can use the washroom. And for the sake of the spirits you’re talking like that half-ghost gardener girl that everyone makes fun of.” You usually just collapse in your futon at the end of a day without washing up. But with someone else in the house now it’s important to have him not think of you as a slob. “I’m a youkai, so I’ve long since accepted my existence.”
“I suppose it is erroneous to apply the Will of Korea…er, I mean, the human will for change, to beings like you, Miss Parsee.”
Was that an insult? Or a genuine question? “I…”
[ ] “Perhaps I would prefer a short but happy life as a human, but what use is there in considering a long-gone hypothetical?” [ ] “I may be jealous of you humans, but I’ve abandoned the desire to be human long ago. I just want to enjoy the pleasurable parts of humanity.” [ ] “Are you changing though, Ian?” [ ] Say nothing and glare at him as your response. [ ] ”...Say, what’s the deal with Korea right now anyway?”
>Hjarkbjorn: hey she forgot to properly close the stream
>knife_bunny: NO MODS, NO MASTERS
>I_Am_Fire: I’m making a KakaoTalk group. We’re a small community now and using Mizuhashi’s chat only is untenable.
>knife_bunny: hey who put you in charge?
>I_Am_Fire: wo shi ge hui zhang! Ni xiaotuzaizi gan gen wo dou?
>I_Am_Fire: Ah damnation, forgot which keyboard I was on again
>knife_bunny: :gachigasm: :gachigasm: I’LL SHOW YOU WHO’S THE BOSS OF THIS CHAT :gachigasm: :gachigasm:
>Hjarkbjorn: Only Koreans use KaTalk so if anyone not from our peninsula wants to join they’re going to have a rough time
>I_Am_Fire: Oh right, and Mizuhashi’s Japanese, so I guess we should stick to an English platform since we all speak that? Like Discord or Telegram?
>knife_bunny: oh boy I can’t wait to get groomed on Discord
>angery_robot: I’d rather not share my phone number, so Discord plz
>angery_robot: I’m also not in Korea anymore and I really don’t want the government monitoring what I say
>Yujin444: yeah I’m in Japan as well and would like a more international platform
>BlackteaBlackbirds: :PixelBob: It would be a wise decision indeed to avoid the gaze of those in the National Intelligence Service whenever possible
>Atoner31: :pepeHands: :pepeHands: :pepeHands:
>I_Am_Fire: Discord server it is then
>GunBunny: I just got randomly recommended this stream, weird
>GunBunny: My boss literally just hooked up this place with satellite internet so they couldn’t have any records of my activity to go off of. Weird.
>knife_bunny: ey b0ss, you’re cribbing my style
>knife_bunny: and I like my style, so you’d better change your Twitch username before I break into your house and make you feel unsafe
>GunBunny: Look, I have this name because I’m definitely an actual rabbit with a tail and long ears
>knife_bunny: So am I
>GunBunny: And a cool gun
>knife_bunny: Do you use it though? I think I’ve shot a gun way more than you pal!
>GunBunny: You have more than a hundred years of experience?
>knife_bunny: collectively? Way more than that.
>GunBunny: what do you mean “collectively?” You some sort of gestalt consciousness?
>knife_bunny: Nah, it’s just [AUTOMATIC CONTENT DELETION FROM DETECTION OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION, PENALTY HAS BEEN ISSUED TO EMPLOYEE]
>knife_bunny: BRB, boss is shouting at me
>nikolai1964: [EMPLOYEE NAME FILTERED], get to my office and SHUT UP for once
>HjarkBjorn: wait is a Wing employee really using Twitch on company equipment?
>SandwichEnthusiast: so was their superior, apparently
>GunBunny: The hell’s a Wing?
>HjarkBjorn: Nickname for the chaebols here since they’re basically giant bird wings blotting out the sun at this point…oh, you’re probably not Korean. Lots of Koreans are watching this channel because there’s a Persian art craze going on in the country right now, and this artist is :PogChamp: at doing Persian miniatures. Not a lot of Iranians stream since well, most of them are in Iran.
>GunBunny: Nope, not Korean, I’m off to the east and way out in an area that doesn’t usually have internet
>suicidal_drunk: bro you’re not from the same Japanese boonies that Mizuhashi297 is from right?
>GunBunny: oh I didn’t check the channel’s name
>GunBunny: THE HELL IS SOMEONE LIKE HER DOING ON HERE?
[x] “I may be jealous of you humans, but I’ve abandoned the desire to be human long ago. I just want to enjoy the pleasurable parts of humanity.”
Even with all of the melancholic thoughts to the change in nature, I still feel like this answer is more true to form. The fleeting thoughts of missing humanity make me think more of her questioning whether she is still the same monster she once was. Wonder if the oni feel that way at times.
[x] ”...Say, what’s the deal with Korea right now anyway?”
>No, you’ve seen people vomit on Youtube, it’s probably just Koreans that are like this. I chuckled. Good update. Twitch chat has me feeling left out and I don't want to read up on some wiki and spoil myself on another franchise.
[x] “I may be jealous of you humans, but I’ve abandoned the desire to be human long ago. I just want to enjoy the pleasurable parts of humanity.” I only want the stuff I'm jealous of, like allergy medication and uber eats thanks.
If this is a Project Moon crossover, which it's looking increasingly likely that it is, then it was first hinted at in >>16598 with the line from Gone Angels (Forever gone / From the Hell that served as [your] one and only home) and in >>16648 Parsee's internal dialoge quoting And Then is Heard No More (Do the candles look forward to being used? [Do well-wishers] enjoy bidding adieu, adieu?)
As for the Twitch usernames, I'm agreeing with >>16978 on most of these. Starting from her second stream we have: DanteIsFeatured | Dante, a fixer of the Seven Association South Section 3 Joonbob | Probably a random citizen of the City, as I swear the name came up like once HjarkBjorn | No clue - there isn't anyone bear enough for this role, and the only Norse/Celtic thing in any of Project Moon's games so far is a tool-type Abnormality from the Lobotomy Corporation demo Doobiewudder | I literally have no idea who this is WolfgangMozart | Most likely Tanya, if not Argalia JhodonSwaggins | I am totally unable to place this name, sorry Daboot98 | Someone who needs to work on their Russian, but other than that I don't know who they are Yujin444 | Yujin, Shi Association South Secton 2 director UbertoLoz | I swear this name was mentioned once or twice in Library of Ruina, but I can't find them in the wiki ValentinTheDoorHolder | Valentin, a relatively new Fixer of the Shi Association assigned to South Section 2 SandwichEnthusiast | Roland (and Angelica,) who are expecting a child (dark_quietude is mentioned in >>16928 to be Angelica's main) angery_robot | Most likely Angela or a lost Tiphereth B unit, or perhaps someone from Gaze Office or the Brotherhood of Iron or a member of the Church of Gears; a Doubt or Process of Understanding being the least likely choices PurpleManlet | I would hesitate to call either one of Yesod or the Purple Tear a manlet bloody_literature | Might be Hod, the Patron Librarian of Literature and the one responsible for the Head's raid on Lobotomy Corporation I_Am_Fire | most likely Xiao, the director of Liu Association South Sector 1 (based off of her comments about Iron Lotus) puppetMaster204 | Jae-Heon (although in this timeline his son only nearly got run over by a steamroller, or at least hasn't yet been run over by a steamroller) drunk_cucumber | A contender for Netzach CreepyGirlFromTheRing | A friend of HijarkBjorn, but the only thing I can think of that would loosely fit Sadako would be The Lady Facing the Wall, so I don't have any clue who this is IMogMyBro | A friend of HijarkBjorn (given that "mog" is British slang for "leave" it could be Tipereth A, but that doesn't feel right in review) BlackteaBlackbirds | Binah, the Patron Librarian of the Floor of Philosophy and a noted tea enjoyer supercoffeeman | Chesed, the Patron Librarian of the Floor of Social Sciences and prefers coffee to tea ASimp | I'm not entirely sure who they are Traitor31 | Might be Hod, the Patron Librarian of Literature and the one responsible for the Head's raid on Lobotomy Corporation suicidal_drunk | A contender for Netzach knife_bunny | Myo, captain of the Rabbit Team, seeing how Nikolai calls her out for mentioning the R Corp Singularity nikolai1964 | Nikolai, commander of the Fourth Pack justBreathe | Probably Moses, since she fights with a smoking pipe - even if I feel like the personality is a bit wrong for Moses LockAndChain | Index Messenger Yan, as made evident GunBunny | Appears to be Reisen Udonge Inaba, given her interactions with the other users Atoner31 | Impossible to tell, they used their one line to meme with emotes.
See the thing is that you're assuming it didn't start off as merely a way to give the Twitch chat peanut gallery some personality with a few in-jokes. Or that I haven't switched the handles of the same characters multiple times due to me not actually keeping track of them initially.
[x] “I may be jealous of you humans, but I’ve abandoned the desire to be human long ago. I just want to enjoy the pleasurable parts of humanity.”
You hear Yan pause his brushing. “Say again?”
“I don’t want to be human. I wish I could be a bit more human for some of its pleasures, but I don’t want the disgusting parts. And I don’t just mean the parts where you grow old and die in a handful of decades, since turning into a youkai just delays the fact. No, I’m talking about the parts of humanity where they expect you to 'play nice'.”
“You can’t go against the will of society that you are a part of like that, Miss Parsee. To do so is to deny yourself.” Yan quietly says, barely breaking a whisper. Still, you can hear him clearly somehow.
“What sort of nonsense is that?” You snap back, “Why do you think I live here under a bridge away from even the oni? It’s so I don’t have to deal with such things.”
“But you’ll sacrifice your happiness, your basic need for companionship, love…”
“I permanently sacrificed those centuries ago in Iran, Ian. I don’t quite think you fully understand.” You say, wondering why he’s making these mistaken assumptions, “I’m not human. You can’t apply those standards to me.”
“I…but you seem so…”
“Personable? Perhaps. Most youkai are these days, as talking with Saishiki may have informed you. But do not mistake the ability to talk and laugh with the ability to function in a human society with human values. Particularly for those of us here underground, as we were outcasts even among youkai.”
Yan remains silent as he finished brushing his teeth and walked out for your turn with the sink. An unreadable expression is on his face. Why is a 25-year old boy asking these strange questions? Is it a Korean thing? You think as you begin brushing.
“Ian can you get the door?” You pause your teeth-brushing to say.
“Of course.” Behind you, you hear him walk over and open up your front door. “Greetings…”
“HI, I AM HERE REPRESENTING the collective of TWITCH.TV, AND I AM EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE THAT YOU HAVE QUALIFIED FOR OUR eternal PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM!”
You freeze, your toothbrush slips from your numb fingers and falls into the sink from the booming, unsettling voice resonating through your house.
“Uh, okay sir.” You here Yan reply with some confusion, “Would you like to speak with Miss Mizuhashi…why are you holding out green paper to me? What are these scribbles on here?”
“TWITCH.TV IS PROUD TO STATE THAT WE absorbed PARTNERS OF MANY DIFFERENT biologies INTO OUR PROGRAM.”
“What the…Hey, I did not say you can come in!”
Your back hairs stand on end, not just from the terror but also from the kirin statuette reacting violently with something in the air.
“WE ARE HAPPY TO ACCEPT ANY NEW PROSPECTIVE friends INTO OUR GROWING COMMUNITY.” You hear a thump as a heavy footstep crosses the threshold, “INCLUDING YOU, MR. VISMOK, WOULD YOU LIKE TO—”
“IAN!” You yell out as you regain control of your faculties and rush out of the washroom, “Don’t…oh…”
Yan half-kneeling at the doorway, his zweihander thrust into the earth in front of your house. Dripping from the blade and onto the ground outside is goop. Familiar-looking flesh-colored goop, interspersed with liquid of a strange color that hurts your head from just looking at it.
“I killed it.” He grimly states as he shakes the gunk off of his sword, “Looks to be some sort of liquid lifeform. An aggressive one.”
“You’re…familiar with these kinds of things?”
“No. But if it’s living, then-”
“....Twitch…glad to…service…tentative…” The puddle on the ground interrupts him with garbled words. You let out a very girly yelp while Yan arches back, before plunging his sword back down on the goop.
With clenched teeth and white knuckles, he grips the sword harder, and black liquid begins seeping out of the blade. As it flows onto the goop, a loud sizzling sound can be heard, as the puddle begins dissolving from the liquid.
You watch in silence as the puddle is completely cleansed, replaced by a black, inky stain slowly seeping into the soil.
“There, that should do it.” Yan says, “The Erosion effect should remove any organic matter, though it can’t do more than that if this thing was augmented in some way.”
“Thanks for dealing with that.” You say as you stop staring at the stain in a mixture of horror and terror. “This is the second time one of those things showed up, and the first time it happened, nobody but me could see it.”
“It was in fact messing with my perception, and I think I would’ve missed it if I wasn’t expecting it and it wasn’t right in front of me.” Yan frowns, “Perception-blocking technology like this exists in Korea, but nothing so potent. It felt like it was messing directly with my brain, rather than just with my eyes.”
“I know a few people who can mess directly with your mind with magic, and two of them live in Old Hell. One of them runs this place, in fact, and pays my salary.” You say, “Satori Komeiji, whose species is also her name. She’s a mind-reader of your conscious thoughts, while her sister specializes in the subconscious instead.”
“That sounds…unpleasant.” The boy pulls his sword out of the ground, and you’ve noticed that the black liquid seemed to have evaporated. “I’m sure that I will end up delivering packages to them as a result.”
You are about to call him out on admitting that the black liquid he’s emitting or controlling isn’t just a “skin condition”. But then you consider that he might be more reluctant to use it if you pressure him about it. Plus, didn’t you solicit a roommate to serve as a bulwark against the weird things that are happening to you? Why bother disturbing something that’s effective? You’re not human, you don’t need to satisfy your curiosity that much if it might mean disturbing your new ‘friend’.
Deciding to reserve your inquisitive intentions for the unexplained phenomenon, you pat Yan on the back, “Great job exterminating this thing, by the way, you got any idea about where they might be coming from?”
“No. Would this help? The thing gave me these before it tried to come in.” He hands you a piece of green paper out of a small handful of them. It looks vaguely like an American dollar bill, a very rare currency in Gensokyo compared to the vastly more common Japanese yen, but it comes in often enough that you have seen one.
This is definitely not a dollar bill, or even anything close to human money. For starters, the “paper” feels slick and rubbery, and the ink used to print it actively hurts your eyes. It has the arabic numerals correct, but the decorative text on the note, such as the country name, the English numbers, and the institution names are all complete garbage, and you doubt many of the vaguely Romantic symbols in there are actual letters. Most disturbingly, the picture of the historical figure that would normally be in the center of the bill is instead a sphere of flesh, with no facial features, just smooth skin over disturbingly detailed veins.
“Let’s just hold onto these.” You say, “I’ll come along tomorrow when you’re doing your courier runs and we’ll ask around to see if anyone knows something. If that doesn’t work then I guess I’ll go and try calling for Matarajin to see if she knows anything.”
“Matarajin? The obscure buddhist deity of the Tendai school?” Yan looks at you with one eyebrow raised, “You worship him…her?”
“Nah. She’s one of the Sages of Gensokyo which means that she should know more about everything than your common resident here. She usually doesn’t show up herself but does send servants out, which was helpful last time I called her up. Even if this is just an urban legend leaking in or something…”
“‘An urban legend leaking in’? What does that mean?”
You struggle to come up with an explanation as Yan seems to grow ever more confused, “Uh…due to a certain outsider messing with this place’s border, common urban legends qualified as forgotten things that leaked in, because Gensokyo has an osmosis effect on supernatural phenomenon that would naturally die out Outside…You know what, we’ll stop by the Hakurei Shrine tomorrow and we can have the shrine maiden whose job it is to maintain the Hakurei Barrier give you a rundown of this place.”
“Ah, okay then.” He closes the door and carefully locks it. “I guess we’ll wait until tomorrow then.”
The two of you retire to your respective futons. Sleeping with another person in the house does in fact make you feel much safer, especially someone that can fight. You begin drifting off to sleep quite easily.
As your mind grows hazy, you hear a distant, “Parsee, just a thought, can I be a youkai like you?”
“Don’t say silly things like that, Yan. You don’t want to end up eating people. And while you’re an Outsider and not a villager, I doubt the Hakurei shrine maiden will be too pleased about you transforming.”
“I…I’ve already ate people. Once, by accident in Itaewon, but I did taste human flesh.”
“Oh, well then.” You can’t come up with a good answer to that, “Just go to sleep then. I’ll think about it.”
You wake up in relative darkness. Looking out, the Artificial Sun hasn’t come up yet. The clock says 4:30 AM, but you don’t really feel sleepy.
Technically, many youkai don’t physically need food or sleep, like you who could sustain yourself indefinitely off of jealousy. In practice, however, you’ve found that youkai who don’t at least snack once a few days and sleep regularly tend to experience mental deterioration, which is significantly more lethal for spiritual beings than humans.
Popping open your laptop, you notice that you’ve got another private message on your Twitch account.
>I_Am_Fire: “Hey Mizuhashi, I wanted to let you know that we (chat) got together and set up a Discord server for your channel. Link’s here: https://discord.gg/UPHZMWy, and I’ll make you an admin as soon as you get in. No responsibilities or anything, just that since you run the show and all you should have such a position. Remember to set up your Twitch Integration!”
Oh right, your community. You haven’t really given much thought to the mess of people inhabiting your stream chat as more than just things to evoke envy in, but then again you’ve just invited one of them to your house and did a commission for another two. Maybe you should be considering this more than just a parasocial relationship?
You were considering getting into Discord at the start of your journey through the internet, but getting into it now because you have a “fanbase” is not something you expected.
“Let’s see…” You click the link and wait a few seconds for Discord to load up the server in the desktop app, “What’s going to be my Discord username…uh, Mizuhashi, obviously, just gonna link my Twitch account through Connections…and we’re done. Let’s check out the server.”
I_Am_Fire set up quite a Rules page that you have to agree to. You quickly scan it. Nothing out of the ordinary, but NO POLITICS is in all-caps and bolded for some reason. Weird. There’s also a section telling users to try to use English and discouraging the use of Korean. Is a large portion of the people here Korean, not just Yan? That would explain quite a bit.
Not a lot of people are on right now, probably because it’s 4:30 AM and Korea shares a time zone with Japan. None of the mods (all two of them, you note) are on, so you’re going to have to wait until the humans wake up before you get your privileges. Meanwhile though…
Furious Robot: Greetings. Are you the real Mizuhashi297?
That implies there were several imposters beforehand, are you that popular? Or is this new Discord server already getting trolled?
Mizuhashi: Yes, check my linked Twitch account name.
Furious Robot: Legitimate. It must be before sunrise where you are at right now, why are you awake?
Mizuhashi: I just woke up. Must be a sleep schedule thing. Why are you up?
Furious Robot: It’s nearly noon in America right now, and I don’t need to sleep.
Mizuhashi: You don’t need to sleep? Are you actually a robot?
You see Furious Robot type for a few seconds, stop, and then type again.
Furious Robot: I mean I do not need sleep as much as the average. Sorry, slip of the keyboard.
You have your suspicions, but Discord probably isn’t the place to interrogate someone. Besides, why would you care if one of your fans is a machine or not? They fill in your viewership just the same. Is that what they mean by a viewbot?
Mizuhashi: Haha, that would be weird if I get banned for viewbotting
Furious Robot: 😄
You scratch your chin as think of something to type in return for a few moments, before Furious Robot does it first.
Furious Robot: Have you ever wondered how much someone will pay to get their loved ones back?
Furious Robot: Or rather, how much they will make a whole world pay?
Furious Robot: I haven’t. But I keep getting these odd dreams these past weeks about the subject.
Mizuhashi: Well I personally would rather see my “loved one” rot in hell, and preferably not the one I’m living in.
Furious Robot: You’re living in hell?
Uh oh, you slipped up there.
Mizuhashi: 😂 It’s just a local moniker for the boonies I’m living in right now since it’s so isolated.
Furious Robot: Oh.
Furious Robot: I’d hesitate to call him a “loved one”, but I would also like to see someone rot in hell for burying me alive after he used me, and leaving me to dig out of the wreck he made. If I didn’t already know that he went somewhere else.
You can’t help but smirk. Sounds like there’s someone just as unfortunate as you on this Discord.
Mizuhashi: I feel you.
You check over the list of active users. There’s only a few of them on right now.
[ ] Leverage your status to shitpost all over the Discord for a bit [ ] Be nice to people, earn their trust by being #relatable [ ] Hop into voice chat and start streaming Fallout: New Vegas or something [ ] Post a scan of that weird dollar bill in the general chat and ask to see if people know anything about it
[X] Hop into voice chat and start streaming Fallout: New Vegas or something
Starting up the game…and having it crash to desktop a few times…you pop the stream open and turn on the laptop camera. Clicking through the menu, you start a new game and are watching the intro sequence when somebody pops into voice chat.
“Hey what’s uuuuuuup!” You hear after the *ding* sound of somebody joining the chat. You check the chat list to see who is it. A “Wolfgang Mozart” apparently. This guy was in your chat before, you distinctly remember.
“Hello.” You say, carefully hiding your irritation at this person’s cheerfulness.
“Didn’t think we’d see Mizuhashi herself streaming a game here on the server at all, much less at this hour.” Despite your dislike of his tone, he does have a very nice voice, one almost naturally melodious. “Oh, New Vegas! That’s my jam!”
“So you played this before.” You begin dawdling around on character creation. “So, any advice?”
“It’s 4:40 in the morning and I just tripped over my scythe, but sure, I’ll see what I can remember. Hmm, dump charisma to 1 and pump intelligence to 9, max out your speech, science, medicine and barter skills. Oh and survival, if you want to pass the mountain of skill checks that determine quest outcomes…”
You follow Mozart’s advice and build your character. It’s similar to you enough, well, not mechanically, but you did make it as close to you as possible with the game’s character creator. The ears can’t get as pointy, but then again, this game is in a human-only setting, right?
“So just go and buy a shovel from that NPC over there, and get to the top of the hill. There will be some bloatflies there…”
One thing about being a youkai that you don’t have an issue with is that your reflexes are vastly superior to that of the humans these games are designed for. While turn-based games like Divinity don’t let you leverage this advantage, this one does. Sort of. You notice that despite you having no problems keeping your crosshairs on the small enemies from a long distance away, the weapons in the game do not cooperate.
“Do not try to snipe until you’ve got points in long guns, the random bullet spread means you won’t hit anything. This isn’t a shooter.”
“That is unfortunate.” You wonder if you should switch to an actual FPS game instead. They don’t interest you as much as RPGs, but you can dominate humans in them and evoke jealousy at your skills…
Maybe later, now you’re just passing time and interacting with people.
“So what you want to do is clear out the beginner missions and then the main tutorial questline. The game shows off having branching paths by letting you side with the enemies over the townsfolk, but siding with the townsfolk gets you more ending options, and you’ll want to be hostile with the Gangers anyway, that’ll get you the most rewards. Then…”
You just follow along with Mozart’s advice and proceed along the game on his handrails. The execution skill floor is…rather low, and you have no issues shooting the slow-moving wildlife and human targets save for bullet spread.
The game is rather unappealing in terms of setting to you, as far as you can tell. It is set in a post-apocalyptic America, a country on the other side of the world that you’ve never been to, with a society and values that you are wholly unfamiliar with. Being post-apocalyptic after nuclear bombs destroyed the world (Utsuho, Satori’s pet raven and current manager of the Artificial Sun, almost did that to Gensokyo’s surface, you recall with some not-fond memories), everything is rather dreary. The people are dirty-looking, the buildings are run-down, and there’s nothing but ruins. Not much to be jealous of, and you can’t find anything relatable about them either.
Too different from the more familiar magic and youkai settings of Divinity and the giant collection of “Dungeons and Dragons” related RPGs in your library, presumably anyway.
“Crouching magically gives your shots two times the amount of damage when not in combat, is it not lovely? Now that you’re done with the tutorial, you should respec Skilled and ignore the road for now. Go back to the cemetery and take that side route. Now, take out the revolver I told you to buy earlier, there’s this glitch…”
A few more people have hopped into the voice chat, but other than some yawning they’re not making any noise as you continue playing. Well, playing is a generous term for exploiting bugs and twinking your gear up to mulch through the intended enemies you can face, but you couldn’t really care less.
It wasn’t until you finished Primm after two hours that somebody other than Mozart spoke up, “Hey Mizuhashi!” a user with the name “Drunk and Depressed”...probably suicidalDrunk from your chat, calls out in a slurring tone, “What keeps you up this late?”
“Quite literally nothing. I just woke up and can’t get back to sleep.” You mutter into the mic, “Thought I would hop in and stream something.”
“You work so damn hard.” ‘Drunk and Depressed’ is matching his username by talking in a slurring tone, despite lacking the usual tics of a drunkard, “Thinking of streaming at this hour.”
“I don’t have much to do here at 4:30 AM, you see. Everyone’s asleep and the bridge doesn’t need any work.” You answer offhandedly, before realizing that he was asking why you were working so much. “Errr, I mean, I’m definitely not heading to a bar at this hour and the onsen’s closed, so I might as well stream. Got to keep it down though since Ya—I mean, LockAndChain is sleeping in the stora—guest room.”
“So you didn’t eat him? Groovy.”
“Why would I do that?” You say, before baring your sharp teeth, “He looks delectable though.”
Drunk falls silent, while you hear Mozart softly chuckling into his mic.
“So are you thinking of making him into a barbecue dish, or a stew?” The melodious man continues the question line.
“Err, you’re going to have to ask the yo—er, actual cannibals for that. I’m just saying that he looks like he’ll be tasty. In theory. Like what westerners say, ‘Looks like a snacc’?”
You wonder how much meat that human has on his slender frame. Surely not that much.
“Um, Mizuhashi, that doesn’t mean what you think it does.” Drunk says, “That has a…uhhhh…sexual connotation.”
“Ew. I’m going to go ahead and ign—”
You nearly jolt out of your chair from the earsplitting scream behind you. Only when you scramble off and look around in a panic that you recognize the voice as Yan’s, and calm down accordingly.
“Oh no, is she getting swatted?” A “Yamamura Sadako” comments in an exhausted monotone.
“No, no, no, I just heard some weird noise.” You hurriedly shut off the camera, “Let me go deal with it, one sec.”
On tiptoes, with a bit of flight magic mixed in for maximum stealth, you creep to the refurbished storage room’s door. Opening the door just a crack, you peek in.
Yan is awake, though with all the signs of having been aroused hurriedly. He’s staring off into the window. Which is to say, he’s staring at nothing since the Artificial Sun is not up, and the window is papered so with sunlight you’re not exactly going to be enjoying the scenery without opening it up.
You pick up glistening stains on his pillow. Tear stains. Strange, he doesn’t seem like the crying sort. Or rather, he isn’t. No normal human can just shrug off an oni’s punches without screaming, weeping or a combination of that and more. So why is he crying now? You haven’t truly cried for a century, not while sober anyway.
You draw your head back and knock on the door, “Hey, Ian? Are you okay in there?”
“Oh…oh…uh…” He stumbles over his words for a few moments, “It was just a nightmare. Did I wake you?”
“Nope, I was already up.” You say. Then…
[ ] “Hey, you wanna play some New Vegas? Or watch me? The chat seems to think that I’ve eaten you.” [ ] “Is there…anything on your mind?”
[X] “Hey, you wanna play some New Vegas? Or watch me? The chat seems think that I’ve eaten you.”
“They think you’ve eaten me.” He states, not as a question.
“I mean, this is Gensokyo, outsiders sometimes end up in stew pots.” You say, “We are mostly youkai after all. Don’t worry, I only spiritually feed on humans.”
“That assumption isn’t limited to Gensokyo, but why would they suspect that you’ve eaten me? There are easier ways of obtaining a victim over the internet.” He’s hastily trying to bind his long hair into the side ponytail. “New Vegas…it’s that old game about a ‘Courier’, was it?”
“Yes, your job, right?” You say, putting some enthusiasm in your voice.
“So they want to see a Messenger play as a Courier…I suppose that is something worth streaming.” He tosses on a jacket. “I suppose I should go prove that I’m alive.”
You guide the boy over to your seat and sit him down onto the chair. He looks not the least bit nervous, even with ten people in the voice chat.
“Aww, he’s adorable!” Some woman in the chat calls out, “I didn’t somebody like that was watching you with us.”
“I see why you called him a snacc, Mizuhashi, hic.” Drunk says.
“Uh…hello?” Yan cautiously says, “This is my first time streaming in front of people, so please say something if I’m screwing up.”
“Welcome to the early morning club!”
Voice chat’s being friendly, that’s nice you guess.
“So, how do I play this game? I don’t play video games normally.”
“Another new player? Nice.” Mozart doesn’t seem fazed at all at having to teach another person. “So starting off, you use WASD to…”
The boy picks up relatively fast. After about half an hour he’s doing quests and playing the game fairly well. Not nearly as well as you, of course, but then again he’s only human. You wonder if you should help him for a bit. Nah, Mozart’s got this, and it’s not like he’ll get jealous of you for video game knowledge you can get from a wiki.
“So now you want to go ahead and dive into the Vault. This one’s pretty easy if you can spot the camouflaged enemies, since that’s pretty much their only advantage. They’ll charge at you if they spot you though, and the last level has some ranged turret types, but at your level they are trivial.”
“Alright.” Yan interacts with the door and triggers the scene transition. “I’m going to manual save before this.”
“It’s pretty hard to make a wrong decision here, unlike the rest of the game where some random quests will disable others depending on your resolution, or whether you resolved it at all. Most of them don’t really affect the endings though, and you can discern the ones that do. Also, we want to be able to tackle Old World Blues as soon as possible so we can get augged.”
“Just like in Korea…” Yan mumbles.
“Getting augged?” You ask, unfamiliar with the term.
“Slang term for getting surgery, drugs, or prosthetics to enhance or ameliorate your physical and mental capabilities.” Someone in the chat with the username “Rules of Society” explains, “If you ask me, it was a slippery slope from plastic surgery being normalized to children asking to get cybernetic enhancements for their birthdays.”
“Wait, that’s not a fiction term? That’s common in Korea?”
“I wouldn’t say common, but it is a trend amongst the wealthy, enough that there’s pop groups singing about it.” The man sounds rather old, a bit too old for Discord’s average demographic, you wager. “Lacking respect for the natural bodies God gave them…ugh…young people these days.”
Korea is a weird place. You’re probably never leaving Gensokyo anyway for the rest of your existence, but if you do leave, you’re not going to Korea.
Another person popped in. You glance at the channel’s names. Oh, it’s that guy who commissioned you.
“Hey…aren’t you at the hospital? Sandwich?” Mozart says to the newcomer, in a strangely cold tone.
“I’m on my phone. Aren’t you at the hospital?”
“We agreed to avoid each other there until we have to meet, didn’t we, my dear…”
“Please don’t dox us on Discord.” Sandwich sounds exhausted, as if he hasn’t slept in a while. “We have enough problems as is on our plate.”
“Ahaha, didn’t you already reveal to our dear Mizuhashi that Quietude is your wife for the commission?” Mozart’s back to his usual voice, “Oh silly Sandwich, someone in your line of work really should have better opsec.”
“I didn’t say it in a public Discord voice chat you fucking idiot.”
What do hospitals have to do with all of that, especially the wife part? Wait. You look up your suspicions on your phone. Right, in the Outside World people now give birth in hospitals rather than at home with a midwife, especially in a “developed” country like Korea or non-Gensokyo Japan.
“Congratulations.” Yan says, in his usual formal tone.
“Thanks. But I would rather you not share it here.”
The voice chat text channel turns white. Checking it on your phone, you see that somebody with an obvious burner account name has posted a file labeled “Loss.jpg”. It appears to be a man rushing into an Outside World hospital, talking to doctors, and approaching a woman crying on a sickbed.
“THAT’S NOT FUNNY YOU JUGUELLAE.” The expecting husband screams through voice chat. You wager that he probably disturbed the other people sitting with him in the hallway. That’s where they sit right? Eientei has seats outside their surgery room the last time you went there for medicine five years ago.
“That really isn’t funny.” Mozart concurs, “Dark humor has its place, but not when a tragedy hasn’t happened. Complications in childbirth can have terrible results.”
“Yeah, imagine losing your spouse AND child at once from something like that.” You say, followed by a light chuckle. “I’m sure tragedies like those are common around the world. Maybe even provoking an insane murderous rampage. Hint, hint, Ian, that’s what you should do after quicksaving.”
The word “Chang’e” seems to echo in your mind for a moment. What does that Chinese lunarian have to do with this? Your mind draws some weird connections sometimes.
“I don’t want to kill anyone I don’t have to.” He quietly says as he attempts, and fails, to sneak through a mutant-filled hallway. “Even if the game says the opposite.” He adds on as he begins shooting.
“Stealth is more of a way for you to get a fat damage bonus than an actual method of getting through dungeons. There’s also places in the dungeons where enemies spawn already knowing exactly where you are.” Mozart says, “It’s still a Gamebryo engine game, so you’re going to have to kill things unless you’re doing a challenge run, and even then you’re only a pacifist by a very narrow definition.”
“So going pacifist doesn’t change anything in the story?”
Mozart doesn’t say anything for a few moments, before lighting up again, “You can take all the nonviolent choices, which are usually the optimal choices as well. But to get to those choices, you have to blast your way through many nameless goons, not to mention the non-humans. Only a subset of named characters matter. And of them, an even smaller subset gives you the choice to keep them alive in the process of resolving a quest.”
You look at Yan shooting his way through the mutants, with aim not quite as good as yours but perfectly fine for the type of game New Vegas is. Something about Mozart’s explanation of the game bothers you.
Were you in fact one of the nameless characters in someone else’s story?
“I don’t suppose you get to throw random enemies over a bridge?” You ask, giving a strained grin.
“This game is way too old for that, look at more recent action games for context kills. I suppose you can use explosives to blast them over.”
Yan throws you a weird look. You return with a fake smile.
“Yep, you can’t save them all.” Sandwich says. You note that his voice is consistently more haggard than the rest of the people in the chat. Must’ve stayed up late. “And the worst part is, sometimes the game is very arbitrary on what decisions will save a character and which ones will doom them. You often can’t do anything even if you are a level-capped badass…I guess it’s more realistic that way?”
He sounded weirdly sad on the last sentence.
“I thought RPG games were just like that from the few I played so far.” You comment, “Decisions have to be meaningful in some way, and the people designing the game can’t account for every thing a player can do. I can’t just jump off the ship in the tutorial of Divinity 2, for example.”
“New Vegas does let you kill everyone you meet and still complete the game, so that’s something it does really well, unlike the Bethesda games where they make many NPCs immortal in the game engine.” Mozart says. “Even your various companions can die when they’re with you if you’re not careful.”
“You can get companions other than this robot?” You interject. So far, ED-E has been a good companion in terms of gameplay, if wholly uninteresting otherwise.
“Oh yeah, there’s eight of them including the eyebot, each has their own storyline and ending cutscenes. Boone’s the coolest one.”
“Of course you like Boone, edgelord.” Mozart snarks. “I remember he’s also the only one who can die AFTER Hoover Dam if you finish his quests in a certain way, because he doesn’t have anything to live for.”
Sandwich doesn’t respond to this.
“Anyway.” You check the time by looking out the window. Artificial Sun’s fully lit up. “We’ve got to go now. Ian, Horosha’s office is open.”
“Oh! Right.” He hurriedly runs back to his room to change.
You save the game and close New Vegas. Not a lot of people were watching, so you’re not sure if streaming games will get as much interest as your art. Perhaps you should try games where your natural abilities as a youkai would shine better.
“See ya!” Is the general response from the chat.
Horosha was already at the office, waiting rather impatiently at the doorstep, tapping two of his legs. “Do try to arrive early.” He says as soon as the two of you get there.
“You don’t have working hours listed, Horosha.” You say.
“Working hours are from when you get up to when you finish delivering your quota. And your quota is how much we need to do to not drown in packages tomorrow. Also, why are you here, Miss Mizuhashi?”
“I’m tagging along.”
“You’re coming with me?” Yan asks.
“I don’t have anything else to do today, might as well.” Technically, you are supposed to keep watch over the bridge at all times, but who cares about that now? The intersection of things that are hostile to the folks down here and the things that you can fend off is precisely nothing. And its not like the gods that assigned you your position are watching you anymore. “Just think of me as the peanut gallery.”
Horosha narrows his eyes, but doesn’t object, “If the bridgekeeper wishes to come along on our uninteresting travels, so be it.”
Yan loads up with a large backpack full of packages. As usual, he doesn’t seem the slightest bit burdened by the weight. Normal for a youkai, but odd for a human. Though at this point, you are 99% sure he’s lying about being completely human. He still looks really odd with the pack being two times his size, however.
“Don’t worry, this is nothing.”
Yan’s first experience working in Gensokyo starts off smoothly. No drunken oni were feeling particularly combative, though they generally steered clear of Horosha before due to the earth spider’s very irritable temper. The pets of the Komeijis likewise do not show up to engage in any playful harassment (Do they do that? You just assumed so because they were animals. Orin has been civil the couple of times you met her, though you’ve never met Utsuho), and you’re guessing that the younger sister is still recovering from her wounds.
However, a short while after you cross the bridge, you spot Yamame dangling from the ceiling of the cave. She flashes you a grin, before dropping down.
“It is I! Kusodani Yamame!” She dramatically shouts at Yan, swinging off her silk strand and doing three flips on the way down to the ground. “Hand over your packages!”
Yan responds quietly, “Why do you want them?”
“Money, of course! I can fence them off to…huh…Horosha, I don’t actually know of anyone down here who buys stolen goods.”
You see the male earth spider facepalm, “Forget about it. New hire. This is a training scenario. What is your next action? Even if intentional banditry may not happen, something like a feral youkai coming after edible items is a common occurence.”
“I suppose…what is the proper Gensokyean way of resolving this? What I did in Korea likely will not be acceptable here.”
“Fight. Spell card rules if it’s a sapient, actual fighting if it’s a feral.” You tell him. “Though for someone like Yamame, even if you can fight under your opponent’s spell cards, you don’t have any ranged firepower to participate.”
“The answer is still violence…” He sighs, almost with some disgust mixed in, “Let’s do this then, I can fight at range if needed. What are these spell card rules?”
[ ] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” [ ] “Look, Horosha, he can easily handle a feral, why are you doing this? He’s not going to pick a fight against anyone threatening.” [ ] “Well, if you have ranged options, let’s see a fight then! I’ll pop a spell card and you can follow along.” - [ ] “Gimme a sec, I got my phone. We’re livestreaming this.”
[x] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [x] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules.
No reason to jump to fights immediately if time is an issue. But we also don't want him to overexert himself and do something irreversible.
[x] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [x] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules. - [X] “Gimme a sec, I got my phone. We’re livestreaming this.”
[X] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [X] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules.
I feel like it'd be a bit weird to break the image of being just a normal "cosplay" streamer at this point, even if I am morbidly curious as to what will happen. It'd probably be bad to push him towards more violent options.
[X] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [X] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules.
[X] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [X] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules. Cute Yamame
[X] “...Still, as a courier you should just run past her, you’re not getting paid to fight.” - [X] "But if push comes to shove, a spell card fight is how things are done in Gensokyo" explain the rules. Cute Yamame
We should emphasize that the spell card rules are non lethal and actually very helpful in keeping things very peaceful. It also gives weaker people a fighting chance at surviving. Very humane and merciful. Specifically created so there aren't any deaths.