Topic: Tempests of Distant Waters (Epilogue up; story complete)  (Read 11855 times)

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FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Tempests of Distant Waters (Epilogue up; story complete)
« on: September 13, 2011, 10:59:34 pm »
Well, here we are again.

It's been over two years since I wrote Third Eye In Pure Waters, and over a year since I wrote Pure Lotus Of The Sunken Stars. Seems like it's just about time to write something else along those lines. Warning - there will be OCs. Quite a lot of them.

And for a change, I've managed to write the whole thing before I start posting! I'm not pulling things out my ass as I go along anymore! \o/

Anywho, this main page is going to serve as something of an index, so it's easy to jump between chapters. I'll be uploading a chapter every few days for a couple of weeks. Hopefully that'll stop the sheer wordage scaring a lot of people off. :ohdear:


Index:
Chapter 1: The Missing Youkai
Chapter 2: Seeing Red
Chapter 3: What Lies Beneath
Chapter 4: The White Horse
Chapter 5: Tragedy + Time
Chapter 6: The Child of the Waves
Epilogue: Community Service
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 06:25:52 pm by Rou You Can »

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
ToDW Chapter 1: The Missing Youkai
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2011, 11:00:50 pm »
It wasn’t often Momiji got days off.

Not when it came to her real job, of course. The tengu were strict with discipline, but they were not slave drivers - there were usually one or two days a week where she wasn’t on duty. Sadly, these were usually the days when Aya would come up to her with some sort of favour that needed to be seen to, and that was usually more work than her actual job. Aya would have her track potential leads, interview subjects she couldn’t be bothered visiting, or just bring her into the office for simple paperwork. For a while, Momiji had given up on having a day where she wasn’t chained to someone else’s leash.

Then the idea had come to her, fully formed. Three small words that were enough to get Aya off of her back for 24 long, beautiful hours.

“I’m doing research.”

She’d thrown it out half-heartedly, simply because she couldn’t think of anything believable that Aya would consider an excuse. She hadn’t expected the crow to actually buy it, and she definitely hadn’t been planning for Aya to encourage it.

“Research, hm?” she had said, a glint of eagerness shining in those eyes of hers. “Well, the key to a good article is good information. What’re you going to study?”

Momiji had quickly learned that if she could make a half-convincing case, Aya would let her go just about anywhere for the sake of ‘research’. There were so many potential discoveries for her to ‘look into’ that she could basically talk Aya into letting her go anywhere. For a few weeks, she had made everything she could of this chance to finally being by herself and spend the day travelling the lands.

By that point, she’d realised how little she actually wanted to see.

The Scarlet Devil Mansion? Too brazen. Eientei? Too secretive. The Myouren Temple? Too preachy. In the end, most of the places Momiji actually wanted to go were around the Youkai Mountain - playing shogi with the kappa, seeing Gensokyo from a good vantage point, drinking with her fellow tengu. She really wasn’t much of a traveller, when it came to it.

Though...there was one place she went to now and then, when she felt like seeing something other than the mountain. She’d been made to travel there once during a job for Aya, and she’d made the occasional visit to catch up with a friend she’d made along the way. A very strange friend, at that.

Momiji doubted she’d ever start another friendship by nearly getting her foot bitten off.

-----

“The Crystal Waters, again?”

Aya tilted her head, floating in front of Momiji at the side of the Youkain Mountain. She was probably getting suspicious - for the last month of so, the Crystal Waters were the only place Momiji had taken ‘research’ trips to. Luckily, Momiji had learned how to cover her tracks properly by now.

“It’s a new landmark, right? That means there’s a lot more to learn about it.” She winked, feeling strangely powerful. “And don’t forget that I have a good friend in the area who’s a vital source of information.”

Aya gulped at that. She’d heard the stories of monsters in the Waters who swallowed youkai whole, and how Momiji had managed to win over one of them to be a companion. Momiji had fought her long and hard in a battle that had nearly cost her her life, and it was a brutal fight that would have made children cry and women faint. From Aya’s point of view, the Crystal Waters were far too dangerous to visit.

Of course, Momiji may have exaggerated the point a little when she’d told her story. Journalism didn’t survive on half-primed stories, after all. It also gave her a free ticket to ‘research’, so she had kept the truth of the matter to herself.

“You, uh, don’t need me to pay for that equipment, do you?” Aya was sweating now, looking down at a notebook. On that first journey Aya had convinced Momiji to actually dive into the water outright, bringing back photos for the next hot headline. She’d paid for the necessary diving gear then, but afterwards she’d insisted that Momiji pay for all her own ‘research’.

Crow tengu were as stingy as they were manipulative.

Momiji shook her head. “I’ll just get what I need off Nitori. I’m sort of a frequent customer.”

“Right. Uh...don’t get eaten, okay?” For a moment, Momiji thought she heard something in Aya’s voice that resembled actual sympathy. Still, you could never be too sure with these crow tengu types.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll do my best not to make you write an obituary.”

With that Momiji was off, running down the mountain to meet her kappa contact at its base. She could have flown, but Momiji always had a liking for putting her feet onto solid ground. It gave her more time to appreciate the view, as well - and with eyes as good as hers, she took in every last detail.

It took her maybe twenty minutes to make her way down the mountain. Every now and then she looked backwards out of instinct, checking if Aya was following behind. There was no sign of her, and she sighed in relief every time she saw that. The mountain path wound down until it came to the grassy plains at the foot of the mountain. Streams and rivers were common here, and the trickling sound of water falling from above was almost omnipresent. The Youkai Mountain had a beautiful waterfall, and the kappa tended to build their homes as close to it as possible.

The building Momiji was looking for was not one of those buildings. It was further out, closer to one of the local lakes, and it was also much grander than a simple abode. It was the only store at the foot of the mountain, but it sold none of the essential goods like food or water (not while the harvest gods had a monopoly on that market, anyway). It was effectively run by kappa for kappa, selling all sorts of mechanical doohickeys and diving equipment. The owner made a nice profit, and figured herself something of a success among her people.

Momiji knew for a fact, though, that she was pretty miserable at shogi.

She didn’t bother knocking, opening the door with a loud creak. Another customer was just leaving - a kappa who’d purchased one of those super-specific sets of screws. Sometimes Momiji wondered why they needed so many types of screw when one could probably do the job. Maybe the kappa just liked their work to be overcomplicated so they could feel smart about it.

Nitori Kawashiro was shuffling her change into the register as Momiji walked up. She seemed totally lost in the procedure, not noticing Momiji until the tengu slapped one palm onto the counter.

“Ge-!?”

Nitori leapt up, stumbling backwards against the wall, looking at Momiji like she was a ghost. Momiji pouted. She hadn’t expected the kappa to scare so easily.

“Is that how you greet all of your customers?” she asked, sounding deadly serious. That only made Nitori even more nervous.

“Uh, no, not at all! There was a little demon in here earlier, and I’ve been ready for a god to strike me down ever since I served her...anyway, you’re here for that special tech you ordered, right?”

Momiji nodded. ‘Ordered’ was a polite way to put it. In truth, the pair had been drunk during a game of shogi, and Nitori had insisted on making a wager of it. Momiji had tried to refuse, but Nitori kept on goading her until eventually she decided to request a commission from her if she won.

Nitori’s request was somewhat more...romantic. Thankfully, Momiji won in short order, and the pair had vowed never to speak of it again when they returned to sobriety.

“I’ll tell you, this was a weird request,” Nitori called out as she backed into the closet. “Quite a challenge, actually. Took a lotta work and ingenuity, but I think I’ve managed to put together what you wanted.”

A few minutes later, she emerged with the device Momiji had commissioned. It had taken her a while to get the wording down - it was like the diving tanks Nitori sold in the store, only backwards. Rather than letting an air-breather survive underwater, it was meant to let a water-breather survive in air.

Nitori held the machine upwards at the top, clutching at three circular tubes. At their end, at the topmost point of the device, a small mouthpiece was hanging out.

“Your fish friend’s gonna want to put this part on her neck. There’s a little motor that’ll push the water into her gills, but if she’s doing heavy work that’s not gonna be enough. She’ll have to start breathing from the mouthpiece if she really needs to push herself on the surface.”

Momiji let out a muffled acknowledgement. That part of the device was all well and good, but there really wasn’t much beyond that. The tubes continued downwards, finishing in a large circular area with a pump. This was presumably where the device took in water, but it was featureless beyond a dull stone lodged on the far wall of the plastic.

“This thing looks pretty small. How’s it meant to hold enough water for her to keep breathing?”

“Ah, now that’s the beautiful part. Here, let me demonstrate,” Nitori replied, with the natural charisma of a salesman. She hauled up a glass tank full of water and placed it on the counter, then placed the bottom of the device beneath the surface. Water flowed inside, pulsing upwards to the circular tubes, and staying locked within when Nitori lifted it out of the water. Now, though, Momiji could see a big change in the pump area - the stone was glowing a light blue, and the water was brighter than it had been before.

Nitori grinned.

“Like it? It’s a water purifier. Charm’s my own, of course, and perfectly designed. Recycles the water, keeps it nice and breathable for hours. Then the water’s too stale to use, but the minute she steps into water again it’ll be ready for another cycle. Best of all, the bottom part’s so streamlined she can wear it under her clothes and no-one would even notice it.”

Momiji nodded along. Nitori had learned to dumb down the descriptions with her - not because she wouldn’t understand, but because Momiji frankly didn’t care about the science. If it did its job, she was happy.

“So...you’ve tested this, right?”

Nitori flinched for a moment.

“Yeah, about that...” She looked to the side, rubbing behind her head. “I don’t really have any fish on point to test it with, y’know...?” She realised her own folly, standing to attention and putting on her best smile. “B-But you’ve seen my work before! It’s all top notch! I’m sure it’ll work! 120% certain, even!”

Momiji knew enough about percentages to disagree with that statement, but she didn’t bother refuting it. Nitori was right in that she was a damn good engineer. If she said this machine worked, it probably did.

“Thanks. I’ll get this out to her right away. She’ll be really grateful, I swear.”

“Grateful enough to become a customer?” Nitori asked. For a moment, Momiji could see the gold glittering in her eyes, and it was almost tragic as she placed a hand on the kappa’s shoulder.

“Sorry. I don’t think a shark will have much use for things like knives and goggles.”

Momiji saw Nitori’s little heart break, and she fell backwards onto a chair. “Uuuu...I’m never playing you at shogi ever again, got it?”

“Right,” Momiji replied. She’d been told this a dozen times in the last ten years or so, and yet Nitori had come back every time. The tengu picked up the kit, making for the door. “Thanks again.”

“No problem. Tell all your friends, right?”

Friends, Momiji thought to herself as she closed the door behind her. I really don’t have many of those, do I?

-----

The thought lingered with her as she made her way across to the Crystal Waters. How many friends could Momiji say she had?

She’d never felt lonely in her life. If anything, she wished people like Aya would leave her by herself more often. But in a nation with thousands upon thousands of residents, there were maybe three or four she was really on speaking terms with.

Nitori was the most obvious one. She knew some of the other kappa from her shogi meetings, but they weren’t really people so much as they were opponents. They didn’t quite count. Aya...well, Momiji had done her a lot of favours, so she probably qualified as a ‘friend’ in the technical sense. And admittedly, working for her was never boring.

Other than that, all she could come up with was Jozu.

She felt bad for the girl. Jozu had a bit of a tough story - she was an aumakua, a guardian spirit for a family in some foreign nation. But the bloodline she was meant to protect died out, and with no-one left to believe in her she ended up drifting into Gensokyo. Since then she’d been looking for someone to talk to, but every attempt other than Momiji had ended in failure.

Jozu was a shark, after all. And sharks had natural instincts that were hard to kick.

The Waters came up in the distance, and Momiji allowed herself the usual sharp breath of amazement. The sight of this place never stopped to amaze her - it was a little slice of perfection, the sunlight hitting the water at just the right angle to turn it a brilliant blue. A coral reef ran along one side of the lake, a wonder that couldn’t be seen anywhere else in Gensokyo.

It wasn’t to be touched, though. Momiji had learned that the hard way.

Taking a moment to sit down after her long walk, Momiji removed her shirt to reveal the top half of the swimsuit underneath. She liked to take a little dip in here when the mood took her, so it was always good to come prepared. She reached into the bag of goods she’d brought with her, pulling out a necklace and putting it on. The accessory ended in a long, jagged tooth she’d claimed during a difficult fight.

Well, in truth, it wasn’t so much ‘claimed’ as it was ‘given to her by its owner’.

Momiji reached into the bag again, pulling out another of Nitori’s inventions. It looked similar to a whistle, but the frequency it gave off was unusually low. She poked it into the water, blowing hard and sending a bellowing noise down into the waters. This was her way of getting Jozu’s attention without having to dive in for her - there was only so far Momiji could dive on one breath, after all, and the Crystal Waters were ridiculously deep.

After making the call, Momiji sat back and waited. She hauled Nitori’s latest invention out, checking one last time there weren’t any punctures in the tubing. It all looked safe enough, and she rested it on her lap as a shadow started to appear beneath the surface.

Jozu Manou was much less threatening a sight than Momiji had made out to Aya. As she poked her head out of the water, her dark blue eyes were curious, almost playful. Her well-tanned skin was a strange sight in Gensokyo - her jagged teeth, less so.

“Morning, Momi,” she said, voice hoarse with disuse. “Little late today.”

Momiji smiled, nudging the kit forward.

“That’s because I was picking this up for you. Like you wanted, I got her to make it so the difficult stuff’s out of sight.”

Jozu’s eyes lit up as Momiji held up the breathing device. For a moment she looked like she was going to snatch it, but she thought better of it. Taking a deep breath from the water first, she rose up and carefully lifted it out of Momiji’s hands. Now Momiji could make out more of her aquatic companion - the silver wetsuit that cloaked her body, with a white line stabbing down the centre, and the blade-like fin coming out of her back.

“Gonna go put this on,” she said, still seemingly in awe. She started to sink, then stopped to throw out an afterthought. “Don’t look.” Momiji swore she saw the girl blush as she dipped back under the surface. She clearly didn’t trust Momiji, because she dove deep enough into the water that the tengu wouldn’t have been able to spy on her anyway.

It was a few minutes before Jozu resurfaced, with the three tubes coiled around her neck. Momiji could see that water was moving slowly around them as the shark rose slightly out of the water.

“So, uh...I’m not gonna choke on air anymore?” Jozu asked, still a little nervous. Momiji nodded. That was what Nitori had told her, anyway, and last time she checked the kappa was a bad liar.

“Well it’s more like the machine does the breathing for you, I think,” Momiji said, remembering something Nitori had explained while she was planning the device. “You sharks need to swim all the time to keep water running into your gills, right? Well, there’s a motor in that thing that’ll do that for you.”

Jozu’s eyes widened. She nodded along.

“Wow, those kappa know a thing or two about their sciency things, huh?”

“It’s their main redeeming feature. They’re miserable with tactics.”

Jozu just tilted her head at that one. Momiji decided not to explain. It was fun to keep a mystery or two.

“OK. Then I just...”

Jozu was tentative as she pulled herself out of the water, crawling onto the edge of the Crystal Waters. Momiji could see her cheeks puffed up like she was trying to hold her breath, and poked her in the shoulder to stop it. The shark flinched, nodded, and hung her head as she waited to see if she’d need to dive back in.

As it turned out, she didn’t.

“...It, uh...works.” Jozu’s look was one of amazement at first, shortly followed by elation. “That’s awesome.” She gave Momiji a long, hard hug, catching the tengu totally off guard.

“W-Watch it! It’s Nitori you should thank, remember? She made that thing for you, not me.”

Jozu didn’t get the message right away, but eventually broke off on her own accord. She started taking nervous steps away from the lake, with every moment of not-choking giving her more confidence. Eventually she was jogging, running laps up and down the pathway.

“This walking thing is weird...but the surface looks like a pretty cool place!” She ran over to a nearby tree, pressing a hand against it with a smile. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to know what that felt like!” She made her way back to Momiji, eyes shining with excitement.

That look vanished when a coughing fit hit her.

“Ack-”

Jozu’s hands went to her mouth as she let out a wheezy cough. She fell to her knees, and from the distant look in her eyes she was struggling to stay conscious.

“Hey, Jozu-!?”

Momiji cursed to herself. She knew she’d forgotten something. Running over to Jozu, she picked up the mouthpiece from the side of the kit and held it in front of her.

“Put this on when you’re trying to do anything taxing.”

Jozu nodded weakly, clamping her teeth down on the mouthpiece. Momiji briefly noted that the plastic must have been pretty durable if Jozu’s teeth hadn’t ripped it apart. As Jozu started to take in water, her breathing slowed down until it reached a relaxed pace.

She pulled off the mouthpiece with a sigh of relief. “That was kinda scary. Good thing the kappa thinks of everything, isn’t it?”

It was a while before Jozu mustered up the nerve to go exploring again. This time she was breathing fully from the machine before she tried to exert herself, running laps around the Crystal Waters and putting her legs to a brand new use. Momiji saw the shark’s eyes fall on the trees, the bushes, the birds, all of them with a childish curiosity that she never expected to see from the girl.

Then again, Jozu was not the sort of girl that first impressions worked with. The first time Momiji had met her, the shark had tried to eat her alive. Momiji had been bleeding at that point, and blood was something Jozu couldn’t resist. The shark had done what she could to make up for it, though, making Momiji the necklace she was wearing now. It was a ward that would allow Jozu to resist the smell of her blood, and now the pair could converse without fear of anyone being eaten.

It took about twenty minutes for Jozu to fulfill her curiosity of the surrounding area. By the time she came back to Momiji she had leaves running down her sleeves and mud caked across her feet. Her eyes would have been more fitting on a ten-year-old, and she couldn’t hide her excitement as she pulled the mouthpiece away.

“This world you guys live in is really cool! No wonder all those folks from the Second Stratum went missing.”

The first sentence was innocent enough. The second one caused Momiji to furrow her brow.

“Second Stratum?”

Jozu blinked for a moment, unable to understand why Momiji was puzzled, until the thought hit her with all the subtlety of a brick.

“Oh, that’s right!” she said, slapping herself in the forehead. “I never explained the system to you, did I? See, the Crystal Waters is really really deep. Some youkai prefer certain depths over others, so they sort of break it up into Stratums to keep it simple. I usually hang around the First Stratum - that’s the shallow one, starting at the surface.”

“How deep does that go?” Momiji asked. Jozu thought about it for a moment, biting her lip, trying to do the numbers in her head.

“I dunno. A hundred meters, I think? I don’t really try to go much deeper - I can’t see too well at that depth, and there’s a nasty current where the stratums split. Hard as hell to swim in. Good practice, though.” Jozu swung her arms around, looking to get some sort of praise from Momiji.

Nothing followed.

“...Anyway. The Second Stratum is the next hundred meters after that. There are some really strong youkai on that level, apparently, and they’ve sorta vanished last night.” Jozu looked away, a hint of worry rising to her voice. “I overheard some of the fairies talking about them...”

Momiji held a hand forward to stop Jozu. “Wait. What fairies? I haven’t seen a fairy round here.”

“Oh, that’s because they’re diving right now,” Jozu explained, pointing into the water. “You’ve never seen them? The ones with the little tanks and the fins? They go down pretty early and mess around until sundown. It’s sort of cute.” At this point, Jozu looked away, scratching at her scruffy black hair. “Though they, uh, sometimes get themselves cut. That’s, uh...awkward.”

Momiji had several questions she wanted to ask, but none of them seemed remotely relevant.

“So anyway, I heard some of the fairies talking about it last night. Apparently these youkai were saying some dangerous things about faith and usurping...I dunno if I want to sit around if they’re doing something risky. I’m meant to be a guardian, right? That means I’ve got to go out there and defend people from attacks, doesn’t it...?”

Momiji frowned. Jozu was getting really worked up about this. There was a fire in her eyes as she stood up, making her way away from the Crystal Waters. Momiji bit her lip, worried the shark was going to do something she’d regret later.

Fortunately, she came back after a few minutes.

“OK, I have no idea where these people have gone.”

Jozu started prowling around the edges of the water, looking for some sort of evidence. Momiji sighed - she had motivation, but apparently she was still lacking in prowess. The wolf looked around, her eyes scanning for any small detail that Jozu might have missed.

“...Hm?”

The ground caught her attention. She walked over to a smaller, distant path to give it a closer examination. Sure enough, she could make out imprints in the mud. Not footprints, though. If anything, it was more like...

A hoof?

Momiji examined the marks some more. They continued for some distance down the track, and the mud looked damp enough that they’d be easy to follow. She looked back at the shark, who was currently overturning rocks for any hidden evidence.

“Jozu, I think your escapees went this direction.”

Jozu turned around, dropping her stone with a loud thump. She ran over to Momiji, taking a puff or two from the mouthpiece so she didn’t overexert herself. Momiji watched her expression as her eyes fell on the hoofprint, and she looked just as confused as Momiji had been.

“Well...it’s a footprint. Or whatever that thing is.”

Of course. Jozu wouldn’t know about horses, would she? Either way, this was the only sort of track Momiji could find, and if her eyesight couldn’t see it it probably didn’t exist.

“Let’s go. You know the landscape.” Jozu started walking down the path, her expression equal parts excitement and conviction. Momiji furrowed her brow, yelling at the shark.

“Wait, you assume I’m going to come with you on this journey without even asking?”

Jozu turned back, with a shrug.

“You are, aren’t you?”

Momiji thought about it for a moment. Getting wrapped up in another one of these incidents? That wasn’t how she had been planning to spend her day off. She wanted to talk to Jozu, maybe take a swim, appreciate the scenery and the wildlife. This was meant to be her chance to unwind and relax.

Then again, if it meant a opportunity to give her sword arm some use, she couldn’t turn it down.

Momiji picked up her shirt from the ground, throwing it back on as she grabbed her bag of swim gear. She dashed forward, stepping ahead of Jozu a little.

“Why is it you people never give me a chance to sit back on my day off?”

“Look at it this way,” Jozu answered, poking her in the side. “You’re so popular, people just can’t get enough of you.”

“True enough,” Momiji said with a wink. “Who wouldn’t want to spend time with the Vanquisher Of The Deep?”

As the pair made their way down the path, their chuckles echoed through the trees.

-----

The trail was remarkably easy to follow, the damp ground keeping the hoofprints fresh. Momiji led ahead, Jozu trailing just behind her. The shark looked away every so often, eyes turning to the various wonders of the surface world with infantile curiosity.

A little too curious for Momiji’s tastes.

“Wow...Momi, what’s that thing?”

“It’s called a grasshopper. It’s an insect.”

“Cool.” Jozu paused for a few seconds. “What’s an insect?”

Momiji rubbed at her temples. This had been continuing non-stop for the last twenty minutes. She remembered an old parable about how you couldn’t explain air to a fish - which was pretty much what she was trying to accomplish here.

“It’s an animal,” she muttered.

“What sort?” Jozu asked.

“The sort that we can sit down and have a discussion about some other time.”

Jozu’s face fell. “Oh. Sorry, it’s just that this is all so new to me, and-”

“Yeah, I know,” Momiji said with a sigh. “But I can’t explain the whole surface world to you in one day. Can we focus on one thing at a time, please?”

The shark looked around again, seeing dozens of new sights she wanted to hear about, but eventually she gave in.

“I’m gonna hold you to that. Next time you visit, we go on the first stage of the Gensokyo Grand Tour!”

That didn’t sound very enticing. There wasn’t much of Gensokyo that Momiji was willing to visit with a smile.

Like the household they were approaching now.

“From the way these tracks are going...” Momiji sighed. “It looks like we’re headed towards the Scarlet Devil Mansion.”

Jozu frowned. “That is not a very welcoming name.”

“And for good reason.”

Momiji’s pace slowed ever so slightly. There had been stories told about that building. About demons, sacrifices, all sorts of villainy going on within. For a moment, she wondered what dastardly deeds could be going on within that mansion’s walls...

-----

Ker~BLAMMO!

Flandre Scarlet flung a pile of paper sheets into the air in time with her yell. She waited for a moment, letting them gain some height, before she pointed a finger at it. For an instant, her scarlet eyes glowed, and the paper immediately burst outward into thousands of tiny fragments. They fluttered around her in all directions, several scraps landing on the witch’s uniform she’d put together. It was scarlet red, the sort that made it look like she was bleeding on first sight - and with those jagged wings sticking out of her back, jewels of all colours hanging from their branches, she certainly looked like she’d been bleeding. The scraps of looked like stardust, meshing with the golden stars imprinted on the fabric so well it looked deliberate.

“How was that, boss?” she said, looking over to her companion with a manic grin. “Good enough for your number one apprentice?”

The girl standing across from Flandre was dressed in something much less ornate - a pure white one-piece swimsuit. The most notable accessory wasn’t part of the costume at all - the tendrils around her chest, and the purple eye hanging in their midst, was entirely natural. The girl crossed her arms, nodding as she looked in Flandre’s direction.

“Excellent work, Flan! Truly, you are worthy to wield the title of Cutie Crusher. However!” She held one finger forward, with the tone of a stern parent. “If you are truly to become a hero of love and justice, you must learn to control your powers! Without that responsibility, there is nothing to separate you from the villains you hope to defeat!”

Flan frowned. She lowered the blade she was carrying, almost dropping it onto the floor.

“But what’s the point in power if I don’t get to use it? I mean, did you see what happened that one time I blew up that meteorite? It was the coolest thing EVER! And big sis and Patchy and Sakuya were all really impressed, and-”

“That was because you saved them, not because you made a rock explode in midair!” The other girl looked stern for a moment, but her expression quickly gave way to a childish pout. “Although I admit it was incredibly cool and I really wish I’d seen it. Regardless!” She raised her finger again, her face half-hidden behind long silver hair. “Randomly blowing up walls and fish and passers by is NOT heroic!”

Now Flandre advanced into a full-blown pout. For a moment it looked like she was set to let out her anger, but eventually she let out a long breath, the warm air seeping out of her and taking her aggression with it.

“Yeah, alright,” she muttered. “I’ll try to cut down on the whole spontaneous combustion thing.”

“Excellent!” Flandre’s teacher gave her a thumbs up. “This Dolphin Rider is proud to call you her apprentice!”

She ran up to Flandre, giving the vampire a long and tender hug. Flandre hugged back, though carefully so she didn’t snap her friend’s spine.

Two other girls were watching this entire exchange from a safe distance, several rooms away. Surveillance was something that the Scarlet Devil Mansion was usually poor with, given the lack of cameras or similar recording systems. Sakuya Izayoi, the mansion’s head maid, had no such difficulty. Time and space were putty in her hands, and she watched through the window to witness a scene that should have been on the other end of the wing.

“Your friend’s effect on the young mistress is remarkable,” she said, one hand on her chin as she watched on in amazement. “Patchouli has been attempting to teach her to contain her power for centuries, but she has never had this sort of success.”

Her companion gave her a wry grin. She was another of the mistress’s guests, hailing from what were literally distant waters. Bubbles ran along the light blue sleeves of her shirt, and her long grey skirt was leaving constant droplets on the carpet. Sakuya frowned. She’d have to dry that later.

The maid’s companion grinned wryly. “Koishi is...weird, yeah. But I think that’s why she does so well. She’s such a strange character you can’t help but notice her.”

Was it all that? Sakuya wondered. There was something unusual about ‘Dolphin Rider’ Koishi. Sakuya wondered if the girl was truly as clueless as she made out, if she could honestly achieve so much while possessing so little in the way of sanity.

“Was that how it was for you, then?” Sakuya asked, looking over to her companion again. “What did she bring to you, Sango?”

Sango Tororetsu had to think for a moment before she could answer. A pensive look rose on her face, and Sakuya swore she saw the fin on the girl’s back twitch in contemplation. She was relatively sure dolphin biology didn’t typically work like that, but she’d long since given up on understanding the insides of youkai.

“Frankly?” Sango hung her head, letting out a small chuckle. “She gave me a sleepless night and the fright of my life. And just in case I hadn’t got the point, her sister did the same thing a few weeks later. The Komeijis...they’re sorta out there, but Koishi’s reeeeeeally out there.”

Sakuya nodded. She’d seen the Komeiji girl for herself these last few weeks. Apparently, she had been selling Flandre on this magical girl nonsense for some time, but it had only recently come to light. Since then, Sakuya had been observing their meetings with care. Flandre was still volatile, and there was every chance the well-meaning visitor would end up paste on the wall if she made a wrong step around the vampire.

“That reminds me. I never apologised for our first meeting. I should have handed you in to my mistress for orders, but instead I acted on my own reckless initiative.”

In Sakuya’s defense, Sango had been wandering around the mansion in the head maid’s uniform. And that dolphin fin of hers had torn a massive rip into the fabric. That had taken Sakuya hours to repair afterwards. Then again, that probably wasn’t a good enough motive for the beating Sakuya had been looking to inflict.

“Yeah, well.” Sango started to play with her long silver hair, going a little red in the face. “That’s more than the librarian’s offered me.”

“Patchouli is stubborn. You’d as well be squeezing blood from a stone.”

Sango let out a small whine. The dolphin’s intrusion had brought her into conflict with both Sakuya and the mansion’s Librarian, Patchouli. Where Sakuya had planned to simply injure, Patchouli tried to go one step further and actually kill her. The mistress Remilia had given both of them the same lecture about acting on their own authority and refusing to report to her. Both of them had apologised to the mistress about it, but Patchouli had yet to offer any sort of similar apology to her actual victim. She had always been prideful, as the magician types usually were. Sakuya only had to think of the black-white witch as an example of that-

Something trembled. Sakuya couldn’t put a word to it, but it was the intense feeling that overtook her when her duty called for her to be elsewhere. It was like the pendulum of a grandfather clock wavering within her mind, reminding her of pressing matters. She pulled out a small silver stopwatch, immaculately crafted. It kept its time perfect to the millisecond, and she frowned as she looked upon its face.

“I’m afraid I must depart. I have to prepare the mistress’ tea. May I trust you to keep watch on these two?”

Sango nodded. She’d put their differences aside, albeit begrudgingly, and put her all into supporting Koishi during her time training Flandre to be her ‘apprentice’. From then on, she’d been an esteemed guest of the house, and Sakuya had treated her as such. So far, the dolphin had given her no reason to displace that trust. The moment she did, though, she’d find one of her sleeves impaled against a wall, and a furious head maid looking for some explanations.

Sakuya clicked her fingers. As always, the world around her froze in place. This was how she always travelled when she was alone. Faster, more efficient. She stepped past the motionless statues of the mansion’s fairy maids as she made her way into the kitchen. There was an entire room within devoted entirely to tea, with several plants growing to ensure the mansion had a steady supply. The mistress always had her cup on the hour, and she insisted on a peculiar brew of the finest ingredients.

Some of these were rare. Others, painful.

Clicking her fingers again, Sakuya brought the world around her back to life. She added half of one leaf, a quarter of another, and only the very tip of a third. Her measurements were precise and thorough, intent on reproducing the same drink she offered her mistress every day at this hour. Within a few minutes, she had filled the cup with tea leaves of all different flavours and types.

All that was needed now was her secret ingredient.

She reached into a pocket in her apron, pulling out a small needle. Its edge was a dull red from the stains left upon it. Without hesitating, she pricked herself in the finger, squeezing to bring the blood out. She held it forward, letting a single crimson drop fall into the cup. The leaves sucked it up, turning from a verdant green to a crimson red.

Sakuya smiled. The mistress always liked her tea with a little ‘personal’ touch. She wrapped a nearby bandage around, but the faint smell of blood still hung in the air.

Irrelevant, Sakuya thought to herself as she started the kettle. What harm could there be in a little blood in this household, of all places?

-----

(Interesting side note - in the same way PLotSS got me hooked on the idea of Dolphin Rider Koishi, this story has left me unable to stop thinking about the diver fairies. I've went and given them all characters and outfits and everything already. I think I know what I'm writing next after this...x_x)
« Last Edit: September 13, 2011, 11:22:41 pm by Rou You Can »

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2011, 11:26:52 pm »
I would love to see some diver faeries.

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2011, 03:47:36 am »
I don't think you need another full-length story, though; you've got enough of those already. Although I'm sure it'd be good. Still, I, of course, want to see more DRK, but this is more than good enough in the meantime.

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2011, 07:13:58 am »
He marathon'd this, though. It's already finished, and he's gonna post it in bits and pieces while working on the others.

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2011, 07:38:47 am »
>scarlet devil mansion
>scarlet devil mansion
>scarlet devil mansion
>talking
>tea time
>forget about story context entirely
>what could go wrong?

oh dammit rou you clever bastard

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2011, 08:05:10 am »
Are you referring to the drop of blood thing with Jozu marchin up to the front gates or something else?

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2011, 02:43:48 pm »
Quote
>She reached into a pocket in her apron, pulling out a small needle. Its edge was a dull red from the stains left upon it. Without hesitating, she pricked herself in the finger, squeezing to bring the blood out. She held it forward, letting a single crimson drop fall into the cup. The leaves sucked it up, turning from a verdant green to a crimson red.

Somehow, I always thought this was the case, even in canon.

>scarlet devil mansion
>scarlet devil mansion
>scarlet devil mansion
>talking
>tea time
>forget about story context entirely
>what could go wrong?

oh dammit rou you clever bastard
Indeed.
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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2011, 09:10:05 pm »
>scarlet devil mansion
>scarlet devil mansion
>scarlet devil mansion
>talking
>tea time
>forget about story context entirely
>what could go wrong?

oh dammit rou you clever bastard
Yes. That said, you'd think Sakuya would know better. :V

I would love to see some diver faeries.
I saw a half-joking theory in an RPG.net thread that the fairies actually gain their powers from cosplay.

And then someone threw together an RPG based on that premise.
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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2011, 09:23:38 pm »
Are you referring to the drop of blood thing with Jozu marchin up to the front gates or something else?
Not gonna lie, I can't wait to see this.

Although, I'm more interested in seeing Sango and Jozu react to each other. :3

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ToDW Chapter 2: Seeing Red
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2011, 08:47:13 pm »
Fate had not been kind to Momiji.

For the entire trip, she’d been hoping the tracks would break away, suddenly turn in some other direction. The Scarlet Devil Mansion was not a place she wanted to visit even on a good day. Bringing a shark in with her would make things even worse. All they needed was one sharp turn to the left, one twist in the path, but the steps never faltered.

Momiji raised an eyebrow at that. They’d kept to one direction remarkably well. Had they known where they were going? No, that was impossible. They couldn’t have learned about Gensokyo’s geography from the Crystal Waters. Unless they’d overheard those diver fairies Jozu had been going on about...or what if someone had been waiting for them when they left, and that person led them to the mansion? No, that would mean another pair of prints along with the hoofprints, and-

Oh. We’re here. Wonderful.

The grass walls at both sides began to break away, and the mansion in question came into view. It was a large, Western building, but for a home its size there were very few windows for light to seep in. Behind it, a long circular lake spread outward, and Momiji could see fairies playing on the other side of the waters.

The entire building was painted a pale red. Momiji had heard that when the moonlight struck it, it darkened to resemble the colour of blood. It wasn’t a rumour she wanted to hang around to confirm.

“The mansion’s the property of one Remilia Scarlet,” Momiji said, grimacing. “Extremely powerful vampire. Nearly caused a revolution some time back, actually. Had all the youkai up in arms about their rights and stuff.” She hung her head. “Maybe your fishy friends are trying to cut a deal with her for a spot in that lake of hers.”

Jozu’s head tilted. Momiji could almost see the question on her lips - “What’s a vampire?” - but Momiji really wasn’t in the mood to answer her right now.

Awkwardly, Momiji started to step forward. The prints were fading now - this ground was drier, and thus less willing to give way when someone stepped on it. By the time they were within a hundred feet of the mansion, even Momiji’s eyes couldn’t pick out anything.

Remilia Scarlet was not a youkai she wanted to annoy. They said the vampire could alter fate itself, and Momiji couldn’t think of any way a simple guardsman could beat that sort of opponent. A fish out of her element probably didn’t have a better chance.

That was when Momiji remembered something incredibly important.

“Hey, Jozu-”

The shark didn’t seem to care as Momiji called for her attention. She calmly walked forward, stretching her arms and yawning.

“I get it. Keep it civil, don’t let anyone get hurt, right?”

“No, it’s- well, that too, but you really shouldn’t go in there.”

Jozu stopped in place. She turned around, crossing her arms in frustration.

“Momiji, are you doubting me?” she asked, looking a little hurt. “I’m an aumakua. A guardian spirit. I can look after myself. Or did you forget that one time where my teeth had a nice discussion with your foot?”

Momiji winced at the memory of it. They’d met under unpleasant circumstances - namely, Jozu had nearly bitten Momiji’s foot off when the tengu had been diving in the Crystal Waters. Momiji had been lucky to get out of that fight alive - and now she wore the shark-tooth necklace at all times, just to make sure Jozu didn’t get an inkling for her blood again.

The problem was that it only worked on Momiji.

“Of course I remember,” Momiji said, eyes clenched shut in frustration. “But if you go anywhere near that building, you’re going to-”

“Going to what? Get my ass handed to me?” Now Jozu looked seriously offended, giving Momiji the sternest look she could manage. “Just watch. I’m gonna show this vammpyre thingy what happens when she tries to mess with the Crystal Waters!”

Jozu put the mouthpiece on and burst for the entrance, leaving Momiji stunned. The wolf held an arm out for a moment, stunned, but recovered quickly and started giving chase.

How the hell did I forget about this?

She’d been careless. Jozu’s questioning, the thought of angering the Scarlet Devil, it had all managed to get her distracted. She’d forgotten the most important thing about the mansion, and the one reason Jozu couldn’t be allowed anywhere near it.

Momiji ran with all her might, but she was too late. Jozu was already through the gateway. The local guard was napping in the corner - and Momiji had thought the stories of her afternoon naps were just jokes - allowing the shark to run straight through into the mansion itself.

For the love of-

Momiji cursed under her breath. The Moriya gods would have frowned upon her language, but she didn’t care right now. She blazed past the guard as well, hearing her mumbling to herself in her sleep. A few fairies tried to stand between Momiji and the entrance, but when she pulled out her sword they thought better of it and stood aside.

She found Jozu in the entrance hall, head bowed. She was breathing hard from the exertion, pumping water in and out of the device at high speed, but Momiji could see her sniffing at the air too. Her sense of smell was probably poorer in air than in water, but it didn’t matter. The smell in the air was too strong for the shark to miss.

Blood.

“...Jozu,” Momiji said, trying to hide her fear. “You need to get out of here right now.”

Did Jozu hear her? She wasn’t sure. She took a step forward, trying to reach out for her shoulder. She was only inches away when Jozu turned on the spot, and immediately Momiji knew it was too late. The shark looked at her with sheer black eyes, cold and distant. She looked up and down Momiji’s length, sniffing, checking if she was the source of the blood.

She wasn’t, and thus Jozu turned on the spot and ran further inside.

“Jozu!”

Momiji cursed again. One of the mountain gods would probably want a long talk with her tonight. She ran in hot pursuit of Jozu, trying to match the shark’s movements left and right.

She thought it would be easy - she was the natural air-breather, after all, and thus the better sprinter. But the building itself seemed to act against her, its twists and turns abstract, almost impossible. She swore at one point that she ran down the same corridor for a minute without actually getting anywhere. By the time she admitted she’d lost sight of Jozu, she also had to admit she was well and truly lost.

Momiji fell to her knees, panting for breath. Jozu was probably in the middle of some sort of mauling spree right now, and it was because she’d been too mad to remember Jozu’s weakness around blood. She looked down the corridor, towards a dozen identical doors.

“...Well, this is going to be difficult to explain.”

“Indeed,” another voice added from behind her.

Momiji’s heart almost exploded. Another maid - a human one, and from the ornate frills on her dress she was likely in charge. Momiji noticed all this well after she saw the knife the girl was holding to her throat. Momiji grimaced, then slowly dropped her blade.

“...I’ll come quietly, but I’ve got to warn you about something.”

The maid sighed. “I hope this isn’t your attempt at a distraction. You’ve already forced me to leave my mistress alone with her tea.”

Momiji gulped. She wasn’t sure who that bode worse for - the maid’s mistress, or Jozu.

“This tea...I assume you’ve prepared it with your mistress’s favourite flavouring?”

The maid tensed, the knife pressing against Momiji’s skin. It was cold, and she couldn’t help but shiver.

“What are you getting at?” the maid asked, voice torn between anger and fear.

Momiji steeled herself. Time to be the bearer of bad news.

“If my guess is right,” she said, clenching her hands, “your mistress will be getting a visit from a bloodthirsty youkai very soon if you don’t do anything about it.”

The maid’s whole body seemed to freeze at that moment. The only sign that anyone was there at all was the sound of slow, deliberate breathing. After what felt like an age, the knife moved away from Momiji’s throat.

“Wait here.”

And with that, the woman was gone, leaving Momiji alone in the endless corridors of the mansion.

Well, Momiji thought to herself, no reason to disobey. Not like I can get around this place on my own...

-----

Hungry.

Fairies had tried to stop her. She didn’t care. She’d batted them aside. No use eating them. They were spiritual, part of Gensokyo. No flesh. No blood.

And an aftertaste of sugar. Jozu hated that.

The smell was everywhere at once, smeared across the walls, running along the floor, even falling from the ceiling. She dragged one hand along beside her, tearing at the crimson wallpaper. The building didn’t bleed. Of course not. Worthy trying, though.

But it was always a little stronger in one direction. That was the way she ran, pumping water out of the breathing kit at full flow. She’d never taken on a scent this powerful before. Whatever that smell was coming from had to be delicious - more than anything she’d ever dreamt of. She would devour it slowly, take in every hint of the palette - well, maybe she’d leave the bones behind after they were stripped dry. Too crunchy.

She ran, her nose guiding her. For the first few minutes all seemed at ease - the fairies could do nothing to stop her, and the scent grew stronger the closer she grew. But at some point it was as if the world had changed - the smell would suddenly leap further away, or change direction, or something like that. Was her target moving? No. It couldn’t possibly be that quick.

She looked around for a short cut. Hadn’t she been in this room before? She recognised the fountain in its centre, pulling in fresh water from the nearby lake. Going in circles? No, couldn’t be. The path had been straight up until now.

Hungry. So hungry. The smell was mocking her, taunting her from a distance. She would have it. Nothing would stop her. Her feast was waiting, and she would claim it. And she would suck out every ounce of blood from the-

“You’ll stop if you know what’s good for you.”

A voice. Not a fairy. Jozu looked backwards. Another maid. Human, though. Long silver hair, sharp blade that looked like it could kill with ease.

And every inch of her body looked delicious.

The girl hesitated for a moment as she saw Jozu’s eyes. That happened a lot, it seemed. It was all Jozu needed. She charged forward, pulling out the mouthpiece and bearing her teeth. They were set to close around her arm, tearing her skin and sampling the sweet, sweet taste of flesh-

No-one there.

Jozu’s teeth closed on themselves. No taste of skin, or blood, or anything. Anger welled up in her as she pushed her mouthpiece back on. Had she been tricked?

“A shark?” the maid said from behind her, amazed. Confused? Maybe both. “I didn’t know your kind could be found here.”

Talking. Why talking? Took too long. So much moving of the mouth without any chewing. She didn’t care for it. She wouldn’t be talking after Jozu had sunk her teeth into her thigh.

The shark charged again. No tactics, no strategy, just full-on assault. She would overpower her enemy, then devour her-

No-one there again.

What was going on? This didn’t make sense. She turned around. The maid was fiddling with a deck of cards. Bored. Unimpressed.

“That said, you certainly don’t seem very intelligent. This is not some primal jungle where strength will win all your battles. All your force means nothing if it comes without an ounce of cunning.”

Jozu only heard snippets. She got the message. She was being mocked. Ridiculed. That was it. No-one mocked an aumakua and survived. The maid would regret her pride. Jozu just had to be a little faster this time. She let out a roar behind the mouthpiece, screaming as she raised one hand to claw at her foe.

This time she heard a whistling wind and a loud tear as she struck. For a moment she thought she’d grazed the maid. No luck. No blood on her nails, nothing.

Then she felt her back grow cooler. She reached behind her. The suit had torn. Cut from her neck to her fin. Her skin was exposed. And something was missing-

“Ack-!”

Jozu grabbed at her throat. Her gills flapped helplessly. It was gone. The kit was gone. She turned around. The maid was on the other side of the room, holding her life-line in her hands. The human smiled.

“Help yourself to our fountain, if you so desire. I need to speak with my mistress about what should be done with you.”

With that she vanished again, taking the breathing kit with her. Jozu’s vision was fading. She needed to breathe. Water. Somewhere, anywhere, now.

She looked left. The fountain. Fresh water. Oxygen. Breath. She stumbled forward. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t breathe. She tripped, fell. A splash.

And suddenly, she felt alive again.

“Haaaaah...”

Water pulsed through her gills. She gulped it up, feeling herself grow stronger with every second. She climbed into the fountain outright, swimming along the bottom. The water here smelled pure, clean. None of the blood she’d smelled before.

The hunger started to fade.

Huh...?

A mist was lifting in her mind. The smell of blood didn’t make it into the water, and her senses were returning. She had only a vague memory of the last few minutes, and it came to her in chunks. What she remembered first of all was the most important part.

“...I lost control again, didn’t I...?”

Jozu went limp, moaning slightly as she swam small laps around the fountain. Being a guardian was rather hard when the smell of blood sent her into a murderous rampage. She was meant to be helping people, and yet everyone was so scared of her.

To be fair, they had a good enough reason for it. She was pretty sure she heard some of the fairy maids squealing when they saw a shark fin in the fountain...

-----

“And that ends today’s lesson.”

Koishi bowed towards her student, and Flan gave her a round of applause. Sango stood at the side, not wanting to interfere in their little rituals. They were a strange pair, but because of that they were suited for each other.

“Thanks, boss! Now I know what to do if I ever get stuck with my sword tied in my enemy’s hair! That’s gonna be real useful!”

Sango tried not to grin at that. Koishi had spent weeks teaching Flandre the least useful combat techniques in recorded history. Just as well - if she ever learned how to do anything actually useful, it would be bad for the rest of the mansion if she decided to ‘test’ her skills.

“So, what do we do now?” Flandre asked, hopping up and down. “Can we draw on the walls? Fly on the ceiling? Catch fish at the lake?”

“You’ll be doing none of these.” Sango flinched as Sakuya suddenly appeared next to her. She hated it when the maid did that. “The mistress wants you to stay in your room for now, milady.”

Sango could see Flandre’s little heart breaking, and the girl let out a pleading whine in that way only children knew. “Awww, but Sakuya! Remi never lets me have any fun! Why do I have to go away?”

Sakuya knelt down, smiling as she put her hands on Flandre’s shoulders. “Flandre, you have to understand that the mistress only wants your wellbeing. We’ll tell you when it’s okay to come out-”

“I don’t WANT to be locked away again! I wanna play more!”

Sango could see the look of fear rising to Sakuya’s face. Flandre was rebelling, and that never ended well. The dolphin looked over to Koishi, wordlessly passing the message across with her eyes. Koishi let off a slight nod, then gasped.

“Flan! I’m sensing monsters inside the mansion! We’re under attack from the Black Claw!”

Flan spun on the spot, knocking away Sakuya’s hands with ease. “Really? Where?!”

Koishi put a hand to her head. “They’re in...the basement! We need to get down there, right now!”

Flan looked like she bought the story in full, nodding. “R-Right! Let’s go, boss!”

The pair dashed down the corridors in the direction of Flandre’s room, falling out of sight after a few seconds. Sakuya brushed herself off, then rose to her feet.

“I owe your friend my thanks,” she said, straightening her apron. “Flandre is always difficult in these situations.”

Sango tilted her head. “Situations? What’s going on?”

“Intruders.” Sakuya looked Sango in the eyes, and gave her a smug grin. “The sort you’ll be very familiar with, I think.”

-----

Elsewhere, a young girl pondered to herself.

“How quickly is the plan progressing?”

“It is faster than a Russian summer,” replied a voice from behind. “The mansion will belong to us within a few days.”

“And they’re unaware?” the girl asked.

“Well, they aren’y makin’ a move,” spoke a third voice, older and rougher than her companions. “Vampire’s n’ water? Nay, she will’ne be doin’ a thing about it.”

That was good news. Wonderful, even. The girl smiled, looking up at the banner she'd painstakingly written herself.

“Excellent. Then if you’ll return to your duties?”

“Yes!” said the younger voice.

“Aye,” said the other.

Both left, travelling out to the other end of the building. The girl was left to think by herself.

It would all be done soon. They would have their base of operations, and from then on Gensokyo was theirs for the taking.

The Rippling World would not be forgotten.

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2011, 09:11:20 pm »
Oh~  Suspense. :3

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2011, 12:45:14 am »
Nice chapter, as usual. It also appears that THE SDM RUSE WAS A ...... DISTACTION

> Koishi gained new ability: Manipulation of Flandre.
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ToDW Chapter 3: What Lies Beneath
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2011, 10:15:35 pm »
Sakuya grit her teeth as she walked down the corridor, Sango following just behind.

“Quite the troublemaker we’re dealing with here. She barged through my employees like they were nothing, and now half a dozen of my fairies are claiming time off work for broken bones.”

Sango looked at Sakuya quizzically. “I thought fairies couldn’t break bones.”

“They can’t. I gave them all forced overtime as punishment for lying.”

That sounded like a good cue to end the discussion. Sakuya’s expression was foul and her mood was fouler, so Sango made to change the subject.

“So, what did you mean when you said I’d be familiar with this intruder?”

“It’s that shark youkai. The one on everyone’s lips, remember?”

Sakuya gave Sango a few seconds to respond. She didn’t, just blindly following along as she blinked rapidly.

“Wait, there’s a what?” Sango rubbed at her eyes as Sakuya led her further through the mansion. “I didn’t know Gensokyo even had a shark youkai. There were some sharks in the lakes down by the mountain, but none of them were that powerful.”

“The tengu press was hysterical about it,” Sakuya answered, powering through the passageways without hesistation. She didn’t stop to think about which way to go so much as once. She’d memorised the mansion’s layout in full - Sango wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or frightened by that. “A heartless devourer who swallows any youkai who steps into her hunting ground. Surely you’ve read about the Crystal Waters, at least? It was all over the Bunbunmaru when it first appeared.”

Sango tilted her head. Dolphins didn’t read newspapers for obvious dampness-related reasons. “Phwee...?”

The maid was silent for a moment, looking stone-faced at Sango, before turning away and pacing forward a little faster. “Well, I’m sure her accomplice will be willing to fill you in for now. The mistress insisted that I treat them civilly, for reasons that are probably beyond my understanding.”

“Accomplice?” Sango wasn’t sure what sort of youkai a shark would be working with - a squid? A whale? What sort of youkai did they have in this newfangled Crystal Waters place? She was ready for almost anything to be waiting for her.

She didn’t expect a white wolf tengu, though.

They found her with her legs crossed, looking away with an intense focus. Sango couldn’t make out what was on her mind by looking at the back of her head, and so pulled around in front of her.

“Wait, aren’t you...?” Sango vaguely recognised the face now that she had a chance to look - the short silver hair, the intense red eyes. She’d seen this woman take daily strolls past the lakes - sometimes coiling back towards the Youkai Mountain, and other times waltzing away to parts unknown. She was still dressed in her patrol uniform - a long-sleeved white shirt, and a black skirt with red flames coiling up from below. Her trusty blade lay at her side, curved with a deadly looking edge.

The tengu seemed to come back into focus as Sango spoke, looking her in the eyes as she rose to her feet.

“Momiji Inubashiri. Patrolman of the Youkai Mountain. And you are...?”

Momiji pulled her own head around as well, raising an eyebrow. She’d caught sight of the fin, Sango assumed. Sango turned around to make sure the tengu got a good look.

“Sango Tororetsu. Uh...I keep the lakes at the foot of your mountain clean. Do I get a catchy title for that?”

“No.” Momiji turned on the spot, facing Sakuya. “How’s Jozu?”

“Cooling off. I’ve put that tube-contraption of hers somewhere safe for now.” Sakuya cricked her neck, idly stretching. “So now that the immediate threat is dealt with, I’d like to know what exactly you two are doing here.”

Sango nodded along. She could see no malice in the eyes of the tengu, but this accomplice of hers sounded like bad news. Sango already thought poor enough of sharks, and Sakuya’s talk about a heartless devourer had done nothing to help.

“Well, it was Jozu’s idea,” Momiji began. The words came out slowly, with some regret mixed in. “Apparently some of the youkai deeper into the Waters have gone missing, and we tracked them up to the mansion. Then Jozu started smelling blood, and...well, when she does that, it’s hard to keep her under control.”

The tengu fell to her knees and bowed towards Sakuya, her head right against the floor. Even her wolf ears were drooping downwards.

“My apologies. She’s out under my supervision, and I should have known the dangers. If you need me to repay any damages, I’ll gladly remove the bill from my salary-”

“That won’t be necessary.”

Momiji pulled her head up to look at Sakuya’s face. Sango joined her, and both of them saw the maid looking troubled, her fingers nervously tapping at her side.

“Perhaps you’d best be speaking to Patchouli,” Sakuya said, biting her lip. “She was giving some troubling reports earlier, and your stories may collude. Before that, though, we’ll need to figure out how to deal with your fishy friend.”

“Uh, yeah...” Momiji rose to her knees, scratching behind her head. “It’s the smell that gets to her. When she picks up blood, she goes sorta haywire.”

Sakuya sank into thought, one hand on her chin. “Smell, you say...?” For half a minute, she pondered, lost in thought, until the idea jumped into her head in full.

“I’ll be back in a second. I need to pay a quick visit to the washroom...”

-----

This fountain was putrid, now that Jozu had the time to examine it.

There was a thick layer of moss growing on its floor, large enough for her to prod her nail all the way into. None of the air-breathers had seen it - that, or they just didn’t care. However it had got here, Jozu had nothing better to do than scrape at it while she waited for the maid to return.

“I sorta suck at this whole guardian thing,” she said to herself.

Life as an aumakua was a lot easier than this. The family she was honour-bound to protect knew what she was, and gave her the respect and space she deserved. They lived on land, she lived at sea. They offered her faith, and she protected them from both the elements and the underhanded schemes of the island’s other families.

Come to think of it, how was she doing in terms of faith? To an extent she was a divine being, and that meant her power was directly related to the amount of faith Gensokyo had in her. She’d felt stronger ever since her encounter with Momiji - people had been talking about her, and they were either impressed or terrified. She’d heard stories about Momiji’s friend and the newspaper she was running...had someone been writing about her?

She really hoped the article showed off her good side now and then. She did have one, really. She’d just never had a chance to show it up until now.

“...You do it. You’re the one she knows best.”

A muffled voice from above the water made Jozu jerk her head back around. The maid from earlier? Apparently they’d decided her fate already.

“Well, fine but this is still ridiculous,” another voice replied, and this one Jozu recognised immediately.

Momiji?

Jozu heard the tengu’s steps as she approached the fountain, and looked upwards through the water at her blurred face. Momiji pointed a finger upwards, motioning for Jozu to surface.

“Uh...bad idea.”

Jozu wasn’t sure how well Momiji could actually hear her under the water, and shook her head just to get the point across. This entire mansion had the lingering smell of blood - if Jozu had to expose herself to that, she’d lose control all over again. Momiji groaned.

“Just for a few seconds, okay? We’ve got a plan.”

We? Had the maid thrown in her lot with them after all? Jozu smiled. Maybe she hadn’t sabotaged this entire mission after all. She pulled her head up after a deep breath, trying her best not to sniff at the delectable aroma of blood.

It was at that point Momiji pinned a clothespeg straight over Jozu’s nose.

“Eyyyy!”

The peg hurt, and Jozu grabbed at her own nose with a small groan. Momiji was wearing the proud smirk that she saved only for special occasions.

“This is what you get for going haywire again. You’ll want to put this back on as well.”

She dropped a familiar device into the water. Jozu’s breathing kit, safe and sound. The shark would have hung around longer to give Momiji a foul glare, but the need to breathe won out and she dove back down into the fountain. A few minutes later, she re-emerged, ready for landwalking - and looking more comical than any aumakua in recorded history.

“Pfft!”

A third girl who Jozu hadn’t noticed until now made her presence known by stifling a laugh. Jozu’s eyes turned to her right away. Another youkai, didn’t seem to be part of the mansion staff given the lack of uniform. Silver hair, shirt and skirt, a pair of strange vials around her waist, and - was that a fin on her back?

“Ey. Yurra dolfin?”

Jozu already hated this nosepeg with a passion. She sounded like she was loaded with the cold, and that only seemed to make the dolphin laugh even harder.

“Oh, jeez, I was worried for a while there. Sakuya was going on about how you were some cold-blooded killer, but-I mean, Koishi is probably scarier than you right now!”

It took a lot of self-restraint for Jozu to resist pulling the peg off and showing this girl just how scary she could be. She’d never liked dolphins outside of Gensokyo - too playful, too mischievous. This girl was giving her no reason to change her mind on that front.

“Now, Sango, be nice to our ravenous carnivore friend,” Sakuya said, sounding just polite enough to be demeaning. “She has important business down in the library.”

“Eye do?” Jozu tilted her head, looking to Momiji for some sort of guidance. The wolf came up to her with a small smile.

“Apparently their librarian might have an idea as to where your missing youkai are. I figured since you know more about it than I do, it’d be a good idea to bring you along.”

Jozu wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this. It was good they had a lead, and it was good they were going to have a friendly discussion about it, but presenting herself in public like this was not going to do her self-esteem any favours. Especially with that dolphin tagging along, smiling broadly every time she so much as looked in Jozu’s direction.

“...OK. Lez go.”

Jozu stepped forward, trying to dry herself off before she stepped further into the mansion. She could already see the disappointed look on the maid’s face as her wetsuit dripped all across the rug. The dolphin - Sango, wasn’t it? - walked past her, taking a quick look into the fountain.

“Aw, they let the moss build up again. Does no-one care about this thing?”

She reached for one of her vials - the one full of water, rather than its salt-filled counterpart. Carefully, she let a droplet fall into the fountain. The water brightened, and Jozu saw the mossy undergrowth fade away until she could see the stone, as well-kept as the day it was sculpted.

“There we go.” Sango rubbed her hands together, satisfied with a job well done. She glanced at Jozu again, letting off another giggle before all four of them made their way down the corridors.

That dolphin would get what was coming to her, Jozu thought to herself. Maybe a little nibble at the thigh...

-----

The mansion continued on for an impossibly long time. Jozu had seen it from the outside, and she was sure it couldn’t have been anywhere near this large, yet they’d been walking in a straight line down this corridor for well over ten minutes. There had to be magic involved somehow. She would have asked, but with this peg stuck on her nose she felt like an idiot whenever she said anything. She stayed quiet, hanging behind Momiji as Sakuya led them further into the mansion.

Sango, the dolphin, looked back at her a few times. Her expression seemed different every time - she started with smiling, and grew more and more concerned every time she looked at Jozu. Maybe that was thanks to Jozu giving her a harsh glare every time she looked, but that was only a theory. She was also picking up the pace, putting a little distance between herself and the shark.

Jozu couldn’t say that this rejection broke her heart.

Finally, the quartet arrived in front of the one door in the corridors with a unique design. It was older, built from a classic oak, with the word LIBRARY written in a font so elegant that Jozu had trouble reading it. Sakuya pulled the door open, and a staircase led downwards into the library itself. Even from here, Jozu could see shelves of books spanning well past her line of sight, each of them several metres tall and full to the brim.

“Wauuuuuu,” she said, the peg still stifling her speech.

Momiji gulped. “That’s worth a ‘wow’, all right.”

Sakuya stepped in first, leading her three guests down the stairway. She had the expression of someone who was unwilling to be here. Maybe she had a schedule of her own she’d have to catch up on after she was done playing escort. Jozu had to feel a little sorry for her - she couldn’t imagine the girl’s job was easy.

Then she remembered all the fairy maids she had stampeded across on the way in, and all the extra work that had left Sakuya with. After that, she just felt guilty.

At the bottom of the staircase Jozu became aware that, yet again, it was impossible to get a sense of direction here. The entire mansion seemed designed for visitors to get lost in. Maybe this was how they normally caught intruders, Jozu thought - leave them stumbling around the halls until the defenses are ready to hunt them down. It would have worked on her, too, if the smell of blood hadn’t been leading her straight.

Now, though, this lousy peg on her nose was killing off that advantage. She was more or less at Sakuya’s mercy, hoping the maid wasn’t about to lead them into some sort of trap. Sango didn’t seem to keen to be here either, her head swerving from left to right like she expected something to jump out at her. As if to spite her, Jozu refused to look away, eyes straight forward as Sakuya led her down the shelves. There was nothing to be afraid of. She was fine.

Up until something grabbed her arm, anyway.

“Mwaaaaah!?”

A strange muffled squeal came out of Jozu’s mouth as her aggressor squeezed her arm. She jerked her head around, and her eyes immediately caught the demonic wings poking out of the girl’s head. Momiji was already moving in, set to attack the newcomer, but Sakuya jumped into the space between them in an instant.

“Relax. She means no harm.” Sakuya turned to the small devil, with an expression that made it clear she was not in the mood for the girl’s mischief. “I’d rather you didn’t attempt to scare our guests to death, Koakuma.”

The demon pouted, clutching tightly to Jozu’s arm even as the shark started waving it about. She had a child’s eyes but a woman’s body, wearing a black dress with long white sleeves. Most likely she was an assistant to this Librarian they were supposed to be meeting.

“Aw, but Lady Patchouli never gets any guests nowadays. Why can’t I play with them?”

“Don’t you have work to be doing?” Sakuya asked, bluntly. The assistant shrugged.

“I’m done for now. Lady Patchouli had me buy her some things from some kappa store this morning. Something about training...”

Jozu saw Momiji twitch slightly at that. Again she felt the urge to ask about it, but that’d mean giving the dolphin another chance to laugh. On that note, Sango seemed to have enjoyed Koakuma’s little prank, smiling as she walked back to Jozu and patted her on the shoulder.

“No worries, Jozu. She did the same thing to me once! Though I don’t think I made a noise like that when she did it.”

Maybe she’d go for this girl’s arm as well, Jozu thought to herself. She was rapidly working her way into Jozu’s list of People She Wouldn’t Mind Sinking Her Teeth Into. She ranked in just below this demon librarian and that jellyfish youkai who sounded like it was laughing every time Jozu swam past it.

“Anyway,” the devil said, finally letting go of Jozu’s arm. “If you want to see Lady Patchouli, she’s at the pool. Sort of, uh, busy, though.” She started wandering off, fidgeting with her fingers, before turning back and speaking to the crowd again. “Hey, tengu girl. If you can take any pictures, I’ll pay you well for them.” With that, she walked off into the sea of bookshelves, falling right out of sight.

Momiji stuck her nose up. “She thinks I’m as bad as Aya, doesn’t she?” She growled beneath her breath, and as she turned to Sakuya she looked more than happy to change the subject. “So, uh...your library has a pool?”

“Patchouli has never been the sort anyone would consider ordinary,” Sakuya replied without a hint of embarrassment. “Madness and genius are the same thing, just viewed from different angles. She is brilliant, as is befitting the Scarlet Devil Mansion’s head librarian.”

Sango’s face scrunched up.

“Y-Yeah...brilliant...”

Jozu saw the dolphin looking to Momiji for a moment, staring at her shoulder, almost reaching out to it for support. She did the same with Jozu, but only for a split second before she jerked her hand away. She fell behind the pack, stumbling along nervously as Sakuya led the group further in.

No time to worry about that, though. Jozu had to collect herself. She’d already lost enough respect after the devil had got the jump on her. She had to show how courageous she was by facing this librarian without fear. Sango was cowering behind her. This was her chance to get back at the dolphin in her own little way.

As they made it to a clearing in the bookshelves, Jozu held her head up high. She’d show them all what an aumakua was capable of. Even if this librarian was some ungodly demon with a million eyes, an infant’s voice and a killer’s smile, Jozu was going to face her head on. She was going to show this dolphin just where she could stick her-

“Eeh?”

Jozu let out another nasal moan as she found out what this clearing contained. She had thought the term ‘pool’ was some sort of euphemism, but it was literally a swimming pool in the middle of a library. Moreover, she could make out the faint shape of someone under the water, and the shape was surprisingly human. Jozu frowned a little at that - how could she show how brave she was if there wasn’t anything to be frightened of?

“Patchouli...?”

Sakuya looked outright puzzled as she stepped forward, looking down into the pool. Jozu stepped right behind her, refusing to hesitate for a moment. The figure was easier to make out now - clinging to the ladder, just beneath the surface, her long violet hair dancing about in the water. A snorkel hung in her mouth, its tip just breaking the surface of the water. At the sound of Sakuya’s voice, the figure flinched, losing her grip on the ladder for a moment and sinking into the water.

She struggled for maybe a second. Then a large bubble appeared around her, lifting her out of the pool and onto dry land. As it touched the ground it burst with an almost comical pop, and the girl lay on her side gasping for breath.

“Hah...I told Koakuma I was not to be interrupted. And certainly...certainly not by outside guests. I assume she ‘forgot to tell you’?”

Sakuya shrugged her shoulders, looking about as regretful as the librarian did.

Jozu was currently fighting the urge to laugh. Now she understood what Sango found so funny earlier - this was the librarian that the dolphin was so frightened of? Well, yes, her magic was impressive, but they couldn’t have caught her at a worse time. She was pulling off the snorkel - and the mask that went along with it - while trying to rise to her feet. Even her swimsuit was unintimidating - a violet one-piece with a trail of frills running along the bottom.

“Had I been given five minutes warning - no, two minutes - I could have presented myself with more dignity. Instead, you bring a tengu, and this-” her eyes fell on Jozu, and immediately disapproved- “overgrown sardine into my workplace.”

She clicked her fingers, and a hexagonal shape rose out of the earth, encasing her and blocking her from view. Another click, and her swimsuit rose out above the walls, floating away towards what was presumably a closet. Winds began to billow inside the monument, drying the librarian faster than any mechanical device could manage.

Sakuya cleared her throat. “Patchouli,” she started, “I’ve brought these two to you in regards to the discoveries you’ve been making this morning. They may have an idea as to the culprits.”

None of them could hear Patchouli very clearly with all the wind, but Jozu swore she heard the librarian gasp at the news. She stayed deathly silent until the winds died down, and in the same direction the swimsuit had fled a new bundle of clothes emerged. They fell into the hole at the top of the stone prison, and the sound of her shuffling into them was all that broke the silence until at last the walls receded back into the earth.

Patchouli Knowledge now looked much more like the librarian Sakuya had claimed her to be. Her hair was braided with a pair of ribbons, one red and the other blue. Her dress made Jozu sleepy for some reason, looking more like a nightgown than anything, and a matching nightcap only made the idea more prominent. In spite of that, her deep purple eyes were staring Jozu down with unprecedented strength. Now she was beginning to understand why Sango was so frightened of this woman.

“Out with it, then,” Patchouli snapped, with a teacher’s voice. “What do you know about the mansion’s newfound slant?”

Jozu made to start on an answer, then stopped when she realised she had no idea what Patchouli was talking about.

“Waa?” she muttered. Patchouli didn’t approve of the answer, taking a step forward and looking upwards into her eyes.

“The slant. The abnormal erosion of the Misty Lake’s geological boundaries. I thought you were the one who was supposed to be explaining these anomalies to me, weren’t you?”

Abnormal? Boundaries? Anomalies? Jozu was here for youkai, not science babble. She looked to Momiji for backup, and the tengu stepped in with a sigh.

“Apologies. This is Jozu’s first time out of the Crystal Waters, and we have to keep her under control.” She fiddled with the peg on Jozu’s nose, provoking a grunt from the shark. “What she was trying to say is that we tracked a group of water youkai from the Waters right up to this mansion. In short, your lake may have a mild case of youkai infestation.”

Patchouli blinked twice rapidly. Sakuya seemed stunned by this - perhaps it was the closest the librarian typically showed to surprise. Patchouli crossed her arms, sinking into thought.

“Hmm. I suspected as much. I had planned to travel down there and inspect it myself, but my physical strength was not up to par. I was attempting to acclimate to the underwater environment, but it is a slow process. I’d simply use the bubbles, but they wouldn’t fit through the doors of our second manor.”

Jozu’s brow furrowed.

“Seggend Maner?”

Now it was Patchouli’s turn to sigh. She looked up, frustrated, her fingers tapping at her elbows.

“An experiment of mine from some time ago. I presumed Remi would enjoy having somewhere cool to stay during the summer months, so I constructed a smaller manor at the bottom of the lake. It did not qualify as running water, so I presumed they would enjoy the change...”

Jozu looked at Momiji, seeing the same look of bewilderment in the tengu’s face as there was on her own. Sakuya had been right when she’d said this woman was far from ordinary. She was also right when she implied the woman was outright mad.

“But apparently, the mistress has grown rather attached to the concept of breathing,” Patchouli continued, as if her statement was entirely natural. “It’s not as if she needs a working respiratory system anymore, is it? My plan was reasonable, and yet she turned it down...and thus, the manor sits on the lakebed unused. If your youkai escapees want a place to hide, it’s the best option they have.”

Jozu managed to put her confusion to one side and force out a nod. She bowed to the librarian, and immediately turned to make her way towards the exit.

“Don’t run off on me again,” Momiji shouted as she grabbed Jozu by the shoulder. “I’ve already had to clean up one of your messes today.”

Jozu looked back at her with a frown. “Eye haff to goe alown. Iz wat gardians do.”

The tengu needed a few seconds to translate that sentence, but when she put it together she gave Jozu a death glare for it.

“Well, since you managed to lose a fight to me a few months back, I think I’m well certified to keep you cover-”

“Hey!” Sango spoke up for the first time in a while, walking up and taking Jozu’s other shoulder. “Don’t think I’m gonna be letting you out of my sight, either! You sharks are trouble, and I’m not letting you go down there without a trustworthy eye on you!”

Momiji nodded along at first, until she caught onto the hidden remark in that statement.

“Wait, are you saying I’m untrustworthy?” the tengu blurted out.

“It’s my job to keep the waters of Gensokyo safe and clean, I’ll have you know!” Sango replied, puffing her chest out a little. “I’m not letting a shark youkai run amok if there’s a dangerous situation to resolve, you hear me?”

Momiji and Sango descended into petty bickering soon afterward, throwing out comments about their opponent’s incompetence, poor choice of outfit, or - in Sango’s case - Momiji’s silly little hat. Momiji took offense to that in particular, and their voices grew louder and louder. Jozu wanted to interrupt and tell them they were both wrong, but there was no way she’d be able to speak sense with her nose blocked up like this. Mercifully, Patchouli intervened.

“You don’t see the sense in your mackerel friend’s words, do you? You two can’t join her down there. You’re air-breathers, remember?”

Momiji gasped, then slumped her shoulders. Sango simply pouted, frustrated. Patchouli’s words were dead on - Momiji would have to take a trek all the way to Nitori’s place if she wanted a chance to swim into the depths with Jozu, and even then she’d be a sitting duck if her lifeline happened to fail mid-dive. Sango could hold her breath much longer than Momiji could, but still nowhere near long enough to go through a full examination of the manor.

“Although...” Patchouli said, breaking the silence she’d brought about herself. “Perhaps we can come to a compromise of sorts. There is a charm we could use, though I’d need help from a suitable youkai for it. One with power over water...”

Sango’s head lifted upwards, and Jozu saw the look of anger rise to her face. She let go of Jozu’s shoulder, turning on the spot and staring straight into Patchouli’s eyes.

“No.”

Patchouli frowned. “Why not? It benefits all parties.”

“I’m not helping you with anything until I get an apology for what happened the first time we met.”

Sango stepped forward, arms trailing slightly behind as she tried to look as threatening as possible. As usual, Patchouli was unperturbed.

“The first time we met?” She looked upwards, scanning her memory for something relevant. “I can’t say I recall doing anything important then.”

“He-llo?” Sango brought her face in until it was only inches away from Patchouli’s. “You don’t remember trapping me in that pool there? Leaving me to drown? Any of that?”

Patchouli’s mouth opened, forming a small o. “Oh, so that was what you meant. Well, as I have told you countless times, I was acting in the defense of the library, and I was in a foul mood having spent the day renewing my demonic contracts.”

“I nearly died in there!” Sango cried, bordering on hysterical.

“Yes, but you remain among the living,” Patchouli answered, rubbing at the headache this conversation was quickly giving her. “And if you continue shouting in my face like that, you’ll give me more than enough reason to rectify that error.”

Sango was unimpressed with this claim, continuing to stare down the magician. Patchouli looked back at her without a hint of interest. The staredown looked like it would continue eternally until the maid intervened.

“Patchouli,” Sakuya said, speaking up from her polite silence. “I recall you apologised to the mistress for your rash actions that day. In particular, you apologised for ‘going beyond the necessary measures and threatening a guest with mortal danger’. In fact, I’m relatively certain those were your exact words.”

Patchouli’s demeanour cracked, and she jerked her head away to glare at Sakuya. “I do not remember asking you for your opinion.”

“I don’t recall being told I wasn’t allowed to give it.”

Patchouli grimaced, her eyes burrowing into Sakuya. The maid didn’t seem to care. After a long, hard effort, the librarian let out a sigh of defeat.

“...Fine. I’m sorry for trying to kill you.” Her voice was barely audible, Jozu just faintly catching it from the distance she was at. Momiji caught it as well - her ears were as sensitive as Jozu’s, and they weren’t hindered by the lack of water.

Sango frowned at the size of the apology, but eventually she shrugged.

“Better than nothing, I guess. So what do you want me to do?”

Patchouli clicked her fingers again, and two metallic objects flew through the air behind her. Effortlessly, she grabbed them in one hand, and they jingled slightly as they came to rest. They were a pair of golden chokers, and as Patchouli lowered them she took one in each hand and held them forward.

“Hold onto these for me, if you will.”

Sango tilted her head, reluctantly placing her hands on the metal accessories. Jozu was in the dark as well, watching on from behind and wondering just what stunt the librarian was planning to pull.

It became clear as day when the metal started to glow, and a magic circle burst out of the ground beneath the pair.

“Phwee?!”

Sango squealed in panic, almost letting go of the chokers as she winced from the bright light. Patchouli looked on unfazed, her focus solely on the chokers in her hands.

“Water Sign [Blessing of Theseus]!”

The chokers flashed brighter, and as they reached their peak the entire light show started to diminish. Sango was left holding a pair of light blue chokers, each with dark lines running along their sides. Jozu’s mouth opened at the sight of them. They almost looked like-

“Gills?” Sango said, peering closer at one of the rings.

“Indeed,” Patchouli answered, letting out a deep breath. “Wear one around your neck, and you should be able to breathe water without any hindrance. The charm will last you a day, which should be more than enough time.”

She let go of the chokers, handing them over properly to Sango. Her breathing was hurried, Jozu noticed, and her face had lost all colour. Jozu had started on her way to check on her when her legs buckled outright.

“Patchouli?!” Sakuya was first to act, at Patchouli’s side within a flash. The librarian coughed, wheezing as she inhaled, but managed a pained smile as she looked to the maid.

“That charm is...rather archaic. It took a good deal of power to cast...and as you know, my body is not up for much in terms of exertion. Could you be a good servant and arrange a bed for me after you’re done escorting our guests out...?”

Sakuya was concerned at first, but her expression steeled as she took Patchouli’s word on her health. She gave the magician a pat on the back, leaving her alone momentarily as she led the trio back towards the entrance.

“One last thing, to all three of you,” Patchouli gasped, causing the three visitors to turn back to her. “If you should fail, this mansion may well slip into the lake. Should you succeed, the Scarlet Devil herself will owe you all a great debt.” For a moment, it sounded almost like emotion was slipping into her voice, but it died out soon afterward. “So do not even consider failing, or we will be demanding compensation for our impending homelessness.”

Jozu gulped as she turned back around, making her way out of the mansion. No pressure or anything...

Dizzy H. "Muffin" Muffin

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 3 up!)
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2011, 06:35:08 am »
The fairies' excuse at the beginning made me giggle. :3
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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 3 up!)
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2011, 06:47:30 am »
inb4 Sango ends up having to kiss Momiji underwater as well, a la Orin in TEiPW

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 3 up!)
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2011, 07:24:10 am »
inb4 Sango ends up having to kiss Momiji underwater as well, a la Orin in TEiPW
I was thinking more of Jozu for some reason, given "Maybe she’d go for this girl’s arm as well, Jozu thought to herself. She was rapidly working her way into Jozu’s list of People She Wouldn’t Mind Sinking Her Teeth Into."

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 3 up!)
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2011, 08:36:52 am »
I was thinking more of Jozu for some reason, given "Maybe she’d go for this girl’s arm as well, Jozu thought to herself. She was rapidly working her way into Jozu’s list of People She Wouldn’t Mind Sinking Her Teeth Into."

Maybe work my way up her arm, to her neck, then a little nibble on her ear... Hmm... It'd just be one more way that sharks eat dolphins.

...

* Esifex grins stupidly and conjures up more SangoxJozu slash ideas

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 3 up!)
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2011, 08:40:11 pm »
Maybe work my way up her arm, to her neck, then a little nibble on her ear... Hmm... It'd just be one more way that sharks eat dolphins.

...

* Esifex grins stupidly and conjures up more SangoxJozu slash ideas
XD *facepalm*
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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 3 up!)
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2011, 09:08:21 pm »
Maybe work my way up her arm, to her neck, then a little nibble on her ear... Hmm... It'd just be one more way that sharks eat dolphins.

...

* Esifex grins stupidly and conjures up more SangoxJozu slash ideas

pfffffftahahahahaha. FUND IT.
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ToDW Chapter 4: The White Horse
« Reply #20 on: September 22, 2011, 11:32:56 pm »
“Nau?” Jozu asked, frowning.

“No.” Momiji grunted as she stepped out of the mansion’s front door. The garden was as it had been before, although the fairies were giving them more in the way of nervous glares this time. Maybe that was because Sakuya was leading them out, rather than anything on their part.

Sango was trailing behind, both of the chokers still in her hands. She couldn’t help but smile as she looked at them. They were awesome little accessories, and they wouldn’t have come into existence without her. She’d even managed to get an apology from Patchouli - well, as close to an apology as she was ever going to get. All in all, today had been a good day.

Except for the part where she had to keep a shark in check, anyway.

“I’ll be trusting you to keep an eye on these two,” Sakuya muttered to Sango while the two newcomers were far ahead. “Good as their intentions may be, their timing is somewhat...convenient.”

Sango nodded. Her eyes were locked on the shark in particular. The tengu weren’t a species she knew much of, but besides their pride they weren’t exactly feared as a race. They weren’t bloodthirsty killers, gruesome hunters, sadistic murderers or anything like that.

Sharks, on the other hand, were all of those things.

Sango barely noticed Meiling as she emerged from the mansion’s main gate. The guard was just waking up from her afternoon nap, looking up groggily at the pair of youkai wandering off in the distance. She straightened her cap with one hand, pointing at Momiji and Jozu with the other.

“Eh...Sakuya, who are they?” she asked.

“You’d know if you stopped sleeping at your post,” Sakuya replied, her eyes burning into the side of Meiling’s head. The guard let out a muffled whimper as she stood upright, straight as an arrow, at her post.

With the guard disciplined, Sakuya turned her attention back to Sango. “I’m afraid I have duties I must attend to. I wish you the best of luck.” Then she clicked her fingers, and Sango was alone again.

Why can’t she just walk like everyone else? Sango thought to herself, trying not to be too jealous. How much easier would her day be if she could just freeze time whenever she felt like it? How much more sleep would she get? She’d be able to play with Koishi and her friends more often, maybe take a day off and visit the Myouren temple-

“Phwee?!”

Sango snapped out of her stupor just in time to see the youkai she was supposed to be watching over walk off into the distance. She picked up her pace, outright running as they made it to the shore of the lake.

“...Yes, you can take it off now,” Momiji said as Sango ran back into earshot. Jozu almost jumped with glee, carefully pulling the peg off of her nose and dropping it onto the ground.

“There! Jeez, that thing smarted,” she said, rubbing at her nose and sniffing loudly. They were too far away from the mansion for the smell of blood to reach her, so she was docile. But it was probably good for Sango to get some guidelines laid out now rather than later.

“Alright, shark girl, listen up,” Sango said, as sternly as she could manage. “I don’t wanna see any biting, chewing, chomping, rending, devouring or swallowing while we’re down there, okay? Let’s deal with this problem like all problems are dealt with in Gensokyo - the spellcard rules.”

Jozu looked up at her as she spoke - confused at first, then frustrated.

“You think I don’t know how to play by the rules? I’ve got spellcards, and they work pretty damn well. And for the record - I’m not a shark, I’m an aumakua. Big difference.”

“Aumawhat now?” Sango muttered.

“I’m a guardian spirit with no-one to protect, not some crazy killing machine.”

“Oh, yeah?” Sango said, starting to get agitated. “Sakuya was telling me about the stories the tengu papers were spreading about you! Saying that there was only one youkai strong enough to fend you off, and that you killed everyone else who tried to step foot in that Crystal Water thingy!”

“Well at least I know how to look after myself!” Jozu retorted, meeting Sango’s glare. “I’m pretty sure I could do better in a fight than some fun-loving dolphin! What’re you gonna do to those youkai, huh? Throw a hoop at them? Trap them in bubble rings? Distract them with backflips?”

Sango felt her blood boiling, and her hands clenched into fists. Jozu repaid in kind, and Sango could see the sharp edges of her teeth as her lips began to part. They would have probably had it out there and then if Momiji hadn’t stepped in.

“Alright, girls, break it up,” Momiji said, with a tired voice. She turned to Sango first, faint disapproval behind her eyes.

“First of all, you’re wrong about Jozu. Aya overstated the case a lot because she’s a lousy journalist. Maybe she gets a little crazy when she sniffs at blood, but other than that she’s a good kid. Trust me, I probably know her better than anyone else in Gensokyo.”

Then she turned to Jozu, looking just as frustrated. “And Jozu, Sakuya told me a bit about the dolphin kid on the way over. She’s been through a lot, and even if she’s not the strongest she’s got a bit of experience. So let’s work together, okay? We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Momiji smiled at that last line. She probably hadn’t even meant the pun, and she walked away amused with herself. Sango and Jozu stared each other down for a moment longer.

“Don’t do anything reckless,” Sango said to her.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Jozu said back, at almost the same time.

Both girls flinched, then blushed, then looked away.

Whatever, Sango thought. Let’s just get this over with.

Looking to her side, Sango saw that Momiji was sitting next to a small bag, from which she had pulled out a pair of diving fins. Her clothes lay in a neat pile beside her, and beneath them she had been wearing a white one-piece with a single red maple leaf in its centre. It all seemed very sensible up until she picked up her sword and shield.

“You’re going to go diving with those?” Sango asked, incredulous.

Momiji shrugged. “It’s the style I’ve been trained in. And I need this sword for my spellcards, too - I have to channel my bullets through it.”

That was a bit inconvenient, wasn’t it? Sango frowned. She hoped the tengu knew how to fend for herself in the water - she apparently had experience with flying, so underwater combat wouldn’t be much of a difference.

Sango handed the tengu one of the magical chokers she’d been given earlier, then carefully put on the second one. It hummed faintly as it closed around Sango’s neck, and her throat felt cold as if the wind was blowing into it. She saw Momiji shiver a little as she put on her own choker. To her left, Jozu was stretching, looking eagerly into the water.

“You two ready?” she asked, cracking her knuckles.

Momiji nodded. Sango nodded harder. The trio each took a step backwards in unison.

Then, all at once, they ran forward and dove into the water.

-----

The first breath was the hardest.

Sango had been around water all her life, and her body had taken it as a general rule that inhaling the stuff was a bad idea. She was holding her breath even as they swam deeper into the water, and to her side she could see Momiji doing the same thing. Of course the tengu ran out of air long before the dolphin did, and she was forced to test whether Patchouli’s little lifesaver was as good as she claimed it was.

“...Well, I’m not drowning. That’s good.”

Thankfully, it was, and she offered Sango a thumbs up. She could even speak clearly in the water thanks to the charm.

Sango hesitated for a moment. What if hers was broken? Then she’d be really screwed. She was tempted to hold her breath for a little longer, but she saw Jozu look back at her disapprovingly.

She thinks I’m scared.

No way she was going to let the shark get one up on her here, Sango thought to her self. She puffed out all her air at once, surprised by the lack of bubbles, then took in a small gulp of water. No choking, no drowning, no nothing. She took a deeper breath, hearing the choker’s hum grow slightly louder whenever she breathed in.

It worked. She was breathing underwater. This was going to take a lot of getting used to.

“You two alright?” Jozu asked, pulling her head back again. Sango and Momiji nodded, and as Sango looked the shark in the eyes she saw something that looked almost like respect. She had to be seeing things, surely.

“Great. Now that I don’t need to worry about you two drowning on me, let’s find us some youkai.”

It took a couple of minutes for the trio to swim down to the lakebed. This was mainly Momiji’s fault - she could swim, but nowhere near as quickly as the dolphin or the shark. Jozu and Sango didn’t notice her trailing behind - they’d wordlessly been racing down to the lakebed, each trying to outdo the other.

They spent the time waiting on Momiji arguing about who finished first.

“Didn’t you see my hand touch the rock?” Sango said, her hand gripping at the rock in question. “I touched that before you hit anything!”

“You didn’t, and even if you did you’re cheating,” Jozu replied. “That choker of yours is making it easier for you. You’re not supposed to be able to breathe, remember?”

“Not supposed to-” Sango’s face went bright red, and she turned away with her arms crossed. This girl was unbearable. Sango was starting to question whether tagging along was worth it after all.

Jozu was just as silent, and just as stubborn. Yet again, it fell to Momiji to bring the discussion back on track.

“Hey, do you two see that?”

She pointed into the distance, towards the centre of the lake. Sango followed her finger, squinting, but all she could make out in the distance was a pale white dot.

“Can’t see a damn thing,” Jozu said, putting words to Sango’s thoughts. Momiji looked at the pair of them, stunned, as if to say ‘you really can’t see that?’ She started swimming forwards at her leisurely pace, right up until Jozu grabbed her by the wrist and started pulling her along.

“Hey, what are you-”

“Sorry, Momi, but we can’t sit around waiting on you all day!”

Jozu grinned as she tugged the tengu alongside her. Sango kept up with the shark’s pace easily enough, all three of them moving towards the white dot Momiji had been pointing out. Sango’s eyes drifted, looking around the lake. It was remarkably quiet, she noticed, with little in the way of life. A few patches of seaweed lay across the bed, and a few stray fish swam past her now and then, but for the most part the lake was amazingly empty.

Something else caught her attention, though. Something out of place, something that didn’t quite fit.

“Hey, Jozu,” she said, trying not to let her grudge get the better of her. “Do these currents feel weird to you?”

Jozu blinked, widening her eyes, then started actively testing the dolphin’s claim. Sango could see her kicks failing to give her the push they should have had. Something was pushing her backwards, and it wasn’t just Momiji.

“Damn, you’re right,” Jozu replied, with a hint of resignation. “The currents are all pushing back towards the mansion. That’s...not normal.”

Sango nodded in agreement. If the currents were pushing the water in one direction, that would explain why the foundations were giving way. It was with some force, too - enough to keep the pair hampered, but not to stop them entirely. She hadn’t noticed the change until they’d hit the lakebed, so maybe the current only ran along the bottom of the lake.

It was magical, undoubtedly. The work of one of the missing youkai. The only questions left to answer were where they were, and how to stop them. And the only lead they had was the white dot Momiji had been so surprised by.

“...Eh?”

Now they were coming closer, Sango could see that there really was something in the distance. The white dot started to take on a proper form, and Sango could see a creature she didn’t recognise standing on the lakebed. It was pure white, with four long legs ending in strange, clumped feet. She’d never seen a creature like it before, and from the puzzled look on her face Jozu hadn’t either. Momiji, though, pointed forward with excitement rising in her voice.

“That’s got to be the horse we tracked here, Jozu!”

“Horse?” Jozu stared blankly forward for a few moments before she took the word in. “Oh, the thing that was making the prints! So those are the hoof things you were talking about!”

The horse must have overheard them or seen them approach - either way, it turned, raised its front legs into the air, and let out a loud neigh as it galloped across the lakebed. Sango and Jozu were already in hot pursuit, and Sango took Momiji’s other arm just to make sure the tengu didn’t fall behind.

“Hurry up, dolphie! You’re slowing me down!” Jozu muttered.

“What are you talking about? You’re the one slowing me down!” Sango yelled in response. Hanging in their grip, Momiji looked just about ready to punch them.

“How about you both just shut up and start swimming already?!”

“”She started it!”” both girls called out at once. Again, they looked nervously at one another before turning away, focusing on propelling themselves forward. They picked up a good bit of pace after that, finally breaking away from the currents holding them back.

The horse galloped for several minutes, bringing the trio of youkai hunters into the centre of the lake. Patchouli hadn’t been lying - there really was a manor at the bottom of the lake, and the horse was headed right for it. The building was plain - well built, but without any of those accessories that made a house a home. For lack of a better word, it seemed soulless.

The mysterious creature stopped in front of the manor’s main entrance, blocking their way in. Sango looked the creature head on, but it showed no sign of moving. It was hard to make out emotion in its eyes, but she could just about make out a look of determination. It stepped backwards, looking like it was set to charge.

“OK, you...whatever it is you are,” Jozu said, letting go of Momiji and walking calmly forward. “Show’s over. I’m here to take you back to the Waters along with the rest of your friends.” Without fear, Jozu sauntered forward and stretched a hand out, ready to place it on the horse’s back.

She ended up touching a shoulder instead.

“Lassie - if ye know what’s good for ye, ye’d best be turnin’ around. Nae good’ll come tae ye here.”

Jozu flinched, stepping backwards. The horse was gone, and now a woman stood in its place, staring them all down with proud eyes. Her long white dress flapped in the water, a green vine laced with thorns hemmed around its edges. Her hair matched its colour, likewise flaring around, but with such intensity it seemed to have a life of its own. On her chest, the vine hem came together in a dark purple thistle.

Sango stepped forward to stand alongside Jozu. The shark had overcome her momentary nerves, glaring at the youkai blocking their path.

“You’d better quit screwing around,” she shot out, trying to scare the older youkai into surrender. “We know what you and your friends have been up to, and we’re here to stop it.”

The former horse laughed to herself in a rough guffaw. She stopped to shed a tear from her eye before picking up the weapon at her side. It was a whip - no, not a whip. It had no lash. It was the sort of weapon a rider would use to make demands of their mount.

“A crop?” Momiji said to herself. “I’m not sure how that’s meant to be a threat.” So that was the name, Sango thought to herself as she nodded along.

“Och, ye lassies and yer pride.” The guard tapped the end of the riding crop in her spare hand, looking unimpressed. “If ye’re gonnae underestimate the Ripplin’ World, ye’ll be bearing the scars fae it fer a good decade or tae.”

Jozu’s brow furrowed. “The Rippling World?”

“Aye,” the youkai answered, nodding deeply. “A collection ae the meanest ‘n maddest youkai the water have e’er seen, straight fae the depths ae Lake Baikal.” She bowed towards the trio, her politeness belying her rough voice. “An’ I happen tae be its most senior member. Rosalind Bell - keep it in mind, cause it’s gonnae be spreadin’ like wildfire afore long.”

“Not if we can help it.” Momiji stepped forward alongside Jozu, lowering herself into a fighting stance.

“R-Right!” Sango was last to prepare herself. Combat still wasn’t her forte, but at the very least she could throw out a bullet or three.

Rosalind was undisturbed by the odds she was up against. She shook her head in disappointment, hitting the crop against her palm a little harder.

“I cannae see them, I’m afraid. I cannae see the bonds of trust between ye. A team’s only as strong as its weakest link, ‘n’ there’s nothing between you tae.”

Her eyes fell on Sango, then on Jozu. Trying to psyche them out, Sango thought to herself. She tensed, trying not to think about it too hard.

Rosalind gave the whip one last crack, and a brilliant green ray burst out of its end, extending outward into a full blown whip. She whipped it to one side, and it struck the ground with a mighty snap.

“And that’s why,” she said, grinning as she hauled her weapon aloft, “ye’ll never be able tae beat me!”

-----

Rosalind’s first attack came out before any of her opponents could react. The crop-turned-whip lashed down in front of her, an emerald arc falling and slamming against the lakebed. It would have caught Momiji square in the head if Jozu hadn’t pulled her out of the way. The tengu was still struggling to find her feet in the water, and looked more than relieved to have Jozu helping her out.

Their opponent was unfazed by this miss, pulling the whip back inward. The path it had travelled through had grown misty, a light green fog that pulsed momentarily. A second later, the fog burst outward, sending bullets out in both directions.

“Look out!”

This was Momiji’s chance to return the favour. As she called out, she pushed Jozu into one of the gaps in the oncoming horde, blocking the remainder of the attack with her shield. Rosalind had aimed the brunt of her attack at them - Sango, in comparison, only had a small wave of bullets to deal with.

Does she think I’m not a threat?

Sango wanted to punch the youkai right then. She’d already had enough lip from Jozu today. The last thing she needed was to be ignored. She’d show this woman what happened if she underestimated her just because she was a dolphin. Bursting forward towards her opponent, Sango was vaguely aware of someone shouting at her from behind. She ignored it. This was her fight to win now.

Rosalind’s attention only turned to Sango at the last minute. Too late, surely. The dolphin held a hand forward, looking to fire a bullet right into Rosalind’s face, but the youkai reacted with almost impossible speed. The whip lashed out again, and it was all Sango could do to kick away from the swipe.

When the clouds in the whip’s wake took form again, every single bullet was aimed in Sango’s direction. A wall was descending on her - no gaps, no exits, no escape. She winced, ready for the bullets to strike her-

“Pule [Prayers to the Ancient Gods]!”

-but they never did.

“Phwee?”

Sango squinted. She saw a silvery barrier forming in front of her, holding the green bullets back. Her head jerked backwards, and she could make out Jozu looking in her direction, staring at her intently and chanting something in a language she didn’t understand.

“Move already!” Momiji yelled. “She can’t hold that up forever!”

Rosalind didn’t need to be told that. She was already moving her whip again, aiming for Jozu and Momiji. The barrier flickered as Jozu’s concentration started to slip, and Sango had to swim backwards before the silver veil gave way, sending a flurry of bullets down into the rocks beneath her.

Jozu whipped her arms back as her chant ended, barely dodging the oncoming whip strike.

“Thanks for making me waste a card saving your ass, by the way,” she muttered as Sango came closer in, twirling around the green bullets the whip released.

“Hey, at least I was trying to actually hit her! You think we’re going to win this fight by sitting back and mumbling?” Sango replied, hearing a tear as one of the bullets slid along the hem of her skirt. There was barely any space for either of them to move, leaving them uncomfortably close as they avoided the assault.

All the while, Rosalind was chuckling to herself. Her laugh was low and rough, like she was trying to gargle a rock.

“Ye wee lassies are a right mess. Bickerin’ like bairns a’er a penny - I’m surprised ye aren’y fightin’ each other instead ae me.”

The urge to punch her rose up again, but Sango held it back this time. Owing Jozu once was hard enough - twice would be unbearable. She broke away from the shark as the next strike came in, looking for holes in the pattern that she could slip through. Her eyes weren’t fast enough, though, and it was all she could do to avoid taking a hit.

She looked to her side. Jozu was having the same issues, and Sango couldn’t figure out why. From here, Sango could see glaring holes in Rosalind’s attacks. Why wasn’t Jozu taking them? Sango didn’t point it out - she was too busy trying to find her way through to tell Jozu about hers.

Momiji, though, was starting to slip through. Thanks both to her shield and her keen eyes, she was either slipping through gaps in the barrages or outright making them. She pulled closer and closer, until she was finally in range to let off an attack. From that range, there was no way she would fight with actual bullets - and sure enough, Momiji stormed inwards with her blade held high.

The whip came in at her, of course, but Momiji was ready for it this time. The weapon clanged off her shield, the bullets spraying outwards in random directions. Rosalind gasped, and the blade came down on her with all the force Momiji could muster.

Sango’s heart rose in her chest. That had to be the finishing blow, surely? The blade flew down into Rosalind’s head, and-

-Stopped.

“Ah...?”

Momiji tugged at the blade, pulling it. Her expression grew more and more desperate when her weapon refused to budge. It had come to a stop somewhere in Rosalind’s hair - and even now, her dark green locks were wrapping around the tip of the blade, until half of the sword was hidden from view.

“What’s wi’ the faces?” Rosalind asked, seeing the looks of shock surrounding her. “Don’t ye know a kelpie when ye see one? Our skin’s adhesive - sticky fae all you lassies who cannae spell long words.”

Momiji grit her teeth, trying to summon power in her blade. She tried to channel bullets through it - now that she was right next to her, Rosalind couldn’t escape - but the kelpie never gave her the chance. One fist extended outwards, catching Momiji in the gut, and the tengu doubled back as she grabbed her stomach.

“Momi!”

Jozu swam forward, looking to bail the tengu out, but she was too far away. Momiji was knocked aside with another swing of the whip. The blow was nowhere near enough to kill, but Momiji was in no state to fight right now. She lay backwards in the water, still gripping her stomach, her shield lying on the lakebed.

Rage built up in Jozu’s eyes. Sango could see the anger growing, and it scared her. Rosalind let out that unbearable chuckle again, and Sango felt it grating at her ears.

“Sorry about that. Had tae take care ae the one threat ye three had. You two aren’y worth the time, so I’ll just get it a’er with now.”

Rosalind pulled out a small slip of paper, then ran her whip across its length.

“Dangling Life [Bard on the Ladder ae Hades]!”

The green laser that emerged from her crop darkened to red, and grew at least two feet in length. It crackled, sheer power running up and down, and as Rosalind gave it a test crack on the earth it gave a strong enough smash to dent the rock. Sango did not want to get hit by that.

“Oh, and some advice for ye lassies, since ye seem tae need a lottae it - don’t look back.”

It was a loaded question. How was Sango meant to resist looking back when she’d been explicitly told not to do it? It was tempting, reverse psychology at its finest. She even started to pull her neck around once, but she stopped herself. It was a trap. Looking away would set something off, or-

“Gyah!”

Jozu let out a little yelp to her side. Turning around, Sango saw the shark looking backwards - and as if they had been summoned by her doing so, five crimson walls appeared around her, forming a cube with only one open face. And that one face led her right towards Rosalind.

The cube’s walls crackled with the same energy Rosalind’s whip held. Jozu pulled away from the walls when she saw that, trying to stay as close to the centre of the cube as she could.

She did fine, up until the cube started moving forward.

“Dammit! This is the trap?!”

Jozu had no choice but to swim forward in order to stop the cube’s walls slamming into her. Sango swam alongside her, eyes looking straight ahead. As much as she hated to admit it, she couldn’t fight Rosalind alone. If Jozu got caught in another wall-

“Time to be rid ae ye!”

Rosalind sent the whip crashing down again, aiming right at Jozu. It passed through the cube as if it wasn’t there, and there was only just enough room for her to dodge it. She winced, waiting for the bullets to move in for her, when against all her expectations they charged at Sango instead.

“Crap!” Sango shouted. Again, a wave of bullets was falling on her. She looked left, right, anyway she could for a way out, but nothing came to mind. And she couldn’t look back, or she’d be caught in a cube like Jozu and that’d be the end of it. She made out Jozu looking at her from inside her own prison, gritting her teeth, looking like she was trying to hold something back- until at last, she let out the words.

“Swim backwards, dumbass!”

Sango gasped. Was there a hole in the bullets behind her? She didn’t have time to doubt. She lay on her back and kicked away from Rosalind, all while trying not to look backwards. She saw it just as the bullets descended on her - a tiny gap, just large enough for her to fit into. She curled up to fit the gap just before the attack hit, and the bullets grazed her by centimetres.

“Seriously, how bad are you at this bullet throwing thing?” Jozu muttered as she swam further forward. “There were tons of holes in the other attacks she threw at you, and you just missed them all!”

“What are you talking about?” Sango retorted as she caught up. “You were the one with all the easy ways out, but you didn’t see a thing! And if there were so many holes for me to slip through, why’d you say nothing?”

“Because I was busy with MY bullets, of course! Why should I be helping you when-”

Jozu hit the realisation at the same time Sango did.

“”Ah.””

They’d been doing this wrong from the very beginning, hadn’t they? Both of them looked to Rosalind for some sort of verification, but all they got out of the kelpie was a broad smile. Then the whip was cracking down again, almost cutting Jozu in half before it sent its bullets flying towards Sango.

Again, the wall looked impenetrable. Sango saw Jozu’s eyes scanning the bullets, calculating, and finally nodding.

“Sango! To your left!”

Her left? But she’d be skewered if she dodged to the left, wouldn’t she? She could see the bullets - or at least, she thought she could. At this perspective it was hard to tell what was going straight and what wasn’t.

But maybe that’s the point.

Sango gulped. If she was wrong about this, it was going to hurt like hell. She steeled herself, and broke to her left, watching the scarlet bullets descend upon her.

They split before collision, falling harmlessly to her sides.

Sango was stunned for a second. She looked to Jozu. The shark was grinning - probably more at her own call than at Sango’s survival. The word came to Sango’s tongue with difficulty, and she practically had to spit it out.

“T-Thanks!”

They’d been doing it wrong the whole time. Rosalind’s attacks was all about faith and trust. Her bullets were beatable, easily, but Sango couldn’t see the way out of her own attacks. Neither could Jozu. But they could see each other’s exits. This fight wasn’t about who was strongest. It was about how well they could help each other.

Well, if those were the rules, Sango had no choice other than to play by them. She swam forward in time with Jozu, the pair of them descending quickly upon Rosalind. The kelpie smirked.

“Well, well. Perhaps yer not as hopeless as I took ye for.”

The whip lashed out twice - once at Jozu, and once at Sango. Both girls dodged barely, then watched as the whip’s bullets moved in towards the other girl. Sango wasn’t even paying attention to her own wall - her eyes were locked to the bullets flying towards Jozu, judging their angles, their speeds, all the little details that Jozu couldn’t make out from where she was. She had to think fast - too long, and both of them would take a hit.

At last, she pulled out an answer.

“Right!” she called out, watching Jozu swing to the side. The bullets passed above her, below her, to her sides - but none hit.

“Up!” Jozu yelled in reply. Sango nodded, swimming upwards as the highest bullets suddenly bent downward. Another wave harmlessly passed. Now they were almost on top of Rosalind, ready to attack.

But they were too close, Sango realised with a grunt. It would take too long for either of them to charge up bullets - it would be like Momiji, and Rosalind would just whip them both away. Neither of them had a shield to defend themselves either, and Jozu couldn’t stop to pick a better moment with the cube pushing her forwards. This was still a dire situation. They needed a plan, and they needed it right now.

Wait...didn’t Koishi-

In that instant, she knew what had to be done.

The kelpie was readying her next attack, her whip aimed at Jozu. The shark was too close now. If she tried to burst out of the box, Rosalind would smack her down without a second thought. She hung back, trying to keep to the back wall of the cube.

But that was the trap.

“FORWARD!” Sango cried. Jozu looked over to her, baffled. Though she didn’t say it, Sango could see the message in her eyes.

”Are you insane?! I can’t go forward! She’ll whip me for it!”

Sango looked her dead-on in the eyes. For this plan to work, Jozu had to make a break for it. Sango would bring her down before Rosalind could get the hit she needed. She just had to get Jozu to believe that.

Please! Sango glared at Jozu. Trust me on this one!

Jozu eyed Sango warily, but finally she nodded. Without a cue, both of them charged forwards at once. Jozu finally made it out of the cube, but already Rosalind was tracking her movements, twisting her head around to follow the shark.

And when she spun her head around, her hair followed.

Sango gulped. She only had one shot at this. She pulled one leg back, and let out a powerful kick. Not at Rosalind - her foot would just be stuck to her skin, and then she’d be helpless.

She kicked the hilt of the blade, still caught in Rosalind’s hair.

“Aah?!”

The momentum from twisting her head had been enough to give the blade some speed, but Sango’s kick was the extra hit it needed. The curls of hair flew around, catching Rosalind square in the face. There was no sticking this time - of course her hair wouldn’t stick to her own skin.

This proved unfortunate, given that the hair had the weight of a full-grown sword behind it.

“Oof-!”

Rosalind was knocked backwards. The sword slid naturally off of her hair, falling with a clang onto the lakebed. The whip flickered, then dissipated until the kelpie was simply holding a riding crop in her hand. She sunk down to the entrance, one knee bent, using her crop as a balance.

Jozu looked at the fallen kelpie, blinking rapidly. In the distance, Momiji was pulling her head up - and her eyes widened when she saw the fight was over. In their favour, no less.

“Heh,” Rosalind grunted, rubbing at the red mark on her face. “Good trick. Where’d ye learn that?”

“A friend,” Sango replied. Saying she’d learned it from a Dolphin Rider would kill the moment dead. Rosalind smiled.

“Friends, eh? Useful things. Nice tae have someone tae talk tae, nay? Someone ye can trust wie all yer deepest secrets, all your hopes ‘n’ dreams ‘n’ all that.”

Rosalind looked away, eyes lost in some distant memory. Sango tilted her head, not sure where Rosalind was going with this, but the kelpie shrugged her shoulders.

“Ye’d better be headin’ in. Yer no done here. I’m the oldest member ae the Ripplin’ World, but that disnae mean I’m the strongest. Ye’ve got my apprentice to take out. And then ye’ve got...”

Rosalind fell to her knees, the light starting to leave her eyes.

“...her.”

She fell backwards, looking up at the water. She was unconscious, but still breathing. Sango went out of her way to check that - the last thing she needed right now was a death on her hands.

“Well.” Jozu swam back over to the entrance, next to Sango. The dolphin could see her going a little red in the face, twiddling her fingers.

“I, uh. That was a pretty clever idea back there. You sorta saved my ass. ...Thanks.”

Sango shook her head, feeling a very similar warmth rise to her own cheeks.

“Well, you sort of helped me out earlier with that barrier of yours...so, I guess we’re even or something.”

Was she blushing? Why was she blushing? This embarrassment was worse than anything Rosalind could have dished out with that whip of hers, surely. Jozu looked about as pleased, her face growing pale like she was about to be ill.

“...Nice work, you two.” Momiji walked up to the pair, still rubbing at her stomach with one hand. She was bent over, but the fact she’d recovered her weapons showed she was still up for a fight. “You might make a decent team after all.”

“”What, me with her?”” the pair called out as they swam into the manor. “”No way!””

----------

omake.txt

Stage 4 Boss

White Steed From A Distant Land
Rosalind Bell


Species: Kelpie
Power: Manipulation of trust

A kelpie from the distant waters of the Scottish Highlands.
She’s spent the last few decades traveling the world after being exorcised from her native lake, and the journey has brought her to Gensokyo.

Kelpies lure their human targets by posing as horses at the sides of lakes. Any would be riders are trapped by the kelpie’s adhesive skin, and the youkai leaps into the lake to drown their target and devour them. It’s a relief that humans usually don’t visit the Crystal Waters.

Though a friend has helped her to learn the native language, the guttural dialect of her people has remained. She sounds rough, and is usually the sort to promote violence as a way to solve disputes (as seems to be the way with her people).

Like most of Gensokyo, she is very fond of alcohol, but her tastes are obscure. She’s apparently grieved many times over the lack of ‘whiskey’ in Gensokyo, whatever this ‘whiskey’ is.

She is also very protective of those she considers herself responsible for. In particular, Rosalind is very proud of her apprentice, and refuses to let anyone else offer any advice. Her apprentice seems to have no issue with this.

She came across the Rippling World during her journeys around the world, and grew very attached to it. It brought her an apprentice, and a fellowship she hadn’t seen for decades. She settled down at last, putting her journey to rest for a while. She was content with her lot.

That was before the Rippling World started to fade away.

De La Witch

  • She is, the most interesting witch in the world.
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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 4 up!)
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2011, 04:14:18 am »
Lake Baikal, hmm. Makes me wonder if these youkai are going to be Russian or Soviet in thinking. Nice chapter, looking forward to the next one!

Dizzy H. "Muffin" Muffin

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 4 up!)
« Reply #22 on: September 23, 2011, 05:35:54 am »
So, not only is Koishi acting as Flandre's moirail, Momizi is auspisticizing between Jozu and Sango! Although instead of being the traditional enemies, they're more just tsundere.

I like this character-concept. Very interesting! :3
  • Muffiny Miscellany

Kasu

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 4 up!)
« Reply #23 on: September 23, 2011, 08:18:23 pm »
Oh~  Wasn't expecting a Kelpie!

Nicely done. :3

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

Esifex

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Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 4 up!)
« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2011, 03:20:53 am »
So wait - who were the Stage 1 through 3 bosses? :O

Koishi.
All of them.
Yes.

(Switching away from the Lime Green colour because it's blinding on the new background. x_x)
« Last Edit: September 24, 2011, 01:29:11 pm by Rou You Can »

FinnKaenbyou

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ToDW Chapter 5: Tragedy + Time
« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2011, 07:37:14 pm »
Momiji had to admit, this place had class.

Even if the outside was as generic as it got, the inside had been tended to meticulously. Patchouli had gone all out with this. More than likely she didn’t put any work in with her hands making this manor - it was all spellcraft and summoning and all that. Regardless, she’d done a great job of it - every wall was painted, every floor carpeted, and every room furnished. For a house that had seen no residents, it had seen a lot of attention and love.

The furniture had been especially prepared, as well. There were no floating chairs or flapping rugs. Whether by weight or by magic, everything in the building acted as if gravity was still as strong a force as on the surface. She’d have forgotten she was underwater if it weren’t for the ambience that flooded her ears.

“Looks like they didn’t take anything,” she noted, talking to herself more than anything. The youkai Jozu was looking for had come to this manor, and they’d claimed it for themselves. But why? What was the motive? Some of these furnishings would fetch incredible prices at the kappa market, but they’d made no effort to take anything. So they weren’t after money.

Were they trying to make a statement? Did they want to win themselves some respect by taking down the Scarlet Devil Mansion? Rosalind had said the Rippling World was a group of highly dangerous water youkai - but then why were these rooms just about deserted? Something wasn’t quite adding up here.

To add to the confusion, Momiji’s eyes caught something peculiar in the distance.

“Huh?”

She sped up, trying to keep her movements fluid and graceful. She managed to just break away from the leisurely pace her aquatic companions were keeping. Jozu seemed distracted, looking with interest at every little furnishing she came across. Momiji heard her asking Sango to explain exactly what a ‘rug’ was as she broke forward.

“Uh, guys?” Momiji said as she scratched her head. “What’s with this?”

Sango and Jozu turned in her direction, following her eyes. Sango seemed to get the idea very quickly, while Jozu just shrugged.

“That’s a...scroll, right? What’s wrong with that?”

“Look at the rest of the building,” Momiji replied bluntly. “Everything up until now has been very Western, the sort of style the Scarlet Devil Mansion uses all the time. But this...” She pulled the scroll off the wall, unfolding it. “It’s definitely Japanese.”

She squinted. The wording of this scroll was old, verging on archaic. The crow tengu would have been able to read it in a heartbeat - they prided themselves on their calligraphy - but the white wolves had always been a little more pragmatic. Momiji picked up one or two of these outdated kanji, but the rest were beyond her.

“...Something about...waves? And, uh...is that worship? I think so.”

Jozu and Sango were peering over Momiji’s shoulders at the scroll. Neither of them seemed to have a better idea than Momiji did.

“Why does language have to be so hard, anyway?” Jozu asked, frowning. “Why couldn’t we just draw pictures instead?”

“Wouldn’t a bad artist be harder to understand than a bad speller?” Sango replied. Jozu didn’t have an answer to that, and eventually the trio swam further within. Momiji handed Sango the scroll so she could keep her hands free for her weapons.

It was there again in the next room - the same scroll, hung on both sides of the wall. And again in that room, and again over there - the further in Momiji went, the more prominent the scrolls became. These couldn’t have been part of the original design. The youkai from the Crystal Waters had been putting them up. But why?

Momiji was on the verge of asking herself out loud when her ears twitched.

“...So, I start with saying ‘I never get a moment to rest...’” spoke a voice from deeper inside.

Momiji pulled Jozu and Sango to one side, pinning herself against the wall.

“Hey, Momi-” Jozu hadn’t even finished the word before Momiji had clamped a hand over the shark’s mouth. Jozu glared at her, but as Momiji put a finger to her lips she just about got the point.

A pair of double doors stood between her and the source of the voice. Creaking it open ever so slightly, she could hear the faint sound of someone kicking through the water.

“...And then I tell them the punchline. Of course I am never getting a break! I am always Russian around!”

The girl inside giggled to herself. Where Rosalind’s laugh had been low and gravelly, this laugh sounded like it had the potential to shatter glass if it went on for too long. She laughed for a good five, ten seconds before finally coming to rest.

“Oh, that is a classic. Rosa will want to hear that one a thousand times, I am sure!”

Momiji furrowed her brow. Rosa? Maybe this was the apprentice that Rosalind had been boasting about. Sounded like a good reason to be cautious.

Momiji stepped towards the door, pulling it open just far enough for her to peer inside. They had happened upon the manor’s dining room, a fully-laid table running its length. At the far end, a young-looking youkai was strolling around, walking to and fro while deep in thought. Her hair was a straw-like yellow, running to her waist unkempt. From this distance, Momiji could just make out a pair of fins behind her ears that twitched every time the girl so much as laughed. Her clothes were curious - beginning with what seemed like a foreign folk dress, but coming to a point at her lower regions as if it was a leotard.

Just who were these Rippling World characters? Momiji stared at the girl for a few moments longer than necessary, then thought better of it and pulled back.

“So?” Jozu asked. “Can we take her?”

Momiji grit her teeth. “I don’t see why not, but if the youkai at the door figured this girl was a threat than she probably is. Rosalind was blunt, rough and rather tasteless, but I don’t think she was a liar.”

“Right. So do we go for something a little stealthier?”

Momiji peeked back in. There was ample room under the table for someone to crawl. She considered it for a moment, but the sword and shield were probably going to kill any chance she had at subtlety. She didn’t really just Jozu to be discrete, either - it had just never struck her as part of her character.

“Sango,” Momiji said, turning to her side. “You move in under the table. We’ll distract her.”

Sango nodded, moving over to the other side of the door. Momiji looked in, following the youkai’s movements, waiting for the moment when her attention was furthest away from them.

“I am hoping that the boss will let me perform my standup routine when we are done renovating,” the youkai continued, talking to herself. “The youkai at the Crystal Waters would not know comedy if it grabbed them by the tail and stroked them by the gills! When the boss has built a following, I will hopefully find an audience with more taste...”

Momiji pointed inside. Sango took the cue, slipping in and crawling under the dining table. Momiji waited for a moment, letting the dolphin get some distance, before motioning for Jozu to stand beside the other door.

“On three. Got it?”

“Got it,” Jozu answered, an eager grin on her face.

Momiji held up three fingers. Then two. Then one. Then, in unison, the pair of them kicked their doors aside and stomped into the dining room. The only way they could have been less subtle was to scream their arrival across the room.

“Hey, you!” Jozu yelled, doing exactly that. Momiji shrugged. Whatever worked.

The youkai turned to the commotion right away, her eyes falling right onto the pair. Her eyes glistened, and she waved from the other side of the room.

“Good day! Welcome to the Comedy Extravaganza of Inna Tymanov Petrosyan!” She abruptly put a hand to her chest, letting out a long, exaggerated pant. “You will have to give me a moment. I have been working very hard here. I never get a moment to rest-”

“Because you’re always Russian around?” Momiji answered, trying not to groan.

Inna frowned. “It is in bad sport to cut a joke short. Have you never witnessed a comedian before?”

“I’m not a fan of comedy.”

She was buying time. Occasionally her eyes drifted to the table, checking Sango’s progress. She was about halfway across the room, but she’d still need a little more time before she could catch Inna by surprise.

“So, what’re you doing out here?” Momiji asked. It would buy time, and at the same time it would give them a peek into the mindset of the enemy. Inna thought about it for a moment, then smirked before starting on her answer.

“We are simply moving into a new home, no? The salesman said a lot about it, but I understand now why he was warning us about the dampness!” She laughed again, ear-fins twitching. Momiji caught Sango clutching at her ears, the laugh grinding into her brain. It looked almost painful, and she slowed down as she crawled further along.

“All joking aside,” Inna continued with a shrug of her shoulders, “we are creating a new base for the Rippling World. This manor is only a temporary measure, though. We are needing an impressive building to win over the youkai of Gensokyo, and the mansion at the surface is very well built.”

Momiji grit her teeth. Now she understood why Jozu was so intent on stopping these youkai.

“You realise that house is occupied, right? Vampires, youkai, who knows how many maids.”

“Oh, we are very aware of this,” Inna said with a devilish smirk. “But if the mansion were to tragically slide into the lake there would be no problem, yes? They would leave, and we would have our base! Everyone is happy.” She paused, looking away for just a moment too long before speaking up again.

“Except for the estate agents, that is.”

Inna collapsed into laughter. No-one else joined in - even if her joke had been funny, her delivery couldn’t have been any worse. Momiji was seriously wondering to herself if she could tell a joke that poorly if she tried.

Wait a minute-

Momiji’s grip on her weapon tightened as Inna fell to her knees, clutching at her stomach and laughing uncontrollably. She kicked wildly, eyes looking across the floor-and came to an abrupt stop as she saw what was crawling beneath the table.

“Oh. Why are you trying to trick a trickster, little girl?”

Sango stopped in place, staring Inna down. Momiji saw her fiddling through her pockets, reaching for a spellcard, but Inna got there first.

“Comic Twist [Hidden Punchline]!”

The youkai held one arm out, aiming it under the table. There was nowhere enough room for Sango to crawl out the sides, and Momiji watched a single bullet fly out and straight for her eyes-

Only to break away entirely at the last moment.

“Whoa!”

Momiji saw the change in direction just in time. The attack barely nicked Sango’s cheek as it burst out from under the table, aiming for Momiji’s heart. She brought her shield up, deflecting it, wincing as she felt the force behind the shot. When the attack only released a single bullet, of course there would be a lot of power behind it. She caught her breath, starting on her advance forwards.

“Jozu, you take the other side!”

“Got it!” Jozu broke to the left of the table, Momiji heading to the right. Inna seemed unimpressed, leaping onto the table with a graceful pirouette as she held out an arm at both of her opponents. This time a wave of bullets emerged from each, charging straight towards them.

Momiji resisted the urge to dodge. These bullets weren’t a threat to her. It was the wave aimed at Jozu she had to worry about. Sure enough, at the last minute, both waves coiled to the side and gained incredible speed as they charged towards the other target.

Where Momiji had to block the bullets and bear the recoil, Jozu simply dodged the barrage, twirling around every attack as the bullets lodged harmlessly into the wall. She was making it across the room twice as quickly as Momiji was, and the tengu cheered her on in her head.

That was until Jozu stopped on the spot.

Eh? What’s she doing?

The shark looked confused for a moment, looking around the room, sniffing at the water. Next to her, Sango was finally crawling out from under the table, still rubbing at her cheek where the first bullet had caught her.

“Owwie, that really smarts...”

Jozu’s eyes were on Sango’s hand. She pulled her head closer to the dolphin’s cheek, until their faces were only inches apart.

When Momiji saw the first few droplets of blood rising from the wound, her heart skipped a beat.

Oh, shit.

Sango looked on, confused, seeing the desire build up in Jozu’s eyes. The shark blinked once, and her eyes went jet-black as her lips parted, showing a monstrous grin.

Momiji screamed without even meaning to.

“RUN!”

Sango flinched as the word hit her. She shoved Jozu away and turned on the spot, swimming out of the room as quickly as her legs could carry her. Jozu was caught off guard, but was back on the chase in an instant, knocking the table over as she blazed past Inna out of the doorway. Momiji could only watch them leave.

There was an awkward silence for a few moments.

“So,” Inna said with a smug grin. “It is just the two of us now. It is a relief - jokes are much easier to understand when there are fewer characters to remember.”

Momiji’s arms grew tight at her sides. She tightened her grip on her sword.

“You knew, didn’t you? That the blood would send Jozu wild.”

“Of course I knew,” Inna said with a shrug. “We have been doing research on the youkai of the Crystal Waters for our plans. A good comedian always thinks of her source material. You are a mystery, however.” She smiled, her grin just wide enough to get on Momiji’s nerves. “I like mysteries.”

“Well, a girl always needs to keep a veil of secrecy.” Momiji hauled her blade forward. “Which is why I’m not going to talk, and get back to beating you back to that puddle you call home.”

Momiji wasn’t up for talking. She had to take this girl down fast. She wasn’t sure how long Sango could keep running for, but Momiji couldn’t help her if this youkai was in the way. She started on her approach again, deliberately keeping her shield at her side. If she didn’t look vulnerable her opponent would run, and there was no way Momiji could keep pace with a water youkai in her natural environment.

“Well, if you are giving me such an easy target...” Inna pulled out a second card, and held both of them up in the air at once.

“Fool Me Twice [Double Bluff]!”

The cards faded into Inna’s hands, and her palms shone. She aimed both of them at Momiji, blasting out another pair of bullets straight at her. Momiji ignored them. This girl had already shown her trick. Neither of these would hit-

?!

If it hadn’t been for her keen eyes, she would have lost right there. One of the bullets was straying away as she’d predicted, but the other continued right on its path. Her shield rose up, nicking the bullet away from her chest, but it caught her in the arm instead.

“Gyaah!”

Momiji dropped the shield, and it fell with a clang to the floor. Inna grinned at her all the while, laughing with that unbearable voice of hers.

“Oh, so you were thinking you were clever, no? I am not all about tricks, you know. Sometimes a joke must be played straight if the audience expects a subversion.”

Momiji winced. Her arm hurt. Nothing that wouldn’t heal given a few minutes, but she assumed Inna wasn’t going to give her that. She’d knock her out and leave her floating around the lakebed until she woke up - or the water-breathing charm ran out. She really hoped it would be the former. In fact, she really hoped it would be neither.

“Well...congrats, I guess. But you’re playing in front of a tough crowd.” Momiji hefted her sword upwards again, pointing it straight at Inna. “Think you can do it again?”

Inna puffed up her chest. “I was not wanting to be too hard on you, but if you will not leave I will have to go all the way!”

Her palms shone again, and the bullets burst forward in the dozens. Momiji knew now they would come in two types - one sort that would break to the side at the last minute, and one sort that flew straight onward. She didn’t have time to pick up the shield, so she barged straight in and hoped her eyes weren’t going rusty.

The bullets only swung left or right. They never went straight up, or straight down. That guided Momiji slightly, let her find weak spots in the oncoming bullet waves that required less dodging. Still, those weak spots would have two or three bullets in her direction, and she’d only have a few split-seconds to figure out which ones were turning and which ones were straight shooters. Then it was about twisting her body at just the right angle so they would harmlessly pass by her.

The first few waves were difficult, but with each passing wave her eyes grew more attuned to the sight. She started picking up all the little nuances, the little twists in the bullets’ trajectories. She started turning even before she had to, knowing already where she was safe. She saw the first signs of frustration on Inna’s face as she pushed her hands further forward.

“This is not funny! And if I do not think it is funny, it is not funny!”

More waves blasted outwards from her palms, the bullets trebling in frequency. Now Momiji’s eyes were challenged again just by their sheer numbers, unable to keep all of them in mind at once. She barely dodged some, and others outright cut along her arms. More blood streamed outwards into the water as she started using her sword as a makeshift barrier, slowing down as she moved further forward.

Inna grew more and more nervous with every inch Momiji gained. She had put too much into this attack, Momiji could see. It would take too much out of her to dismiss both cards at once, and that would give Momiji all the time she needed to wail on her. All she could do was blast at Momiji and hope she went down first.

Momiji’s arms hurt from the cuts the attack had made. Her legs hurt from kicking so fiercely. Her eyes hurt from trying to follow all of these bullets at once. But she had to persevere - if she didn’t intervene, Jozu was going to make a terrible mistake.

“H-How are you-?!” Inna’s voice trembled as Momiji descended on her. Her arms bent, falling to her sides and going limp. Momiji’s sword hung above her, ready to smack right into her face, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.

“Looks like the joke’s on you-!”

As Momiji smacked the blunt end of her sword into the youkai’s cheek, she felt an immense feeling of satisfaction.

Inna was knocked to the side by the hit, smacking into the wall beside her. She slid downwards - conscious, but in no condition to fight. Momiji fell to her knees, the adrenaline fading, the pain killing off her momentum for now. She needed a second to regain herself, and then she’d start on the chase.

“Has anyone told you...you’re not funny? At all?” Momiji grumbled as she clutched her wounds, waiting for them to knit. Inna shuffled from her spot at the wall, looking barely conscious.

“Many...many people. Ever since I start, people tell me I am not a comedian. I say to them ‘everyone is a comedian. Some people do not have an audience that appreciates them yet’.” She laughed again - a deeper laugh, a normal one that didn’t make Momiji want to rip her own ears off. “The Rippling World is my audience. Rosa laughs at all my jokes. No-one else does.” She smiled, but without the malice her smiles had carried up until now. She seemed almost to be looking through Momiji rather than at her.

Momiji frowned. “...The Rippling World isn’t really some army of super-powerful water youkai, is it?”

Inna smiled, laughed, and weakly shook her head. “Perhaps we are not the strongest like she said we were. But our bonds are strong. We have been through much together, and I would never have met Rosa if it was not for her...”

“Who is ‘her’?” Momiji asked.

Inna’s eyes widened. “You mean...you do not know?”

Was this a game? Momiji shook her head, feeling frustration well up inside her again. Inna’s grin widened, and she let out the strongest laugh she could manage.

“She...is the leader of the Rippling World. Its founder, and its strongest member, at last returning to her homeland to receive the praise she so deserves. But this manor is not large enough to be her shrine...”

Shrine?! That word alone was enough to start ringing alarm bells. Inna caught that moment of understanding in her eyes, and a childish smirk rose to her face again.

“Bow when you see her...” Inna’s voice weakened as she sank into unconsciousness at last. “...I would not want to make a god angry.” She slumped backwards, passed out, leaving Momiji to herself.

The tengu had to gulp. Youkai were one thing, but a god? She wasn’t sure if they could handle that. Either way, there was another problem that she needed to take care of. Her strength was coming back to her, and she ran back to the table to collect her shield. Then she was out the door, running through the corridors, trying to follow the sounds of the chase.

She just hoped Sango wasn’t fish food by the time she got there.

-----

Sango could hear her heart pounding in her chest as she swam for dear life. The walls were blurs at her sides. She’d already learned that hiding was useless. She’d tried, but Jozu was too fast and too attentive to lose. She’d picked up on Sango’s scent, and nothing was going to distract her from it.

The shark was only a few feet behind her, growling as her hands lashed out. More than once Sango had seen her actually take on her shark form, but it was too cumbersome for these small chambers. Her human form was better for the tight spaces, and it also meant she could grab at Sango’s wrists if she came close enough. Sango’s plan was to make sure this never happened.

But how?

Already she could feel her chest burning, her legs aching from exertion. In comparison, Jozu looked as fresh as she’d been when she started. There was only so long she could keep the shark away, and then it would all be over. She had to come up with a plan before then, but what?

Sango wasn’t thinking about which way she was turning when the corridor split into junctions. Left, right, forward, whatever came to mind first. She’d probably passed through these same corridors half a dozen times already, but she didn’t care. As long as it kept Jozu away, she was happy.

Unfortunately, this worked up until the corridor was a dead end.

“Phweeee?!”

Sango beat at the wall, hoping there was a door behind it in some last-gasp chance to escape. Fate did not grant her wish. As she turned around she found that Jozu was already on her, arms held out, raring to rip and tear at her.

The dolphin’s arms whipped out, grabbing Jozu by the wrists in a desperate move. Jozu’s arms jerked about, her fingers digging into Sango’s palms as her face contorted into a look of fury. Her mouth clattered open and shut, her head leaning as far forward as it could manage, almost biting Sango’s nose off.

Already Sango could feel her strength weakening. Her arms bent back crucial inches, bringing Jozu that much closer. Her heart beat faster, screaming at her to find a way out, to find an escape, but nothing came to mind. Her arms felt like they were made of lead, and the pain as Jozu’s nails dove into her wasn’t helping. The smell of fresh blood was only making it worse, further fuelling Jozu’s lust for Sango’s flesh.

Sango couldn’t hold her off for much longer. She needed help, and she needed it right now-

“Sango!”

A voice from the other end of the corridor. Momiji’s? Yes, it had to be. Too far to help her before it was too late, though.

“Her nose, Sango! Go for the nose!”

Sango gasped. Was that her weak point? Of course- if she couldn’t smell Sango, she’d lose the urge to eat her. Her arms were held up, though, and her legs were too far away to reach. How was she supposed to get a hit in?

Unless-

This had better work!

Sango let go of Jozu’s arms, letting the shark charge in, her mouth opening wide as it made to sink into the dolphin’s neck.

That was Sango’s moment to charge forward, ramming into Jozu’s face with a powerful headbutt.

“Haaaauuu!”

Jozu clutched at her nose, whining as she fell backwards. Sango rubbed at her forehead, her eyes clenched shut. She’d hit harder than she expected to, and she was sure she’d managed to smack against Jozu’s mouth as she whacked her-

“Good work, Sango! We can use this!” Momiji had made it to them by now, pushing past the still-wincing Jozu. Sango squinted, seeing the tengu pick something out from the water, then swimming towards her. She knelt down, her hand rummaged at Sango’s belt.

“P-Phwee!” Sango screamed. “What are you doing?!”

“Just gimme a second!” Momiji said, her words snappy. Sango felt her belt loosen slightly. She didn’t want to look down, and without even thinking about it her hands grabbed at the sides of her skirt, holding it up.

“What sort of pervert do you think I am?!” Momiji cried when she saw that. Sango didn’t offer her an answer, closing her eyes again until she felt her belt tighten. “There,” the tengu said, rising to her feet again. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Sango mustered the courage to open one eye, looking down. Her belt was still on. So was her skirt. In fact, Momiji hadn’t even tried to do anything perverse while she was down there. The only change Sango could see was something hastily added to her arsenal, the belt hurriedly wrapped around it. It was long, white, and jagged, with the feel of bone.

“Is this...a tooth?” Sango asked, opening her eyes fully.

“You knocked it out of her mouth with that smack of yours,” Momiji explained. “It should stop your blood from setting her off. I’ve got one myself, see?” She held forward the necklace she was wearing, showing that she had a similar trophy.

“Uu...”

Jozu was starting to come to her senses. She sniffed at the water, undoubtedly catching trails of Sango’s blood, but she didn’t lunge in for another murderous rush. Rather, she leaned forward, opening her eyes sluggishly like she was rising from a long sleep.

“Unn...sorry, did I miss anythin’? My mouth feels kinda weird...”

Sango wasn’t aware her heart was still racing until she felt it come to rest. A wave of relief crashed over her, and she very nearly hugged Momiji out of gratitude. The unimpressed look the tengu gave her made her reconsider that idea.

“Did we beat that crappy joke teller?” Jozu stretched her arms and legs, yawning as she spoke. “I really wanted to sock her one for all that crap she was spewing.”

“You were distracted,” Momiji said with a completely straight face as she wrapped one arm around Sango. “You were trying to catch yourself a snack, if you know what I mean.”

Jozu didn’t know what Momiji meant - at least, not at first. Her eyes jumped from Momiji, to Sango, then back to Momiji, one eyebrow raised in puzzlement. When the realisation hit, it struck her almost as hard as Sango’s headbutt had.

“Oh. Ohhhh. ...Oh, crap, I did it again?!”

Jozu sank to the floor, hands clasped together, looking up at Sango with pleading eyes. The dolphin froze, not sure quite how to react to this.

“I’m really really sorry about this! It’s just so natural for me, and when I smell blood I don’t know how to resist it, and...I just lose control, okay?! Surely you know what it feels like to go into a bloodthirsty rage and try to kill someone who’s on your side rather than the enemy, right?!”

She looked up into Sango’s eyes, hoping for some form of understanding. The blank stare she got in return said it all.

“...No? Just me? Okay.”

Jozu looked away, wrapping her arms around herself.

“Man, I am a really lousy guardian when it comes down to it. That’s the second time today I’ve nearly eaten someone. Guardians aren’t supposed to do that, right? Can’t really protect anyone if they’re goin’ through your digestive system.”

Sango looked down at Jozu with a sigh. She didn’t look like the zesty, outgoing youkai that had come to the Scarlet Devil Mansion earlier today. This girl looked vulnerable, emotional, almost lost. Sango reached a hand out, trying to say something helpful, but nothing was coming to mind.

Much to her relief, Momiji stepped in.

“You’re an idiot. Give yourself some credit, alright?”

The tengu swam around behind Jozu, abruptly wrapping one arm around her neck and using the other to rub at Jozu’s scalp. The shark squirmed around, grumbling and kicking.

“H-Hey, quit it! Not in front of anyone, okay?!”

“You realise how much you’ve managed to do today?” Momiji asked, continuing before Jozu had a chance to actually answer. “You’ve convinced both a friend and a random stranger to come with you on some chase to stop a group of powerful youkai from causing some big incident, and you’re one fight away from saving a whole bunch of strangers you’ve never met. Now, what part of that doesn’t sound like what a guardian would do?”

Jozu’s grumbles slowly turned to laughs, and she managed to fight Momiji off. She rubbed at her head, still giggling a little. Sango could see her cheeks going a little red again. At that moment, Sango felt all her frustrations, all her disagreements fall to the side - and for an instant, the sight of Jozu cheering up warmed her heart.

“Dammit, Momi,” Jozu muttered with a smile. “You’re getting me all mushy in front of the fin-face here.”

“Then you’d better harden up, because we still have one fight to go,” Momiji replied, swimming back down the corridor. Jozu paused for a second before following, Sango following after. “And I’m going to guess our opponent is waiting for us right behind here.”

Sango’s mouth formed an o. She’d passed this door, hadn’t she? She must not have been looking while Jozu was chasing her. Now that they’d stopped, it immediately caught her eye - while the door was still of the same make and design as every door in the manner, it had been painted over to resemble something more Oriental. The paper door was so well drawn on the door’s surface that Sango almost tried to pull it aside at first. More pressing, though, was the declaration spelt on the door in large, simple letters that all three of them could understand.

SHRINE OF TIDES

ALL SHALL WORSHIP THE CHILD OF THE WAVES

-----

Stage 5 Boss

Forgotten Student of Vaganova
Inna Tymanov Petrosyan

Species:
Rusalka
Power: Manipulation of humour

A former human from Russia, who died in an accident and became a youkai thanks to her dying grudges.
Nowadays, however, she sees the comedy in her own demise, and frequently uses it in her routine.

Rusalka, like kelpies, are meant to fool humans and lure them into lakes to kill them.
Inna, however, is a very inexperienced youkai who has yet to claim a victim.
Her habit of bursting into laughter may be responsible for this.

She remained in her little lake until Rosalind happened to travel by. Then Inna learned of the Rippling World, and its meetings in Lake Baikal.
The pair made the journey together, and at last Inna had a companion who appreciated her comedy.

She still remembers her time training to be a ballerina fondly, and when swimming insists on pirouetting as she goes. Fortunately, she seems immune to dizziness.

She has not grasped the Japanese tongue as quickly as Rosalind, and while she can express herself it is with clunky wording and overly long sentences.
This may explain why her jokes fail to come across.
(That, or they’re just bad. Inna insists it’s the former - everyone else disagrees.)

To her, Rosalind is more like a sister than a companion. The two are very close.
Even now, as the last remnants of the Rippling World venture into Gensokyo,
she is at ease knowing that she will always have Rosalind by her side.

But she will always yearn for a larger audience.
Like in the olden days, when youkai from all angles of life would listen to her routines.

Where are they all now...?

Hanzo K.

  • White Tiger Shikigami
  • Whoa, this YF-29's awesome!
Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 5 up!)
« Reply #26 on: September 26, 2011, 11:40:19 pm »
A Comedian Rusalka?
Now I've seen everything....Or maybe not, judging by how things have been in the past.
Essence RO
Eiji Komatsu L1xx/6x CritsinX | Ryoshima Nanbu L7x/4x Crafting Blacksmith

Arbitrary Gaming~!
Youkai Quest: Unknown Adventure

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
ToDW Chapter 6: The Child of the Waves
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2011, 03:03:55 pm »
Jozu cracked her neck. She was still working her way back into consciousness after her little stupor, but her eyes never moved from the door.

“Sounds like someone’s a little pretentious,” Momiji grumbled, her arms folded. “I’ll worship whoever I want to, thank you very much.”

“This might be kinda hard,” Sango said as she twiddled her fingers. “I mean youkai are one thing, but now we’re up against a god? Like, a real one?”

“Relax, fin-face.” Jozu put one hand on Sango’s shoulder. It wasn’t meant to be an insult, and Sango didn’t take it as such. “Remember, I’m a god of sorts too, and thanks to that story people keep telling about me I’ve got plenty of faith to burn. I’ve got this.”

Sango carefully pushed Jozu’s hand away, their fingers intertwining. She wore a proud smile.

“Just remember that she’s the enemy, not me.”

Jozu went red again. “I told you, that was an accident! I didn’t mean to-”

“If you two are done,” Momiji interrupted, her hand on the door’s handle, “I think we want a word with this ‘Child of the Waves’.”

Jozu flinched, nudging Sango away and putting on her serious face. This was her chance to be a guardian and earn some real faith. As soon as Momiji opened the door she followed in after her, Sango hanging close behind.

The room they entered had seen more radical refurbishment than anything beforehand. The scrolls were there, of course, but an entire wall had been painted in the same way the wall had, making it look like the traditional wall of a Japanese shrine. Half of a second wall had been painted, but it still seemed to be a work in progress. Paint still floated about in the water - probably part of a supply the youkai had found in the manor’s storage, or something like that. Sango eyed it with disapproval.

In the centre of the room, a large wooden box had been carefully placed. It was a donation box - even though this was her first time seeing one, some divine instinct told Jozu that this was a place for the faithful to pay tribute to their gods. Though the box seemed heavy, she couldn’t see so much as a coin inside.

Finally, on the far wall, a large banner had been hung up. The writing was barely legible, and Jozu had to squint to make it out.

PAY YOUR RESPECTS TO KAIKO KIYOMIZU, YOUNG RULER OF GENSOKYO’S WATERS

It was about as humble as the sign on the entrance. Jozu frowned. She hadn’t even met this girl yet, and already she didn’t like her.

“Oh?” a voice called out from somewhere in the water. “Worshippers?”

The water rippled and churned at the far end of the room, and the form of a young girl came into view. Her dark blue hair dragged along the floor, longer than she was tall. Like Inna, a pair of fins popped out of the sides of her head, but they were much larger than Inna’s and had no human ears to hide behind. Her kimono started a pale blue at the neck, growing darker as it descended until it was a navy blue at her ankles. White waves ran across it, a storm captured in an instant. Her feet were clear to see and far from human - they were larged, webbed fins, more like a duck’s feet than anything.

Kaiko Kiyomizu held herself with the utmost formality, kicking off the floor to float above the three newcomers.

“I was not expecting to have visitors so soon.” Her words were stilted, clearly practiced, but there was still a hint of divine power flowing within them. “This is only a temporary abode, you see - while this manor is impressive, it is too small to be befitting for a god of my stature. I will have something much grander soon enough, when my tides have finished wearing at the rock. That mansion is wasted on the vampire, don’t you agree?”

Every word that came out of Kaiko’s mouth was laced with pretentiousness. Jozu had to fight the urge to spit as she drifted forward, using the donation box as a step.

“OK, little miss High And Mighty. Playtime’s over. You’re heading back to the Crystal Waters before you get outta hand.”

She reached a hand out, ready to drag Kaiko out of here if she had to. The god looked down at her, unimpressed, and for an instant her dark blue eyes flashed white.

Before Jozu even knew what was going on, she was pushed backwards into the wall behind her.

“Aghk-!”

A current had emerged in the water from nowhere, shoving Jozu unceremoniously away. At her sides, she saw Momiji and Sango likewise pinned to the wall. Kaiko held one hand out, maintaining the current, the waving patterns on her kimono dancing as she bent the water to her will.

“Don’t talk like that! You’re not my mother or anythi-” Kaiko caught herself mid-word, her hand jumping to her mouth. The current collapsed instantly, and Jozu pulled her fin out of the wall the moment she got the chance. By then, Kaiko had regained her composure.

“A-Ahem. I would not recommend speaking to a god with a tone like that. You sharks are intelligent enough to know what a god is, aren’t you? Or did you come here looking for some human scraps to nibble on?”

Each time Kaiko opened her mouth, Jozu hated her a little more. She started on another approach, bracing herself for a follow-up strike.

“I wouldn’t talk like that to an aumakua, y’know. There’s a whole buncha people in Gensokyo scared of me. I’m the talk of the town right now. Thing is, if you’re so powerful and stuff, why haven’t I ever heard of you before?”

Kaiko’s lips warped into a pout. Her arms fell to her sides, her glare landing on Jozu. Momiji and Sango were moving up beside her, a few steps behind.

“I’ve only been in Gensokyo for a few weeks now. It takes time to build a reputation, and defeating one of the highest houses in Gensokyo seemed like a good place to start. I’ll show this country just what the Rippling World is capable of, and then you’ll all be so impressed you’ll think I’m awesome and you’ll have to worship me and-”

The god caught herself getting carried away again, cutting herself off and bowing in apology. “Sorry. This is my first time doing one of these speeches, so I’m rather nervous.”

Momiji raised an eyebrow. “First time? How old are you?”

Kaiko turned her eyes to Momiji on the spot, fuming. “Are you calling me a child?! I’ve been around for centuries, I’ll have you know! I was the leader of a youkai society that spanned hundreds, thousands of members! My followers covered all of Russia, and I-”

Russia?” Momiji asked, incredulous. “What would a Japanese water god be doing in Russia? That’s not even near the border.”

Jozu saw the first signs of nerves rising to Kaiko’s face at that point, her eyes darting around as if the answer was written on one of the walls. Her ear fins turned inwards, drooping.

“Uh, I was...recruiting! Yes, working on an untapped market for youkai. You’ve seen some of my recruits, surely - Inna, the rusalka doing the redecorating? Rosalind, the kelpie running security at the door?”

“Yeah, we know them,” Sango said with a smile. “They looked a little sleepy, though, so we put them down for a while.”

Now Kaiko was beginning to look particularly worried. She knew she was on the back foot, and Jozu took advantage of that, stepping forward and cracking her knuckles.

“Show’s over, kid. Nobody stirs up trouble in Gensokyo’s waters on my watch.”

“Or mine!” Sango added, swimming up beside her. She held her hands up into fists, ready for a fight.

“Well, I’m not some great defender like those two are,” Momiji said as she stood at Jozu’s other shoulder, “but you’ve caused me a lot of trouble on my day off. I think you oughta compensate a little, don’t you?”

Kaiko’s eyes bounced between all three of her opponents as she bit her lip. For the first time she looked like she was acting her age, sinking downward onto the donation box and standing on it.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up! I’m busy right now, so you’d all better leave me alone!

She stamped her webbed foot on the box, and the waves that burst out of it tore the wood to pieces. The trio was knocked backwards by the water pulse, but Jozu managed to stand her ground before she got her fin lodged into the wall again. The splinters from the box flew towards her, each one designed to stab through her flesh with ease. Jozu pulled out a spellcard, declaring it as quickly as her tongue would let her.

“Aumakua [Kawena’s Menagerie]!”

A dozen creatures came into being around her - sharks, eagles, bears, all of them glowing faintly. They were not living things - they were not even aumakua, as the spellcard suggested. They were glorified barriers, and as the splinters struck them they exploded into waves of bullets. They charged forward at Jozu’s will in a powerful counter-attack, leaving Kaiko no room to dodge.

The young god held both arms out, then pulled them towards her sides. The bullets split, pulled in two different directions by two separate water currents. The back wall took the brunt of the punishment for her, bricks cracking and large portions of the structure coming apart completely. The banner was destroyed, punctured a hundred times over by Jozu’s barrage. Kaiko looked back at her ruined shrine, her arms flailing around like a child having a tantrum.

“Y-You’ve ruined my sanctum! I hope you’re ready for some divine punishment, because I’m about to kick your ass from here to Moscow!”

She’d given up on being civil, it seemed, and she pulled out a spellcard of her own from within her kimono.

“Adamant Waves [Spiting The Ancient King]!”

A throne took form beneath her, and she sat on it with one leg over the other. Casually she clicked her fingers, and a wave of bullets burst out from the chair’s sides, hanging in the water motionless.

Up until Kaiko started playing with the tide, of course.

“Eat this!”

The bullets charged along with the waters, aiming for all three of her opponents at the same time. Jozu grit her teeth, kicking upwards over the first wave before diving under the second. The current pushing the bullets along was intense - Momiji and Sango were trapped with their backs to the wall, unable to swim against a force that strong.

They hadn’t trained like Jozu had. They hadn’t swam through the dark currents of the Crystal Waters, the currents that would swallow you whole forever if you weren’t paying attention. She struggled against the barrage, fighting both the water and the bullets it was carrying. There was a loud ripping noise as one of the bullets ran across her sleeve, tearing it and exposing her arm to the icy water of the lake.

All the better for punching, Jozu thought. For a second she considered firing a wave of her own at Kaiko, but that was begging for disaster - the current would just send her own bullets back to her. She’d have to do this the old fashioned way. Not that she was complaining, of course - after all that bragging, she was more than happy to give Kaiko a knuckle sandwich to chew on.

Speaking of Princess Stuck-Up, she was sitting straight now as Jozu began to make her way through the barrage, her eyes following her nervously. When at last the shark made her breakthrough, she sent a fist flying straight towards Kaiko’s face. The young god vanished, the water rippling and twisting where she’d been, but her golden throne shattered into a thousand pieces when Jozu’s punch connected with it.

The currents were stopped for only an instant before Kaiko took form again, this time with her back to the wall. One of her webbed feet stamped against the ground, each hit doing more and more damage to the back wall.

“It’s not fair! You’re cheating! You’re only winning because we’re inside, got it?!”

With one last, powerful stomp, the back wall came apart entirely, leaving a massive gap for Kaiko to swim through. She had the blazing speed Jozu expected from someone with feet like that, but Jozu was right behind her. Sango brought up the rear, helping Momiji along with one hand.

The fight opened out into the lakebed, Kaiko swimming towards the coast instead. She was headed right for the Scarlet Devil Mansion - maybe to speed up her plan before anyone could stop her.

“Oh no you don’t!”

Jozu closed her eyes, focusing her thoughts. She felt it flowing through her like blood - faith, the lifeline of all gods, powering her every move. She channeled it, called it forth, burnt it to propel herself further forward. This time the currents in the lake were pushing her forward rather than holding her back, and in only a few minutes they had made it to the edge of the lake.

Kaiko looked back, sticking her tongue out as she saw Jozu almost on top of her.

“Stupid little fishie! You just walked right into my trap!”

She lifted up another card, declaring it before Jozu could get in close enough for a hit.

“Dark Tides [Rising Black Waters]!”

Holding her arms out, Kaiko allowed her hair to spread out within the water. Black bullets fired out from the tips of her hair, twirling around in a spiral as Kaiko protected herself. That current would knock away any bullets that Jozu tried to fire, and it’d probably stop her from getting a good hit in, too. She grit her teeth as the first few bullets came her way, dodging them as they flew past.

She almost took a bullet to the back of the head when they started rolling backwards.

“Whoa!”

Jozu ducked, and she swore the bullet took off a few hairs as it zoomed past her head. All the while, Kaiko was forming more and more bullets, and she sent a second wave that was stronger than the one before it. Again, Jozu found a hole in the assault, but it was much tighter than the wave before.

I can’t just dodge these forever, but how am I supposed to get in?!

The current - if it could even be called that anymore - was visible now. It was a sphere of wind surrounding Kaiko entirely, protecting her from attack at any angle. Jozu could barely see her thanks to all the black bullets she’d spawned, only catching her face for a moment when the third wave came crashing forward.

“Dammit-!”

She couldn’t dodge the third wave entirely. Two of the bullets ran past her thighs, tearing the wetsuit yet again. She was going to have to sit down and spend a day repairing all the damage it had taken in the last few hours.

She couldn’t think of an answer. Hitting her wouldn’t work, and none of her bullets would curve in the right way. Was she going to lose here?

“Jozu! Let me handle this one!”

Sango’s voice popped up from behind her. She’d been so focused on the fight that she’d forgotten about the pair she’d left in her wake. Sango let go of Momiji, swimming right past Jozu with a card in hand.

“Cleansing Sign [Purified Greywater]!”

Sango held one arm out, and a line of dark grey bullets appeared in the water in front of her. As the third wave pulled back, these bullets were sucked in along with the rest of them, swirling around the spherical current Kaiko had made to cover herself.

“What’s she doing?!” Jozu yelled.

“No idea, but it had better work!” Momiji said in reply, only now catching up with the shark.

Sango pulled back, looking nervous. Kaiko split the current apart just wide enough so the trio could see her laughing at them.

“Haha! You dolphins are so dumb sometimes! You really thought a bunch of simple bullets would get past my defenses?”

Sango held one hand forward, putting her thumb against her middle finger.

“No - but maybe this will!”

She clicked her fingers together, and the grey bullets exploded in a brilliant white ring. Outwards, a series of dark blue bullets spread out across the lake. At the same time, a series of black bullets went in the other direction - straight past the current ring, and right towards Kaiko.

“Hyaah!” The god let out a little squeal of panic as the bullets approached her. She stopped them at the last minute with an enormous pulse of energy, the current pushing the bullets in every direction. Some of them even flew out of the water, and Jozu swore she heard the sound of glass shattering above the surface. Only two or three actually came close to Jozu, keeping her on her toes.

“I have HAD it with you!” Kaiko yelled. “All I wanted was a chance to be cool, and then YOU have to step in and ruin everything! Just go away already!”

She pulled out a third card, but this one was different than the pair before it. It glistened in the water, glowing even before Kaiko declared it. Already, Jozu knew the god was playing her trump card.

“[Raging Waves Of Lake Baikal]!”

The water exploded outwards, knocking Jozu back at least ten feet. She flipped in the water, looking forward again, seeing the water twist and turn in ways physics would have claimed was impossible. Bullets pulsed out from Kaiko’s hands, moving in every direction. They were buffeted by a dozen different currents at once, their trajectories almost random.

Jozu felt the currents slowly pulling her in. She fought it, kicking backwards. She couldn’t make it through that sort of attack. She’d have to charge straight in through the currents, and that would be suicidal with all the bullets coming the other direction. She needed a plan, and Kaiko was happy enough to have her far away.

“Jozu,” Momiji called out from her side. The shark looked over to her, and saw the tengu’s shield a few inches from her face. “This should be your ticket in.”

She had to think about it for a moment. As she gripped the shield, she felt its weight pulling her down. She wasn’t used to swimming with something so hefty. She frowned, shaking her head slightly.

“I think it’s too heavy, Momi. I can’t do this.”

Another hand grabbed at the other side of the shield.

“Not alone, anyway,” Sango corrected.

Jozu’s eyes widened as the dolphin looked down at her, completely confident. Sango gave her a quick nod, and silently they had already agreed on the plan. The shark smirked.

“You’d better not hold me back, fin-face.” She took the strap of the shield in both hands, keeping to the left.

“No problem,” Sango said as she put her hands on top of Jozu’s. “Just try to keep up, okay?”

There was just enough space behind the shield for the pair to hide. Without a cue, they both charged in at once, the current helping them into the storm. Water slammed into them from the left, the right, all directions. Bullets curved along their paths, making to strike them from the side.

No time for talking. When they needed to break to the left, Sango tugged to the side. Jozu didn’t ask, she didn’t argue, she just complied. When they needed to move right it was the same but in reverse - Jozu motioning to the side, and Sango moving along with her naturally.

Bullets battered against the shield, the current sending them slamming in with impressive force. Jozu felt her arms ache, the shield denting as hit after hit slammed into it. She grunted.

“Yeah, this is about as comfortable as I thought it’d be right next to you!” she yelled over the fearsome roar of the water.

“Well, at least you don’t have to deal with the smell!” Sango shouted in reply.

Jozu smirked. She was staring to like this kid.

The bullets only grew more plentiful as they swam further in. They broke left, right, up, down, all without a single word being exchanged. In that moment, the pair had absolute faith in one another, and they made gradual progress through the final storm.

It was a shame Jozu couldn’t see anything past the shield. She would have loved to see the look on Kaiko’s face as they stormed past her last lines of defense.

“N-No way!” the young god shouted. “You can’t win! You can’t beat me! That’s-that’s not fair!”

The shield continued on, gaining speed as it broke past the current. Kaiko had put too much energy into this attack to retreat again, and the shield caught her straight in the chest. Jozu looked to Sango for an instant, tugging the shield upwards.

“Sorry, kid...” she started, as Sango turned along with her. Kaiko remained pinned to the shield as both of them charged for the surface, rising out of the water with incredible speed.

“...but it looks like the tides have turned!”

Kaiko fell away from the shield, plummeting towards the ground with a mighty crash. Jozu got a quick glimpse of her stunned face as she fell. She smirked. So worth it.

Jozu and Sango landed at the side soon afterward. Almost immediately Jozu’s hand was at her mouthpiece, jamming it on and gasping for breath. Sango was right next to her, gasping for air, the shield lying battered at her side.

“...OK...let me just tell you...” Sango raised one finger in front of Jozu. “That one-liner...was really bad. Do us all a favour...and never talk like that again.”

Jozu offered Sango a salute. Yes, ma’am.

It was a few minutes before either of the girls were ready to move. By that time, Momiji had surfaced and joined them at the coast. Kaiko was still lying on the ground a few metres away, flailing around like a fish out of water.

“S’not fair,” she whined, kicking around in a fit. “I’m s’posed to be the coolest god there iiiiiiiis...” She looked to her side, seeing the trio who’d defeated her rising to their feet. She did likewise, her legs trembling even as she tried to stand.

“I-I’m not done! I can still fight! I’m gonna show you three what I can really do-”

“No you won’t,” Sakuya said, appearing behind Kaiko in an instant. Her arm clasped around the god’s shoulder, a brilliant determination in her eyes.

“You’re the ringleader, correct? The one responsible for all of this damage?”

Kaiko blinked, then looked over towards the mansion. She very nearly fell over from the sight. The back side of the mansion had been ravaged - windows shattered, walls demolished, doors blown open, fences taken apart. A small number of the fairy maids were darting around, trying to solve the problem in the only way they knew how - every single one of them was calling for help from Sakuya.

“If you know what’s good for you,” Sakuya continued, her hand tightening around Kaiko’s shoulder, “you’ll get your friends up here, and you will work until this mansion is as good as new. Have I made myself clear?”

Jozu saw the last glint of rebellion go out in Kaiko’s eyes, and she hung her head as she started to sniffle. Finally, she pulled her head back, letting out the loudest wail Jozu had ever heard.

“Uwaaaaaaaah~!”

-----

Stage 6 Boss

Innocent Child of the Forgotten Shrine
Kaiko Kiyomizu

Species:
Suijin (water god)
Power: Manipulation of tide and current

Once, in a frigid country beyond the border, there was a young student of theology.

He read about many religions, and on one day he was drawn to the Shinto concept of kami - the idea that gods dwell within all objects and creatures.
He thought to test this claim, and prepared to offer one of these gods a shrine.

He decided to create a small altar near Lake Baikal, known for being the deepest lake in the world.
He believed that with a large source, he would call upon a powerful god to offer worship to.
However, after a few days there was no sign of any deity.
He gave up on his experiment, forgetting about it in short order.

What the scholar was unaware of was that his experiment had been a success.

In creating an altar, the scholar had offered faith to the god of the water.
This faith actually brought his god into existence, into a land where no-one would consider worshipping it.

That god was Kaiko.

She was a weak girl after her creation, unable to survive on such little faith.
She met a few friendly youkai who lived within the lake, and they offered enough in the way of worship to keep her alive.
But Kaiko knew it wasn’t enough - to attain her true power, she needed more belief and more worship.

Thus the Rippling World was formed - a unity of all the youkai who dwelled in the lakes and rivers of Russia, coming together to praise their god.

For decades, the group met regularly, both to converse and to offer worship to Kaiko.
However, as human faith in youkai dwindled outside the border, the youkai who attended these meetings began to fade away.
Eventually only a few stragglers remained, and on Kaiko’s suggestion they moved to Gensokyo with the plan of recovering her former glory.

The Crystal Waters were filled with youkai, but Kaiko’s immaturity as a god stopped them from offering her praise.
Looking to prove a point, she travelled out into the surface world along with her last two companions.

Her path led her straight towards the Scarlet Devil Mansion, and the opportunity arose. She hid in the nearby lake as she wore away at the lakeside with her power. There was even a manor beneath the surface for her to hide in as she worked.

“Destiny is smiling on me,” she thought to herself.
She worked day and night, speaking to Rosalind and Inna of how she would reclaim her place atop the pantheon.

But is power truly Kaiko’s goal?
Or does the young god want something more personal from this adventure?
Either way, she will never admit to it.

Dizzy H. "Muffin" Muffin

  • :3
  • :3
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: KimikoMuffin
  • Gender: Girl
Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 6 up!)
« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2011, 07:07:00 pm »
Quote
It looks like the tides have turned!



Also, Kaiko = incompetence-moe.
  • Muffiny Miscellany

Hanzo K.

  • White Tiger Shikigami
  • Whoa, this YF-29's awesome!
Re: Tempests of Distant Waters (Chapter 6 up!)
« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2011, 08:38:46 pm »
She doesn't seem to be too much different from a beefed-up Cirno, but I like that idea.
Even her one card, Spiting the Ancient King, seems like it would be a very Perfect Freeze sort of card, kinda like Miko's final.
Which I also liked.
All in all, another pearl dredged up from the deep by good ol' Rou.

If I was any good with Danmakufu, I'd have a whack at making them based on the descriptions.
Essence RO
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