Topic: [NaNoWriMo] Fleeting and Counterfeit Nirvana (title change!)  (Read 2211 times)

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CrowCakes

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[NaNoWriMo] Fleeting and Counterfeit Nirvana (title change!)
« on: November 01, 2011, 12:25:37 pm »
Hi, obligatory author's note here.

I would have loved to join the NaNoWriMo, but frankly I don't have the time for either the regular one or the YWP. Instead, I'll just finish one story. I'M JOINING THE NANOWRIMO. My request is for all the readers who will go through it to give constructive criticism, because my stories usually die out if I don't get any helpful comments.

Like NaNoWriMo, I won't edit this until I'm finished. Whatever you point out, it'll have to wait 'til it's done.

Cheers!
Crow




Standing here mesmerized Yuyuko. Here, on this large stone outcrop, she had a complete view of the Netherworld's biggest tree. Against the deep purplish sky of the realm, the tree towered imposingly. She found it hard sometimes to look away, but only because the scene itself was pretty. The tree's charm by itself did not attract her.

As a breeze blew across the expansive garden of Hakugyokuro, the White Jade Tower, a chill creeped across the ghost princess's skin. At this very same spot, she had tried to rebloom the tree. It would not flower, even though she had gathered enough spring essence to revitalize all the trees of her garden with plenty more to spare. It was already at the verge of blooming a single cherry blossom when her plot was foiled. The humans that had come to halt her progress had some of the spring essence themselves, which Yuyuko desparately needed to complete her effort.

Looking back, the whole plan was indeed a colossal effort. It was like trying to revive a dead person; well, the tree was a youkai. It never came to frutition.

Behind her, the faint whoosh of a blade and the rustling of leaves reached Yuyuko's ears. It was like the tick-tock of a clock; if one stayed near it for a while, doing nothing, the sound would eventually be heard. She did not need to look back to know it was her gardener, mowing the overgrown hedges that lined the ground. It was the monotony of this kind of life that led to the events that many called the "Spring Snow Incident." She involved this same gardener, her only gardener, in her pursuit of curiosity.

Of course, the gardener was obliged to obey her mistress's commands. Because of this obligation, she had received a full-on beating for protecting her mistress, but it wasn't something Yuyuko was sorry for. In fact, after that day, she would berate her retainer "for her rash behavior" and "for actively picking a fight."

So here she was again, pointlessly viewing the tree.

Thwack.

What dies with the dead, stays with the dead. It was funny how she, as a ghost, already disproved this, but failed to bring any knowledge out of a dead tree.

Admittedly, the tree had soundly stumped Yuyuko. There was a seal placed on it, freezing it in a time of its own. The girl underneath was likewise affected. If Yuyuko removed the seal, it would cause both of them to die. One thousand years’ worth of age would come rushing into them. Merely reviving the tree was useless because the seal would still be there. Her plan was the only viable one, but even that failed.

Even though she surrendered going through with her plan, no one told her who the person buried there was. No one knew, even. Was no there no compensation for all the trouble she had gone through?

Flip.

Yuyuko, after another half hour in the garden, retired back to her home.

The ghost was currently searching the library of her manor. It was silent; only the floating forms of the yuurei who inhabited the Netherworld were her company. There was a musty odor coming from the centuries-old books kept here. The worn-out spines of some books stuck out, a product of discontinued management.

There was only one book that recorded the early history of the tree, which she was currently flipping through. The faded and ancient script told her bits and pieces of the story, but glaringly left out the name she desparately wanted to know. It was a good thing that the curiosity it left no longer tormented her.

She skimmed across the annal.

Flip flip flip flip flip fliiiiiip.

There was nothing more that she hadn't read, but it wouldn't hurt to read it again. Turning to the particular part where it described the sealing, she looked at the record before it.

Fliiiiiiiiiiip.

It was quite short, but, then again, everything she found relevant was.

In the empty courtyard, under the shade of the unseeming tree, a suicide had taken place. On further investigation, the body belonged to that of the young mistress of the Saigyouji clan. The various onlookers, very few of whom were relatives, silently beheld the scene and did little else. Prior to our arrival, there were no witnesses to the act.

A most unusual thing had occured to the tree. The suicide had taken place in the midpoint of spring, when trees that bore flowers flowered. It had been taken to note that the crown of this tree was barren. Its blossoms and leaves had all fallen off, as if autumn had suddenly arrived and pressed itself on the tree. It was no lie to say that the tree was dead.

Whether it had lured the Saigyouji mistress to her death, or if it was her own act, none could ascertain.

When someone had volunteered to prepare the body for a future burial ceremony, a monk suggested his own intention. He said that he would seal away the body of both the youkai tree and the mistress. He was certain that the entity within the tree was only asleep, only hibernating, and that it would be for the best if they had locked it away. He left to collect the tools.

After a time of gathering the instruments for such a ritual, the monk arrived back.

The ritual will be described in a later record.


Honestly, Yuyuko found no relevance in this section of the ancient tome. It would have been better if this was the section that was completely faded rather than the more important parts. The record that followed it was one of them.

In her mind's eye, she envisioned the whole garden in the compound of the White Jade Tower. Besides the typical greenery of flowers and shrubs, there were also cherry blossom trees. Among the trees, there were those of the youkai variety, but they had no difference with the rest.

Regardless, there was a common characteristic that bound them all: death. Everything was dead, technically. From the smallest blade of grass to the cherry blossom trees, they were all dead. Yuyuko, being the appointed ruler of the dead, had control over all of them.

"Bah, there must be something! Isn't there a meal with the same taste?"

Still with the large book in hand, Yuyuko left the library in a huff.

Under this sky, it is impossible to tell the time. A girl stands before the essence of spring itself, gathered in a massive tree. A purple glow bathes everything in its light.

There is a smile on the girl's face. Her eyes stare, dazzled by the spectacle before her. She swears she can spend an eternity looking at this. It is a beautiful fruit of labor.

Her daze is broken by a servant.

"Lady Yuyuko, the last of the spring has been taken," she reports.

Then all that is left is to wait for it to finish cooking, the girl replies.

There is a short silence.

Do you want to wait with me? You could almost smell it, if you wanted to.

"If it is okay with you."

Before the servant reaches her mistress, she is stopped. The mistress's hand stays the servant's movement.

On second thought, go watch the entrance. We may not have enough fuel. Maybe someone will come with the little more that we need.

The servant hesitates.

"...yes, mistress."

The servant leaves with a great whoosh.

Today, the dead will raise the dead.

The girl is sure of the outcome. She will know who the girl under this tree is. She is excited. Perhaps the person is a relative, or perhaps she is one that she had never met, one she could never meet. She feels a sense of finality.

But first, there are unwelcome guests she must attend to. Soon, the guest of honor will arrive. She will have a great time attending to both parties.


« Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 12:27:01 pm by Gummi Crow »

Crow's Dumping Ground of Art

"So I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring, because my faith is on solid rock; I am counting on God."

Aya Squawkermaru

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Re: Reclamation (or, Crow's attempt at finishing a story)
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2011, 10:32:10 pm »
Oh my~ It'll be interesting to see where this goes. Yuyuko is always entertaining, though not quite as silly ad I'd hope. But hey, interpretation is up to the author in that sense, so I won't complain. Looking forward to more of this. :3

CrowCakes

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Re: Reclamation (or, Crow's attempt at finishing a story)
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2011, 05:01:41 am »
I feel like I'm cheating myself. Part 2!


"Youmu? Youmu~! Get over here!"

The dining room of the White Jade Tower was a humble one. There were no decorations hanging from the walls, nor were there ceramics sitting on the wooden floor. A kotatsu was kept at the corner of the room, in case there would be guests. In the center, there was a low dining table made of the same wood as the floor. There were no designs on it.

The room faced the courtyard, and its view contrasted against the room's bland decor. Right now, the handful of trees in the courtyard were teeming with leaves and cherry blossoms, announcing the presence of spring. Every now and then, a strong gust would blow off a leaf, and it would fly into the dining room, occasionally landing on food.

Yuyuko stood at the open door leading to the kitchen,  craning her neck and looking for Youmu. After her gardening duties, Youmu usually went next here. After all, her mistress loved to eat no matter the time of day, and it would be inconvenient if she had to drop her work just to go prepare a snack.

"Youmu! Where are you, anyway?"

"Ahem."

Before Yuyuko could enter the kitchen, she turned around. There, by the sliding doors, was the gardener-slash-swordswoman. On her hands were a bowl of flavored mochi and a jar of tea, complete with a tea set.

"Oh, very good, you have food!" cheered Yuyuko.

She flew at Youmu and snatched one mochi. She threw it into her mouth, chewing it quickly.

"Now, come along, Youmu. We're eating outside today," Yuyuko moved past the slightly bewildered Youmu.

"Outside? Do you mean the Zen Garden, Lady Yuyuko?" Youmu scurried along. The tea set clanked with a distinctly high pitch.

"Oh, Youmu, that isn't outside~"

"Um... okay."

Youmu sighed. Her mistress was leading her into another set of convoluted riddles, and she didn't enjoy them at all. She couldn't see the point in having to hide information behind a confusing sentence.

A ghost, a formless yuurei, went ahead of Youmu. This was her ghost half. Now, Youmu was a half-ghost bearing the name of the Konpaku line, who were to serve the ruler of the Netherworld as long as she held the seat. The lineage was new; she was the second one to have been born. Her predecessor was around for the first few decades of her life, but disappeared without notice, leaving her solely with the  responsibility that came with her name.

What Yuyuko meant by "outside" meant the main garden of her abode.

"How are we going to eat here, mistress? We'd have to walk far to reach a proper place to eat."

"Ah, I forgot to tell you," Yuyuko answered, "We're going to have a picnic!" Her face was all smiles, but Youmu knew better than to take it as it was.

"Isn't it exciting?" Yuyuko asked energetically. She continued venturing farther in the garden, scouting for a spot to stay in.

For someone of her standing, Yuyuko acted very impulsively. One would wonder how she could afford to behave so childishly, or how she got anything done right. The fact that she had not lost her position for a millenium (and counting) said something about that.

Youmu, who was much younger than Yuyuko, was having a hard time catching up. She could not go any faster than brisk walking for fear that the tea jar would fall off and spill all its contents, or the tea set falling and shattering. She would never hear the end of her mistress's chastisement.

Yuyuko's zipping back and forth was not helping her concentrate. The clattering got dangerously louder as Youmu tried to keep up.

"Lady Yuyuko, what are you looking for?" Youmu called out.

"For the right tree- oh, here it is!"

The ghost stopped at a tree to the far right of the median point of the garden, sitting down next to it.

"Youmu! Hurry up!" She waved at her incoming servant, the sleeve of her kimono waving madly along.

Why was she in a hurry? What was she excited about? The half-ghost preferred to keep the questions to herself. If she asked, she would have more questions and no answers.

When Youmu's pace slowed, she tripped. This sent her staggering forward, and she had barely managed to keep everything she was holding upright.

"Ah, little Youmu: so easy to fluster~!" Yuyuko teased, hiding a chuckle behind her sleeves.

"Lady Yuyuko, you were going too fast," Youmu pointed out. She laid the bowl of mochi and the tea set down on the grass.

"Well, you never know what's cooking!" Laughter began.

"I- wha, what? How- what- how does that even make sense?" Youmu was dumbstruck. This is why she hated idioms.

Yuyuko had already begun munching on the treats when Youmu snapped out of her agitation. While the mistress was savoring the flavor, the servant was pouring out the tea into the small flasks. They began cooling down.

The scent of the mochi was nonexistent, but the tea had a particularly strong one. Youmu hadn't even opened it, but the scent began wafting up her nostrils. Pouring it out, she discovered that it was black tea. She didn't check the variety of tea leaves when she brewed it.

"Mmm, black tea," Yuyuko recognized the scent, taking one of the filled cups, "Is it hot?"

"It is, Lady Yuyuko. Is there anything wrong?"

"No, no; I just hear that in the outside world, its served cold. I wondered if you picked up on that."

"I see."

They drank.

The only one hungry was the ghost. Noticing this, Yuyuko took one and offered it to Youmu.

"Come one, eat one. They're really good, you know?" For emphasis, she broke it into half, revealing the multicolored layers inside.

It was tempting, but Youmu just didn't have the appetite. This whole snack thing was Yuyuko's sort of thing. It was weird how she even had an appetite.

"No, thank you," the gardener politely declined.

Yuyuko pouted and leaned forward to bite the mochi. Just as it was about to fall into her hungry mouth, it rolled off onto the soil right under the tree.

Her pout turned into a whine.

"Aw!" she cried. Food was really important to her.

Without warning, a small root from the tree latched onto the fallen snack. Yuyuko jerked back a little.

Youmu, alerted to this, immediately grabbed onto the hilt of one of her backmounted blades. She was silently stopped by her mistress, who was gesturing as if to shush her.

The root crawled away from the two, slowly but surely, and stopped at the base of the tree. It deposited the mochi under a bigger root, and the big vein made a movement similar to a mouth opening narrowly.

"It seems we have a guest," Yuyuko stated.

The hungry ghost suddenly lost her current craving for food and instead fed the animate tree food. She even went as far as to pour out her tea on its roots.

Youmu silently watched. Only the winds made chitchat, kicking up fallen leaves in their wake.

After five minutes of quietness, she asked another question.

"Is it a youkai tree, Lady Yuyuko? I wonder why it isn't aggressive."

"Oh, my dear Youmu, you must, must, must get your head out of those silly ideas!" Yuyuko admonished, "Not all youkai swallow their meals whole. Some just nibble."

"All the more reason to watch out, then," Youmu rebutted, unperturbed by the choice of food idiom.

"You're quite right."

Youmu noticed the roots' movements become slower and more relaxed. Was the tree actually enjoying?

"It's so... tame," she remarked, surprised.

"Oh. Now that you've mentioned it, I have to do something," Yuyuko remembered.

"Huh?" This was a picnic; it couldn't get any more b-

"'If the cuckoo doesn't sing, coax it.' Do you know that poem, Youmu?" her words began to soften and trail off. The princess placed her hand on the sinuous bark of the tree and fingered its rough exterior.

This was, if Youmu remembered correctly, another riddle. From past experience, she recalled that no matter how nonsensical they became, they hid the frighteningly accurate intentions and outcomes that her mistress already knew.

"No, I... don't. But what are you planning to do-"

"Hm, hm, hm..."

Then, as if it were cloth, Yuyuko pulled on the trunk and grabbed ahold of something bright and white. She dragged it out tenderly, giving herself a sense of peace and grace. A warm smile formed on her lips.

Youmu raised an eyebrow. She couldn't recognize the white object-

Her ghost half surfaced to the side of her view.

The half-ghost crawled backward, her eyes widening in shock.  Now she could identify it as the soul of the tree. A sharp breath escaped her. Her hands and head went cold and sweated profusely. Her heart began beating against her ribs.

She stuttered silently before finally saying something.

"Wha- what- wha- you- Lady Yuyuko, why are you- why- you're taking out its soul?" the stunned girl stammered out.

"Don't worry, I won't kill it," the ghost assured, "Sing for me, will you, cuckoo?"

The youkai tree's soul danced around Yuyuko.

In an echoing voice, it replied, "Put me back! I was enjoying the food! I haven't had anything to eat in a long, long time!"

It floated to the bowl of mochi, which was almost empty.

"I'll put you back, but answer my questions first, okay?" Yuyuko said, in a motherly tone.

The servant fought the urge to run away. The disturbing combination of such warmness and supernatural awareness so unsettled Youmu, that she feared Yuyuko was going to kill. Her extremities began trembling.

"Who are you to ask me?" the soul answered spitefully.

The ghost took the soul by its tail end and allowed it to continue its dance around her.

"I am Yuyuko Saigyouji, ruler of the Netherworld."

"So you're the one who trapped me here!" the soul's voice burst out, "You sadistic wench!"

Youmu snapped out of her daze upon hearing the insult. Drawing the shorter of her two blades, her wakizashi Hakuroken, she pointed it point-blank at the soul.

"You will not address the mistress in that manner. Take it back!" Youmu demanded.

"Just answer my questions, and I'll put you back. Or, would you rather taste steel? It's not very delicious. It's all hard and cold," Yuyuko threatened, still with the same warm tone since she had pulled the soul out. She didn't seem offended.

"Alright, alright, I'll answer you," it answered contemptfully.

"See, it wasn't all that bad, was it? Put the blade down, Youmu. Now, tell me, little one, are you dead?"

"Of course, I am! Everything in this godforsaken land is! There's nothing to feed on! The ghosts aren't even worth eating!" the soul's outburst went.

"Am I in control of everything in the Netherworld?"

Even Youmu joined in when the soul was surprised.

"Huh?"

"Of course; does that need to be questioned?"

"Everything?" the princess asked again.

"Yes, yes, yes! Yes, you are! What do you want?" If the soul had a real body, it would have thrown itself at Yuyuko and attacked her.

"Even if someone tampered around with something?"

"I don't know! Why don't you found out yourself?"

At that point, Yuyuko grabbed the soul again.

"Okay, that's everything I need. Thank you for cooperating."

"Put me back! PUT ME BACK!"

She inserted the tail into the tree. Like water, the soul flowed back into its wooden body. When its whole form had finally retreated in, everything was quiet again.

Not long after, the youkai tree moved. Its roots spasmed, while its branches shook.

Youmu readied herself to protect her mistress.

"Stand back, Lady Yuyuko. Let me handle this."

She was ignored.

"Be quiet, little one," Yuyuko softly commanded, "You wouldn't like the teapot to shout, would you?"

Reflecting its earlier anger, a large root from underneath lashed out from the soil, intent on striking the ghost princess.

Youmu raised her blade.

"Silence,"  Yuyuko's voice became sterner.

The raised vein twitched before going in for the hit.

She frowned.

She raised her hand towards the incoming tendril, an pink orb forming in front of her open palm. A lance flew out of it, and butterflies erupted from the weapon on the way to the hostility.

It cut cleanly through the root. It dropped stiffly to the ground.

But the tree wasn't done. This time, all the roots unearthed themselves.

"Silence!"

Yuyuko fired another lance. It flew through the trunk's center, leaving a smouldering hole in it.

The hole quickly recovered.

Then she fired another lance.

And another lance.

And another one.

And another one. And another one. And another one.
 
The roots fell back to the soil underneath. The tree stopped, defeated, and resigned to being still.

"Too much smell, but no taste. Ugh, how does that even work?" she rambled to herself.

She turned to Youmu. "That was a very rude guest, don't you think?"

Youmu took the only course of action. She sighed.

It is early morning. The sun is still unseen. A blonde-haired woman sits above on the city walls, accompanied by a girl with two tails. The girl also sports two pointy fox ears in place of a normal pair.

The older one enjoys the fresh morning air.

"I wish I could stay in this moment forever. It's so quiet," she says. Not many had woken up yet in this town.

Yeah. It's so nice staying on the wall.

"And I wish I was still as young as you. I envy your simplicity," the blonde-hair wistfully adds.

I'm hungry.

"Weeeell, we have to wait 'til the market is open. We might be draw attention if we go now."

The blonde-hair shifts in place.

Can't we just steal?

"We can."

Then why not?

"Mmf. I'm too lazy to do that right now."

Is it because it's early?

"Yes. Could you massage my shoulders?"

The two-tails does exactly that.

"Aaaah. Yes, just like that. Good girl."

A few people look up at them, wondering how they reached that high up. No one sees the girl's two tails. Both ignore them.

Then, at the crack of dawn, the girl's ears shoot up. She catches a yell from one of the manors near the wall.

The woman notices the girl's alarm.

"What is it?"

Someone yelled. It sounded like pain. It sounds like childbirth.

"Does it sound young?"

Yes, it sounded young.

The woman leans back. Her hands rest on the tip of the roof.

She chuckles.

"I believe... that our young human friend has finally given up."

The two-tails is confused. Then she promptly remembers.

Oh, that girl! What do you mean by her giving up? Was she trying to finish something?

The woman stands up. The faint smile is still on her face.

"Oh, yes, she was. Come with me, I'll show you."


"Where are we going now, Lady Yuyuko?" Youmu asked. She was holding the bowl and plate again.

"I just realized we've been cooking it the wrong way."

"Cooking what?"

"You don't remember?"

This triggered some very uncomfortable memories about the Incident they had caused.

"I do. But wasn't that the only way there was?"

Yuyuko didn't give a straight answer. "Were you afraid of me a while ago? I didn't notice."

Youmu bit her lips. "...yes, I was. I haven't seen that in a long time."

"Anyway, we're going to cook instant noodles, this time."

The half-ghost could not translate the idiom. "Huh? What does that mean, Lady Y-"

"Ah, here we are! Okay, listen up, Youmu; we might have to eat inside after this is done cooking. We'll have another guest after this."

They were standing in front of the tree in the center of the garden.

Crow's Dumping Ground of Art

"So I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring, because my faith is on solid rock; I am counting on God."

CrowCakes

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Re: Reclamation (or, Crow's attempt at finishing a story)
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2011, 11:49:34 pm »
:colonveeplusalpha: Part 3!


Youmu's jaw slacked.

"Hah?" came her high-pitched cry.

After the spectacle she had witnessed earlier, she still doubted her mistresses ability. She stuttered silently; she was in no position to dissuade Yuyuko. She was frozen in place.

"Th-this is insane!" she blurted out.

"Nothing hot water can't fix~" Yuyuko was all smiles as she converged to the giant tree.

When she reached the tree, she placed her fingers on the large, tortuous tendrils of the trunk. She knew it was insane, but what harm was there in doing it? The worse case was that she would fail. Taking a deep breath, Yuyuko did not hesitate.

Expecting no resistance, she was nearly thrown off when the soul was not pulled out immediately. Her arm continued pulling; she was determined to finish this. 

"Ooh, it's stuck," she groaned.

Her free hand joined the other as they pulled. They began sweating and loosening her hold on the soul. It began hurting in her arms.

After this problem presented itself, the resistance of the soul wavered as well. White threads clung to her hands as they moved back. The soul twitched.

"I see it, I see it! Youmu, come here and help!" she beckoned.

Youmu, unfortunately, had to go. Laying down the bowl and platter, she ran towards her mistress. She had to cross a slope, so slowing down caused her to trip and land on one of the tree's roots. At the signal of Yuyuko, she took a place beside her.

With both hands, Youmu held on to the small tuft end of the soul. Unlike the other's constant pull, she persistently tugged at it. With their combined effort, the extraction quickened.

The soul soon unraveled its form, inch by inch, but it was peculiar in appearance. The white threads expanded into a web-like frame. Dust hung on it like it would on untended furniture. It frayed everywhere.

Its movements became more active. It began trembling violently, indignant that it was being pulled out of its body. Holes formed by its structure breathed in and out. It tried swimming back.

"This is like trying to wrestle a pig!" Youmu complained.

Soon, five feet had been pulled out. The shaking mass swung wildly to the sides, trying to insert its tail back into the tree. The ghost and her servant couldn't pull it any further; it seemed to be plugged in.

Yuyuko sighed. "Oh, stubborn little thing."

Putting her foot to the trunk, she pulled harder. The bulb head of the soul revealed itself, slowly but surely. Youmu's help didn't seem to be doing much. 

"Let go, Youmu."

The ghost decided that enough was enough. Jumping, she stood horizontally on the tree trunk.

"Stand back!"

Without a second thought, she launched herself off.

Falling on the grass was like falling on tatami: dull, but nevertheless hard. Yuyuko found herself being propped up by her servant. While the half-ghost was concerned with her mistress, the full ghost was more interested in what they had come for.

"Is it finished? Don't tell me we overcooked it!" Yuyuko cried.

She was answered with a groan. But it wasn't Youmu's.

Shooting up, she looked around. Yuyuko muttered worriedly as she ran to find the source. Youmu was quickly left in the dust.

"Lady Yuyuko, wait- oh, forget it!" the servant stood up and trailed Yuyuko.

When she caught up, a surprise was waiting. Yuyuko was equally surprised by what she saw.

What was immediate was that the soul had taken the form of a body. Being accustomed to yuurei's formless bodies, this perplexed Youmu. This did not bother Yuyuko.

"It's a borei?" Youmu, nonplussed, could not believe that the extraction of this soul had worked.

"Yes, and it seems our guest has taken the form of a child," Yuyuko noticed, "It has the appearance of a very young boy."

The borei did look like a child, probably no older than ten. His hair was black, strewn about in random directions. He wore a child's everyday kimono. Its primary color was brown, but splotches of black, indigo, green, and white dotted it messily. Its hem, lined with red, was messily colored, too. It looked like someone had dipped it in a bowl of blood. The shoulder clothes bore a branch motif at their ends, colored the same way as the main cloth. He had no slippers or socks.

His young face seemed innocent at first, but when his eyes snapped open, every trace of that was washed away. His green eyes glared at Yuyuko. He was angry.

"...so, you're the one who threw me out," he said warily, "Who the hell do you think you are?"

Yuyuko was not shaken by his vocabulary. "Yes. I'm Yuyuko. And you are?"

"You pull me out of my body, and you demand to know who I am. That's a big load of bull, don't you think?" went his comment.

"Just to be clear, I didn't demand you. I asked you politely," she clarified.

"What do you know about politeness? You just pulled a soul out of its body! That's pretty rude, if you ask me!" he yelled.

"Don't speak to the mistress that way, boy!" Youmu warned. She stepped closer, but was stopped with a raise of a hand.

"You didn't answer me," the ghost woman patiently reminded him, "Tell me who you are."

The boy was miffed. "I'm the ghost of that tree," he pointed to the great tree behind them.

Yuyuko asked again. "And what's the name of the tree?"

The boy huffed.

"Saigyou Ayakashi. Phantom of the Saigyou."

After an uneventful trip back to the White Jade Tower manor, Yuyuko requested for an early dinner. Youmu was understandably hesitant to leave her mistress with this unruly "guest." But it was an order; she was under obligation to go and prepare the food.

Yuyuko made pleasantries with the borei of the Saigyou Ayakashi, but found out that he was not interested in anything but food, and he gave an actual response to questions about himself. A millenium of patience allowed her to tolerate this.

"I think I've seen you somewhere before," he said as they sat down at the dining room. He took a piece of mochi from the bowl Youmu had retrieved earlier and wolfed it down.

Suddenly remembering her unkempt appearance, Yuyuko took off her hat. She combed aside stray strands of pink, curly hair from her face.

"How long was it before you were sealed?" she asked, eating some mochi as well.

"Two hundred years or so."

"Well, that explains your appearance." Two hundred years was young for a youkai; this ghost reflected that very well.

The hatless Yuyuko caught the borei's attention. His complacent expression turned into a curiously observant gaze.

"You look young, too. Did you die early, or something?" his eyes narrowed.

"I... don't know. I believe that would go for the both of us, though," Yuyuko guessed. One eye was on the food, while the other was on the boy. She noticed his sudden interest in her, so she decided not to put her hat back on. It would be interesting to see how he would react to her now.

"That sounds right. By the way, when can I leave? You dragged me here for absolutely no reason at all," he whined.

"That's no way to treat your host, little boy. And you want dessert already?" she exclaimed, cutting the boy off, "Oh my, we haven't even gotten to the main course yet! Just wait a while, I still have an important question for you."

"'Little'? I'm hardly little," he snorted. 

At this point, Youmu emerged from the kitchen carrying a wooden tray. She had to resist plopping the tray down on the table; she was irritated with his casual way of speaking with the ruler of the Netherworld. That was to be expected from a youkai, she knew, but it was infuriating still.

The food was nothing special. There was a plate of steamed fish and a large bowl of rice, in case Yuyuko wanted to eat more. As always, she prepared a jar of tea (green, this time) to go with it. Since only the half-ghost actually needed the food, she chose to keep it simple. There was no point in making it extravagant if it had no nutrition.

The ghost’s voracious hunger made no sense to Youmu. Like any living being, Yuyuko felt hunger and needed to regularly eat, despite the fact she was a ghost. Puberty must have gotten in the mix, because one serving of anything was never enough for her.

Dinner came and went. Yuyuko devoured her share and more, Youmu ate silently, and the borei just picked at the fish. He and his host finished first.

Youmu was still eating when they continued their conversation.

"What was it that you wanted to ask me a while ago?" the borei asked.

The other ghost downed her tea. Youmu refilled the cup.

"Right then, I'll get right to the meat of things."

The unfortunate servant nearly choked on her food at the question.

"Who's under the tree?"

"You got me all the way here to ask that? Are you desparate?" the borei shook his head, his disbelief growing, "You can't be serious."

Youmu had collected all of the plates, but she stayed to watch the scene unfold. She was transfixed on some memory that seemed familiar to this conversation.

"But you know, don't you?"

"I'm sorry, but trees don't have ears. I don't. Too bad."

"But you do know," Yuyuko pushed, "Didn't you suck out the soul of that person? You would know from their memories if you did."

The ghost of the Saigyou Ayakashi did not hesitate to throw the question back. "I did suck it out, but with all the rest I've eaten, I can't remember any more."

"All their thoughts can't be the same."

"They're all mixed up," he told her, "A thousand years does that. You would know."

Yuyuko smiled. She rested her arms on the table, leaning forward. Likewise, the boy pounded his fists on the table. It was obvious he was trying to hide sonething, but why would he?

"Hm. Yes, yes, that's right. So I'll just tell you the name," she said in a sing-song tone, "Her family name was Saigyouji."

"A girl? Okay, le'me see..." he glanced upwards, as if the answer was on the ceiling, "Nope. Only a few names mentioned in passing, but there's nothing in particular."

Taking a sip of tea, she replied. "Oh, I see. Now, why don't you tell me what happened that day? The day you took your last meal."

"Funny you should say it that way. I know that when after the girl died, lots of people came after. The next thing I know," he banged the table for emphasis, "I got sealed."

Tap, tap, tap. Yuyuko began tapping the table lightly. "So, how did she die?"

"A suicide," he flatly stated.

"Did you cause it, or did she just walk in and do it?"

"I didn't do it, but I can't let myself starve, can I? So I sucked the soul out."

Tap. Tap. Tap.

"Let me review," she said slowly, "You know what happened that day. You know how the girl died. You know you absorbed her soul, and you're telling me you don't know who she is. That doesn't add up."

He frowned. "Where are you getting all this?"

Two could play a bluffing game. "You."

"You're a smart girl, aren't you?"

"'The chef does not reveal the secret ingredient,'" she smiled, "Did you die after the suicide?"

The borei jerked back, caught off guard. "Not exactly. It was just enough for me to lose a lot of energy, which is why I couldn't resist the sealing ritual."

"What was?"

"The suicide, of course!"

"A suicide like that can't kill more than one person. She was alone, wasn't she?" The annal she had read was surprisingly accurate, even though most of it was faded. The Saigyou Ayakashi could not deny anything she had asked so far.

"Yeah, she was."

"See? She either did something to you, or you dropped dead."

"Or those didn't happen at all, and I just got unlucky enough to get sealed right after. I was in a vulnerable position when I ate."

Tap. Tap. Tap.

"So you did eat her."

"I told you that a while ago!" he banged the table, "What the hell are you trying to get at?"

"You know," Yuyuko pushed, "so tell me who she is."

"If you know so much, how come you don't her name?" he asked back, leaning farther forward.

"Precisely what I got you for," Yuyuko explained calmly, "There's only so much I could gather before time wiped everything else out."

He smiled a smug grin. "Well, you're out of luck here, too. My mind's all jumbled up."

Youmu cut in smoothly.

"It's not that he's lying about not knowing who the girl is. He's lying about something else, too."

Yuyuko and the Saigyou Ayakashi shot their glances at Youmu. 

"What is it, then?" the boy asked. He was still smiling.

"It's about how he died. No one can die by sealing, and by the same token, no one can get sealed to the Netherworld if they're not dead or a wandering ghost."

"What, are you trying to imply that the suicide did kill me?" he shot back, scowling. Yuyuko remained silent, listening intently to her retainer.

"No. You died during the suicide, not after. You're still lying."

BANG!

"Pffft!" he blew, "Nonsense!"

"That's the only possible thing, isn't it?" Youmu pressed, "The girl killed you by killing herself. You must have still been trying to consume her soul when it happened. Since you're still trying to eat her, you must be hearing all the memories of her soul. So, again, you're lying."

There was no response.

"Well, it's a good thing I didn't break the seal, then. Otherwise, you," Yuyuko addressed the boy, "would have eaten the girl's soul, and I would be talking to nothing but a corpse. What do you know about the girl?"

Silence.

"Well? How about it?"

"She is from the Saigyouji clan," he said in a small voice, "During her suicide, she was depressed but at the same time determined to do... something. I would suppose that it was about killing me. She has only one friend- no, more than that, but you can count them with your fingers. And before you ask, I don't know her name."

The borei and the half-ghost locked eyes. 

"Now that we've squeezed some juice out of you, why don't we have a walk?" Yuyuko suggested, getting up and leaving.

"Hmph. Okay, I needed some air anyway. How can you stand sitting in a closed space?" his voice softened as he broke from the stare and walked away.

Youmu stayed behind to clean up. Taking the plates, cups, and tea jar, she reentered the kitchen.

"He does know the name. Why didn't he say it?"

"She already knew the name. Why didn't she just blurt it out loud?"

Crow's Dumping Ground of Art

"So I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring, because my faith is on solid rock; I am counting on God."

CrowCakes

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  • Nickname: Mukei
Re: [NaNoWriMo] Fleeting and Counterfeit Nirvana (title change!)
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2011, 12:35:16 pm »
It's taking too long for me to format the chapters to the forum. Hopefully, I'll get to post everything after the month. 20k mark breached; my chapters go too fast. Part 4!



"Say, did you like the mochi?" Yuyuko swept over the expansive grounds of the White Jade Tower, arm wrapped around the shoulders of the Saigyou Ayakashi's apparition. She had taken a lighter mood now that the inquiry with the tree's ghost was finished.

"They were fine," the borei nodded, "It's just that the flavors kept changing for every piece I ate. Why not just use a single flavor?"

"There's nothing fun in eating the same thing over and over. I like eating differently flavored food so that I don't grow tired of one," she explained, "It would be sad if I didn't like one flavor anymore. Every flavor is delicious!"

"But, seriously," he loosened his body from Yuyuko's slung arm, squirming, "Sour flavors? That's hardly... you know, used with rice."

"I'll admit that, but, hey, once you taste it enough, it's actually quite good. I remember this one time I tried unripe fruit wine, and it was quite fascinating, really."

The boy raised his eyebrow. "Unripe fruit wine. I'm now convinced that you're some sort of crackpot bent on fooling around with everyone. Are you, really?"

"I don't get why everyone keeps calling me that," Yuyuko absentmindedly mused, "Why would I want to break ceramics just for the fun of it? It doesn't make sense."

Their paces were uneven. The woman just kept floating forward, but they boy, who was only getting accustomed to floating, was trying to take it slowly. He tried to push Yuyuko to his pace, but nothing actually happened. She saw none of this, of course, as she was only looking ahead of them.

"Say,” she asked again, “don't you think it's a miracle that someone invented mochi, how someone found out how soaking sticky rice overnight then leaving it to dry and pounding over and over could produce a really good snack?”

“You like food too much.”

“I know, but when you’ve had enough time to appreciate it, you’ll find yourself begging for food everyday, whether or not you need it. Besides, what person would hate food and starve himself?”

“A ghost, of cou-“

Realizing that Yuyuko was the grand exception to this rule, the borei shut his mouth. If the ruler of the dead ate just like the living, then there was no reason to hate food, because even she liked it. But she didn’t need food; it was just a thing for them to pass the time. There would really be nothing that it would bring about.

“Cat caught your tongue?” Yuyuko teased, stealing a look the deep-in-thought ghost.

“No. A ghost would hate food.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“You don’t need it, it does nothing, and it only serves to distract you from the eternity you’re going to spend wandering who knows where,” he criticized, “Does any ghost need to be reminded of that? Does any ghost need to enjoy life and then be reminded that their life is going to be absolutely boring? I don’t think so.”

The ghost princess chewed over his retort. They were still floating forward, not stopping for anything. Just as the Saigyou Ayakashi’s ghost turned his attention away, she began speaking again.

“It’s true that eternity for us is torture, but doesn’t the fact that you can enjoy it for a brief moment tell you that, just maybe, you could make that eternity into an enjoyable experience? You don’t really need to think about the future.”

The borei’s eyebrows arched down, as if he was angry. “Are you so naïve to believe in that? Think about the youkai trees,” he gestured to the sea of cherry blossom trees that stood in the garden, “Do they like being stuck in a place where food is nearly tasteless? Do ghosts like being in a place where there is no fear to feed on? No.”

“’An anchored ship cannot sail forward.’ If you can’t let go of what you used to do, how are you going to enjoy the new things, especially in Gensokyo, especially in the Netherworld?”

“You can’t keep happiness,” he said, “You can’t keep sadness, you can’t keep ambition, you can’t keep hope, you can’t keep despair, you can’t keep peace, you can’t keep anything! Why should we even enjoy if we can’t have it forever? That’s very, very stupid.”

“That’s why you should keep eating. Besides, it’s not going to run out, is it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Won’t there always be someone who can get you food? Won’t there always be someone who can prepare food? Then just ask them to prepare food. It’s a simple thing, really.”

“…and if there are none of those?”

Chuckles escaped the woman. “Then go make your own. You’re not a baby that you should be fed. That’s a very pathetic reason for not liking food. Are you sure you’re not really a child’s ghost?”

The borei was speechless. He began twitching, almost trembling in anger. This was mockery, and his logic was just beaten by this infuriating optimism that the woman expressed. He wanted to crush it. How could she find happiness in something that wasn’t happy at all?

All around the two, cherry blossom trees surrounded them. Spring had coaxed their flowers out of their slumber, and they bloomed in full. The trees lined a path in the center, forming two forests to the sides. In the distance was the dead tree of the Saigyou Ayakashi, its gnarled branches bearing nothing.

“What should I call you?” Yuyuko wondered. She wasn’t looking at the boy, but it was clear that she addressed him.

He kept quiet.

She looked down, expecting an answer. Instead, she found the boy staring at one of the trees.

“I can’t call you ‘Saigyou Ayakashi.’ It’s too long.”

Still no response.

“Is this the first time you’ve seen the trees in full bloom?”

This time, he answered. “Yes, yes. It’s so beautiful. No wonder humans are drawn to them,” he said. Perhaps it was the silence or the beauty of the trees, but he was calmed.
Yuyuko brought him closer to one of the trees. She snapped off one of the low, small branches and handed it to him.

“It is beautiful, but it isn’t going to last so long. That’s why a lot of people like to spend spring just going to flower viewings, so they can look at them for as long as they like,” she joined him in viewing the tree. Neither of them looked at each other.

“Maybe it’s because they’re both the same,” he remarked, “Pretty to look at, but quick in dying off.”

She put forth her own guess. “I should say otherwise. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t worry at all that humans like to look at them. We’ve both seen humans’ lives; there’s no end to trouble. After all, they’re drawn to things that they are not.”

A cold breeze swept across the garden. Turning around, Yuyuko saw that it brought along some petals with it. The Ghost of Snow caught one, rubbing it with her thumb. Looking at the trees, she wondered how this little petal could have fallen off.

“How could you have gotten away?” she pondered.

It is dim inside the room. Youmu sits down in front of a study table, setting down a large book. Her ghost half provides light, glowing above her and the yellowed pages of the book. It is her free time, and she chooses to look at the history of the Netherworld. There is no longer anyone who can narrate to her all the happenings of the realm.

Flipping through the first few blank pages and title page, she comes across the first chapter of the record.

“Construction of Hakugyokuro”

Ah, I’ve already heard this one.

Pushing aside the many pages that made that chapter up, she finds the next one.

“The Saigyouji Family”

She has heard this one, too. She goes back to check if there is a table of contents. Her finger immediately guides her sight as she finds it. Most of these, she had already heard from her former senior, but the more recent ones have not been told to her yet.

Let’s see… “Construction of the Gardens of the White Jade Tower,” “Overflow of Ghosts,” “Invasion of Demons from Another Realm,” “Appointment of Retainers…” Oh, most of the interesting stuff aren’t new anymore.

Further down the list, something catches her eye.

“Saigyou Ayakashi”

When she reads this, her curiosity perks up. The most she has been told about this are only the basic facts: it is a youkai cherry blossom tree that lures humans to die under it, and it eats their souls to fill itself. The tree has been there for a long time already, she is told. No backstories, no firsthand encounters from her mistress or her senior.

She turns to the chapter.

She learns of how it came to existence. It would absorb the blood and flesh of those who died under it and become a youkai in the process. It would grow more beautiful the more people die in its shade. Its power would go unnoticed.

“Sealing of the Saigyou Ayakashi, First Half”

The tree was sealed?

For as long as she has stayed, the tree would never bloom. Her mistress would tell her the same thing: she has never seen it bloom. They would always ponder on it but eventually stopped trying. To see that it has a seal is impossible.

There is some lengthy exposition on the current head of the Saigyouji family during that time. Apparently, this takes place in the world of the living. In the time it takes for Youmu to read through it, she is quickly bored.

Then she stumbles on the last part. Her eyes narrow a bit, as if it bore something suspicious.

In the empty courtyard, under the shade of the unseeming tree, a suicide had taken place. On further investigation, the body belonged to that of the young mistress of the Saigyouji clan. The various onlookers, very few of whom were relatives, silently beheld the scene and did little else. Prior to our arrival, there were no witnesses to the act.

A most unusual thing had occurred to the tree. The suicide had taken place in the midpoint of spring, when trees that bore flowers flowered. It had been taken to note that the crown of this tree was barren. Its blossoms and leaves had all fallen off, as if autumn had suddenly arrived and pressed itself on the tree. It was no lie to say that the tree was dead.

Whether it had lured the Saigyouji mistress to her death, or if it was her own act, none could ascertain.

When someone had volunteered to prepare the body for a future burial ceremony, a monk suggested his own intention. He said that he would seal away the body of both the youkai tree and the mistress. He was certain that the entity within the tree was only asleep, only hibernating, and that it would be for the best if they had locked it away. He left to collect the tools.

After a time of gathering the instruments for such a ritual, the monk arrived back.

The ritual will be described in a later record.


She reaches the end of this chapter, bemused and wanting more information. Well, she now knows why the tree is not blooming anymore.

So, here was the juicy stuff all along.

She turns to the next chapter.

“Sealing of the Saigyou Ayakashi, Second Half”

The first part of this chapter is also exposition. The details of the ritual are so boring she skims through it, looking if anything else important is squeezed in them. Again, it is only at the final part where she finds something of worth.

I have looked for further material in which to add to the happenings of this day, but managed only to find the final sections of the speech of the ritual itself. It is written below in it’s entirety.
The girl who bears witness, at the time of the Saigyou Ayakashi’s full bloom, shall be bound by mortality. So that her soul may rest in peace in Hakugyokuro, I will seal the cherry blossoms, and make it the barrier. My wish… is that she will never again reincarnate, and never again suffer pain, so that she will no longer bear a burden that will destroy her life. She will be removed from the cycle of reincarnation, forever remaining unbound to death.

So ends the description of the ritual.


Who wrote this?

She flips to the forefront of the chapter and to the page after its end, but no name is signed in either. In fact, the entire record bears no signature.

Looking again at the excerpt of the ritual’s speech, she becomes increasingly perplexed and shocked. The name of the woman is faded, its outline not even recognizable. Yes, the manuscript is aged, and some of the writings in it have indeed faded, but in this fully intact section, only the name is no longer readable.

The woman is the mistress of the family then, and, therefore, belonged to it. She is sealed beneath the tree, along with the youkai itself. She remains bound to the White Jade Tower in the Netherworld.

She killed the tree. She could kill through some… way.

She stares agape.

This person… is none other than Lady Yuyuko. No, that’s not right… but, it is. Uggggh!

How she wishes her mentor would come back to answer her one question.

Perhaps I can ask the mistress about this. But does she remember?

She leaves the book open on the table when she runs out of the study.


“I have a favor to ask you.”

Both ghosts returned from their stroll in the garden. The Saigyou Ayakashi still held the branch of flowers, twirling it in his hands. They were in the courtyards, with Youmu walking quickly towards them.

“Yes, mistress?”

“Please entertain our guest. I’ll be away for a while.”

The boy was quick to add his sentiment. “What?” he protested.

“Yes, what’s wrong?” Yuyuko beamed.

Youmu asked another thing. “If I may ask, what will you be doing, Lady Yuyuko?”

“I’ll be dropping by places for some tea. They might have new brews, and I’m probably missing out on them.”

Yuyuko left, without waiting for a reply.

Traveling through Gensokyo was not a difficult task when one could fly. The ghost flew through the clouds of Gensokyo, scouting the skyline for a mountain. Behind her were the colossal double doors leading to the Netherworld. They were always closed, but not impassable. For no apparent reason, one could simply fly above the doors and travel freely between the world of the dead and the world of the living.

While she flew, flowers were flying in the opposite direction. Some fairies were here as well, playing with baskets of flowers they had probably gotten from the trees down below. They ignored her as she flew by. She had popped out of the Netherworld when it was nighttime here, so the usual masses of fairies were not present.

She soon exited the continental gathering of clouds, and a clear view of the Land of Illusion was in her sights. Near the center, near a certain lake shrouded in mist, a mountain range was situated. It was the Youkai Mountain, home to the tengu and, formerly, the oni. The latter had long retreated to the underground.

After an indeterminable amount of time, a waterfall came into view. It roared on as Yuyuko flew past it, moving deeper into the mountain range. A river ran across each peak, gathering in the lake below. The roar of the waterfall softened into the silent river flow. It gave a vague feeling of home, but, for sure, there were nocturnal mountain youkai lurking in the shadows of the mountain.

Even deeper was the village of the tengu. The lanterns of the town shone brightly in the darkness. The ghost stopped by the village’s outskirts, floating her way in. From above, it would like a curve along the face of the mountains. Establishments, mostly houses and bars lined it. There was one bar in particular she was looking for, but not by its name.

Most of the crow and wolf tengu that lived here were sleeping already. There was the rare one or two that watched the apparent nothingness of the night, looking surprised when they saw the ruler of the Netherworld cross the streets. Some clanking of mugs could be heard from within the buildings.

There was distinct laughter coming from one of the still open taverns. A young, shrill voice was among the laughing.

“This is the one,” Yuyuko picked.

Slipping into the curtain entrance of the bar, a whole different place opened up before her. Unlike the stillness of outside, there was a drinking party going on here. All the seats were taken by drinkers who were wasting the night away by guzzling down wine and beer like there was no tomorrow.

The biggest drinker here was a short horned girl who didn’t look older than a teenager. She wore a ruined white blouse whose sleeves were completely torn away, a loose blue skirt lined with big red stitches at the hem, and a red bow at the back of her head. Two broken shackles were clamped on her wrists, with a red triangle and yellow orb hanging from their chains. Her hazel hair reached the floor, ending in a very small ponytail bound by white bandages and a shackle as well, with a blue cube hanging from its chains.

Her face was very flushed with red, indicating her drunkenness. Her mouth was curved into a smile that opened quite wide when she laughed. She drank from a purple gourd.
She was not alone on her table; two other tengu were sitting with her. One of them, the taller one, had shoulder-length black hair and wore a red tokin hat on top of it. A yellow scarf was slung around her shoulders. She wore a white blouse and a black skirt, but Yuyuko could not see anything besides this because the table blocked her view.

The second one, the shorter of the pair, had brown hair tied into twin tails, and wore a purple tokin hat. Her blouse was also white, and a black tie hung from underneath its collar. The skirt she wore was checkered in purple and black.

All three of them were equally smashed, heads down on the table’s surface. Uncontrollable fits of laughter echoed from them.

Yuyuko approached them when they were taking another shot of wine. Taking a chair from one of the patrons who were sprawled on the floor, she plopped down beside the drunken trio.

“Yuyuko Saigyouji, Ghost of Cherry Blossoms, fancy seeing you here!” the horned girl slurred, “’Ey, barkeep, we need a new cup!”

From the counter by the entrance, another tengu emerged. Unlike everyone else, his was not flushed. He was the only one besides the newcomer who wasn’t drunk.

“Hoi hoi, what’s a pretty girl like her doing here?” he shouted back. There was a glaringly obvious hint of flirting in his voice.

“And aren’t you a daring one?” Yuyuko responded.

The barkeeper laughed with a roaring voice. “Ahahaha! The girl’s got spunk! Where’re you from, lady?”

“From the Netherworld!”

He didn’t miss a beat. “Oh me, oh my! Even the dead want to have a drink with the great Suika Ibuki! You’re that good, eh, Suika?”

“Ain’t nothin’ toooooo it!” the horned girl hollered.

“That’s a scoop, I’ll say!” the brown-haired girl randomly declared.

The table erupted in laughter again. Yuyuko hid her smile behind her sleeve.

The barkeeper walked over with a bamboo flask and conked it down in front of Yuyuko.

“Enjoy your stay!” he went back to his place behind the counter, becoming unseen again.

Suika promptly filled Yuyuko’s empty cup with wine from the purple gourd.

“So, so, soooooooo… what do you wanna talk about?” she slurped up a mouthful of wine, exhaling with a heavy stench.

This was going to be a long night.


Crow's Dumping Ground of Art

"So I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring, because my faith is on solid rock; I am counting on God."
 

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