Topic: Adventure of Aquatic Avian  (Read 4150 times)

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FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Adventure of Aquatic Avian
« on: August 10, 2009, 03:20:38 am »
This is basically a little side-project I've been working on for the last week or so. Because of my annoying habit of starting a story and then never finishing it, I decided to write the whole thing before posting it here.
It was initially meant for people who'd basically never heard of Touhou before, hence this prologue of sorts. I'll upload the others as soon as possible, and any/all comments are appreciated.

--------

Prologue: A Bite At Lorelei's

The world of Gensokyo is a hard one to describe consisely, simply because of the variety of beings that exist there. To many it is a place of refuge, somewhere to retreat from the skeptical, non-believing world. Others appreciate the natural beauty that the land's bountiful magic provides, while still others simply appreciate the land's innate sinister atmosphere. In short, it's the equivalent of a magical encyclopedia - if it's ever been written about, it probably exists in Gensokyo somewhere. Having been sealed away from the outside world, though, it's hardly a place you can expect to visit on a vacation.

The majority of the land's population consists of magical creatures generally termed as 'youkai'. While many of them are merely weaker feral beings, a small minority are powerful enough to have obtained humanoid forms, and are more powerful than all but the most elite human fighters. These youkai are a huge threat to the small human population of Gensokyo, but there are rare stories spread across the sole human village of one or two who turn a kinder eye to them.

In recent years, a new story has emerged - outside the village is a road plagued by a vicious youkai known only as the night sparrow. It is said that she has the power to blind and mislead all who take this path, leaving them lost in the wilderness and easy prey for lesser creatures. However, as if in response to this threat, inflicted travellers always seem to find their way across a small stand in the middle of nowhere, lured in by the sound of a young woman's song. Greeting them in, she takes pleasure in serving them grilled lamprey - her specialty dish, an eel with long-known abilities to cure night-blindness. Sure enough, the stories go that the suffering traveller is cured almost as soon as he starts eating, the night sparrow's magic lifted in an instant. Travellers are more than keen to pay the price of the lamprey for their safety, and it's believed that the store's owner makes more than enough to keep herself going. However, despite her considerable fame, she has never made her identity public, leading many to believe that she is a youkai doing what she can to keep the night sparrow at bay.

In a sense, they're half right. She's definitely out to counter-act the night sparrow's work, but she's got something of an unfair head-start. Who better to outdo a villain, after all, than the villain herself?

---

"It's a slow night tonight, no-one's walking through my door
But when they get a taste I'll leave them begging me for more~"

Mystia Lorelei sang to herself, like she always did, as she absent-mindedly scrubbed away at the dishes. Beneath the surface of the water claw-like nails gripped cutlery with a vice-like hold, soapy water leaving them sparkling. Her light grey eyes were staring into empty space, lost in the world of her own music. The dim lighting of the stand and the sound of lamprey roasting behind her was all she had for company besides her voice. Finishing off that line, she pouted.

"Seriously, where is everybody? I thought after stories of the lamprey stand started up more people would start using this road, so where are they?"

Scrubbing harder, Mystia let out her irritation on the innocent plates. Her light pink hair caught a few stray splashes as she stopped trying to be careful, and more than once she had to stop her favourite hat from falling into the foam. It was a small brown hat with a pair of purple-rimmed wings coming out of the top, chosen to match her favourite dress and her own two wings respectively. Her owl-like ears twitched slightly every time the spray managed to hit them, but it wasn't a reaction that she was able to notice. She'd been washing these dishes for far too long, someone should have shown up by now-

Pat, pat. Pat, pat.

Another sound. This time Mystia noticed the twitching of her ears, and recognised the sound immediately. It was what she'd been waiting to hear for so long - footsteps! Her tantrum cut itself short quickly as she dropped the dishes and dried her hands quickly - she had plenty of plates to work with, and odds were she'd only need one. She dug into a nearby bag, pulled out a fresh lamprey and placed it on the grill behind her. Opening a nearby drawer, she pulled out a single sheet of paper with a small incantation on it.

Looks like it's time to put my favourite spellcard to good use.

In Gensokyo, high-level magic is typically available only to highly-powerful youkai and the occasional strong human. Even then, it's not like they can just come up with whatever spell they like - to perform anything difficult they must design a fitting incantation for it and inscribe it onto a piece of paper which then becomes known as a spellcard. It acts as a channeling device through which the magic seeps, and any youkai worth their salt owns at least two or three.

Mystia had designed a few, but this was the only one that saw any considerable use - its edges were frayed, slightly torn, and the inscription had almost faded away. Not that any of this was a problem - the magic was still stored within the card, and she knew the spell by heart anyway. (Of course, it didn't help that she had never got around to learning how to read and she'd basically convinced someone else to write it for her, but that was besides the point.) Holding it between two fingers, she began to activate the card through - what else? - a song.

"Little lonely human, walking through the night
Through this curse you'll never see the things that come to bite!
Night-Blindness [Song of the Night Sparrow]!"
[/b]

Given its macabre content, Mystia was unusually happy with herself as the card began to glow slightly, before letting off a single bright flash. The effect was instant - the distant footsteps stopped suddenly, as her target suddenly realised that he could no longer see the road in front of him. He began to run along, shouting a cry for help even though the village was nowhere nearby, and she was sure she could hear him tripping up over himself. Mystia laughed to herself - this was always her favourite part, the schadenfreude as she watched some poor defenseless human act like an idiot. He may as well have doused himself in salt and pepper, so good were his odds of being eaten by one of the lesser youkai.

Still, I can't really make money off of a dead guy, so...

Somewhat reluctantly, Mystia pulled a switch and turned on the red-lamp at the front of the stand, hoping it would be bright enough to lure the customer in. For good measure, she threw in a little tune to attract his attention.

"If your eyes are playing tricks on you, or the night sparrow's being a pain
Then have a bite at Lorelei's, and you'll be right as rain!"


She hoped she'd been heard - it wouldn't do either of them any good if he walked away and made himself someone else's dinner. Fortunately, her voice had been enough to reach him, and the footsteps slowly approached the stand. The man, still grasping his head in confusion, took a few minutes squinting at it (it was the only way he could hope to see anything) and, after pinching himself to make sure this wasn't some sort of screwed up dream, took a seat.

"Good evening, sir, and welcome to Mystia Lorelei's Grilled Lamprey stand. Say, you're not looking too hot...did the night sparrow have her way with you?"

She'd said it so many times to so many people now that it came out perfectly naturally. The man groaned, still in shock, as he nodded. A first-timer - there were a few people who used this road all the time, and as such she'd come to know them (and their money) pretty well. They'd grown used to it too, and she'd actually had a few decent conversations with a couple of them, none of them having a clue about how much she was scamming them for.

"Ah, that's a shame. Tell you what - I'll get you the house special. You'll feel better in no time, trust me."

She stepped backwards into the stand, tending to the grill in the back. The lamprey she'd thrown on earlier was perfectly prepared, and she quickly skewered it and placed it on a plate, walking back in with the best-rehearsed smile in Gensokyo.

"There you go! Works every time, or your money back."

The man looked down at his meal with suspicion. Presumably he'd never eaten lamprey before, like most of the human village's residents. They all went for grilled chicken instead, something which shook Mystia to her core. The stand was fifty percent Mystia Standing Up For Her Fellow Birds, and fifty percent Mystia Making A Fortune Through A Cheap Scam. Win/win, really.

After a few minutes of awkward staring, the man took a nervous bite at his meal. He chewed at it tentatively, slowly speeding up as a smile slowly worked its way onto his face. It wasn't just edible, it tasted good! Before he knew it he was chomping at it heartfully, forgetting about his infliction. Mystia, however, hadn't.

"What was done, now undo~
Remove what is afflicting you~"


As Mystia performed another song the spellcard's effect wore off, and the man's sight quickly returned to him. It was again an immediate action - he blinked rapidly, like waking himself up from a dream.

"W...wow, it really works! I don't know how to thank you for this!"

As far as this guy was concerned, Mystia was a goddamn saint. If it wasn't for her, he'd be mincemeat by now. Even when she hit him with a pretty costly bill he wasn't fazed at all, because being a little poorer was better than being dead. Mystia wore a bright smile on the outside, but deep down she was happy for an entirely different reason.

"Don't worry, this road is safe as long as I'm around! Come back soo~n!"

She waved the man goodbye as he continued on his way back to the human village. The only difference from before was that his wallet was a little bit lighter. As soon as he was sure he was out of range, she let off a hearty laugh at his expense.

"Really, one of these days I need to award myself a medal or something. To be fair, now people can use this road without having to worry about me, so everybody wins!"

She fingered through the money, taking care not to stab a fingernail through one of the notes. Humans were such easy pickings - good thing there were no other big-name youkai around here, or she'd be in deep trouble.

Pat, pat. Pat, pat.

Another customer!

Mystia quickly checked there was another clean plate to use and threw another eel on the grill. Grabbing her spellcard and repeating the incantation, she pulled her dress up and made herself look as presentable as she could. This was how Mystia spent her evenings, and she loved every minute of it.

"If your eyes are playing tricks on you, or the night sparrow's being a pain
Then have a bite at Lorelei's, and you'll be right as rain!"

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Re: Adventure of Aquatic Avian
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 03:23:46 am »
Part 1: A Head-On Solution

"Wind is blowing through my hair
Wind is blowing everywhere~"


There really weren't many feelings more satisfying than taking flight. Looking down at Gensokyo's idyllic landscape from above, letting the adrenaline rush through you as you soar above the clouds - it was an experience humans could only dream about.

Guess that's another great thing about being a youkai~
Mystia grinned, picking up speed as her stand faded into the distance. Not that it was of any use to her during the day, anyway - why try curing night-blindness if there was no night? As such, mornings were typically her cue to restock on her supply of lamprey, usually by wading in a nearby stream and catching what she could with her bare hands.

But lately, things had changed. The eels weren't biting anymore, never visiting the rivers and pools she frequented. It was almost as if they'd caught on to her trick and were doing what they could to avoid her...

"Eh, that's unlikely. They're not even youkai, so they're too stupid for that."

Mystia did a little spin in the air as she talked to herself, a feeling of self-esteem rising within her as she thought of the poor little lamprey, unable to think for themselves and ending up someone else's dinner. Not like her - she could handle herself in a fight, better than most of Gensokyo could ever dream of doing. Of course, she hadn't needed to fight in a long time, mainly because no-one had been foolish enough to challenge her.

At least, that's how the story went in Mystia's head. In truth the road which she 'controlled' wasn't really of any particular importance, and there were plenty of other youkai who (if they wanted to) could basically mop the floor with her in the space of five seconds. Because no-one really had, though, in her little world she was one of the best there was.

So when I go to meet this kappa, she'll HAVE to listen to me, surely!

Mystia knew full well that if she couldn't get hold of something to serve her customers the entire facade would fall apart. Then there'd be no way she could toy with the humans and at the same time keep herself financially afloat, and she DEFINITELY didn't want that to happen. Unfortunately, despite being a youkai Mystia still needed to breathe, so meeting the lamprey on their own turf was an idea that for the longest age seemed simply out of reach.

That was until Mystia heard a rumour from a local customer that there was some recluse kappa inventor who'd invented a device that would allow even her to stay underwater for hours on end. More than enough time to delve a little deeper into Gensokyo's waters and catch a few stragglers, and probably enough to keep her business going for days on end. With a reputation like hers, she assumed that it wouldn't be difficult to convince this engineer to lend her a specimen for a while.

After a short period of flight, Mystia found herself approaching the foot of a sizable mountain. Notably uninventive with naming policies, Gensokyo's residents simply called it the Mountain of Youkai after its most common residents. At the mountain's top lived the tengu, winged creatures known for being arrogant and proud (Mystia unconsciously stuck her nose up, blissfully unaware of her hypocrisy). Around its bottom lived the kappa, a water-loving race who even in a world as magically rich as Gensokyo were constantly studying and inventing new mechanical contraptions. Unfortunately they weren't typically very social, so most of their discoveries never made it into the general public.

This was excellent news for Mystia, because it meant that she'd have an edge above every other grilled lamprey stand in Gensokyo. She'd never bothered to consider that she was the ONLY grilled lamprey stand in Gensokyo, but that was irrelevant.

From what I heard, she lives somewhere around here...

Spying down on the base of the mountain from above, she looked for something resembling a house. For a while it seemed like she'd missed the target altogether, but in the corner of her eye she spotted something unusual in the wall of the mountain. Something conspicuously door-shaped. Swooping down and landing in front of it, Mystia examined the door in further detail.

A sign next to the door explicitly stated 'RESIDENCE OF NITORI KAWASHIRO, MASTER INVENTOR - DO NOT ENTER UNLESS URGENT'. Of course, Mystia couldn't read it, so she simply knocked and waited for someone to answer. No response.

"Someone's waiting at the door.
Maybe you should rush some more."


Another little tune, but with an obvious tone of irritation hidden behind the words. There was an irritating gurgling noise coming from behind her, but when she turned around there was nothing behind her other than a stream. Mystia tapped one foot impatiently as she knocked louder this time.

"Hello? Anyone in there?"

Still no response. The gurgling continued, intensifying Mystia's irritation. She had half a mind to knock this door down right now, but that wasn't exactly the best way to introduce herself. With a good deal of effort, she held back her aggressive urges and decided to wait just a little while longer for someone to respond.

Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.

The tapping of Mystia's foot grew more and more violent, eventually evolving into her outright slamming it into the ground. She was being ignored, and on top of that the noise coming from the stream refused to stop. She was relatively sure there were veins pulsing on her forehead right now.

"Okay, that does it. Where the hell is this noise coming from?!"

She turned around, stomping to the edge of the stream. She could make out bubbles on the water's surface, no doubt coming from water was making this infuriating noise. There was a faint humanoid figure, too, so they were definitely coming from a person of some sort. The night sparrow focused all her attention on the water, preparing to dish out her own brand of youkai pain to whatever it was that was down there. They were going to be sorry they screwed with Mystia Lorelei, that was for sure.

Unfortunately, this focus caused her to miss a pile of rocks which had washed up on the riverside, which she promptly tripped over.

"What the!?"

If she'd known what was about to happen, it would have taken just a flap of her wings to stop her from falling. Taken by surprise, though, she hit the water face-first with a deafening splash, landing on top of the stream of bubbles. Mystia's initial emotion was irritation - now she was going to be soaking wet, but it was hardly like this was going to kill her.

Then she remembered exactly what - or rather, who - she was about to land on. For a moment she managed to see the source of all the noise - a girl, standing at the bottom of the stream, in a light blue dress with pockets running along the edges. Her light blue hair was tied up in a pair of pigtails, bobbing slightly thanks to the current. Strapped to her back was a strange tank of some sort, with a hose protruding from it into a mouthpiece currently residing in the girl's mouth.

Obviously, in the small amount of time before impact, Mystia's brain didn't have time to process all of this. She only managed to get off one thought before the collision.

...This is gonna hurt, isn't it?


Whack!

Yeah, that hurts. That really, really hurts.

The speed with which their heads collided would probably have been enough to kill a human, but youkai were made of sturdier stuff than that. Mystia got off with nothing more than the worst headache she'd ever had, letting out a little groan as she clutched her forehead with both hands. As she distracted herself from the pain and opened her eyes underwater, she took a small amount of comfort in knowing that whoever had been making that noise was in just as much pain as she was.

Or at least, they'd have been in pain if they were still conscious.

Uh...crap, I think I overdid it...

The girl had been knocked out by the impact instantly, falling forward onto the ground beneath her. Her mouth was hanging open, air slowly working its way out of her lungs as her mouthpiece hung in the air besides her. The water around her was starting to turn a faint shade of red. Mystia would've have really been that worried in most cases - it was the girl's fault for not being tough enough to take the blow, wasn't it? - but given that this was literally a step away from that kappa inventor's house it wasn't hard to guess who she'd just rammed into.

If she hadn't been holding her breath, Mystia would have let off every profanity she knew.

Swimming over to the body, Mystia noticed the mouthpiece gurgling away a massive flurry of bubbles. The kappa's display was less impressive, her lungs verging on empty as the last few bubbles trailed out. She wasn't the smartest of youkai, but Mystia was relatively sure that this was the invention that she'd heard about. It wasn't what she'd expected, honestly - she'd been hoping for something flashier, or at least not as bulky.

Maybe I should get it tested first, though...

Picking up the mouthpiece, Mystia carefully placed it in the girl's mouth, waiting for her to inhale again. She watched with pride as the kappa's chest started to rise and fall - she'd come to the right place. A sharp pain in her chest reminded her that she herself hadn't taken a breath of her own in a while. Not keen on cutting off the kappa's air supply she hastily surfaced, her lungs gratefully accepting a fresh supply of air. Her hat had been floating on the surface of the water the whole time, so she took the opportunity to leave it on the riverbank before diving under again. The worst was over - the girl was breathing now, and she wasn't really going to get any more unconscious, was she?

In a few seconds she'd surfaced again, holding the kappa around her waist. She started flapping her wings wildly to brush away all the water, trying to get herself back into the air. Slowly she started to rise out of the water, unable to manage her usual speeds while holding someone in tow. Heaving herself onto the riverbank, she carefully placed the kappa on the ground before landing and lying down beside her, exhausted. Mystia was soaked through, shivering a little as the water hung through her clothes. She hoped that the kappa would at least be grateful and give her something to wear when she woke up.

She owes me, that's for sure...if it wasn't for me she'd be dead by now.

Mystia, being Mystia, never bothered to consider that without her dropping in there'd have been no problem to begin with. She was commending herself for solving a problem that she'd started herself, but she had always been pretty good at that.

For now, Mystia decided she was going to take a little nap. She'd earned it, that was for sure. Closing her eyes, she fell into a quiet slumber immediately, dreaming of herself as a singer calling in massive audiences night after night. It had been a secret goal of hers, but for some reason music that left you unable to see had never caught on with the masses.

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Re: Adventure of Aquatic Avian
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2009, 03:26:45 am »
Part 2: False Gratitude

"YEAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Mystia jumped out of bed, screaming the last note from her dream concert out loud. Her hands were grasped around an imaginary microphone, and she was almost applauding to the crowd before she realised that she wasn't surrounded by millions of adoring fans. She pouted.

Dammit. Every single time.

Brushing aside that dream, Mystia suddenly realised that she hadn't been in a bed when she fell asleep - she'd been lying outside after hauling that kappa out of the river. Not only that, she was now wearing a simple light-brown bikini with a little wing attachment on top. Not only had she been taken in like she'd hoped she would be, but on top of that apparently someone had gone to the effort of changing her.

"...But seriously, a swimsuit? Aren't there any real clothes around here?"

Mystia decided not to dwell on the fact that this process would have inevitably left her naked at some point in time, examining her surroundings instead. Though the bed was in relatively good condition, the rest of the house was somewhat of a shakier subject - the walls almost seemed to be falling in in some places, and across the floor various scraps of junk were left begging to be stepped on. A window to her right supplied the room with natural light. It took Mystia a little while to appreciate that these walls were made of solid rock - somehow, the owner had burrowed their way into the side of the mountain and made their home here.

Gotta hand it to kappa architecture, I suppose.

Someone had left a plate of soup next to her bed, so she cautiously picked it up and took a sip. She wasn't sure what she expected it to taste like, but it failed to meet each and every expectation she'd given it. Struggling to swallow one gulp, she left the plate on the stool it had come on and did her best to look like she hadn't noticed it.

What the hell is it with kappa and cucumbers, anyway? There's no taste, no texture...now meat is something a little more-

"Oh, you're awake?"

A voice from the other room called out in response to the noise. The kappa from earlier carefully stepped across the floor to make it to Mystia's bedside. She looked at her with cheerful blue eyes, the only sign of change in her outfit being the presence of a green cap and a backpack strapped around a key on her chest. Obviously they designed their clothing to be a lot more resistant to water than other youkai did, because her clothes looked perfectly dry.

"Um...yeah, pretty much. Thanks for the hospitality, Miss...Miss, uh..."

"Nitori Kawashiro, but please just call me Nitori. And it's me who should be thanking you, seriously."

Nitori quickly bowed her head to Mystia, a formality which the night sparrow was hardly used to.

"You're the one who saved me when I passed out, aren't you? If you hadn't helped me there I would have drowned for sure...I owe you my life."

The entire sentence was spoken with total honesty, and the formality of it was enough to disturb Mystia a little.

"U-Uh...you're welcome, I guess..."

Nitori smiled, totally unaware that her gratitude was totally misplaced.

"Still...I need to figure out what exactly happened down there. I must have blacked out or something, but for some reason my head really hurts..."

As the kappa rubbed her scalp and winced slightly, Mystia froze in place. It had taken someone else bringing it up to remind her that the entire thing was her fault, and here she was getting praised for it. A tiny part of her wanted to admit that she was responsible, but she shut it up quickly as she calmed down.

Come on, you're on good terms with her now. What's the harm of making the most of it?

"So..." Mystia started as she pulled herself out of bed, "what exactly were you doing down there?" She made a distinct effort to sound as natural and curious as possible, as if she had no idea what it was. As the question came out, an ambitious glint shone in Nitori's eyes.

"Ooh, my latest work has caught your interest? I wouldn't imagine a bird being interested in something like this."

"Uh, it's a business thing. See, I run a lamprey stand, and I'm running low on stock, so when I saw something like that I thought it'd let me breathe underwater. Pretty ridiculous, huh?"

Mystia laughed awkwardly, playing dumb for as long as she could. When she stopped, she was mildly disturbed by the proud grin that had suddenly appeared on Nitori's face, when only a minute earlier she had been completely polite and formal.

"It's a crazy idea, true, but isn't that what all inventions start off as?"

Nitori turned around, walking into the back room with a new self-confidence in her stride. Mystia followed behind, flying across the room to stop herself stepping on something. As the sunlight from the window faded it was replaced with a harsh artificial one, lighting the room in the most efficient way possible from the ceiling. There was little to say in response to what she was seeing here, but she just about managed it with one word.

"Wow."

This back room was filled with several shelves, each covered in a variety of different gadgets and gizmos whose purpose Mystia had no chance of figuring out on her own. A small bench in the back of the room was covered in blueprints, listing notes and observations that she wouldn't be able to understand even if she could read. Nitori walked down past the shelves, eventually leading her down one in particular and stopping in front of a familiar looking specimen.

"And here it is. I call it the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, but that's kind of a mouthful so feel free to just cut it down to SCUBA. This version was designed for tengu to use, but it should fit you easily enough."

The tank on the shelf was slightly different from the one Nitori had been wearing. While hers had been strapped to her around the waist, this one was designed to have the strap just above her chest. The change was probably made because otherwise the user's wings would get in the way of putting it on. Being goaded by Nitori, Mystia carefully clipped the tank on and was taken back by how heavy it was.

"Yeah, it is pretty sturdy, but that's what happens when you compress air - it weighs a hell of a lot more. It's a lot easier once you get in the water, though."

Mystia didn't bother asking what Nitori was talking about, mainly because she didn't need to know - if it worked, it worked, end of story. She took the mouthpiece (which Nitori insisted on calling a 'regulator') and bit down on it tightly, taking a few breaths. She heard a strange hissing noise coming from the tank, which was probably a sign that it was doing what it was meant to. She spat it out, giving the kappa a thumbs-up.

"So this is really that good? Wow, I really wish I could try this SCUBA thing out for real."

Here we go, wait for her to offer it to you...

"You can borrow it if you like."

Bingo!

Mystia replied with fake modesty, insisting that she 'hadn't done anything to deserve it'. Nitori objected furiously, practically thrusting it upon her.

"No, seriously, I insist! It's the least I can do for you after everything you've helped me with, and from what you've said your business needs the help. In fact, on top of that, I'll throw in a couple of other things to seal the deal~"

Leading Mystia further down the shelf, Nitori pulled out a pair of light blue rubbery-things which looked like they were meant to go on somebody's feet. She called them 'fins', and explained (thankfully in layman's terms) that they would help Mystia move around in the water. Mystia put them on and hastily realised they weren't really designed for walking on land, and more than once it took a quick flap of her wings to keep herself upright.

"And here we have some weaponry that should be helpful for you," Nitori added as she moved on to another shelf. "There's a speargun here, a handy tazer here, and a personal favourite of mine is this little number. It fires a net and closes itself in one motion, so you can trap our prey in one fell swoop! Trust me, this thing will get you your lamprey in no time. Take your pick!"

She was getting more and more hyped the more she talked about it. Clearly she was a kappa who was very into her work, grasping her netgun like a mother holds a newborn baby - with care and adoration. Mystia looked on, unimpressed, grabbing the speargun and pulling the spear right out of it.

"Hey, what're you-"

"I'm really not into all of these fancy techno-weapons, sorry. A weapon like this should be all I need."

She held the spear upright in one hand, placing the now empty gun back on the shelf. Nitori's expression combined anger at her work being taken apart like that but primarily a feeling of concern.

"Are you sure? Lamprey here can be pretty dangerous, especially in numbers. If you get overwhelmed down there..."

Mystia simply shrugged off Nitori's concerns, a hint of ego working its way into her voice.

"I told you, I'll be fine. You obviously don't know who you're talking to, do you?"

Nitori thought it over for a moment before shaking her head (perfectly understandable, since Mystia was nowhere near as well-known as she thought she was). Mystia smirked.

"Well, let's just say I've been around a little. I know how to fight, and I'm pretty sure an eel or two will be nothing for me."

She clearly believed what she was saying, and based on that alone Nitori decided to keep quiet. Checking that all of Mystia's gear was in working order, the pair walked back out into the open as Mystia prepared to dive. Noticing her hat lying where she'd left it, the sparrow plopped it on her head to take down with her.

"You should find a lamprey breeding spot if you just keep going downstream from here. Anything you need me to clear up?"

"One question before I do this," Mystia asked as an aside while she sat on the edge of the river. "What's with the swimsuit? Was there nothing else for me to wear?"

Nitori blushed a little at this, nervously looking away.

"W-well, sorta. It was a gift someone gave me a while back and it never really fit me, but I couldn't bring myself to throw it out. Other than that this stuff's made out of self-drying material, so I don't usually keep a spare set of clothes."

Mystia sighed. It had ended up being convenient, though - it meant she didn't need to change into anything else before the dive. And she thought it looked pretty cute on her, as in compared to how cute she thought most things looked on her (namely, a lot).

"...Okay, here goes. I'll be back before you know it."

Mystia placed the regulator back into her mouth, holding the spear in her free hand. She let herself grow accustomed to the hissing sound since she had a feeling she'd be listening to it for a while. Nitori gave her one final nod of approval as a sign that everything was in working order.

Content, Mystia slipped off the riverbed and into the water, leaving no trace on the surface other than a trail of bubbles. Nitori's nervous smile faded as she disappeared, replaced by an expression of doubt.

"...Is she really going to be okay?"

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Re: Adventure of Aquatic Avian
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2009, 03:30:18 am »
Part 3: Underwater, Overwhelmed

Now I'll never need to go up for air
Precious little lamprey, best beware~


The regulator sitting in her mouth was the only thing stopping her from singing her little song out loud, so she had to settle for a cheerful gurgle. The fins were doing exactly what they'd been expected to do, and she was travelling downstream at an amazing rate. One hand still held tightly onto her weapon of choice, as the other stubbornly tried to hold her hat in place. For a while she almost forgot how unnatural something like this was meant to be for a sparrow like her - she almost fooled herself into thinking that she'd been doing this all her life.

A few fish glanced at her as she darted past them, unfamiliar with the new resident in their territory. Mystia decided to interpret their bored, dead eyes as watching her enawed, and she couldn't blame them for being stunned. She began twirling the spear for added effect, hoping to catch a few more eyes with her stylish but deadly moves. The actual stream was unimpressive to look at, with nothing more than the occasional bit of seaweed to observe, but Mystia only saw it as a connection between points A and B anyway.

Hm? It's opening up...

The walls to her sides broke away as the stream fed into a local lake. Even from a distance she knew this was the right place - at the bottom of the lake were dozens of lamprey, all hanging as far beneath the surface as possible. She smirked - so predictable, these lamprey. If the enemy was coming from above, staying below was perfectly safe, right?

Or rather, it would be if they were dealing with anyone else. But against the great Mystia Lorelei, that sort of simplistic thinking just won't be enough!

Most of them seemed distracted or otherwise not paying attention to her, so she had the element of surprise. Mystia slowed herself down, holding her breath to avoid attracting her prey's attention. She stood behind one eel, gripping the spear tightly and raising it to strike. She forgot about her hat, letting it float freely and quietly to the surface. She was only going to get one shot at this before they were all onto her, so she'd have to work the tiniest bit harder for everything beyond this.

And...strike!

She thrust downward with the spear with all her might. Obviously she knew for a fact that someone like her would never have messed this up-

Clang.

"B-blub?!"

The sound of metal striking stone was the last thing she had expected to hear. The eel had somehow reacted to her and dodged the blow at the last minute, leaving Mystia striking at nothing. She growled.

T-That was a warmup! I was going easy on it!

Convincing herself that she'd intended to miss, Mystia was sure that this was the cue for most of the lamprey to flee, leaving her chasing after one or two stragglers. Looking up, though, she realised that instead of running away from her they had gathered to observe her, watching from a safe distance. Dozens of beady eyes looked down on her, a creature stepping out of her own territory to challenge them. Mystia saw something unexpected in those stares, something she had thought was impossible for creatures of this calibre.

Recognition.

They...they know who I am?!

In most cases Mystia would have taken this as a good thing, a sign that she was getting the recognition she deserved. Here, though, it was a problem - they knew what she had done to their fellow lamprey, and they weren't happy about it. She realised in horror that that was why her stock had been falling short recently - they really were onto her, and now that she'd come to them they weren't exactly happy.

For a few painful seconds, the swarm glanced at Mystia, and the sparrow stared back, frozen by both fear and pride. No matter how outnumbered she was, a voice in her head warned her that the only thing worse than losing here was running away. She was the great Mystia Lorelei - a few mere eels would be no problem for someone of her calibre.

...I keep telling myself that, but my hands are still shaking...

The spear trembled as Mystia's body began to accept the truth which her heart stubbornly denied. The lamprey had been waiting for that instant - that moment of weakness from their target - and in unison the entire group descended upon her. They moved too quickly for Mystia to possibly avoid, even with these fins on. Her only possible defense was offense, but with only a spear to protect herself with what were her odds? If she'd come prepared, weapons and spellcards at the ready, she'd have no problem, but now her overconfidence was ready to prove her undoing.

"!!!"

She made one thrust at the pack, but only now did she realise that she'd been outdone from the start. Her spear still moved quickly, but the water was restricting her motion ever so slightly. In most cases it wouldn't be enough to count, but against slippery creatures like lamprey it made all the difference. They broke away just inches from the spear, continuing on their trip straight towards the sparrow. Her only line of defense was gone, and the entire group descended upon her.

If they wanted her to be, Mystia could have been a large enough meal to leave each and every one of those lamprey stuffed. But she was panicking and struggling, and that always made a captive taste worse. They decided it was better to kill their prey and feast on it later, and given that they were dealing with an air-breather there was an obvious weakness for them to exploit. Moving with amazing unity, the entire attack was barely slow enough for Mystia to comprehend, let alone avoid.

One wrapped itself around her ankles, binding her in place on the lakebed. A second pulled the spear out of her hand just to stop any potential counterattack, before a massive wave of eels slammed into her side and knocked her to the ground.

"Ah-!"

The regulator had been knocked out of her mouth, falling in front of her. She instinctively tried to reach out and grab it, but in the time she'd taken to hit the floor a pair of lamprey had tied themselves to her wrists. They held her hands behind her back, leaving her air supply tantalisingly out of reach.

"Mmh...mmh!"

Mystia struggled against her captors, trying to shake the eels away and make a break for the surface. Her wings flapped rapidly behind her, doing nothing of any use as the lamprey maintained their vice-like grips. Her fingers dug in to the lamprey holding her wrists in place, but all she could manage were flesh wounds. She made a few muffled screams as her chest started to ache, her lungs begging for another breath. She realised that this must have been how the lamprey felt, flopping around uselessly, trapped outside of their natural environment, dying slowly and painfully. She wasn't very clever, but she knew irony when she saw it.

But I don't want to die...I just did it because I needed the money...

As the pain worsened, Mystia was tempted to just breathe out and end it now, so that the lamprey couldn't enjoy her death. But deep down there was a part of her still scared of death, still afraid of dying, and she couldn't bring herself to do it. Her flailing grew weaker as she tired herself out, her muffled grunts fading into quiet moans.

"G-Glug glug glug..."

Her mouth opened against her will, the contents of her lungs spilling out into the water. She could see the glee running across the faces of the lamprey, glee at having avenged their brothers. As she ran dry, Mystia let out one final desperate plea to anyone who could hear it.

"...Help...me..."

She was losing consciousness already, her eyesight fading. She could make out someone approaching from the distance, wielding some sort of weapon in their hand.

...Nitori?

The figure fired the gun at her, a net expanding as it approached them. She felt it surround her, collapsing on itself and trapping the entire swarm of lamprey in one fell swoop. She felt the eels squirming all around her as the net was pushed towards the surface.

But still...it's too late.

She'd been fighting the reflex for as long as she could, but instinct finally took over. Her body overrode her brain's commands to hold her breath, insisting on taking in as much air as it could as soon as possible.

There was a single instant of pain as the water hit her lungs. Then nothing.

---

Nitori heaved the net over to the riverbed as quickly as she possibly could. The balloon she'd installed to pull it to the surface helped immensely, but it still took a colossal effort from the kappa to get it out of the water.

Please don't let me be too late, please don't let me be too late...!

Untying the tangles in the net, Nitori threw aside some of the still flailing lamprey to make it to the sparrow. She lifted the body out of the net and onto the ground beside it, frightened by how she was limp in her arms. She placed a pair of fingers on her neck.

...There's...there's no pulse...

A wave of terror ran across Nitori as she realised the youkai lying before her was technically dead. She had to shake herself back into action, because hesitating was the last thing she could afford to do right now. She was going to have to resort to CPR - a skill that the kappa learned on principle, being so attuned to water.

"Please let this work..."

She started thumping at the sparrow's chest, right over where her heart was. Normally she'd have blushed a little putting her hands so close to another girl's breast, but now wasn't the time for that.

"Thirteen...fourteen...fifteen."

Counting the thumps, Nitori checked for a pulse again. Nothing. Mechanically she moved on to mouth-to-mouth, holding the sparrow's head back and pushing air into her lungs. Her chest rose and fell, but it didn't qualify as breathing.

Still no pulse...come on, don't give up on me!

Back to CPR, pressing down on her chest to generate a heartbeat. She had never even found the time to ask this girl her name, and now she was going to die thanks to her. She should have been more careful, should have insisted on coming with her, but she was stupid and let her go off into a situation she had no chance of surviving.

"Fourteen...fifteen...still nothing. Come on, breathe!"

She pulled her head down again, pushing another breath of air into the sparrow's lungs. Her expression was peaceful, as if looking out into something in the distance. She couldn't let it end like this. Not with this girl's blood on her hands. She couldn't.

"Breathe! Please, breathe!"

The body was starting to go cold. Nitori felt tears starting to roll down her eyes as she went back to the chest-thumping. She'd heard the girl singing in her sleep, a childish dream about being a rock star. She couldn't see how anyone who dreamt like that could be a bad person deep down.

That's why...that's why I have to save her!

"Don't die on me! Don't you dare die on me!"

She was hysterical now, continuing even though deep down she was sure it was futile. Another session of mouth-to-mouth, praying to every god she knew that there'd be a pulse.

"You have to live! You have to! Please, just BREATHE!"

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Re: Adventure of Aquatic Avian
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2009, 03:34:17 am »
Part 4: A Selfless Act

Everything was dark.

Is this...what death feels like?

Mystia felt weightless, floating around without a hint of resistance. All around her was an endless expanse of blackness, a single never-ending backdrop to the world. There was no concept of light or darkness; there was her and nothing else here.

So...this is it. I'm going up to the great big lamprey stand in the sky.

There was no point being sad about it anymore. She had screwed up big-time - walking into that swarm of lamprey with nothing to defend herself with was a deathwish. Now she felt completely relaxed, all the daily worries of her life a thing of the past.

I think...I like being here.

Mystia let herself fall backwards, letting her troubles just wash away. Now she could be at peace. No worrying about keeping the business going. No guilt that she'd never achieved her childhood dream of performing on stage. Just a constant state of eternal silence.

"...Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen..."

Huh?

She heard a voice in the distance. As if to answer her curiosity a single white orb appeared in front of her, expanding to present a picture to her. It was above the lake she'd drowned at, and she could make out Nitori leaning over someone, hitting her in the chest.

That's...me.

She was watching her own body as someone tried to bring her back to life. She remembered the kappa appearing to save her with that netgun of hers, but she had arrived too late. As the CPR failed, Nitori resorted to mouth to mouth, leaving Mystia blushing as she watched from a distance.

"But...if I'm here, that means she's going to fail, right?"

"That depends."

A new voice from nowhere caught Mystia by surprise, speaking up from behind her. It belonged to a young woman in a blue kimono, looking at her with a severe expression.

"If you make no effort to intervene then yes, you will surely die right here."

The woman's light pink eyes and hair seemed unsuited to breaking this sort of news. Facing this statement, Mystia had to reevaluate the whole situation all over again. She turned back to the screen, where Nitori was still desperately trying to revive her.

"...Breathe! Please, breathe!..."

Mystia could see the tears welling up in the kappa's eyes. She knew that things would be peaceful and calm if she just died here, but looking at Nitori she felt an emotion she hadn't experienced for a long time.

I feel...guilty.

"You are lucky to even have this chance. If she hadn't saved you when she did you would have had no choice in the matter at all. Unfortunately I'll have to rush you - she won't be able to bring you back if you're braindead."

Mystia felt conflicted as she looked down on the scene, Nitori growing more and more desperate by the minute. Guilt was a new feeling to her, but it hit her harder than any emotion she had ever felt to date. The woman in the kimono looked at her with a critical eye, awaiting her decision.

"I...I want to live."

Mystia barely muttered it, not entirely convinced by what she was saying.

"I'm afraid I didn't hear that. I can't decide your death properly if I can't make out your choice."

In many ways this would be the first selfless thing Mystia had ever done. She wasn't used to giving to others, mainly because she was so busy keeping herself going she had no time for anyone else. Generosity had always been something she would consider when she could afford it, and it ended up being forgotten entirely as she grew. Now, though, she realised that letting Nitori suffer like this wasn't something she could stand.

"...You have to live! You HAVE to!..."

Mystia knew she was crying, but she didn't care anymore. Her ego had fallen to the side, and all she wanted to do was apologise for all the trouble she'd been.

"I want to...I want to live! I don't want to leave her crying like this!"

As soon as the words left her mouth the room exploded into a sea of white. Mystia immediately felt her consciousness fade again, and she was relatively sure she wouldn't remember this conversation. The last thing she heard was one last comment from the mysterious woman in the kimono, her harsh tone vanishing for one last farewell.

"Well done."

---

Mystia gasped.

Nitori, raising her arm for another chest pump, almost jumped backwards at the sight. The sparrow quickly started coughing, spluttering up the water that had made it into her lungs. She had vague memories of drowning, but nothing beyond that. She felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around her, almost knocking her to the floor.

"Oh, thank the gods! You're okay! You're alive! I was so scared, so worried that you were gone for good..."

Nitori was still sobbing, holding her head against Mystia's shoulder. She slowly returned the gesture, hugging the kappa softly to try and convince her that the worst was over. The weeping faded slowly as Nitori recovered, breaking off from the hug as she wiped her eyes.

She then proceeded to slap Mystia across the face.

"You IDIOT!"

Totally unprepared, Mystia slammed into the ground. Nitori looked down at her, tears still hanging in her eyes.

"You nearly died down there, you know that? I told you to be careful and take something with you, but you had to be stupid and try taking them all on with just a spear! That did you a lot of good, didn't it?!"

The kappa was hysterical, flapping her arms about as she bawled like a child. Normally Mystia would have been annoyed by this, maybe even taken it as an insult, but something had changed in her.

"...Yeah, I guess you're right. I am an idiot."

Nitori did a double take at this. She honestly hadn't expected Mystia to outright confess to screwing up.

"I don't know what I can say other than that I'm sorry for making you worry. I'm not really good at this whole apologising thing."

There was an awkward silence as neither girl could think of what to say next. They both felt compelled to apologise, but they didn't want to make each other feel bad by interrupting so they just stayed quiet for a while.

"...Well..." Nitori murmured, finally breaking the deadlock, "I guess I'm gonna need your help hauling that catch home..."

---

The two of them dragged the net back to Nitori's home in the mountain, chatting a little as they did. Nitori was lecturing Mystia on how stupid what she'd done was, and the sparrow insisted that she'd learned her lesson and she wouldn't do anything dumb like this again.

"So...I guess we're even now, right?"

Nitori said this with a smile, trying to end the fight there and then. She must have been referring to Mystia 'saving' her earlier.

Crap. She still doesn't know that that was my fault, does she?

Mystia felt something catch in her chest. She knew that lying was the easy thing to do here, but there was a voice in her head telling her that she had to be honest now more than ever.

"Actually..."

She stuttered as she started, not used to these confessions. Nitori looked at her, puzzled.

"I...I didn't save you from drowning earlier. Well, I did, but the only reason it happened in the first place was because I sorta...fell on you."

Mystia was suddenly very interested in her feet, expecting Nitori to turn around and punch her any minute now.

"I knew that."

Mystia's head literally snapped back into place. Nitori stated it incredibly bluntly, her expression not changing in the slightest.

"B-b-but...then why did you-"

"Because you're the first person I've been able to talk to in weeks."

Now it was Nitori's turn to look at the ground ahead of her.

"All the other kappa keep telling me the things I invent wouldn't help them and just brush me off. None of them remember that we're meant to help humans as well, so they just avoid me all the time."

There was anger in her voice but her expression betrayed her, tears rolling down her eyes. Mystia felt another new emotion as she watched her - pity for the girl who loved her work but was never appreciated by her peers for it.

"...Well, if it means anything, I think your stuff kicks ass."

Nitori looked up at her, still teary-eyed.

"Seriously, that SCUBA thing is such a great idea. There are gonna be tons of humans out there who'd loved to get their hands on a set of it. And the netgun, well, it's the only reason I'm standing here right now so it's gotta be awesome, right?"

Her smile was honest, and not the false honest she used to trick people into trusting her. Nitori recognised that, and eventually managed to nod her head in reply.

"Yeah...I guess I am pretty awesome, aren't I?"

---

As the pair arrived back at Nitori's, Mystia quickly dried herself and changed back into her old clothes. Nitori had had the foresight to pick up the sparrow's hat from the lake, giving it back to her as she came out fully clothed. The lamprey had been stuffed into a bag which Mystia could just about take back to the stand to prepare for tonight.

"So, let's make a deal. I'll lend out my equipment to you when you need it so you can keep your business going."

"And in return, I'll take some of your gadgets and see if I can sell them on to any of my customers."

Nitori nodded, holding out her hand for Mystia to shake. The sparrow accepted it, shaking heartily.

"Sounds like we have a deal then, Miss...um, this might sound really bad, but I never caught your name..."

"Mystia Lorelei. Don't worry, just call me Mystia."

Nitori was obviously relieved that she'd finally learned this girl's name after all the trouble she'd been. Her smile was brighter than Mystia had ever seen it before.

"Alright then, Mystia, we've got a deal."

In the distance the sun started to set, a sign that Mystia needed to get back to the stand ASAP. Nitori quickly handed her a few samples and some instructions as to what they did before rushing her out of the house.

"Make sure to come back soon! I've got lots more cool stuff to show you!"

Nitori shouted out a final farewell as Mystia flew into the distance. Holding everything in one hand for a moment Mystia waved back for a few seconds before bolting away into the night sky.

Let's see exactly what she gave me...

The items she'd been entrusted with were appliances of some sort, but Mystia couldn't be sure of what they did if her life depended on it. She pulled out the paper she'd been given for guidance.

"...Crap. I forgot to tell her that I can't read."

This was going to be a long night...

-----

Yeah it's 4:30 in the morning right now, so there are probably a few typos in there. Feel free to point them out, but right now I REALLY need to get some sleep. -_-
 

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