Author Topic: Hiroshima Investigation Trip  (Read 1844 times)

Iced Fairy

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Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« on: April 30, 2015, 05:24:34 PM »
I started writing this around the time I finished Makai Shopping Trip.  It proceeded to languish in various media for years.  Now with a whole lot more writing Momiji and Sanae under my belt I think I finally have a story.  I've completed most of it, so I'm going to see about updating in small daily chunks.  While I wrote it as a follow up to Makai Shopping Trip, it's pretty much unrelated.

Sanae tossed in some pocket change and rang the bell at the shrine before praying.  Or rather not praying.  It seemed weird to offer prayers at a shrine that had no gods.  Even if it was mostly the same shrine that she grew up in, it was cold and empty now.

Having played the part of the tourist, Sanae walked back towards the two girls waiting for her.  The blond simply nodded in greeting, while the white haired girl let out a sigh that almost seemed like a growl.

"I have no idea how you convinced the Great Tengu to put me on this assignment," Momiji muttered, "but I'd like to get it over with quick."

Sanae sighed herself.  "Well then talk to Alice.  I don't even know what we're doing here.  Heck, I don't even know how this is allowed.  Wasn't the spellcard system supposed to make it so you couldn't just beat people up and then order them to do whatever you wanted?"

Alice shrugged.  "Well, they aren't rules so much as guidelines.  Besides your gods seemed okay with it."

"I suppose that's true.  Though I have no idea why," Sanae readjusted her dufflebag.  "So, where are we going anyway?  And why?"

Seeing Sanae preparing to move out, Alice checked to make sure Shanghai was attached properly to her book bag.  "My mother reminded me of something I wanted to do in the outside world.  As to where we're going...." Alice paused and thought for a moment, "Hiroshima.  We're going to Hiroshima."

Momiji growled again.  "Oh great.  A journey of discovery.  This could take months..."

"A few days at most," Alice replied.  "But it will take days."

Sanae laughed weakly.  "Well consider it a free vacation...  Anyway we better get a move on.  If we miss the bus we'll be stuck in the city for another two hours."

Momiji simply nodded grimly and looked towards the stairs down.  She had never loosened the straps on her bag and the "kendo" sleeve that concealed her blade.  The wolf tengu had refused to leave that behind, and given how bitterly she'd fought to try to keep her shield Sanae decided it wasn't worth the trouble.

At least the two hadn't complained about changing into more appropriate clothing for this trip.  Alice had just ditched some of the frills on her dresses, and Momiji had actually liked the concept of jeans.  The wolf tengu had also agreed to wearing a hat to hide her ears, though Sanae wished that the girl could hide them completely.  Unfortunately it seemed that was against some rule of magic.

Sanae began walking away from the other shrine when she caught an older miko staring at her.  She blinked then looked away desperately trying to school her face into a mask of impassiveness.  She failed utterly at that, so she instead switched to vapid schoolgirl.  *Keep walking, keep walking....*

"Ah excuse me miss."

Sanae's heart twisted, but she managed to turn and respond normally.  "Yeah?"

The elderly woman bowed apologetically.  "You wouldn't happen to have any relatives in the area would you miss?"

"Not in any family records," Sanae said politely.

The old woman shook her head.  "Ah, I see.  It's just you look like the head priest's wife did at your age.  I'm sorry to have bothered you over this."

She felt like someone had stabbed her, but Sanae managed to force a smile.  "Really?  That's so totally weird.  But I'm afraid I'm from really far away."

"I see.  Please excuse me."  The old woman bowed and took her leave.

Sanae turned and rapidly walked down the stairs before the woman looked back.  She made it down to the second flight of steps before tears broke through.

"Hey!" Alice was by her side in a second.  "Are you alright?"

Sanae took a few deep breaths.  "Yeah.  I'm sorry.... Miki was... just one of the people that took care of me when mother and father were away."

The two other girls frowned.  "Then why didn't she recognize you?"  Alice asked.  "It hasn't been that long since you moved to Gensoukyo."

Sanae took a few more breaths to steady herself.  "Because when Lady Kanako took us to Gensoukyo she used up all the outside world's belief in us.  As far as the outside world is concerned, we never existed.  My parents never had a daughter, my caretakers never spent their summers looking after me, my old group of friends was only four people, not five."

Sanae forced a smile again.  "I guess she doesn't remember when I broke that vase.  I wonder how her memories covered those gaps..."

A hand gently rested on her shoulders.  Sanae looked up to find Momiji looking at her with sympathy.  "It's hard leaving your family.  You don't have to hide your feelings here."

Sanae felt a little better at the words.  "No, it's okay.  I did most of my crying early on.  It's just... hard to be reminded that no one remembers me."  The young woman stood up a little straighter and began walking down the stairs again.  "Anyway, we still have to hurry to catch the bus."

----

Momiji nodded slightly to herself and quickly filled in the number that had been locking up the whole grid.  With the 3 in place she quickly solved the Sudoku puzzle.  The white wolf tengu flipped the page, then grumbled when she realized she'd come to the end of the book.  Apparently she'd made a mistake in selecting the "hard" difficulty one.  Human minds just weren't comparable to that of a tengu who'd been trained in strategic thinking since birth.  She should have grabbed the "impossible" one, or maybe one of the books that used more numbers.

Momiji closed the book and looked over at her companions.  Sanae was reading a manga magazine, while Alice was staring out the window, having wandered the train twice already.

Momiji wasn't sure what to think of them.  Magicians were always trouble, simply because they were all obsessed with magic to some degree.  And Momiji had little use for gods.  They seemed a worthless lot, asking for attention and then screwing you over when you gave it to them.

However, the two across from her seemed different to Momiji's trained eyes.  Alice's obsession seemed fairly focused on craftsmanship, and almost understandable.  And Sanae just seemed like a teenage girl.  Odd, but far better than some of the young crow tengu that bothered her on patrol all the time.

Momiji mentally shrugged, then looked out the window herself.  The scenery here was at least nicer than in the cities.  The mountains still seemed to have some of nature's spirit left.  On a whim she opened herself up to her power and reached out her mind.

The silence that returned was expected, but still somewhat painful.  She couldn't help but sigh.

"Is something wrong?  Do you want to borrow my magazine?"

Momiji blinked as her mind snapped back into her body.  "Eh?"  She turned towards Sanae.  "Sorry.  I was just looking to see if any wolves had returned."

Sanae looked at her in confusion for a bit.  Then her eyes opened wide and she covered her face.  "Um...  I, I'm sorry to tell you this, but there are no wolves in Japan anymore."

"Ah."  Momiji sighed again and closed her eyes.  "Not even in menageries, or zoos, or whatever you humans call them?"

Sanae shook her head sadly.  "No. At least not Honshu wolves.  Um, I think people at the time were actually trying to wipe them out.  They went extinct about the same time Gensoukyo was made.  But it's always really hard to be sure something's extinct!  I mean there might be some in remote areas!"

"Maybe."  Momiji opened her eyes and stared out the window.  "But probably not.  We wolves don't do well in small numbers after all."

"Huh?"  Now both the other women were looking at her.

Momiji shook her head.  "Nothing."  She just kept staring out the window.

She'd said a bit too much, and she knew her companions were curious, but she wasn't going to spill her issues to those two.  Wolves also did not show weakness to outsiders.  No matter how friendly.

----

Alice looked around the room curiously.  It was amazingly tiny, especially given the exorbitant price listed on it.  But it was also very clean.  The futons were neatly folded to the side of the room, and each came with a complementary yukata.  Finally there was a small table and a television, which Sanae was using to check the weather.  Momiji was peering over her shoulder with great intensity, to Alice's amusement.

"That's awfully bold of them, to claim it will rain Friday.  How can they know the weather five days in advance?" the tengu asked.

Sanae laughed.  "Well they look at the cloud formations with satellites and make guesses from there.  It's not always right, I mean guessing what time it'll rain is really hard, but they usually can give us some idea about what's coming up."

"But if some youkai changes the air pressure in an area, or a magician decides to summon rain, what then?" Momiji asked.

"Uh..." Sanae looked up at the tengu.  "Well that doesn't really happen in the outside realm anymore..."

Alice coughed lightly to interrupt.  "So Sanae, I'm assuming the door with the figure in a dress on it that we passed is the bathroom.  Where's the bath?"

"Oh, the public bath is downstairs.  Women's is on the right.  The place has free internet too, but that's not really useful to us," Sanae said with a smile.

Alice of course immediately saw the problem.  From the look on Momiji's face the tengu had realized it as well.  Momiji lifted her hat, revealing her ears.  "There's a slight problem with public baths you know."

"Um, well maybe you could hide them?"  Sanae replied meekly.  "I mean, you still have the hat?"

Momiji's eyes narrowed.  "Who wears their hat into a bathhouse?"

"Well, Raidou did...."

Alice shook her head when Momiji turned to her.  She had no idea what Sanae was talking about.  Still, she did have a solution.  "Come on, let's go shopping.  I'm sure we can find a shower cap somewhere."  She tossed on her bag and checked to make sure Shanghai was still with her.  "Besides, we need to buy dinner and omiage anyways."

Tengukami

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2015, 05:44:14 PM »
Hey, nice! This is a great team for a character study, considering the contrast of personality types. I look forward to reading more.

But Sanae ;_;

"Human history and growth are both linked closely to strife. Without conflict, humanity would have no impetus for growth. When humans are satisfied with their present condition, they may as well give up on life."

Iced Fairy

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2015, 05:21:13 PM »
Alice thought she was getting the hang of the outside world.  The bustle of people wasn't that new to her, having come from the cities of Makai.  She'd already figured out what those lights at each intersection were for, and even though the wares being sold were odd, shops were shops.  She was still having a bit of an issue with the currency though.  All the prices looked astronomical, until she remembered how huge the numbers on the bills Sanae was carrying were.

Still some things weren't as obvious.

"Hey Sanae," Alice asked as they passed another one of the odd shops.  "Why did that hotel have an hourly rate?"

Momiji smirked as Sanae turned bright red.  "Well... Uh, you see....  Some people still live with their parents.  So if they want, er, privacy...."

It took Alice a few moments to make the connection.  Then she shook her head in embarrassment and confusion. People needed to PAY to find a room around here?  Then again she might have been forced to similar measures if she'd stayed in Pandemonium.  Sighing she began looking at the other shops.  "So where are we going to grab a shower cap?"

Sanae thought for a moment.  "I think we're a little distant from the department stores, but I bet there's a convenience store that has one."

Momiji raised an eyebrow at the loanword, but didn't ask about it.  Instead she pointed at a shop which had a lot of electronic devices stacked about.  "Mind if we go in there first?  I think it'd have something for Nitori."

?Hm.  Maybe I could grab something cheap for Patchouli to investigate as well,? Alice added.  ?Too bad Marisa?s got Kourin to steal from or I could handle this in one trip.?

?Sure.?  Sanae nodded and led the trio into the store.

?It looks like Marisa?s house,? Alice muttered as she entered the building proper.  She?d assumed that the mess outside was more to display products, however the inside was similarly filled with piled boxes.  There were walking areas, but they were small and thin.  Alice would bet money that Momiji?s ears were folded back under her hat.

Still despite the questionable quarters there were plenty of electronic devices to choose from.  Rice cookers took up a good chunk of the front real estate, but toasters, vacuums, and cameras had small enclaves further in, and in the farthest depths the strange assortment of massagers, recording devices and items Alice couldn?t begin to figure out took over.

After a bit of thought Alice discarded the cooking and cleaning appliances from her selections.  Sakuya?s skill meant Patchouli didn?t worry about those things, and the elder mage wasn?t interested enough in creating intelligence to want to dissect the self cleaning ones.  Instead she picked out one of the recording devices.  Even with Koakuma?s help keeping notes on all of Patchouli?s myriad experiments was a Herculean task.  Alice figured the purple magician would appreciate any help she could get in that regard.  Deciding which one of the devices to pick was a much more difficult job.  She picked the one with an ?internal drive? figuring the less pieces the better.

Her decision made, she moved to join Sanae and Momiji as the two looked over cameras.  To the puppeteer?s surprise Sanae seemed just as confused as the wolf tengu when looking over the devices. 

"I didn't expect the selection to be so limited," Sanae muttered.  "Have cell phone cameras completely taken over?"

"Perhaps it's more specialized gear," Momiji asked.  "I know Aya complains about the younger tengu not using proper camera technology."

Sanae ran her fingers through her side tail as she considered it.  "You might be right.  All my friends used their phone cameras after all."

Alice looked over the set.  "Well isn't Nitori just going to take it apart anyway?  You just need to find something she doesn't already know about."

Momiji chuckled.  "That's true."  She picked up a box.  "I'll take the one that claims it can do pictures and video then."

"Hopefully that bullet canceling nonsense only works with photography and not video," Sanae muttered.

Alice shivered and even Momiji looked pensive.  "I'll remind Nitori that there are some scientific problems that shouldn't be solved, even if they can be," Momiji said.

"The rest of the universe thanks you," Alice replied.

They paid for their gifts, then stepped into another crowded store to grab Momiji a 'one size fits all' cap.  The wolf tengu snorted at that as well, but didn't question it out loud.  Probably because getting a shower cap to fit wasn't a difficult task.

As they escaped the press of the store Alice stretched.  "Well then, now that we're finished, let's get dinner."

"Something with a fair amount of meat please," Momiji said.

Sanae looked over at Momiji cautiously.  "Um, you don't need, uh, anything special to eat do you?"

Alice swore she could see the wolf tengu's ears twitch under the hat.  "I'm a tengu," Momiji said.  "I can do just fine with human food.  I simply prefer red meat.  And if I'm going to be stuck on this trip I might as well make the most of other people's money."

"Oh," Alice couldn't tell if Sanae was disappointed or not.  The woman had a great number of quirks apparently.  "Alright.  Let's look for a steak house then."

They continued down the shopping district, until a large restaurant caught Sanae's eye.  "Aha!  And we're ahead of the dinner rush," Sanae said.

The trio waited for a few minutes before being seated.  Looking over the menu Alice saw a large number of cuts, but she wasn't really sure of the terminology.  Makai apparently butchered things differently.  In the end she picked something that claimed to be a lean cut.  Sanae ordered a more marbled cut, while Momiji ordered the largest steak on the menu, and asked for a full baked potato as a side.

"How do you eat all that?" Sanae asked the waiter hurried off.

"Guarding the mountain isn't just standing around," Momiji said.  "I practice sword work every day, and do endurance training every month.  You learn to enjoy meals."

Alice raised an eyebrow at that.  "I see.  I thought you tengu might be naturally skilled like the oni."

Momiji grimaced.  "The oni are one of the reasons we force ourselves to train.  It takes years of work to become an equal of the weakest oni.  If we don't keep ourselves strong they can just walk in and take over."

"And those oni just lay around and drink."  Sanae shook her head.  "It sounds unfair."

"It is," Momiji muttered.  "The worst thing is Aya's almost convinced me that the Devas are deliberately allowing themselves to get soft, just so they have a challenge."

Alice felt her lip curl into a frown.  She despised oni for that specific reason.  Fortunately the arrival of their dinner interrupted her dark thoughts.

The steak was quite good.  Alice rarely ate cow meat in any great quality so it was an interesting change.  Shinki had prefered the animals native to Makai, and Gensoukyo really lacked enough cows to go all out.  The steak lacked the inherent spiciness of wyvern steak, but the way it combined with a simple layer of salt was great.

Momiji seemed to be enjoying her meal as well, though the wolf tengu's fork use was a little spotty.  Then again everyone except Remilia and Sakuya were spotty compared to her mother and Yumeko's standards.

"So," the wolf tengu said.  "Are you going to tell us what we're doing here now?  Or will Sanae and I be sitting in the hotel while she catches up on her mecha shows?"

Alice sighed.  "I suppose I have to explain."  She set down her fork and sipped at her wine.  "I'm not sure about all the details, but the first thing we're going to do is visit the police and look into missing person reports."

Sanae looked up from her meal.  "Eh?  Who's the missing person?"

"Me," Alice replied.

She took a deep breath to steady herself and lifted her book bag slightly.  "I'm uncertain if you two know, but I was from the outside world.  On my fifth birthday I got a book as a present.  A magic book."  She turned back to the steak, idly cutting it into chunks.  "That book took me to Makai and made me the magician I am today.  But I always wondered about the people I left behind."

Sanae's eyes widened.  "So you're searching for your birth parents."

"Yes."  Alice took a bite before continuing.  "My divination spells said this is the city I was living in at the time of my transformation.  So if there's any records, it will be here."

Momiji nodded slowly.  "That makes sense.  So what will we be doing?"

"Helping me look through paperwork mostly," Alice replied.  "Past that... we'll see."

Her two traveling companions nodded their assent, then they returned to their meals. 

As the three finished up, Alice noticed she was still mildly hungry.  "That's right.  I should buy some snacks on the way back.  I'm going to need more food than I'm used to."

Sanae turned her attention over to Alice.  "Huh, why's that?"

Alice sighed, "Because unlike Momiji I do have a specialized diet.  And ambient magic is harder to come by out here."

"Oh!  That makes sense."  Sanae fiddled with her snake hair band for a bit, then she sat upright.  "Wait, uh..."  Sanae looked around before leaning into the table and whispering, "Should we be so open about things?"

"Talking is fine," Alice replied.  "No one can prove anything off that.  Basically so long as they don't get pictures we shouldn't worry.  Or if we start acting like we have a big secret."

Sanae frowned, "I guess."  Momiji simply shrugged.  The wolf tengu obviously didn't care how big a splash she made.

----------

The warmth of the bath seeped through Sanae's body as she sat in the hot water.  Across from her Momiji fiddled with her shower cap, while Alice soaked off to the side.  "I missed baths I didn't have to heat myself," Sanae said.

"One of the nice things about what the kappa are doing," Momiji admitted.  Alice just hummed in agreement.

Sanae stirred the water a bit with her hands allowing the water to scald her a bit.  The constant temperature was something even the hot springs in Gensoukyo couldn't match.

Momiji rolled her arms to work the kinks out.  "It seems we didn't need to worry about other guests."  The bath had been empty all evening.

"If we hadn't gotten a cap for you it would have been full up," Alice replied without opening her eyes.

"Maybe."  Momiji sank back down under the water before standing.  "I suppose we might need it tomorrow.  Might as well enjoy the relaxation while we can."

Sanae stood as well.  They had been sitting for a while.  Too much longer and she'd start to get wrinkled.  As she walked to the towel racks she heard a long sigh from Alice behind her followed by the sounds of the magician leaving the tub.

As she dried off, she noticed a long scar along Momiji's ribs.  She caught herself staring and turned back to the towel rack, but apparently her surprise had been noticed.  "Something odd, Sanae?" Momiji asked.

"Nothing, sorry."  Sanae worked on drying her hair.  "I just didn't realize youkai could get scars."

Momiji chuckled.  "Ah.  We can, but it takes more work than it does for you humans.  The wound has to mean something.  Either to our attacker, or to ourselves."

"I didn't know that," Alice said.

"I see..."  Sanae finished drying and put on the hotel yukata.  "So... this was an important training accident?"

She heard Momiji and Alice put on their own yukata and turned back to face the other women.  To her surprise Momiji was frowning slightly.  "It wasn't a training accident.  A youkai exterminator gave me that wound, with his dying breath."

"Eh?!" Sanae's jaw dropped.  Someone had tried to exterminate Momiji?  And Momiji had killed them?!

The wolf tengu snorted.  "Kids.  You forget I was born before the Hakurei Barrier."  The woman thought for a moment, then continued her story.  "Back when the tengu had many cities in the outside world.  My family laid claim to a mountain, but the humans decided they wanted some of our hunting grounds.  When we killed some intruders, they sent for some warrior monks.  Wandering shrine maidens were more rare in that era."  Momiji traced the scar line.  "That's when I got this."

"I... see..." Sanae bit her lip at the revelation.  Momiji shook her head slightly and headed out of the baths.

Sanae looked over at Alice, but the blond magician just shrugged.  Sanae grimaced and turned to follow.

Fortunately the elevator stopped the wolf tengu from out walking her.  "Momiji."  Sanae saw the tengu's ears twitch.  "I'm sorry," she said.  "I didn't mean to pry."

Momiji gave her a sharp look, then relaxed.  "You did, but I imagine you actually believed it was a training accident."  The wolf tengu glanced to the reception area.  "Well, it's not a big secret."

"I'm sorry your family had to go through that," Sanae said.

The wolf tengu seemed to shrug off her dark mood.  "It was many years ago.  All the humans involved are dead and buried.  Don't worry about it."

The ride back up seemed longer than it should have.  Momiji and Alice both seemed to wear silence like a cloak, and Sanae couldn't help but fidget.  The ding of the elevator reaching their floor was a welcome relief, and Sanae hurried to the room.

Momiji and Alice followed in more leisurely.  Momiji began to unfold her futon, while Alice headed over to her bag immediately and unhooked the doll from it.  "How have you been, Shanghai?"

Sanae blinked as the doll animated and rushed over to hug Alice.  The magician patted the doll and said, "I missed you too.  I'm sorry you had to play dead all day."

"Uh," Sanae weakly raised a hand.  "Should you really be doing that?  I mean, sure we're in our room but..."

Momiji pointed at the doll.  "Doesn't it waste magic?"

Shanghai stamped her foot in the air, while Alice turned to face them.  "Magic used to animate Shanghai isn't a waste.  And I feel odd without her.  Get used to it."

"Okaaay." Sanae decided not to question the magician.  "I suppose it is cute."  Shanghai huffed and turned away from her compliment with a blush.  'How did she make a plush doll blush?' Sanae wondered.

"I suppose a doll to a puppeteer is like a sword to a warrior," Momiji said.

Shanghai put her hands on her hips and nodded proudly at that.  "Exactly," Alice said.

Sanae turned to the TV.  "We should double check the weather I guess.  Don't want to get caught without our umbrellas."

She spent an hour or so watching the news along with Momiji, while Alice sewed a doll outfit with Shanghai's 'help.'  It seemed like a slow news day, though Sanae was a little lost.  Years of being out of touch had stripped a lot of the context from day to day news events.

When the program was over, Sanae turned off the TV.  The comedy show after didn't really appeal to her.  She looked over to her companions and found Alice had already drifted to sleep, Shanghai cradled in her arms.  Momiji had walked to the small window and was staring outside.  Sanae hesitantly moved to join her.

At first she didn't realize what the wolf tengu was looking at.  Hiroshima was bigger than her home city, but the lights of downtown were still similar.  Then she realized the truth.  Momiji had never seen anything like this before.

"Is it always this bright, even at midnight?" Momiji asked quietly.

"Yeah.  The streetlights run the whole night."  Sanae moved to stand beside the wolf tengu and gazed out on the flickering lights of the city.  "It's kind of beautiful, from a distance."

The wolf tengu's eyes wandered over the scene, then glanced upwards.  "It is.  But it is a fearsome beauty."  Momiji shook her head.  "To banish the night with lights brighter than the moon.  Blotting out the stars with your own lanterns...  I think I'm starting to understand why humans rule the world instead of youkai."

Sanae felt her own gaze rising upwards, to the night sky.  When she was a child she would have considered this a clear night.  Now, having seen the stars in the dark nights of Gensoukyo, the brilliance of the galaxy seemed muted and distant.

She looked back down, to the well lit streets and convenient stores she still occasionally missed.  The little things that not only made life easier, but probably saved the lives of many people each year.

"I guess you can't have them both," Sanae whispered quietly.

Momiji started at her words, then looked down at the city again.  "Maybe not."

The wolf tengu turned away from the window.  "We should probably get some sleep.  Finding those records will be difficult."  She walked over to her futon and lay down.  "Besides, this isn't our world to fix anymore."

Sanae stared out the window mulling over Momiji's words, before turning and heading to her own bed.

Iced Fairy

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  • I will set you on fire k'?
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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2015, 06:27:12 PM »
Momiji woke up before both of her companions and began practicing her stretches.  She wished she could go through her morning sword forms, but in the cramped room that would be impossible.  Still she could keep herself limber.

Alice was the next to rise.  The doll user rose quickly after opening her eyes, then went through the motions of "waking up" her doll.  As Shanghai rose with a yawn, Momiji wondered if Alice did that because she had an audience or if the blonde woman just acted as if her doll was real all the time.  The latter was a little more understandable than the former, but only a little.

Sanae pulled herself out of bed last, the young woman looking around in confusion for a bit before she realized where she was.  "Morning," she mumbled as she struggled out of bed and into her clothes.

"Good morning," Alice replied.  Momiji nodded.

After Sanae managed to get herself dressed and upright the woman grabbed her keycard.  "Think there's a bakery near the bus station.  Breakfast?"

"Please," Momiji and Alice answered in unison.  Momiji hoped the place would have something a little more than bread despite the name.

A few minutes and a short walk later she found the bakery was both better and worse than she'd hoped.  There was far more bread here then the specialty stores in the village ever had, but it was still mostly bread.  Several had chocolate filling or coating, but Momiji was hoping for something a little more solid.

Eventually she settled for a "ham croissant" which she was pretty sure contained actual ham.  She got three and some green tea.  Sanae bought a chocolate cornet and some coffee drink Momiji couldn't follow.  Alice just got 4 donuts and a milk tea.  Momiji wondered if Sanae ate light, or if Alice was eating heavy.  A quick glance around suggested the latter.

"Are all cities like this?" she asked as she sipped her tea.

"What do you mean?" Sanae said.

Momiji waved her arm about.  "So many humans, all packed together.  I thought the human village was cramped but this... this is even worse."

"Hiroshima's actually small compared to Tokyo," Sanae said.

Alice shook her head.  "Yes, but Japan's notoriously crowded.  At least the cities."

"I see."  Momiji considered matters.  "I couldn't stand living in such cramped quarters.  My lot is tiny and it's still ten times bigger than our hotel room."

"Well things are more spread out in the countryside," Sanae said.  "I don't know.  I lived at the shrine so I don't really know what normal is."

Momiji looked over at Alice who shrugged.  "I was raised in castle Pandemonium.  Then I ran away and stole an abandoned house in the slums before moving to Gensoukyo."

"Right.  My apologies."  Momiji finished her tea, then tossed the cup, lost in her thoughts.

Perhaps that was the power humans had.  The power to throw away their pride and live in such tiny quarters willingly.  To create these terrifying steel edifices.  She wondered what this meant about the industry the tengu were trying to create.

"Something wrong Momiji?"

She looked up to see Sanae looking at her with concern.  "Sorry.  I was lost in my own thoughts."  She stood.  "So where are we headed?"

"Police prefecture," Alice said.  "They should have all missing person cases there."

"I don't suppose we can walk there?" Momiji asked hopefully.

Sanae shook her head.  "It's pretty far away, and there would be a lot of traffic until we got to the park."  Momiji frowned at the thought of being caught up in a bus again.  "But we could get out at the Peace Park I guess?  The police prefecture's just on the other side of it."

"Please," Momiji said.

-----

Alice could tell Momiji was trying not to bite the people on the bus as they moved along to their destination, so the trip through the park was relaxing in more ways than one.  The wolf tengu seemed to enjoy the open

As Sanae said the police station was right across the park from their stop.  The trio simply walked into the office along with the general public.  From there getting into the records was both easy and difficult.  A simple misdirection spell allowed Alice and her fellows to get past the security posts and into the records room.  Unfortunately, it ate at her magic reserves.  Alice found herself reaching into her bag for sugar candies almost constantly.

As they walked through the rows of filing cabinets, Sanae shook her head.  "I can't believe they didn't convert all of this to electronic format yet."

"That probably takes money," Momiji said.  "Why bother?"

Alice gave the wolf girl a glance.  "So the tengu have problems in that area as well?"

"If it's something that can be done by telling lesser ranked tengu or kappa to handle it, it gets done fast."  Momiji shook her head.  "If it's something that requires gold... expect at least three days of arguing unless the Great Tengu handles it himself."

"Is that why we still don't have permission for the skyline to the shrine?" Sanae asked.

Momiji sighed.  "No that's actual politics, and I don't even want to know what's involved there."

Alice turned her attention back to the section names as she continued on.  Eventually she got to what she was looking for.  Missing persons.  A quick search found the files for the right year.

Unfortunately it looked like there was six cabinets worth of reports.

"Alright.  I guess we'll have to look through this one by one," Alice muttered.  "Would you two be willing to help me?"

"Who are we looking for," Momiji asked.  "Aren't they by name?"

"I don't know the last name, sorry.  The first name will be Alice.  Age will be five years old."  Alice began to search through the files one by one.

Momiji opened the next cabinet, while Sanae sighed and moved on to the third.  "I hope they keep the files separate at least."

Flipping through the files was a tortuous experience.  The thickness of each section was based purely off the evidence collected, so well researched cases strained the folders, while unsolved cases could be so thin that they nearly disappeared in between the other sections.

It was in one of those that Alice finally found her answer.  She pulled out the small folder and quickly read through the details.  'Alice Vass; Age 5; Daughter of Hasse and Carin Vass.  Citizen of Sweden.  Vanished at a birthday party.  Witnesses claim the daughter vanished from plain sight.  No clues found.'

"Did you find it?"  Sanae moved to peer over Alice's shoulder.

"Yes.  Sorry for not mentioning it earlier."  Alice carefully pocketed the witness reports for later.  "I've found my old name, as well as my parents.  We can use them to find where they are."

Sanae looked almost as excited as Alice felt she should be.  "Alright!  Well then we should go to an internet cafe for that!"

"I'll take your word for it," Alice said.  "Let's hurry out then."  When they were outside she could drop her spell.

Momiji nodded.  "Do you want us to come with you for this part?  I know you mages get funny about true names and birthdates."

"You should care about those too," Alice replied.  "But it's fine.  This isn't my name anymore.  Mother gave me a new one when she adopted me."  The two nodded in understanding.  The nice thing about Japanese people and youkai was they understood the oddities of mixing families.

Getting out of the police building turned out to be easier than getting internet time for three people at the same machine.  Alice didn't even ask Sanae why that was the case.  She had a feeling the answer would just hurt her brain.  In the end they managed to get a computer for three without using magic.

Sanae of course headed this part of the expedition, while Momiji looked over her shoulder.  "So how do you use this computer shikigami thing?"

"It's not a shikigami," Sanae said.  "It's just a computer.  And I'm going to just google the names and see what I find."

Sanae punched some keys on the keys in front of her, then clicked the mouse.  Alice leaned over the woman's other shoulder as the results came in.  A few results in Japanese, then a number in roman characters, with the computer offering to translate them.  "Hrm, there doesn't seem to be anything in Japanese.  Most of the results are in some other language..."

Alice frowned.  "Why not just have the computer translate it?"

"That never works," Sanae said.  "I mean, it translates names to their component words for example."

"Do we have any other option?" Momiji asked.

Alice nodded slowly.  "If we can narrow it down a bit I can read it myself.  Translation spells are easy."  She reached into her bag and found her snack pouch was empty.  "Er, though I might need something to eat."

Momiji stood up and dusted herself off.  "I'll go grab something from the vending machine."

Sanae looked over her shoulder at the wolf tengu.  "Do you know how to operate that?"

"It looked simple enough," Momiji replied with a dry smirk.  She walked off to the concession area.

Sanae turned back to the computer and entered a bit more data.  "Hrm.  Maybe if I include your name, that will help narrow things down..."  Alice watched intently as the displaced miko slowly went through the results.  "Hrm.  Here's a copy of the police report.  And again.  This has nothing to do with you.  Let's skip the Japanese records...."  Sanae clicked the translate button and frowned.  "Um, this one?"

Alice stared at the picture of a tiny blonde girl with shining blue eyes hugging a rag doll.  Was that her when she was a child?  She leaned forward and ran her fingers across the screen casting a quick spell to read the language.  A mild headache passed through her mind, and then the words just made sense to her.

"The Alice Vass memorial scholarship for young women in the arts."  Alice stated quietly.  "In memory of our young daughter, may the Lord watch over her, wherever she may be."

She jumped in surprise as a hand fell on her shoulder.  "Pocky, whatever that is," Momiji said as she handed over a box.  Alice opened the box to find cookie sticks dipped in chocolate and began eating them.

The snack was sugary but not too sweet.  "Thank you."  She turned back to the computer and began trying to learn more.  "How do you tell this thing to give me more information?"

Sanae moved forward.  "Here.  Words like this are links to other pages.  If you move the cursor over them..."

It took Alice the rest of the pack of Pocky to figure out how to use the strange contraption, and another five boxes to get what information she could.  But it was all so painfully limited.

Her parents were missionaries from Sweden who had been given a position in Hiroshima.  They took their 5 year old daughter with them.  When she- when Alice had disappeared they'd spent two years searching for her before finally giving up.  On returning home, they made this scholarship in her memory.  She scrolled through the pictures of winners.  Dozens of smiling girls in their finest dresses.

Finally after a long search she managed to find pictures of her birth parents.  They were aging, probably in their fifties, but their smiles didn't seemed genuine, and there were two younger women standing next to them smiling as well.  Perhaps their other daughters.  Her sisters, that she had never met.

Alice let the translation spell fade as she slumped back in her seat.  "How ironic.  From the daughter of missionaries, to the daughter of the demon queen."

She stared at the photo as her mind spun in circles.  She'd finally found her old family.  The humans that she'd be wrenched from by the power of her Grimoire.  And for some reason, despite the fact that they were from the real world, they seemed more distant than any supernatural creature.

"Alice."  She looked up to see Momiji handing her a paper.  "I wrote down the names and address.  Do you need anything else?"

She took a deep breath.  "No, unless Sanae knows some trick for saving this picture."

There was a click as Sanae pointed her cellphone at the screen.  "It's not going to be great, but that should work."

"Thank you."  She slowly stood, searching for something she'd left undone.  But the truth was she didn't have anything to do.  She'd searched for her family, and found them.  But now...

"Um, are you going to be taking a trip to Sweden now?" Sanae asked.  "I mean, I don't really know if we have the money to..."

Alice shook her head.  "I have money.  But no.  Not now.  We don't have time for it anyway."  She sighed and turned to leave.  "Let's just go back to the hotel."

She started towards the exit, then turned to visit the vending machines one last time.  All that magic had left her with an appetite.

Iced Fairy

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2015, 08:38:46 PM »
Momiji turned away from the bus window as Sanae tapped her on the shoulder.  She gave the priestess a questioning glance.

"Shouldn't we do something to help her?" Sanae asked, pointing to where Alice was sitting and staring at nothing.

Momiji shrugged.  "I doubt there's anything we can do right now."  The wolf tengu carefully adjusted her hat so her ears wouldn't twitch it off and leaned back in the seat.  "Give her some time to think about things."

Sanae glared at her, and Momiji sighed.  "Don't you think she'd be more willing to talk back at the apartment?"  Instead of in public, she mentally added.

The young human had the presence of mind to look embarrassed at that.  "Right.  Sorry I shouldn't try to rush things."  She sighed.  "But well... I'm a little worried."

Momiji found herself smiling a little, but the seriousness of the situation caused that to quickly fade.  "I can understand."  She hit the button for the next stop.  "We'll be back soon."  'And thank all the gods for that,' she mentally added.

The bus rolled to a stop and Momiji stood.  "We're here," she said to Alice.  The magician started from her reverie, then nodded before picking herself up and heading out.  Sanae and Momiji followed after as she walked to the elevator then stared at the strange locking mechanism in confusion.  Fortunately Sanae pulled out her own keycard and hit the button.

Soon they were back in their room.  Momiji happily removed her hat, while Alice proceeded to animate Shanghai almost immediately.  The doll rose up and sat on Alice's shoulder, hands on its chin.

Sanae moved up to the magician.  "Um, so..."

"I don't know what I'm doing here," Alice said quietly.  "What was the point of all this?"  Alice sighed and flopped down on her futon.  "I've found a man and woman who don't know me, and who I can never spend time with."

"You found your parents," Momiji said softly.  "Who loved you as much as they could until you were separated."

Sanae nodded.  "And who remember you fondly."

Alice closed her eyes as Shanghai buried her head in the pillow.  "And that's... why I want to do more."

Momiji sat down at the table.  She knew something about duty.

Sanae sat down next to the wall and drew her knees to her chest.  "Sometimes, no matter how much you want to, you can't change things."  While Alice didn't move, Shanghai sat up and turned towards the shrine maiden.

"The night before I left, no..." Sanae took a deep breath.  "The whole week before we left really, I spent every day trying to convince my parents.  Trying to get them to believe in the gods they were supposed to be worshiping.  That those miracles weren't just me."  She sniffed and wiped her nose.  "I thought it would be so easy, you know?  I didn't need to worry about wasting faith.  Kanako had all she needed to make the shift.  All I had to do was make them understand that there was more there than just a bit of magic or sleight of hand."

Momiji felt her ears slowly wilt as Sanae smiled sadly and wiped her eyes.  "It didn't work.  Of course it didn't work.  They believed their little girl was a great magician.  Why would a few more tricks make a difference?  I had to fight tooth and nail just to get them to sit down and listen to me.  I couldn't even get some time alone with both of them until the night before we left."  The smile faded.  "I said... a lot of terrible things that night.  They were so shocked.  I was screaming at the end.  I stormed out of room without even saying goodbye."

Sanae slumped back against the wall.  "I guess... it doesn't matter.  To them it never happened."

Shanghai flew up from the pillow and latched onto Sanae's arms in a fierce hug.  As the priestess looked down at the doll, Momiji cleared her throat slowly.  "It matters to you," she said.  "But it sounds like you tried your hardest."

Sanae wiped her eyes again before hugging Shanghai.  "Thank you."

The three women sat together for a while.  Finally Alice broke the silence.  "So what do you think I should do?  How can I reach them despite the distance?"

Momiji took a deep breath.  "That's something you'll have to decide.  Everyone is different after all."

She hesitated a moment then continued.  "I told you about my scar.  But there was more than that.  We knew as soon as we killed the intruders that there would be reprisals."  Momiji turned her gaze towards the window, staring out into the horizon.  "On the night that the hunters came, my mother was on guard duty.  She was the one who sounded the alarm, and she was the one who fought the monks to give the rest of us time to rouse and arm ourselves."

Momiji caught herself tracing the scar and forced her hands to her lap.  "She didn't survive that battle.  Not even a wolf tengu can battle a contingent of warrior monks single handedly.  But she made sure the rest of us survived."

She heard a rustle as Alice sat up.  Sanae shifted as well.  "Momiji..."

"In the end we won the battle, but we knew the war was lost," Momiji continued.  "We couldn't keep fighting and losing people.  The age of youkai was ending.  That was the fight that convinced our family to move to Gensoukyo, where the other tengu were gathering."

Momiji forced herself to face the two women.  Both of them looked at her with sympathetic eyes as she continued.  "But before that we buried my mother there, on our hill.  We buried her on the land she had fought for until the end, and we promised her one day we would return.  Us or our descendants, no matter how long the age of humans lasted.  That is how I remember my mother."

Sanae was crying openly now, and Alice's eyes were red as well.  "That's..." Sanae waved her hands.  "I mean, I didn't..."  Momiji felt strange seeing two humans cry for her.  It was shameful to have shown so much of herself... but she couldn't help feeling the warmth of their sympathy.

"Thank you for telling us," Alice whispered.  "And thank you for your advice."

Sanae shook her head.  "I'm sorry for making you tell us all that."

She turned away from the two.  "It's okay.  It's been a long time.  I just wanted to give Alice something to work with."  She wasn't sure why she'd said so much.  All this living with crow tengu must have addled her mind and made her chatty.

When Sanae embraced her from behind she stiffened.  The woman's embrace was strange, and Shanghai piling on only made it stranger.  But she appreciated the young woman's feelings.

Momiji settled for simply shrugging.  "If you try to scratch behind my ears, I'll bite you."

As Sanae burst into laughter Momiji allowed herself to smile.

----

Sanae nearly pulled her friends down the walkway.  "Come on!  We've got a day before we can even think about going home, so we're going to go out and have fun!"

"Can we have fun someplace a little quieter?" Momiji asked.  "Like half a mile away from the city or so?"

"No that's tomorrow," Sanae said.  "You can get all the quiet you want at Miyajima."

Alice shook her head.  "Are there book stores or clothing stores at least?  Not all of us have VCRs at our home."

Sanae shook her head slowly.  Who still used VCRs?  "Yeah, there should be clothing stores.  Um, and I guess we can find a bookstore or two as well.  Though they'll probably be just normal books not antiques."

"That's fine," Alice replied.  "If nothing else I can use them for barter."

Momiji nodded.  "Books are fine."

"Alright, I'll look someplace up along the way."  Sanae stopped and pointed at the building they'd just reached.  "But the first stop is here!"

"Loud," Momiji muttered.  "And dark.  What's with all the TVs?"

Alice tapped her chin.  "Huh.  This must be an arcade.  Why here?"

"To have fun of course!"  Sanae dragged them in past the racing games and the crane games.  "It's a taste of the outside world's entertainment.  A once in a lifetime chance, right?"

"You should save that pitch for crow tengu," Momiji said.  But the wolf woman was looking around curiously at one section in particular.  Sanae followed her gaze to where several Gundam cabinets were set up.

She could barely conceal her glee.  "Ah those ones are about giant robot combat.  Kinda like the summer danmaku style.  I'm not sure if you'd enjoy it.  It might be too complex for you."  Momiji's eye's gleamed at the challenge and Sanae knew she'd scored a hit.

"Well it doesn't look anything like real combat, but if we're here I'd be interested in seeing how it works."  Momiji strode over to the cabinets.  "Let's try a game or two."

As Sanae skipped along behind the wolf tengu she heard Alice sigh behind her.  "Why am I surrounded by battle maniacs?"

Ten games later Sanae's carefree spirit had been put back in its place.  Momiji and Alice had taken all of half a game to learn how to play.  After that they'd utterly dominated Sanae and any other human foolish enough to try to match them.  Momiji had ended up the victor with seven wins, but the two youkai were usually close.

She slumped down in a empty fighting game cabinet's chair.  "Beaten by a Zaku while in Turn A....  Even if it was Char's Zaku...."

"It's almost too bad those giant machines don't exist," Momiji said.  "I prefer the multirange battle style.  I suppose they're just too expensive to justify.  Still an interesting game."

Alice was stretching her fingers.  "I'd have enjoyed it more if they let me control all of that robot's bits.  I felt so limited."

Sanae looked up at the doll master.  "Quebeleys are supposed to be piloted by 'Newtypes.'   Superhuman psychics.  Since those don't exist..." Sanae paused as Shanghai caught her attention.  "Since those don't exist in the outside world they simplified it so normal humans could play."

"I suppose," Alice replied.  "Still I like the idea of a giant doll...."

"I wonder if the simplified controls limit humans, or give them room to grow," Momiji muttered.

Sanae and Alice looked at each other in confusion.  "What do you mean," Sanae asked.

Momiji stretched.  "Well you humans are pretty weak.  And you often handicap the strong to make contests more interesting.  At least friendly contests.  But you never get stronger unless you fight at your strongest.  Perhaps you might find some Newtypes if you let them try to control the bits."

"Or maybe everyone who wasn't a master would stop playing," Alice said.

"Well you'd have the other suits to play with, but yeah."  Sanae shrugged.

Alice pulled out a manju she'd bought along the way.  "Well is there anything else you wanted to do here Sanae?"

"Ah!"  Sanae jolted to attention.  "Right!  We need to try skeeball!  And the crane games!"

Momiji smirked.  "You think you'll do better at those then?"

Sanae considered the matter then flopped back and shook her head.  "No, but at least they're less competitive..."

"A smart move," Alice said standing.  "Well let's give it a try."

----

The rest of the day flew by as the three wandered the streets.  Sure enough both Momiji and Alice mastered skeeball instantly, though only Alice managed to figure out how to win at the crane game.  Several prizes had gone into their bags from Alice's skilled plays.

From there they hit several clothing stores, where Alice proceeded to use both Sanae and Momiji as dress up dolls.  Sanae couldn't complain though, because Alice's sense of style was incredible.  Even Momiji stopped grumbling after the first two suggestions.  She ended up with several new outfits, and a list of things to try to make herself when she got back to Gensoukyo.

The bookstore was less enjoyable for Sanae.  She'd found the stuff she could afford and purchased it fast.  Momiji on the other hand wandered about quite a bit, and Alice could probably organize the entire store based on how much of it she inspected.  Fortunately the magician's insatiable hunger got them out in time for dinner.

As Alice went through her second bowl of Ramen, Sanae gave her a once over.  "Are you doing alright?"

"Using up a lot of magic," Alice muttered.  "But it's the only way to store all the stuff we bought.  I should be fine.  Just a little sleepy and hungry."

"Should we go back to the hotel and rest?" Momiji asked.  "It would be bad if you burned out.  Especially since you've got some stuff to think about."

Alice shook her head.  "Hotel would be worse.  I've used up all the magic there.  Someplace like the arcade might be better actually.  There's a sense of imagination.  A lot of wistful dreams and flights of fancy.  Only downside is they lack snacks."

"Then it's settled!"  Sanae put down her chopsticks and pointed to the sky.  "The next stop is Karaoke!"

Momiji's hat twitched.  "That's the torture device the tengu fledglings get from the kappa right?  The one they use at parties to drive off us adults?"

Sanae whirled her finger towards the wolf tengu.  "It's about singing together and having fun!  Don't be so judgmental!"  She folded her arms as she continued her tirade.  "And we won't be using some tiny tape recorder and mic setup.  This will have soundproof rooms, full sound system, ten thousand song catalog and real microphones!  Not to mention room service on demand!"

"Oh, they have snacks?"  Alice put down her own chopsticks and stood.  "Let's go then."

Momiji stood as well.  "If it will help you out, I suppose I can soldier through."

Sanae glared at her friend.  "I'll find a song you'll like.  Just you watch."

"Good luck," Momiji replied with a grin.

As she led the trio on to the Karaoke place Sanae wracked her brain for songs that Momiji would like.  Unfortunately she realized about halfway there she had no idea what music the wolf tengu even liked.

Still that wasn't going to stop her.  She ordered the room and immediately started looking through song manuals.  "Alright!  Let's get some stuff queued up and start the party."  She punched in a few songs while Alice called up the service desk and Momiji leafed through some catalogs.  Soon the player started up and the intro to Sanae's first song started up.  "First song is Gong, of course!"

Sanae threw herself into the song like she always did.  You had to act like the power of rock was fueling your mecha after all!  It was a little weird not having her friends laughing at her odd choice of songs, but at least the two youkai didn't look too bored yet.

As she finished Momiji came over to her.  "How do you work this contraption?" she asked handing over the remote.

Sanae's heart leaped.  She'd gotten Momiji to finally have some fun.  "Aha!  Well, first you enter this number here...."

As she showed Momiji how to work the remote, there was a knock on the door.  It opened to reveal a woman pushing a tray with a waffle plate, several boxes of Pocky, three floats and a box of donuts.  "Delivery."

"Thanks," Alice replied.  Sanae couldn't help but stare at the mass of food that had just shown up.  "I got you each an ice cream float," Alice said as the server left.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Momiji asked.

Alice stretched then started in on the waffle plate.  "I'm doing better.  This place has a lot of ambient magic.  For the outside world."

Sanae and Momiji exchange skeptical glances, but the start of the next song broke Sanae's concentration.  "Ah!  Right!  Anyway keep inputting stuff!  You too Alice!"

She went through another two rock openings to her favorite mecha series before the screen changed to an unfamiliar title.  "Mine," Momiji said.

Sanae handed over the mic, then her jaw dropped as the soft music began playing.  "Enka?!?"  Momiji ignored her as she started into the song.  As the wolf tengu sang about two lovers parting forever next to the crashing waves, Sanae could only stare.

Alice moved next to her and offered a donut hole.  "I'm impressed.  She's got a really nice alto."

"Enka?!?" Sanae shook her head.  That was possibly the second to last genre she would have expected the wolf tengu to like.  The genre did use traditional vocals, but it was mostly dedicated to sentimental ballads.

Momiji finished the song and turned to them with a sniff.  "Can't a woman entertain a romantic fantasy every now and then?"

"Wa- That's not what I meant," Sanae sputtered waving her hands.

"She's just teasing you," Alice said as she grabbed the microphone.  "Now, my song should be up so..."

Sanae flopped on the couch as Alice moved up.  This time Sanae couldn't recognize the song at all, though from the roman letters it was obviously something in a different language, "Nessun Dorma".  Given up on trying to guess, she looked over at Momiji.  "How did you learn about those songs anyway?"

"Nitori," Momiji replied.  "The kappa love records and record players.  Well admittedly songs like Dynamite Bushi were out before the barrier, but the genre has changed a lot.  For the better I feel."

Further questioning was cut off as Alice began to sing.  Sanae found herself blinking in shock again as the blond puppeteer took a deep breath and started singing what could only be opera.  Momiji fell still beside her as Alice's voice rose and fell through the song.  The woman was singing at the edge of her range, and without much practice, but she'd obviously been trained.

Sanae found herself clapping along with the audience as Alice finished.  She felt a little less silly when Momiji joined in.  "That was awesome!  Where did you learn that?"

"Monday through Thursday at four.  Refinement school for young wards of the Demon Goddess, led by head maid Yumeko," Alice replied with a grin.  She tossed the mic to Sanae.  "Your turn.  I'll try the impossible task of finding something we can all sing."

Sanae grinned at that.  "Good luck!  And don't forget to enter your own songs.  We're going until they kick us out!"

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2015, 05:47:23 AM »
This story is so fluffy and slice-of-lifey and I love it.

Also love the interactions between characters that hardly interact in both canon and in fanworks.

Iced Fairy

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2015, 06:11:59 PM »
Momiji glared over the waters towards the island their ferry was heading to.  "I can't believe we slept until noon."

"We did leave at three in the morning," Sanae replied with a yawn.

"At least the bakery was fully stocked," Alice said.

Momiji looked over at the magician with concern.  She was paler than normal, and still seemed constantly hungry, but the woman was more awake then she'd been at the Ramen place.  Apparently she'd gotten enough magic to keep herself going.

"And soon the amount of magic won't be a problem," Momiji muttered as she turned back towards the island.

Alice nodded.  "I'm surprised," she said softly.  "The magic we magicians use is tied to dreams, but also to birth and death.  Don't they keep people from being born or dying on the island as much as possible?  It should be sterile to people like me, but the magic here is really strong."

Sanae leaned against the rail.  "Yes.  They prevented humans from dying here.  But not the gods."

"Ah."  Momiji looked again at the island.  Now that Sanae had explained she could feel the melancholy from the island herself.

Perhaps this journey was closer to her heart then she'd thought.

-----

After Alice had bought more bags of sweets then anyone had any right to, they'd taken the skylift up to the top of the mountain.  Sanae looked over her map, then nodded.  The map hadn't changed since she'd first come here, which meant it was likely all the shrines were in the same places.

"Where are we going?" Alice asked as Sanae started up to the mountain's true peak.

"There's a shrine I want to visit," Sanae said.  "One I found here back when I first visited the island."

Momiji raised an eyebrow.  "Did you come here often?"

"Not really," Sanae said.  "It is a bit out of the way.  And I spent a lot of time at my own shrine, trying to get more faith.  Still a miracle worker is pretty rare, so I did some touring.  This was actually one of the last places I visited before we... moved."

"Hm," Alice said as she ate a pastry.

Right before the temple at the top of the mountain Sanae turned and headed onto a dirt path.  It was almost completely overgrown now she noticed.  Weeds and rain had dislodged a number of the stones.  But the path was still obvious compared to the underbrush around it.

Momiji growled as they edged past a thornbush.  "There's a shrine down here?"

"Yeah," Sanae said.

"You'd think people would take better care of the road then," Alice muttered.  "Who comes here anyway?"

"No one," Sanae replied.

Her friends fell silent at that.

The journey was short, though the poorly kept path slowed them to a crawl.  Still, just as Sanae was getting worried they may have gone the wrong way, the brush faded away.  They had reached the rocky cliffs on the far side of the island.  There was nothing here but the ocean far below, a few rocky islands nearby, and three beaten and worn shrines facing the blue water.

Alice and Momiji moved beside her, looking out over the vista.  After a long pause Alice took  a few more steps forward to look at the shrines.  "So... the gods here."

"They passed away," Sanae said quietly.

"I can feel it."  Alice brushed some dust off the closest shrine.  "I can't explain.  But it's something in my soul.  I wonder why..."

Momiji softly walked before the three shrines before clapping twice and bowing.  Sanae felt a trickle of faith, but she'd learned before there was nothing here to accept it.  "I've never seen you pray earnestly before, Momiji."

The wolf tengu nodded solemnly.  "I have little need for gods.  But any life deserves some respect."  Momiji sat down and looked back over the waves.  "Especially since their fate was cruel.  For humans to make, then discard them..."

Sanae pulled out the rag she'd bought for this trip and began to clean the shrine.  "I want to blame people.  But it's hard to keep faith in this era."

"You managed," Alice said as she moved to help.

"It was easy for me."  Sanae sighed.  "Ever since I was a child my parents told me about Lady Kanako.  And I could see my goddesses.  They gave me power and comfort.  How could I not believe?  To me they were undeniably real."

Momiji stirred and started rustling through her bag.  "Believe yes.  But belief isn't faith.  You could have abandoned them at any time.  Embraced your own power and cast them to the wayside."

Sanae gasped at the thought.  "What?  No!  I would never do that to my goddesses!"

The wolf tengu pulled out her shower cap, then smiled at Sanae.  "No.  No you wouldn't."

It took most of the afternoon.  But together the three of them removed most of the dirt from the shrines.  They were still ragged, and lacked even a torii gate or a donation box.  But they were clean.  Sanae briefly prayed for the gods' souls before sitting down and breaking out a bottle of water.

"So, how did you get here the first time?" Alice asked.

"I was young and stupid," Sanae admitted.  "I said I would visit every shrine on the mountain."  She pulled out the map and pointed to where they were.  "And while no one goes here, it's still marked on the maps."

Momiji nodded slowly.  "This is where you first saw gods could die, isn't it."

Sanae started.  "Uh.  Kinda."  She looked back towards the dilapidated buildings.  "I'd always known it was possible.  Lady Kanako worried about it enough."  She closed her eyes, remembering the fear and shock that had hit her when she'd arrived here before.  "Before... before it was always like a house where the old residents had moved away and some new ones had moved in.  There were always still people, and you could pretend the god had just gone somewhere else.  Here..."

"There was nobody here and nowhere to go," Alice whispered.

Sanae rubbed her eyes.  "Yeah."

The three sat there as the sun continued across the sky, sharing the water bottle and a few manju.

Finally Alice dusted herself off and stood.  "Well," Alice said, "I'm out of food so we should start heading back down the mountain to get dinner."

"Right."  Sanae sighed.  "The shops will probably close in a couple of hours after all."

-----

Alice made it through two teriyaki plates before the gnawing pain in her stomach forced her to recognize the truth.  She was starving to death.

She'd thought that the increased magic in this place would help make up for the deficit she'd been running, but the reality was she'd been in starvation mode the last few days.  The magic here was just enough to remind her body that food existed, and her body was complaining about the lack of nutrition.

As they finished the meal Alice stood.  "I'm going to go on ahead and get some more snacks.  Mind settling the check?"

Sanae hesitated.  "Sure but-"

Alice smiled weakly.  "I know.  Sugar isn't cutting it.  I've got a backup plan, so don't worry too much."

Momiji stared at her a bit, probably judging her sincerity, then nodded.  "Okay."

She walked out and over to the souvenir shop that was closing down.  They only had four bags of sweets, but she bought all the pastries.  Then she walked down into an alley.  Away from prying eyes she reached into her bookbag, and opened the lock on her Grimoire.

The flood of magic into her system struck her like a bucket of ice water and she slumped against the wall to stay standing.  Within seconds she felt much better, though there was a lingering hunger.  She didn't dare open the book though.

"What was that?" Sanae asked as she and Momiji walked into the alley.  "I could feel it from the restaurant."

"I'm using my Grimoire to get magic," Alice replied quietly.

Momiji raised an eyebrow.  "And the reason you didn't do this before is?"

Alice frowned.  "Because having it on for more than twelve hours means we'd likely be sucked into an alternate realm at random."

"That's a very good reason," Momiji conceded.  "How long do we have to wait before going back to Gensoukyo then?"

"We walk through the torii gate of the main shrine at high tide," Sanae said.  "We've been permitted to use it as a gate to the Moriya shrine."

Alice gave her a questioning look.  "Isn't the torii gate in the water at high tide?"

Sanae smiled.  "Well, if you're going to do the impossible, it doesn't really matter how impossible it is, does it?"

"I suppose not," Alice replied.  She walked towards a small park near the shore.  "High tide will be around two AM, so I guess we've got some time to wait."

----

Momiji growled as another one of the damned deer that infested the island approached them.  The deer hesitated then tried to circle around her to get to Alice's manju bag, like she was a leashed dog.  Only when she flicked the creature on the nose did the beast flee.

"Someone should purge a few dozen of the things," Momiji muttered.  "They're too tame.  They don't even respect bloodlust."

"I'm pretty sure slaughtering the sacred deer would not be good for the island," Sanae sighed.

Momiji sniffed.  "Having prey be so carefree is what's unnatural."  She shrugged and leaned back against a tree.  "Still I suppose there are worse fates."

Like that of the wolves.

She shook those dark thoughts free from her mind.  "Alice, do you mind if I ask a question?"

"Hm?"  Alice looked up and swallowed the manju she'd been eating.  "Sure, I guess?"

Momiji turned to Alice.  "Why did you ask us to join you?  Why not your magician friends?"

"I..."  She frowned and looked down at Shanghai.  "Why you two...?  I don't know."  She sighed.  "I didn't go with Marisa because this is about family, and Marisa hates her father so much she won't say a word about him.  And Patchouli... Patchouli practically needs magic to keep breathing."

"But," Alice smiled, "I'm very glad you two did come along."

"I'm glad I came as well," Momiji said.  She was a little surprised when she realized she meant it completely.

As the moon slowly rose in the sky Alice pulled out some of the books they'd bought and passed them about.  For the first time Momiji appreciated why humans kept things like streetlights about.  It did make it much easier to read.

Momiji had reached a halfway point in the novel when Sanae coughed and waved to get her attention.  "Um, I guess it's a bit late.  But did you want to visit your old home Momiji?  I mean, it wouldn't be possible right now but Lady Kanako could..."

The wolf tengu blinked in surprise at the offer.  "That's... Thank you Sanae, but no."  Momiji closed looked up at the moon again.  "I want to go back when youkai are free to roam again.  Just dropping by would take the meaning away."

"I see." Sanae looked down.  The girl was too nice for her own good sometimes, Momiji mused.

Looking up at the moon she nodded to herself.  "It's about thirty minutes until high tide.  Do we need to do something to get ready?"

Sanae pulled out a tarp, her priestess outfit and three white cloaks.  "We'll need to change.  The rest of the ritual is simple for you two."

"Right."  Momiji picked up her bag, then frowned as one last thought hit her.  "Did you ever decide what you were going to do with your family Alice?"

The magician nodded.  "Yes."  She looked back over the ocean.  "The Alice Vass memorial scholarship is going to get a large donation from the estate of Alice Margatroid.  One that should fund it for about a century."  Alice turned and began walking towards the changing area Sanae was setting up.  "I hope that will make them happy."

"I think it will," Momiji replied as she followed.

-----

Putting on her priestess robes didn't feel strange.  Rather, the act of donning her robes made everything else feel strange.  The electric lights, the streets filled with people instead of fairies, the constant murmur of motors.  All those felt less real now that she was properly attired.  She looked down at the tiny city, and couldn't help but feel it was empty.

She felt a strong hand fall on her shoulder.  "It's time to return to our world," Momiji said.

Sanae nodded.  This wasn't her world.  Not anymore.  She knew it intimately, but it wasn't her home.

She donned the pure white cloak, then stepped quietly out of the small forest area they'd hung curtains around to change.  Her attire would stand out, especially at two in the morning, but that didn't matter now.

Alice and Momiji were out seconds later, the magician eating the last manju she'd bought after dinner.  "What's the plan now?" Alice asked as she adjusted the cloak she was wearing.

"We walk through the torii gate, and arrive back home," Sanae said.

Momiji pointed to the giant structure.  "It's got spotlights on it.  Someone might notice and do something about us.  Or at least wonder why three women are walking on water towards a shrine gate."

Sanae pulled out the last items they'd need for the ritual.  Three small candles.  "Have faith," she said.

Her friends gave her annoyed looks.  But she sensed they also had faith in her.  That would be enough.

She walked to the shoreline, past the sleeping deer.  When she reached a dock at the water's edge she summoned up a small magic to light her candle, then passed the flame to her friends.  "Follow after me, and try to keep your footing."

After they both nodded to her in understanding, she took a deep breath and stepped out onto the waves.

Walking on water was both easier and harder than people thought.  If the water was willing, it would remain as solid as concrete to your footsteps.  But the waves stopped for no one.  If you weren't willing to accept the water's movement as you walked, you were unworthy to step upon it.

Sanae had practiced before with the wind whipped waves of Lake Suwa, and the waters of the bay here were calm in comparison.  She took slow steps, relying on the water's mercy to keep her balance.

A few moments later she felt Momiji walk onto the tide.  The wolf tengu's first step was out of synch, but firm, and the woman was soon matching Sanae's pace.

Alice's first step was a little gingerly, and Sanae felt the water lap at her boots in reprimand.  But the puppeteer quickly accepted the water's blessing as well.

As Sanae passed the docks, all the lights along the waterfront went out.  A small miracle yes, but as the moon and stars grew brighter above her she couldn't help but feel it was perhaps the greatest miracle she could show this world.

There was a commotion from behind her at the shore now.  People rousing and panicking because the torii wasn't lit up.  But as Sanae took each small step towards the gate the noise faded beneath the sound of the ocean.

As they started to approach the torii the light from the candle seemed to slowly spill from the flame, first to her hands, then her robes, then suffusing her body.  It was a bright light, but it didn't seem to diminish the moon and stars above.  It seemed to enhance them more, as if she was glowing alongside them.

The giant torii gate was right before her now, and she could smell both the ocean, and the morning mist of Gensoukyo.  She smiled at the now familiar feeling of her new home.

And as she took the final step she felt a tiny bit of faith from the shoreline, like a wave goodbye.

Tengukami

  • Breaking news. Any season.
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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2015, 06:19:44 PM »
This is a really great story. It hadn't occured to me when I started reading it that these three share in common being from outside Gensokyo, albeit for different reasons and circumstances. Alice's story, being a parent myself, gave me a little sting in the heart. Really inventive stuff here.

"Human history and growth are both linked closely to strife. Without conflict, humanity would have no impetus for growth. When humans are satisfied with their present condition, they may as well give up on life."

Sagus

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2015, 01:58:24 AM »
A really good story. Though I enjoyed all of it, I found that final part of them going back to Gensokyo to be really really good. Dunno specifically why, but the whole scene just felt right.

Great job!
Peketo's Drawing Stuffs
Despite the name, it's mostly 3D models.

My fanfics.

BT

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Re: Hiroshima Investigation Trip
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2015, 08:28:28 AM »
Followed this as well. I'm normally not a fan of "cycle between the characters, show off a quirk or two, repeat" but it was done pretty well and I liked it. (that's probably oversimplifying it anyway)