Topic: Succession  (Read 2221 times)

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FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
  • LOOK AT ME
  • Nickname: Roukanken
  • Gender: i don't even know anymore
Succession
« on: March 02, 2011, 03:59:54 pm »
The idea for this has been floating in my head for a while now; but given the Ten Desires announcement, I figured now was the time to actually write it.

And also because for a guy named after one of Youmu's swords I have surprisingly little writing involving Youmu. :V

-----

Nothing lasts.

Perhaps I am more exposed to that fact than most. Humans still roam Gensokyo, carefree, giving no thought to the time when their lives will come to an end. When it comes, it is a surprise, and they are at once engulfed by the desires they never took the time to fulfill - the girlfriend they never confessed to, the mountain they never climbed, the story they never wrote. All things they assumed they would have time to do later, and never pushed for when they had the chance.

I would not call these people foolish so much as misled. Death is not a subject most cover without a sarcastic grin. Perhaps the worst of it is that humans are almost alone in suffering it. Youkai do not die - they can be killed, but they return soon afterward. There is no final judgement against their souls, no hell or heaven awaiting them. Mankind is less fortunate in that regard, and a life poorly lived will earn one an eternity of suffering in hell.

A life well-lived, one dedicated to helping others and improving the lives of your fellow men, would lead to a human soul drifting upwards to heaven, living in bliss. I say ‘would’ because this is no longer the case - the celestial kingdom has been filled to the brim, and closed its doors to any who would seek entry. I find it ironic that the holiest and most righteous kingdom in the afterlife is too lazy to make room for newcomers.

Most spirits, though, do not visit either of these realms - the souls of those who were decent people, but not saints like the higher realms expect of them. Thus they come here, to the netherworld - akin to a celestial waiting room, for lack of a better term. They dwell here as ghosts, either until they achieve enlightenment and rise to heaven or - as is nowadays much more likely - reincarnate and once again live a human life.

The netherworld would not work, however, if every spirit who entered it left at some point in time. There must be a mainstay - a group who stays forever in this limbo and ferries the souls that visit to greener pastures. That duty has, for centuries, been trusted to the Saigyouji family - the closest the netherworld could be said to have for royalty, and well-respected even in the land of the living. Their mansion Hakugyokurou is the most beautiful sight in an otherwise desolate realm, with absurdly large gardens filled to the brim with cherry blossoms.

With such large gardens to tend, Hakugyokurou undoubtedly requires a skilled gardener. The Saigyouji family, in what is either genius or plain laziness, has combined this with the job of acting as a tutor to the Saigyouji in the way of swordsmanship. At first glance, this might seem like an overly specific job, but fortunately this is another duty passed down a family line; this time, through the Konpaku family.

The Konpaku are an unusual hybrid - half-living, half-dead. Supposedly, the first of the Konpaku family was a swordsman who, in looking for his deceased wife, literally broke through the barrier of life and death and found himself in Hakugyokurou. Rather than punish him for his transgressions, the Saigyouji mistress of the time decided to spare his life and reunite him with his love if the family promised to work alongside the Saigyouji from then on. The swordsman agreed immediately, and thus a friendship was formed.

Each member of the Konpaku would be able to seek love among the people of the netherworld, but any children would thus be expected to continue the family tradition. The courtship is typically done in secret, so that children will not go searching for their parents or grandparents when they have more important duties to attend to. As such, no member of the family can say they truly remember their mother, but they are likewise advised not to care.

The inheritance has, for centuries, been an unending line of one Konpaku teaching his techniques with the blade to his son, and then that son passing it onto his son, and so on ad infinitum. For a long while, it seemed as if there would be an endless line of sons running down the generations.

At least, until I - the first daughter of the Konpaku family - came along.

Initially, there were outcries from the spirits. ‘How can you expect a daughter to maintain the Konpaku line? Surely you should have another child, a strong and able man to continue the heritage!’ The Konpaku of the time - my father - met these accusations with a stony glare and an absolute faith in me. For that, I was eternally grateful, and I dedicated every waking moment of my life to training so that I could inherit my father’s will.

I trained for years. Decades. By human standards, I would be an old woman, but in half-ghost terms I was still young and inexperienced. I had expected this training to continue endlessly, until at last I had proven myself worthy of becoming the next heir to the Konpaku family.

But nothing lasts. I should have known that better than anyone, but even I could not see that day coming.

The day when life as I knew it ended, and my life as Youmu of the Konpaku family truly began.

-----

The concept of day and night in the netherworld is different from that of the human world. There are no extremes - no times of bright light, and none of sheer darkness. Day is slightly brighter than night, but not to the extent that Gensokyo experiences.

There are seasons, but the rapid transition from morning to evening is notably absent. The main sign of change is the shift from the summer’s dark blue sky to the crimson-red of autumn, then to the pale grey snowclouds of winter and bright blue hues of spring. This is often a jarring discovery for newcomers, but given that ghosts do not need to sleep it is often more pleasant having the world being constantly bright.

For me, it is simply an inconvenience. Though I am half-dead, I am still half-living, and thus require something of human sustenance. Three or four hours of sleep will sustain me, as will a few bowls of rice, but that is still infinitely more than the rest of Hakgyokurou needs to eat.

On this particular day, I had gone without sleep entirely. Not an uncommon practice for me - time spent sleeping was time not spent training, after all. More than once my father Youki would enter my bedroom to find me practicing kata, swinging my wooden blades with enough force to damage the walls if I made a mistake. (Much to both of our reliefs, I never made such a dramatic error. My form was sloppy, my stance vulnerable, but my aim was always true.)

The lack of sleep was a minor inconvenience to me. A stifled yawn here or there as I made my way across the garden of Hakugyokurou, but nothing greater than that. I could not be trusted to tend the garden yet, but running its length across and back was part of my daily training to stay in shape.

Autumn was present in Hakugyokurou. I did my best to avoid the petals along the ground, but they were so plentiful I could not avoid stepping on one or two. The cherry blossoms were losing their leaves, as they did every year at this time. Even knowing that by spring they would return once again to life, it was still a difficult sight to bear.

One or two petals hung on my dress, and I absent-mindedly brushed them away. A few fell upon my head, which proved much more troublesome as my attempts to remove them knocked the black ribbon out of my hair. I can now say with confidence that replacing a ribbon while running at speeds that would challenge a tengu is both incredibly difficult and likely to result in hair looking awkwardly out of place.

Not that I minded much. I was (and indeed still am) a rather plain looking girl by Gensokyo’s standards. Short silver hair decorated with a simple ribbon, and a green dress with various insignias to celebrate my half-ghost heritage. Blue eyes that I have been told come across as earnest and trustworthy, but which are called simple behind my back.

About the only thing interesting about me in terms of looks would be the spirit following behind me, keeping a constant pace and following my every footstep. It would be wrong to give it a name - it is part of me just like my physical body is part of me. When someone touches it, I feel it as a chill in my spine. What I feel, it feels. It is Youmu, just like I am Youmu.

This ghost half of mine was currently feeling distressed as the petals continued to phase through its form. It was a feeling akin to having an icicle stabbed into my back, but at least it kept me awake. It also inspired me to pick up speed, running at velocities people outside the border may well have thought impossible.

As always, though, my eyes fell on the garden’s greatest anomaly. It was unusual both in size and nature - larger than every one of its neighbours, and yet I had never seen a single petal upon its leaves. It was known as the Saigyou Ayakashi, and it was both the most beautiful and most offputting sight in the garden of Hakugyokurou.

Why had it never bloomed? It was a question I had pondered many times on my daily runs, but I had never found a satisfactory answer. Perhaps it would forever be beyond my ken. I was not a scholar. I was a warrior, and seeking knowledge at the cost of my true duties was a dangerous business.

Putting the thought aside, I focused on the return journey through the gardens. From this angle, I could see a beautiful view of the mansion itself. It was immaculately built, likely by the ghosts of master craftsmen, and the result was a building that any living creature would die to live in.

(This is how puns work, correct? I apologise if my sense of humour is poor - in being advised to write this, I was also told to ‘add a joke or two’. Comedy is not my strong point, but I will do my best regardless.)

Another thought crossed my mind then. I had walked freely within Hakugyokurou’s gardens, but I had never entered within. I had yet to even see the mistress who I would be devoting my life to, Yuyuko Saigyouji. All I knew of her were Father’s tales - that she was a beautiful woman, with hair the shade of cherry blossoms, and that he had been training her for far longer than he had been training me. She appeared simple, but beneath that facade lay the mind of a woman who knew what she wanted and knew how to obtain it.

A brilliant woman, true, but one who I did not yet have the right to meet. I was an apprentice, and for as long as I stayed as such I would be unworthy of her presence. Thus I ran on past the mansion, towards a rickety-looking building in the furthest corner of the garden grounds. It was well constructed, but the materials it was made of seemed to be the issue rather than the masonry. The wood looked set to snap the next time a hard wind blew, and the roof was made of straw which had already caught fire on at least one occasion.

I had never had an issue with this, nor had my father. Ornate living quarters were too promoting of attachment. The Konpaku family had learned to put aside such things in the name of duty.

Taking a moment to catch my breath, I creaked open the door of the makeshift dojo. The straw roof had given way up above, and a single ray of sunlight lit the centre of the room.

There, sitting motionlessly on the stone floor, was my father.

Youki Konpaku was not, in any manner, a handsome man. Even as his own daughter, I am not willing to say that of him. His long grey beard was presumably cut by his own blade, to an absurd degree of perfection, and his hair was kept in check through the same method. His own ghost half was perfectly still as well; both body and spirit were totally calm, a display I could only dream of duplicating. He would have been easy to look at were it not for the hard, jade-coloured eyes, the sort that seemed able to look through you and examine the wall behind with perfect clarity. I had been frightened to look him in the eye as a child, but with time I learned to withstand his cold stare.

In front of him, Father had laid out two blades, along with their sheathes. Not the wooden blades I used for training, nor ordinary blades of metal used to fight. These were the Konpaku family’s ancestral hand-me-downs - the weapons that had passed from generation to generation, ever since the first Konpaku used them to sever the border of life and death and find his way to the netherworld in the first place.

The first blade, the larger of the two, was Roukanken: the Tower-Watching Blade, forged by youkai hands and able to kill ten in a single swing. The second blade, small in comparison to the former, was Hakurouken - the White Tower Blade. If used on a ghost, it could break the cycle of reincarnation and thus force a spirit into enlightenment.

Used on a living creature, it would probably just kill them. (Another joke, obviously. If you aren’t laughing, I apologise. As requested, I have added two jokes, and thus you will hear nothing of my humour again.)

Father’s eyes turned to me, and for an instant I could see a smile rise to his face. He wouldn’t admit it, but he cared for me in the soft, parental way that he wasn’t supposed to show to anyone. For all his stiff and proud demeanour, my father had a big heart, and he devoted most of it to me.

I sat down across from him, copying his posture. For a few minutes, we simply sat there, not saying a word to one another. It was something akin to meditation - thinking of nothing, focusing only on the eyes of the person across from you. I have no idea what my father saw as he looked into my eyes, but the occasional proud smirk on his face was a good sign.

“Youmu,” he said at last, breaking the silence, “I have a question for you.”

My back straightened unconsciously. Father had a fondness for testing me with questions that were not really questions. Koans, he called them. The intent is not for the listener to know the answer, but rather learn something from trying to figure the answer out. The best known example is that of ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ - one that I initially tried to answer by literally clapping with one hand, which earned me a disapproving glare from Father.

This, though, was a new koan, and one whose answer I was not familiar with.

“When does a student’s journey end?”

Immediately I devoted myself to study of the question. The student’s journey? Was he referring to my apprenticeship with him? If so, the answer was simple enough. I responded with not quite confidence, but a definite tone of certainty.

“His journey ends when his master has taught him all he knows.”

Father glared. Unconsciously, I bit my lip. Besides me, my ghost half shivered. I had answered incorrectly, and he made no effort of hiding it.

He stayed silent, though, still looking straight into my eyes. He was giving me another chance. Perhaps he intended to have me ponder this question all day if necessary.

Think, Youmu, think. When does a student’s journey end? When his master dies? When he becomes his own master? When he feels he has learned all he needs to survive?

My thoughts were hazy, incomplete. Last night’s sleep deprivation was catching up to me. Focusing my attention so thoroughly on the riddle I had been set, I began to lose track of my own consciousness, and my eyelids started to droop.

Before I knew it, my eyes were closed. I was no longer truly aware of the world around me. Years of practice had trained me to focus on a point, on an ideal, with absolute precision. I no longer felt the floor beneath me, heard the whistling of the wind through the hole in the roof, saw the jade eyes of my father looking straight into mine. I was alone, with nothing but this question for guidance.

There were many answers that came to mind. The journey ended whenever it needed to end. The journey ended when the student thought it no longer worth travelling. The journey ended when the student surpassed the master. All of them made some degree of sense, but there was no epiphany to go along with them, no thoughtful lesson which the words were to teach me. That was against the idea of a koan, and so none of them could be right.

Time stopped having meaning to me. I don’t know how long I spent turning the point over and over in my head, looking for the answer I needed and finding nothing. I only know that eventually, my focus started to waver, and what had once been meditation started to waver into sleep. The question drifted out of my head, and rather than fight to pay attention to it again I let slumber take me.

In retrospect, I know now this was exactly what Father had planned. He was aware of my late-night training sessions, and that it would be easy for him to lead me into sleep with an exercise like this.

This gave him more than enough time to rise to his feet, and solemnly step out. Out of the dojo. Out of Hakugyokurou. Out of the netherworld.

Out of my life.

-----

I dreamt, but not in detail. I can recall that the dream was pleasant, but fleeting. It began with a pair of arms wrapped around me, holding me for a long while, before reluctantly letting go. Then followed a series of soft, gentle footsteps, growing quieter and quieter until I could no longer hear them.

The first clue I had to my laziness was the fact I was lying on my side rather than sitting on my knees as usual. I wiped a trail of saliva from my lips, pulling myself straight to attention and realising I had embarrassed myself in front of my father. I bowed my head in apology, ready to release a speech requesting forgiveness for my transgressions and promising to improve.

It was only a few seconds later that I realised I had no-one to deliver this speech to.

“...Eh?”

I was alone in the dojo. The spot where my father had sat was still illuminated, but he no longer sat there. His two blades lay untouched, still glistening as the light struck them.

That was enough to bring worry to my heart. Father would never leave Roukanken and Hakurouken unguarded. They were his most prized possessions, the key to the Konpaku lineage. I had never seen them more than a few feet away from their owner before, but now the blades were here and their master was not.

I sprung to my feet, a wave of fear slowly running over me. I poked my head through one of the dojo’s smaller rooms, what we used as makeshift bedrooms and dining rooms. No sign of him. Worse still, no sign he had ever been there at all.

That meant he was out in the garden, but - no. He would not leave the blades here. Not even in the most blatant moment of forgetfulness. Something must have happened to him.

My first instinct was to run out and search for Father, but that was a risk in itself. What if some ghost entered, happened upon the blades, and took them for himself? The Konpaku’s family heritage would be lost, and it would be my fault. I could not leave them unguarded, but at the same time did I have the right to hold them?

I considered the point for too long, and eventually chose to just act. I approached the blades with care, delicately returning them to their sheathes. I would not use them for fear of damaging them - surely Father would understand if I did that. He would forgive me for this disobedience - in fact, I didn’t mind if he didn’t forgive me. More than anything, I wanted to see him right now. I wanted to know where he was, what he was doing, why he had left. I had so many questions that I needed answers to.

In all my empty running along the gardens of Hakugyokurou, I found no answer. Just the echoing of my own voice amongst the trees.

“Father...? Father!”

I was running faster than I ever had in training. At times I half expected my body to collapse from exhaustion, but sheer panic kept me standing when my legs begged me to stop. He was nowhere. Not in the dojo, not in the garden, not anywhere. After a long, careful inspection of the mansion’s perimeter, I finally reached my limit and fell to my knees, panting and gasping for air.

It was only at that point that I realised I had been crying, seeing tiny pools of water form on the seams of my dress. It would be disastrous if anyone were to see this - the heir to the Konpaku family, reduced to a stuttering, sobbing wreck. My body shivered, feeling ready to curl up into a ball and die at any moment.

Perhaps that was exactly what I would have done if someone hadn’t rushed by me at that exact moment.

Immediately my heart soared, hoping the passer-by to be my father, but that was quickly proven false. I couldn’t identify the runner, but it wasn’t my father. They had covered themselves with a light blue cloak, perhaps to avoid recognition, and charged straight onward into the mansion of Hakugyokurou. The stranger’s gait was tricky - there was a sinister tone to their step, stomping mercilessly on the cherry blossoms of the garden.

Instinct kicked in and pulled me to my feet. Tears still hung on my face, but I had no time for them. An intruder had just broken into the mansion of Hakugyokurou.

And if my father wasn’t here to take care of this intruder, I would have to do it instead.

-----

I barely had time to appreciate the interior of Hakugyokurou as I gave chase, but what I saw I definitely approved of. The long, lofty corridors had a quaint air to them, and the occasional floral vase left a pleasing fragrance. Truly, this was a mansion fit for the esteemed head of the Saigyouji family.

It was a shame that the sound of footsteps running further into the mansion was accompanied by the sound of shattering pottery. More than once I had to leap over the broken pieces of whatever the stranger had knocked over. Immediately I found myself harbouring a sharp hatred of them, eager to let this blades see some use.

Father would understand. He would understand why I’d disobeyed and entered the mansion. He would understand why I’d disobeyed and wielded our family’s blades, even though I was still unworthy of them. He would understand, and he would forgive me. Surely.

The chase continued for a few minutes, giving me enough time to realise just how large the mansion actually was. Though small in comparison to the garden surrounding it, Hakugyoukurou still took a good few minutes to travel from one end to the other. I was impressed that my opponent could maintain their pace so easily - clearly they were as well-kept physically as I was, if not better.

Eventually, though, my target made a mistake. I heard them tripping, and picked up the pace, dashing through what must have been a banquet hall. I had no time to consider why ghosts would require banquets, and charged straight past into an interior garden. Various large rocks were standing here, and between them were beautiful pine trees, their leaves untouched by the advance of autumn.

The intruder had caught their foot on one of the smaller rocks, and was currently pulling themselves off the floor. I had more than enough time to cut the distance between us to zero, drawing Roukanken and preparing to cut my opponent in two.

They responded with a perfectly timed roll to the side, and the blade grazed the stone flooring. I was thankful now for having taken Father’s swords - a weaker blade would likely have snapped from the impact, but youkai tempering had made it much more durable.

As if in response, my opponent pulled out a pair of swords from beneath the cloak. It covered not just their back, but their front - I couldn’t even make out their face from under the hood, but from the way they had primed the blades they had a good idea how to wield a blade.

I grit my teeth, drawing Hakurouken in my other hand. I could not show weakness here, even if I was only an apprentice. I spoke as confidently as my nerve would allow.

“You would challenge a member of the Konpaku family to a duel of swordsmanship? I admire your courage, if not your intellect.”

The figure didn’t respond. In fact, they didn’t so much as flinch. That was a sign that either they weren’t familiar with the Konpaku family, or they felt that their skills were stronger than that of the legendary half-ghost clan.

From the way the hooded assassin attacked me with both grace and force, I could only assume it was the latter.

“Nngh-!”

The first blow caught me by surprise - a double-bladed lunge to the chest which I needed to use both swords to stop. It was a fast attack, and it was quickly retracted and followed up with another. Before I knew it I was on the defensive - blades coming at me from left and right, from high and low, each attack flowing naturally from the one before it. Lethal intent poured out from every strike, and I knew that if I made a single misstep I’d be dead in an instant.

There was no way I could hope to fight back against this barrage. My decades of training were only just enough to keep me alive - victory was a distant dream I had no hope of reaching. Every move was flowing straight from the one that followed, almost as if it was the Konpaku style itself-

Wait...it can’t be!

Still fighting off my opponent, I devoted myself to watching their movements more intently. That swing from the left to her neck, in coalition with the stab at the heart - that was the Fatal Dilemma (lose your heart, or lose your head). Then came both blades falling down to cut me in half - the Great Divider - before both swords made to slash straight along my diagonals - the Grand Cross!

They were all moves from the Konpaku style of swordsmanship. I’d thought the moves were secrets to the Konpaku family, but someone this assassin had managed to learn our style. They were performing the katas of the Konpaku fighting style to the letter, in the same patterns I had been learning since I was old enough to hold a sword.

I allowed myself a tiny grin. Perhaps this fighter was a skilled copycat, but this gave me two advantages. One, they were following the kata to the letter, so I could always tell where the next attack would be. Two, there were moves in the Konpaku fighting style that literally could not be copied.

Namely, the ones that required you to be half-dead.

Mentally, I ran through the lists of kata I had in my head, finding the sequence my opponent was using. Acting unaware, I blocked everything until once again both blades were in the air, ready to slice me in two.

I had already seen the Great Divider coming, and sent Roukanken soaring upwards to strike at the blades. The sudden strike knocked my opponent off balance for a few seconds.

Now!

This attack required a different level of focus from anything I’d used up until now. The ghost half at my side began to flicker and fade, passing into me and coming out as something else entirely. It was a double - a duplicate of myself that acted alongside me and obeyed my commands. It was Youmu, just like I was Youmu.

Taking advantage of my opponent’s distraction, I slid between their knees and quickly emerged on the other side. My double still stood in front of the attacker, and as we both held our blades primed we acted in perfect unison.

One fighter. Two sides. Two strikes. Father told me a distant ancestor had taken this technique from a warrior he had fought beyond the border. Whether or not that was true I didn’t know, but its effectiveness was unmatched.

“Turning Swallow Slash!”

From the front, my double came at the target with a slash from above. Behind, I struck from below, prepared to bisect the opponent from the bottom up. It was the ultimate skill of the Konpaku family, one that only a half-ghost could hope to accomplish.

I had to give my opponent credit solely because they didn’t die from that attack. One arm jerked backwards to block my blade, but Roukanken shattered the sword with ease as it hung loosely in their grip. The other hand barely held off the attack from my ghostly self, but the sound of smashing metal was a clear sign I had prevailed.

Immediately aware of their defeat, my opponent simply dropped the now-useless blades and fell to the floor. I was only now aware of the panting coming from beneath that cloak as my spiritual self returned to its normal form and came to my side. I primed Roukanken at my foe’s neck, ready to behead them at a moment’s notice.

“...Well, well. You truly are your father’s daughter, I see.”

A voice finally came from inside the cloak. Female, with a soft and playful tone in spite of the fact a violent battle had just ended. She pulled down the hood of her cloak, allowing me at last to see my attacker’s face as she turned to look at me..

Instantly, my blade dropped to the ground with a painful clang.

The face was that of a young woman, smiling as she looked back to me. Two dark red eyes, filled with curiosity and wonder, were focused on my face, and she took a moment to straighten the light pink hair that had the cloak had forced out of place.

Hair the shade of cherry blossoms...and student of the Konpaku fighting style...

I put two and two together at last, and realised I had been on the verge of making a horrible mistake. I fell to my knees, bowing as low as my back would let me, apologising profusely.

This was no assassin.

This was Yuyuko Saigyouji, the very woman I had been trying to protect.

“P-P-Please forgive me! I had no idea...I thought you were...!”

I couldn’t get a full sentence to come out of my mouth in spite of my best efforts. For the second time in about an hour, I was ready to curl up into a ball and die.

A hand reaching out to my shoulder pulled me out of my panic, and I looked into Lady Yuyuko’s eyes head-on. The look of affection she gave me was beautiful, moreso than any jewel money could every buy. I could understand why Father had spoken so often about her beauty now - I had never witnessed a woman so splendid in all my time here.

“Now, now, Youmu. I have a feeling we have much to talk about. Dry those eyes of yours and follow me, won’t you?”

-----

Though our initial meeting was far from ordinary, Lady Yuyuko was very much relaxed as she led me further into the mansion. She had discarded the cloak now that she had no need for secrecy, and I could see the light blue kimono she was wearing underneath. Her feet never touched the floor, always floating an inch or two above the wooden boards. She was a full ghost, after all, and ghosts do not care for measly things such as gravity.

That was the first sign something was wrong. I had distinctly heard her trip on the way into the garden, but that wasn’t possible for a ghost. I’d assumed it was some sort of human breaking through into the netherworld, like my ancestor had long ago.

There were so many questions I needed answers to now. Why had Lady Yuyuko disguised herself? why had she broken into her own home and damaged her own property? And most importantly, the question I’d been trying to answer for a long while - where had my father gone?

I let out the story to Lady Yuyuko in spurts, in the midst of sniffles and muttered apologies. She listened eagerly, with a youthful curiosity that belied her age. Supposedly, she had been in charge when my family had found their way to the netherworld in the first place, which would make her perhaps over a millenium old.

“Oh? Youki has vanished? I had expected as much after he gave me that request. Today is the day, after all~.”

She started pulling me along a little more forcefully now, a smile spreading across her face.

“W-Wait, what day? What’s happening?!”

It felt like I was the only one out of the loop, and worse yet Lady Yuyuko felt no need to inform me of what I was missing out on. She seemed almost to take pleasure in my confusion, and more than once she pulled at my cheek and called me ‘adorable’. I would have said her actions were out of order were it not for the fact that she was my mistress and thus had the right to decide at any time what was and wasn’t allowed.

After tugging me through what must have been half of the mansion, Lady Yuyuko led me to one of the side rooms in the far end of Hakugyokurou. It had a special lock on it compared to the rest of the rooms, signifying it was a special case, but the door hung slightly ajar. Lady Yuyuko nodded at this, muttering to herself ‘Yes, it’s definitely today!’ and once again keeping what ‘it’ was strictly to herself.

With an almost dramatic flair, she pulled the door open to reveal the room within. With all the fuss and excitement I half expected to find the room filled with gold, but all there was within was a small table upon which lay both the key to the room and a small piece of folded paper. For a second, I looked in with confusion, but then Lady Yuyuko pushed me in from behind.

“You have some reading to do, Youmu. Go on, go on!”

With that, I found myself standing right in front of this oh-so-important table as the door closed behind me. With nothing else to do, I sat down and picked up the paper left on the table, opening it up and examining the contents.

My eyes widened the moment the first character caught my eye. The faultless calligraphy, the perfect strokes - there was no doubt about it. This was Father’s handwriting. Knowing that, I quickly began to read the message, wondering if there was any sort of clue to where he’d gone.

By the time I’d finished the letter, I was crying louder than I ever had in my life.

”My dearest Youmu,
       I apologise for abandoning you while you remain so young. Perhaps as a father it would have been gentler to give you fair warning beforehand, or even to remain until you had completed your training. However, that is not what my father did for me, or what his father did for him. This is the Konpaku way, and I trust you will be able to continue the path some time down the line.
Do you recall the Buddhist teachings I offered you as a child? Do you recall the story of the raft? It makes sense to use a raft to cross an ocean, but if you then need to traverse a desert you do not carry the raft with you. You continue on without it.
Likewise, there is only so far my training can hope to take you. I never intended to share all of my techniques to you, but I have given you enough of a chance to develop your own branch of the Konpaku style. I have every faith that you will do the family proud.
This morning, I asked you a question. ‘When does a student’s journey end?’ I will tell you now, Youmu, that the answer is never. We are all students, and we are always learning. The moment we stop learning, training, studying, seeking new information, is the moment we stop living.

Farewell, Youmu. Know that I will always love you.
               - Youki Konpaku”


-----

So went the day when I unexpectedly became Youmu Konpaku, head gardener of Hakugyokurou and swordsmanship tutor to its mistress, Yuyuko Saigyouji.

I would later learn that this was how my father had come into his position, as had his father before him. None ever spoke of where they were going - they simply disappeared, leaving only Roukanken and Hakurouken as a sign they’d ever existed. Their child’s education was left unfinished - lessons unlearned, techniques never handed down.

But they were always taught enough. Enough to do their duty. Enough to train and develop their own techniques. Enough to be a worthy tutor to their mistress, and to continue the Konpaku family heritage.

At times I am uncertain of myself. I falter, I struggle, I flounder. I make mistakes that Father would never be seen making. Those days, I feel like I am disgracing my family name.

It is a relief, then, that there is a wonderful woman eager to comfort me when I am down and remind me that I will become stronger. Eventually, this period of confusion and difficulty will come to an end, and I will become every bit the swordsman that Father was.

After all, nothing lasts.

-----

(For those curious, Turning Swallow Slash is a reference to Sasaki Kojiro's Tsubame Gaeshi.)

Posting this without a proofreader. *in before OMGSOMANYTYPOESYOUSUCK*

GuyYouMetOnline

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Re: Succession
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2011, 07:49:44 pm »
Good stuff. But then, all your stuff's good (especially DRK), so that was hardly a surprise.

Esifex

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Re: Succession
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2011, 08:02:03 pm »
You just took a character (honestly, two characters) I couldn't care one way or the other about, and crafted a story up that actually makes me excited to see what Youmu is up to now - at least, in TH13. I know what she was up to in PCB and IN :derp:

This was really good, I thoroughly enjoyed it, mang.

Kips McKipzerson

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Re: Succession
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2011, 08:43:54 pm »
That was amazing. It's nice to see some Youmu backstory. I think Yuyuko tripped on purpose so that youmu could catch up? Or maybe it was a test, Because she's obviously rarely going to fight ghosts, and that means she's fighting people who could most likely trip. I really dont know.

Dizzy H. "Muffin" Muffin

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Re: Succession
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2011, 09:15:29 pm »
I think that was just Yuyuko being her usual conscientiously-derpy self, really. :3

But yeah, this was generally awesome.
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Cystral Dragon

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Re: Succession
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2011, 11:50:54 pm »
That was really awesome... that like really really awesome... and now I shall spend the next hour rereading it and showing my friends.
Well I should've made it Prince of Void.
Re: Succession
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2011, 11:59:48 pm »
I haven't had the time to rip this one to shreds, so this is my initial impression.

Very good narrative: I like that the prose is descriptive, but not flowery, as can be expected from the serious minded Youmu, and the jokes attempted are terrible and Youmu is very frank about being forced to throw them in.

I would like to see you do another first person narrative, except from the point of view from someone more... colorful, I guess. I'm interested in seeing how you write that sort of perspective.
Re: Succession
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2011, 06:54:44 am »
Wow. Good writing.

I uh..yeah, its really good, sorry I don't have something more constructive to say.
I have...a terrible need...shall I say the word?...of religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars.
 

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