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Return to Seventh Holy Scripture
I took the package and laid down on the bed with it, opening it carefully- perhaps the paper would be of some use. Inside was a book. It was obviously hand-bound, with somewhat crude materials; the cover looked made of woven hemp, and bore no title. Was this the chronicle that Eirin had spoken of? After regarding its blank visage for a few moments, unimpressed, I moved a hand to open it.
"I do not think you will be able to read it, but you are welcome to try," the book said abruptly. "Bayi Yong-lin."
I would have jumped, but lying down on the bed wasn't conductive to that, so the resulting movement merely shook the bed. After staring at the hemp volume for a few moments, I made the obvious inquiry. "You can talk?"
"I am a book youkai. I can speak any language, but I know only what is written in me."
"Oh," I said, trying my best to look nonplussed. Best wonder about that later. "Do you have a name?"
"Certainly. Izanagi, Izanami, Amaterasu, Susanoo, Tsukuyomi-"
"No, I meant a name of your own." The book did not reply. I assumed that meant it knew nothing.
Since I had been invited, I opened it up. It didn't seem to be discomforted. The first page had once been blank, but a set of trigrams had been handwritten on it in graphite, with a signature in kanji; Eirin's name. "What does this say?"
"I do not think you will be able to read it, but you are welcome to try. Bayi Yong-lin."
"You said that already," I muttered, and then blinked. "Oh." The creature must be completely literal, and Yong-lin must be Eirin. "Why are you saying Eirin- Yong-lin's- name in Chinese?" I flipped forward to a random page, and refined that question. "Actually, why are you written in Chinese?"
There was no answer from the book. After a moment of thought, I figured it out on my own. "Man'yogana, I suppose." If this volume was recent, then it really was a thousand years before my time. I went back to the second page, which also contained handwritten trigrams. "What does this say?"
"I am a book youkai. I can speak any language, but I know only what is written in me."
Since it was no use trying to read its further contents, I closed the nameless book youkai, and tried another line of questioning. "What do you know about the moon?"
"Next he said of His Augustness Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto: Do Thine Augustness rule the Dominion of the Night. Again he begged food of the Deity Uke-Mochi. Then Uke-Mochi took out all sorts of dainty things from her nose, her mouth, and her fundament, and made them-"
"I know all that. What about the moon people?" I interrupted.
"And thus did the children of Tsukiyomi-no-mikoto send their emissary to the Court of His Augustness Emperor Sui-nin. A gift of dyes was procured, such as could not be obtained in the lands of Tsukuyomi. The children of Tsukuyomi swore that so long as the Earth-Dwellers remembered them, the Glorious Yamato Empire would never fall."
The creature was even more bizarre to listen to then Eirin- on the verge of being painful. "Anything more?" I persisted.
There was no reply.
That told me little, and I doubted that the book would be able to answer my other questions. Eirin must have known that; I supposed this was her idea of entertainment rather then education. I wasn't fond of reading, but I'd have to settle for it. Rolling over and gazing at the ceiling- it had a tapestry pinned to it, on which a figure with a bow shot an arrow at the sun- I said "Tell me about Hachiman." I'd always liked Hachiman.
After about an hour of being brushed up on my history, I drifted off to sleep once again, heedless of the book youkai droning on beside me. It seemed like my only respite these days.
I woke up to find Eirin sitting at my bedside and watching me silently. "Don't you people ever knock?" I asked her.
"Rarely. It is felt that we should be able to sense the presence of others." She grinned. "In practice, it is not so, but no one would dare reveal that."
"Well, is there some reason you didn't wake me?"
"I presumed that you needed the sleep."
"Sleeping is about all I've done for the past three days." I sat up, absently rearranging the robe I wore to a semblance of modesty; something only my unconscious would bother with.
"We will be visiting a few people that I hope will be capable of keeping you awake. But first, take your medicine." She drew a vial of black liquid from her pocket.
"What is it?"
"A tonic of the mind. It cannot replace those memories of yours that are gone, but it will weave some cohesion into those that still remain. In your current state, where they say I have eight minds-" she indicated her own head- "it is as if you have eight clouds."
"I should probably be insulted, but I can't argue with that." I accepted the vial, removed the stopper, and sniffed. "Ugh."
"Good medicine tastes bad," she offered.
I closed my eyes, and then attempted to drink the elixir as quickly as possible. It didn't quite work; I gagged and spat out the last few swallows onto the bedspread, which the doctor had smoothly evacuated. I estimated I'd gotten about three-quarters of it down. Eirin seemed satisfied.
With that particular thing, at least. She pointed at the dress I had thrown in the corner. "I have told people that you are a visitor from another time. You would do well to dress the part. There remain doubts about your sanity; appearing in a bathing robe would not serve to dispel them."
I considered dressing in front of her, but was not in the mood our mutual unconcern for modesty that far. Perhaps some other time. After I changed in the bathroom, we left the room and the hotel, Eirin leading the way.
I walked the streets of the city for the first time as a free woman. "What's this place called, anyway?" I asked Eirin.
Unlike the guards, she was not shy about taking me through the busier streets. Two blocks from the hotel, we emerged into a bustling market, with many roadside stalls. I was unsurprised to see that the majority of them were piled high with fabric; food was a secondary commodity, with many round fruits for sale. All of them metallic, of course.
I glanced at Eirin, and then pilfered an argentine orange for later consumption. If she noticed, she didn't care. We proceeded through the thick of the street market to a quieter portion of the avenue, lined with artisan's shops and offices. My escort entered a strange little building, with spinnerets, and I followed.
The first thing to hit me was the smell. Sulfur and traces of the heavy metals, poorly masked with herbs. I knew, even before the owner appeared with his requisite pointy hat (two-tone in this world,) that I was in a magician's residence. I was not a party to the resulting conversation in Lunarian, so I looked around. This place lacked most of the usual character; the reagents were stored neatly in identical white jars, the brazier had a vent and a safety shield, and there was only a single shelf of tomes.
Eirin abruptly turned and addressed me. "This man would be Hiraga to you. He is an, um-" she frowned, searching for the right word- "life-upon-magician. He will assist me to perform an enchantment." She pointed at a hexagram (this time, the geometric figure, not the set of lines) that was drawn on the floor. "Would you stand there?"
"What kind of enchantment?" I tried to ask, but the two already had their eyes closed, and the man known as Hiraga was chanting softly. Figuring she'd be quite angry if I wasted her spell over such a minor concern as my own well-being, I decided to do as she had said, and positioned myself in the center of the hexagram.
Five minutes later, the chanting stopped. I had developed a minor headache, but no other change was evident. "What was that?" I asked again.
"Ah, that's much better," Eirin said with audible relief as she opened her eyes and turned to me. "That enchantment made it possible for you to speak and understand any language fluently, at the cost of some of its subtleties. You don't even notice you're speaking Lunarian now, do you?"
"I am?" I blinked.
"Of course, if you were a connoisseur of language like me, the loss would be significant- that's why I've never had it done myself. I hope I haven't stolen something invaluable from you." She addressed Hiraga again. "Thank you for your help. I'm proficient with magic and anatomy, but the connections between the two have forever eluded me."
The magician bowed. "It is always a honor to assist a lady of the court," he said. "Please remember the humble Hiraga if you ever have need of a bio-thaumaturge again."
"Why doesn't everyone have that done?" I asked Eirin as we left the shop. "I mean, I can understand why you wouldn't, but most people- myself included- couldn't care less about languages."
"A few reasons. First, there are only two languages in common usage on the moon, and they're mutually intelligible," I was taught. "Second, as I said, we rarely deal with your kind. Only the emissaries need to speak anything other then Lunarian, and in some cases- like mine- we choose to learn your tongues the difficult way. Third, bio-thaumaturges are expensive. Unless they're trying to curry favor with the court, like Hiraga there."
As she spoke, I took the opportunity to eat the orange I'd stolen. Eirin offered me a handkerchief afterwards.
"I see," I replied to her speech belatedly, after wiping my mouth. "Where are we going now?" We were walking up a wide, quiet street towards a magnificent palace. Few other people were around, except for some guards, who evidently recognized my companion or her uniform and kept their distance.
"To visit one of the Emperor's counselors. This particular one is an amiable man, but also a very powerful one. Please try to make a good impression." She crossed her arms. "My status is insufficient to have you kept in comfort merely as a curiosity. If you interest him as much as you interest me, he will be able to arrange a court function for you- something meaningless, like ambassador from the Earth."
"Does that mean I'm staying here?" I asked.
She glanced at me. "Did you want to return to Earth?"
"I hoped to," I said. "I don't remember any of my time on it, but... it was my home once, after all."
"It's probably not possible. Opening the gate between the worlds is a very difficult spell. It's generally only done by the Emperor's command." She cleared her throat. "That means one of two things. One, the Empress desires some color for her wardrobe that simply cannot be gotten here. They'll dress it up in other words, of course, but that's the essence. That happened... oh, only about fifty years ago, so it probably won't again for at least another five hundred."
"And the other?"
"Someone noble commits a capital crime. Murder of an important personage, conspiracy to spoil the Emperor's picnic, journeying to the forbidden mountain of Hourai and so forth. Rather then executing those people, they're usually packed off with an entourage to the world below and declared dead on paper." Eirin glanced at me again. "Before you get any ideas, I'm insufficiently noble and you aren't at all. We'd simply be executed."
"Nothing of the sort ever crossed my mind." Hourai... that name was familiar. I'd ask her about it some other time. We were arriving at the palace, and these guards didn't simply make way for Eirin; she went to present our invitation.
After being fashionably detained for an hour, we were escorted across the palace to the counselor's meeting room. Eirin gave me some last-minute advice; she seemed quite nervous. "He will ask you about your world. Please be as coherent and detailed as you can, or it will look very bad for both of us," she said. "I should have given you a double dose... no, maybe triple."
"If you had, I'd be unconscious with a shallow pulse," I replied. "I'll do my best."
"Your best may not be enough." She wiped her forehead. "This was stupid of me. I should have made sure you were capable first, but I was too excited..."
We fell silent as we were brought into the presence of the counselor. He was the first Lunarian I had seen who looked somewhat elderly; by human reckoning, he might have been a distinguished man of sixty. Oddly, his hair was black like Eirin's, not the silver that might have been expected from age- or the rest of the Lunarians. We were seated, and continued to be silent until he spoke.
"I am Counselor Shou-ri. This is the one you spoke of to me, Eirin Yagokoro?"
"Yes, Counselor," she replied in an uncharacteristically subdued manner.
He examined me. "This courtier has told me that you are from time other then our own. Do you have proof?"
A straightforward fellow. "None but my knowledge," I replied.
"Provide me with a sample, if you would."
I paused for a moment, gathering my thoughts as Eirin looked worriedly at me. This time, they came easily. Perhaps that tonic had been good medicine after all.
"I come from a small country named Gensokyo. It will be created as a distinct entity approximately a thousand years from today, in the land you may know now as Wa, Yamato, or Nippon. During that era, the powers of steam and a force called electricity came to surpass magic, and great distrust developed in magical creatures and practitioners. One of the most powerful of my kind worked with humans to create a seal around Gensokyo, historically a dwelling place of youkai and those who fought them, now a sanctuary for both of us. Elsewhere in the world, those magical in nature- whether human or youkai- likewise hid or were exterminated."
"Since then, the world beyond Gensokyo has been a very strange place. Everyone lives in huge cities, and vast machines tear up the countryside to create them, replacing forest and grass with steel and concrete. The humans claim to have landed on your moon- by soaring through the sky to it in a ship, no less- and found it to be a desolate rock with no air. Life is not present there, nor is it possible. So far as we know, Gensokyo is the last remaining paradise."
"I realize that sounds unbelievable, nor would I wish to believe it if I were in your position. But that is the future I remember. Give me sufficient time, and I will provide as much detail as is needed to prove this is not just my own fancy."
The counselor spoke again. "Well, if it is merely fancy, you are indeed a storyteller." He smiled wryly. "I would appoint you our court poet, but I doubt your work would ring well with the emperor."
"I'm sorry to present such a desolate picture of the moon's future," I said. "But probably by that time, you have learned to hide yourself from humans entirely, as Gensokyo did. From what Eirin has told me, much of your race would be amenable to that."
"That is true. Yagokoro and I-" he indicated the woman next to me- "are the odd ones, the 'human-lovers', as some like to accuse. The rest of the moon would as well forget that the world below existed. Except for their carmine, and their royal purple."
"Lunarians are lovers of color, aren't they?" I decided to be bold, since I . "In my time, some humans have become fond of dying their hair. Pray that never catches on here, or the market streets will strike us all blind."
A glance told me that Eirin was stifling a laugh with supreme effort. This proved unnecessary, as the counselor let out a hearty one himself. "Some of the counselors would have you thrown out for insulting our race," Shou-ri said. "But it is just as you say; the things of our world possess little color of their own, so we impart it to everything we can."
"Coloring one's hair," Eirin pondered out loud. "I know a couple of bio-thaumaturges who would give much to possess that idea."
"An excellent opportunity indeed. I would offer to help set your friend up in private enterprise to make use of it, but I think that would be betraying my responsibility for the welfare of the people of the moon." The counselor grinned again. "You were hoping for a court position for her, Yagokoro?"
"Yes, one with no responsibilities. I thought Ambassador of the Earth or some such title might provide her a place where we could converse in comfort."
"I would rather make her useful." The counselor addressed me. "Do you think you could be a teacher?"
I blinked, as did Eirin. "A teacher of what?" I replied.
"The princess has been very bored lately. She has expressed a desire to learn more about the world below and its customs. I believe Eirin passed on to you a book youkai we created that was intended for her; she found it far too dry."
"I don't know much about history, but I could learn," I said. "Eirin, does that enchantment I just underwent extend to written language?"
"It does... and the City has the best library on the moon; there should be at least a few chronicles of human history there," Eirin admitted. "But, Counselor, are you sure about this? We know very little about this person. If you will pardon my impudence, I'm not sure even you could-"
"It will be difficult to convince the Emperor, no doubt, but she is uniquely qualified to be the Princess's tutor on this subject. One hour a day, under the observation of her personal guard. That should be reasonable enough, don't you think?"
Eirin only nodded, looking somewhat stunned. It seemed this was beyond what she had expected. The counselor continued: "However, there is one thing you will need."
"A name," Shou-ri said with a smile. "Yagokoro told me that you can remember nothing about your own person. If so, you will have to give yourself one anew. Any ideas?"
I pondered it for only a moment. "Yakumo," I replied. Eirin gave me a queer look.
"Just Yakumo?" the counselor asked.I glanced down at myself. "Yukari Yakumo," I elaborated.