Return to Mokuren
It looked like an ordinary ceremony of sorts, except he was the sacrifical victim.
The Hakurei border looked like an ethereal barrier of unclear depth with swirling escherian constructs and hints of a landscape that appeared to be made of multiple overlaying of other landscapes. An unhealthy mess.
Mokuren was suddenly starting to feel much less of an urge to get back home.
“Seriously, Yukari, what’s the point of trying if we know it won’t work already?”, he was supposed to step in, and with Marisa poking his sides it was difficult not to. It tickled, damn it!
“My little girl, we can’t know what’s wrong unless we try. Please step in, it’ll be all fine”.
“... I hope”, was Reimu’s comment, that completely unsold him on Yukari’s confidence. Not that he really needed any proof, her I’m screwing with you-type of smile was pretty clear already.
“But still... Is there no way to do it without deliberately screwing with my safety?”, Marisa was having one big world of fun tickling him, which almost made him step inside the barrier.
“I don’t know, Yukari’s the one that-”
“There is none, my little girl”
Reimu’s shrug indicated that she was fine with that answer, and that was bad already, but then, she also seemed to remember having something to say.
“By the way, Meimu”
“Uh? What is it?”, he really was sensitive to tickling. Stupid Marisa.
“I hope you aren’t too eager to leave because of this”.
She showed him the front page of the Bunbunmaru Newspaper, it was an “extra” edition with a picture of what looked like him, Mystia, Rumia and Wriggle on a grassy field. Needless to say, said picture was taken when he was glomping Wriggle.
Needless to say, huge print characters read “FORBIDDEN LOVE”, so bold it could have been read from another continent.
“W-wait!”, she could at least have asked Marisa to stop torturing him, but she evidently approved of all that, “It’s not how it seems!”
“I hope so. But be warned:”, she pointed an accusing finger towards him, “If I ever see bug half-youkai children around, I’m going to come to the other side of the border and snatch you personally”.
“Take responsibility Meimu, take responsibility!”, was Marisa’s chant, as if the tickling torture wasn’t enough already.
“Meimu be gone!”, Marisa yelled as she playfully pushed him inside the border.
Once inside, and once the tickling finished, everything looked less threatening and dangerous. The border itself was still pretty strange, but he was walking on a normal-like outdoors path in the midst of the unshaped non-euclidean chaos; That’s cool, I guess, at least there’s no soul-sucking elves around.
He walked, feeling weightless, he was approaching something and the landscape was starting to become more and more defined.
But then, he heard a chime that sounded a bit too familiar to that of a Windows ME error message, and the landscape suddenly turned into huge, blocky letters. There was very little to read, but it was very clear.
ERROR 403: FORBIDDEN
“Ah! Yukari! Something’s wrong!”
“See, Reimu-chan? I told you so!”, was the enthusiastic answer.
To Marisa, Alice and Ruukoto, who had no power on boundaries, everything looked exactly as before: a barrier made of absolute, utter nonsense; nothing changed between the moment Mokuren stepped in and the moment, a bit later, in which he was shot out with the force of a hurricane, nearly knocking everyone up in air and flying towards the horizon at the scream of “OOORANGEEEEEEeeeeeeeeees...”.
As he blinked out in the horizon, Marisa recovered her hat, “Whoa, you’re right, ze, something went wrong”.
“Ah! Mistress!”, Ruukoto said just before leaping into the air and flying in the direction Mokuren was shot; none of the others followed.
“Yukari, you have to explain this one”.
“Ara, ara, Reimu-chan... I can’t”, she giggled, covering her mouth with her fan, “I don’t know what’s wrong with my little girl”.
Needless to say, the red and white wasn’t really sold on that, “You’re not hiding me something, Yukari, are you?”.
“I have nothing to hide from you, Reimu-chan, you know I never would”.
“Well, anyways”, Alice intervened, “Now that the bugger is gone, can’t we just stop bothering about her? Not that we can do much if she isn’t here anyways”.
“Aww, but I was starting to like h-”.
“NO! I mean... Forget about her, Marisa, she’s not worth your time”.
As the coughing and blushing Alice started walking away, Reimu sighed, “Well, she’s right, we have to figure out what’s wrong with the border, first”.
“But Reimu-chan... As you have noticed, it’s not the border that is at fault, isn’t it built to keep people from entering and leaving, after all?”.
“Except when we both are here to make it otherwise, Yukari. The border never disobeyed me or you before, let alone the two of us combined”.
“But, but, but, Reimu-chan... Hasn’t the vampire lady laid her unholy fingers on my little girl? I’m sure she has something to do with all this”.
Reimu didn’t like the face Yukari was making, and she didn’t like what she was implying either, but there was little she could do without Mokuren to experiment with. But even if he was there, the barrier seemed to reject him with unnatural violence, making further experiments tricky at best.
In the meanwhile, Alice came back in all embarass once she noticed Marisa wasn’t following her (or even noticing she left), and as she returned she stated “Well, Reimu, good luck to you and your boundaries friend, I and Marisa will return to our business now, call us when that bugger with the sword is gone so we can celebrate. Kthxbye”
This time, she took the good measure of dragging Marisa along so she wouldn’t have a reason to come back again, which left Reimu and Yukari alone. Not a good situation, but not the worse Reimu has ever been into.
“This Mokuren girl...”, she shook her head, “There has to be something about her, I have the feeling I’m overlooking something very important”.
“Reimu-chan, you’re just overlooking yourself”, Yukari scuttled closer, “Why don’t you rest up a bit? You are just tired, a cozy nap will-”.
“No”, she promptly answered, “No, no and No again”. Then, tenseful silence filled the blank between her last “no” and a brief flash of insight inside Reimu’s brain; she gave Yukari a long look, the I-just-realized-you’re-hiding-me-something stare.
“Say, Yukari”, she mused, “Mokuren said you saved her from a youkai at her first night”.
“Ara, ara, indeed I have saved my girl”.
“And not only you have saved a human you could have eaten, you have taken her away from another youkai after you brought her here, and you’re not the compassionate sort”, the more she talked, the more Reimu was convincing herself that it was all Yukari’s fault, “It almost looks like you haven’t brought just an ordinary otherworlder in, Yukari. What are you planning?”.
Saying Yukari wasn’t in the mood for joking anymore would have been an overstatement, Yukari was never “not in the mood to joke around”, but something that Reimu said must have triggered her “plot advancement” subroutines.
“Say, Reimu-chan”, she then said, “What if there was something going on and I felt that my best trump card could be outside of Gensokyo itself?”.
“Something going on? What do you mean? There’s nothing going on, stop being so quizzical about everything, damn it!”.
“Awwww... Reimu-chan, you’re so cute when you’re angry!”.
He knew not how far he flied, let alone where he was, and for one thing he wasn’t even sure he was conscious or dreaming or if he just wake up from that long dream that his stay in Gensokyo must have been.
Giving the prick in his nose, he was clearly awake and conscious, and nose-deep in a field of random flowers. The flowers themselves were actually pretty and nice-smelling, even thought they didn’t make sense... They were supposed to belong to different seasons and climates and all.
But then, he was in a garden, and as he started to get up, he realized that yes, he was in somebody’s house.
... And he came in by crashing through the main gate.
No surprise his head was aching.
“Ouch”, he said without creativity, but his head was really aching, “Where am I?”
He did not expect an answer, but then: he didn’t expect to see a cute girl standing in front of him like she’s been there the whole time, waiting for him to wake up just to make up for all the trouble he gave her by crashing in her house, taking the gate down.
Said girl was clothed in a cute pinkish chemise and a checkered red jacket and skirt, her moderately long green hair framed her face in a reservoir of absolute moé; the white parasol was preventing the sunlight from harming the delicate lighting effects on her figure, and her eyes were as deep as they were hopelessly beautiful.
And as she smiled, Mokuren thought Oh shit it’s Yuka! Get in the car!.
But there was no car.
“Oh”, he instead said, “So...”, he weighted every single word as if it could be his last, and it easily could, “Is it ok if I stay in hell even thought I’m not dead?”.
“No, but don’t worry”, Yuka seemed enthusiastic, “It’s nothing I can’t fix”.
“N-no, really, there’s nothing to fix... Look, I can even, like, get out of hell”.
“There’s no way out of hell, my little soon-to-be-gone friend”, she was smiling all the way, as if meeting a new friend and witnessing his depart had the same joy. Especially if his depart was caused personally with murder through excessive firepower.
“E-Eh?”, he knew he was supposed to draw his sword and fight, but he also knew it would have been a waste of last energies.
She extended her parasol in front of her, almost touching Mokuren, and stretched her other hand, the grin in her face, this time, was making her look like the main character of a supernatural horror story, one with many, many, many violent murders.
“Do what now?”, she said in a voice that made him freeze deep down to the bone.
He was supposed to be dead, but he heard a voice, a clear voice, shouting something at him, something like “You’re doing it wrong! GTFO NOW!”.
In less than one second, he managed to roll a natural 20 on his reflex saving throw, a violent rush of air accompanied his take off as he moved faster than he ever did in his life.
Not fast enough to dodge a Double Spark from that close, thought.
He took half damage, and realized it was not only enough to send him way below 0 hps, but also way below -10 and probably way below -infinite anyways; he meditated on the special qualities of his barrier jacket as he crash landed several hundred meters away, out of the house and into a forest. He was hurting all over as if he had been ran through by the most powerful spell in Gensokyo, and if there were two of them cast at the same time.
Since it was actually the case, he was hurting so bad he wasn’t feeling any pain, just the dull awareness that yes, it hurt, and no, it wasn’t going to stop hurting anytime soon. He coughed up smoke, and firmly decided he didn’t want to know how that could happen. He tried to stand but failed, he couldn’t even feel his muscles, let alone use them.
“Pretty close one, huh?”, he heard again; it was a female voice, it sounded pretty energic and rather tomboyish, but was somehow soothing too. And it came from inside his head, which was curious.
And just who are you?, he thought, since he couldn’t speak.
“Somebody who saved your ass. Anonymous does not forgive, especially if they hurt her precious”.
That didn’t made sense, or maybe it did, Cool, can you help me move?.
“No”, was the simple and flat-out answer, “But don’t worry, there’s somebody that’s covering for you”.
He had enough strength to look around, or at least move his eyes, and he could see that... Well, if Yuka was angry because of the damage to her house, she was an idiot, because now there were entire sections missing. There were entire acres of forest missing, too. Say what, it was a surprise he was still in less than two pieces, and now that he thought about it, Yuka probably wasn’t angry at all.
But where was she, now?
He couldn’t see her, and couldn’t hear her either. Which was good, the farther he was from her, the better; maybe she left him for dead?
Who is covering for me, by the way?.
“Pranksters”, came the answer, “I think”.
He was starting to feel some sensitivity kicking back in, and he gladly took advantage of it to try move his body.
He promptly regreted trying.
Can’t you do something to help me?, he asked; he still didn’t have a clue who he was telepathically talking to, but he wasn’t in a condition to bother with such inane details.
“I guess so, but it won’t last long. Even talking to you costs me power I still can’t draw too well from you”.
Wha? Wait, hold on, you’re doing what from who?
“Details, details, just give me a second...”.
The agonizing, soul-searing pain that was about to kick in was suddenly dulled and stopped, “You can move now”, the voice explained, “But you’re better off trying to look for help before the effect runs out. I wouldn’t want you to die on me, you know”.
Thanks, he could get up, but he wasn’t trusting his muscles too much yet, the felt like they were going to break if he was to use them too much.
For some reason, Yuka wasn’t chasing him, and now that he was standing he could admire the sheer amount of destruction she laid just to get rid of him for no reason at all except for the heck of it, which was apparently a very valid reason for random destruction in Gensokyo.
He took advantage of that to hustle deeper into the non-destroyed forest.
Now, Mokuren was pretty used to walking in the wilderness and whatnot, but being in a place he has never been before was pretty harsh on him. That is, if he bothered to try follow a trail or a direction, but since he was navigating by sheer sixth sense it didn’t really matter. Except for the part in which he wasn’t meeting anything or anyone, which was pretty bad considering he was told the painkilling effect wouldn’t have lasted forever.
“There’s no use walking around like this”, he said, resuming his habit of talking to himself when he was alone; he somewhat expected to hear the voice again, but he didn’t. Well, she did say she couldn’t draw too much power from him, whatever that meant, “I guess I’ll just have to use my power detection prana”.
He then proceeded to focus, activating his awareness charm; he remembered that sort of “sixth sense” that warned him of danmaku users and people in general, he used it more than once, even thought he still wasn’t sure of what he was doing.
But it worked, and oh, the readings really explained something.
He grinned, drew his sword and fired off a wide blue beam on the top of a nearby tree; the impact was strong enough to shake several leaves off, making the ground tremble in the proximities.
Two fairies fell down, one on each other.
“Soooooo there”, he said with his sheepish grin, trying to look as intimidating as possible in his ragged, 0 hp state, “What do we have here? Fairies playing tricks on travelers? It seems you have picked the wrong person to play with”.
“WAAAAAH! We’re sorry!”, the two girls were dressed in white gowns... Or a white and a pinkish one, and they were clearly fairies; but didn’t he feel the presence of three? Oh well, nevermind the third one.
“We didn’t mean it! We’re honest! It’s Sunnymilk’s fault!”.
“No! It’s Luna’s! It was her idea to get you to Yuka’s place to see what would happen, not mine!”.
He intended to thank the two for actually covering up for him against Yuka, but this last piece of newsflash must have got to his nerves more than he could realize, because the two, after looking at his face, were now scared beyond health.
“Ooooh, pulling practical jokes, are we?”, he was trying to decide which one to kill first, and was about to disembowel both with just one swing, “I can imagine the fat laughs when I was about to be disintegrated, oh, that must have been very, very funny”, it almost looked as if his sword was going to spring out and kill the two fairies itself, without waiting for the miko’s arm to move, “So, did you have enough fun!”.
“NO! No! - I mean, maybe yes! But no!”.
“Enough of this!”, if he had a whip, he’d be cracking it menacingly, but swords don’t do that trick, “Where the hell am I, now? Answer quickly, or I’ll kill one and ask the other”.
“F-f-forest of magic!”.
“... Ok”, he sighed, he had to expect that, “Where’s the quickest way out?”.
He sighed again, no good... “Fine, fine. Now go, before I botch my compassion check!”.
He didn’t need to ask again.
As he was left alone again, he took a moment to recollect his thought and do a mental checkup of his condition. It wasn’t too bad, but he couldn’t last long either, and with no place to fall back and recover he might as well consider himself toast.
“Come out, I know you’re there”, he then said, “I’m not going to hurt you”.
A third fairy, with long black hair and a blue dress, came down from a different tree; contrarily to her partners, she didn’t react bad to being discovered, “Interesting, I thought I was the only one with this kind of power”.
“Sixth sense and plot immunity is all I have, I damn better be able to make a living out of it”, he tried to smile, but found it somewhat hard, damn it, are my reaction times getting dizzy already? “Thanks for covering me, at least you didn’t left me out to die. I guess it’s more than I could ask out of a trio of fairies”.
“We were worried Yuka might come after us as well, it’s not like we got a crush on you”, she smiled, “Besides, now that I know you can sense us, we won’t be pulling pranks on you anymore; you scared my partners enough”.
“Very well”, the tip of his sword touched the ground and he assumed a much more relaxed pose, “Still, I would like to hear from you again every once in a while, your ability to hide and mislead people isn’t something I want used against me. To do that, I need to survive, thought”.
The fairy gave him a long, careful look, and she nodded, the hint of a smile still on her lips, “That’s nice. But you’re going to survive anyways, aren’t you? Such a big tough youkai as you shouldn’t have problems”.
A pause. “Oh”, the fairy said, “Well, guess it’s bad to be you”.
“It’s ‘it sucks to be you’. By the way, I’m Mokuren, temporary assistant miko at the Hakurei shrine”.
“Star Sapphire”, she said, “Well then, I guess it’s farewell for now, miss shrine maiden”.
“Well, if I can ask for a favor before you leave...”.
The forest of magic was a weird place, all in all, and navigating it was challenging to say the least, but Mokuren had a direction to follow, and he was happy enough with that.
The trees and foilage eventually gave in to prairies and roads, resulting in a more forgiving traveling experience. Unfortunately, Mokuren’s time was running out, and while he could keep walking onward, he was dragging his sword along the ground as if the only thing his numb hands could do was keep a resemblance of grip.
If I have to take a turn somewhere, I’m toast, he thought, even talking was too much of a strain, She said there was someone around here that could have helped me. Well, I guess this someone might have moved.
He sighed, trying to look up at the sky, albeit slowly, for sudden movements could have killed him on the spot, Now, now, Meimu, try to be positive, Reimu’s gonna be pissed if you die on her. You can’t die with debts.
He blinked, an extremely tall figure was towering in the horizon, it was all white, as if covered in fur, and had two short forelegs pointed onwards close to the tucked cat head. He blinked again, and he saw shining golden cats flying through the clouds.
Oh shit, I’m seeing 4chan memes. This can’t be good, he decided to move on anyways, doing his best to ignore the sexy young man with the jumpsuit, leisurely sitting on a public bench, but even then, the road looked like it was never coming to an end.
The party van screeched close to him, too close; he lost his balance and fell off the road, losing the grip on his sword. He clearly felt he didn’t have the strength to stand anymore, he didn’t feel pain, the numbness had taken over everything once the magical painkiller effect started running out; his vision had gotten murky and hazy, he had to strain his eyes to focus on anything, and all he could focus were blades of grass.
And Yotsuba, with a fairy costume and a magic wand, and her demented expression, looking at him.
“I will eat your soul”, she stated.
And in spite of everything, all he could do was smirk and say “Gb 2 /b/, n00b” before everything faded to black.
“Will she really be fine on her own?”
Reimu looked up from his talismans, she almost forgot about Patchouili until she was about to make dinner and noticed she wasn’t alone anymore. Well, not with just Yukari anyways; she and her devil familiar were taking Remilia’s order to sticking with Meimu’s situation pretty strictly, she didn’t remember that bookworm staying out of her library for that long.
“It’s not the first time she’s been out by herself, you know. She’s growing stronger too, I’m sure she can fend off a couple youkai”.
“I wonder...”, Patchouili looked a little distracted, in spite she brought piles of book to read, “I have the feeling something bad just happened to her”.
“I’m worried too”, Yukari of course didn’t leave, she was taking a sick interest in this, and it was never good when Yukari took interest in something, “My little girl, it’s late in the night and she still didn’t come home. My poor, poor little daughter...”.
“She’s not your daughter”, Reimu sure was going through a lot of excitement lately, unusually so, even for a Gensokyo period, “You’re youkai, she’s human, she can’t be your daughter. And even if she was, I wouldn’t want to know who’s the father”.
“Reimu-chan, I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you...”, she looked away, blushing on command, “I had an affair with Marisa...”.
Reimu’s veins were growing bigger in spite her general expression didn’t change, “Stop talking nonsense”.
“I’m sorry, Reimu-chan, I stole your lover for just a night!”, she then somehow popped out behind her and embraced her warmly, “... But if you want, I can give the night ba-”.
One Evil Sealing Circle later, the kitchen was back with just her, Patchu and Koakuma. And a hole in the ceiling.
“It’s not that”, Patchouili said after a while, not bothering to make sure there was a connection with what happened before, “It’s just that it’s strange she hasn’t come back yet. The Hakurei shrine is not too difficult to spot for a flier, and her robot maid went looking for her too”.
“I bet she’s chasing the skirts of that bug youkai”, Reimu paused, then shook her head, “No, that’d be chasing her trousers... She doesn’t wear skirts”.
“I hope so, at least she’d be fine”, Patchouili looked back down on her books.
A quiet, peaceful and appropriate silence fell back down in the kitchen. Rice and miso soup wasn’t much of a grand meal, but Reimu was tired enough from the latest events that she didn’t even feel like complaining about her bacheloric lifestyle; in a way, it even felt good to go back to such simple roots, especially with the sudden amount of excitement that went her way in the past days.
“It’s strange”, she then said.
“What is?” Patchouili didn’t even bother to look up, Marisa was pretty used to this, Reimu a little bit less, which made her pause a little bit before continuing.
“Meimu”, she simply claimed, “She’s a quiet girl, all in all. When it gets quiet, it’s as if the silence isn’t the same without her”, she paused again, pondering on her words the moment after she said them, “And it’s odd, but I feel like her name is fitting, even if it’s a sick inside joke variation of mine”.
“You miss her when things aren’t lively, like with Marisa, but for different reasons”, Patchouili nodded sagely, “That girl is a very unusual one”.
Moments of silence passed, and both started noticing something was wrong.
Patchouili blinked, then blushed, “It was... Just an example”.
She moved the book closer, as if to cover her face, but it was clear she was deep red in the face and regretting being so open-mouthed about something; even Reimu, who wanted to delve deeper into this particular development, decided to look away and leave it be.
She wouldn’t admit it even on the brink of death, but she had gotten a bit red too.
Shikieiki Yamaxanadu, Yama queen and judge of hell, her job was to give all souls entering hell a fair judgement, have them reflect on their sins and repent, and then send them back to the reincarnation cycle (unless they were somehow beyond salvation).
She was mostly relaxing, it was a lazy day in hell, Gensokyo didn’t have such an extremely high death rate, especially considering it wasn’t too large and some creatures, like ghosts, fairies and hourai, couldn’t really die. Incidentally, they were the same kind of creatures who were more likely to “die”, so most days in hell were as lazy as this one.
Except for the moment in which Komachi, her servant shinigami, barged in Shiki’s studio, opening the door and posing at the entrance, “Boss! I brought in a weird one!”.
She immediately stood up (because the door banged loudly against the wall), blinking herself out of confusion and the sudoku she was deep into, “A... A weird one? What do you mean?”.
The weird one came in, she saw, and she realized.
“Meimu?”, he slapped his palm on his face, “Ok, this is hell”.
“She claims she’s a man, she claims she comes from the outside world, and she claims to be a temporary assistant miko and she claims she’s not dead”, Komachi looked very proud of her catch, “Not bad, eh?”.
Shiki sighed heavily and sat back down behind her desk, “Yes, yes, not bad...”, she then looked up at Meimu... Well, she didn’t look like that other shrine maiden; she was taller, flatter and goth, and she had that “I’m-pissed-but-so-much-happened-I’m-just-really-tired” face that made her passage to the afterlife pretty meaningful.
“Well... Meimu? Is that really your name?”.
He opened his mouth, then closed it, thought deeply as to what say, and then eventually said “No, but call me like that please, it’s much easier, and everyone ends up doing so anyways”.
“Uh... Ok”, a really weird one, Shiki gave a glance to Komachi, who had this proudly demented expression, continuously expecting approval. Two weird ones, actually. “Yes, yes, thank you Komachi... Now-”
“Can I stay and listen to her judgement?”, she was really taking the girl’s fate to heart, and the girl (claiming to be a man? Why?) in question didn’t seem to mind too much, somehow.
“Well, I should summon the court and all...”, she didn’t feel like doing so, thought, just for one soul... And it looked like this soul had a pretty long and strange story to tell anyways.
“As I said, however, I’m not dead”, her voice was heavy with events and hardships, but rather calm nonetheless, and she seemed strangely unimpressed with all that happened. Not too surprising actually, considering it was a soul with high spiritual power, she must’ve been used to weird things already.
“I know it can be traumatic to acknowledge”, for this time, Shiki let her compassionate side float up to the surface, “But you really are dead if you are here. Don’t worry thought, it’s not bad; I’ll just have pass by your sins, have you reflect upon them, and when you’re done you’ll reincarnate”.
Meimu looked like she wanted to say something, but in the end she just sighed, took a chair to the other side of the desk and leant upon it with her arms, looking tired with her life even thought it was over. In the meantime, Shiki took a large, leather-bound book out and started flipping through it.
“Let’s see... Mmmh”, she started mentally reading through the lines, “You haven’t been too honest with yourself, have you? Well, it’s not too serious, but you should reflect on it so that you don’t do the same mistake in your next life”.
“I guess so”, Meimu sighed, “If I were given another chance, thought, I don’t know if I would have done things differently. It all worked out pretty well in the end”.
“I’m also seeing you haven’t been too honest with other people, especially about your feelings to them”, she quirked an eyebrow, “I hope you haven’t hurt hearts or stolen too many precious things”.
“Oh, again with these precious things, I-”, she stopped and sighed heavily, “... Ok, ok, I haven’t been too honest but... It’s not easy, you know”. She paused, “And if I had been honest, I’d have arrived here long ago”.
“I see. Understandable, but still-”. She stopped, suddenly, and blinked. She flipped back and forth from a couple pages, looked up at Meimu, looked back down at her book and then up at Meimu again. “... Where are them?”.
“The pages”, she flipped back and forth again, “Your past. Where did it go?”.
Meimu blinked, then sighed, “I told you, I come from the outside world... These pages probably refer to my sins in Gensokyo only”.
Shiki blinked, then looked up at Komachi whose expression was even prouder and even stupider, “Well...”, the judge of the dead flipped again through the pages, then was forced to nod, “I see... I must admit you can be overly honest when you have to”.
“Thanks, it’s called desperation”.
“At any rate, you died under my jurisdiction, so I have to process you”, she smiled, “Don’t worry, with such a short record, you only have a little bit of time to spend in hell. If you’re lucky, you can be reincarnated in a couple days’ time”.
“If you want”, Komachi intruded, “You can even have some control on what you will reincarnate into. I’m pretty sure you would make a great youkai out there”.
Mokuren blinked, “Youkai?”.
“Well, considering your spiritual power, there is a chance you can come back as a youkai”, Shiki nodded sagely, “It’s not a very slim one, either”.
Mokuren blinked again, then started snickering, Oh, this is just great... “Hi guys, sorry if I haven’t called lately, I’ve been stranded in Gensokyo. Oh, and I died and became a monster that shouldn’t exist here with powers that flush all science down the toilet. Did you miss me?”.
“I’m sorry”, he eventually said, “But I really think this isn’t going to happen, not now at least. See, I’m not dead, really”.
“Look, Meimu, I know it’s hard to acknowledge, but-”.
“... But what is this, then?”.
And she pointed to a silvery cord tied to her back, which was running straight into one direction and eventually fading through the door.
Shikieiki looked at the cord, looked at Meimu, looked at Komachi, then back at the cord. Then back at Komachi. “Komachi, do you know what that thing is?”.
The death god blinked, “No, what is it?”.
“It’s a silver cord”, Shikieiki explained, “It ties the soul to its body, so that in case of out-of-body experiences, the traveler can track back his body and return safely inside”.
“Oh”, said Komachi, but she clearly didn’t get it.
“IDIOT!”, was Shiki’s reaction, accompanied by smacking her servant in the face with that... Rod of hers, “She’s right! She’s not dead yet!”
Meimu sighed, “Well, not that we all agree I’m not dead, can I leave? I have pressing business like, for example, try to survive”.
“Well, relax, Meimu”, Shiki sat down, adjusting her hat and wiping her doublet before taking a more composed air, “You are not dead yet, but your silver cord doesn’t look good. If it keeps fading like that, it’s only a matter of time”.
Mokuren peeked at his back, and couldn’t help but agreeing with her; the silvery cord with an almost starry pattern was flickering and blurring, getting weaker by the moment; it was a slow process, but it sure was much, much weaker than when he entered the room.
“I guess there’s nothing I can do about this, is there?”
Shikieiki shook her head, lifting her hat to pass a hand through her green hair, “I’m sorry; unless something in the living world happens, all we have to do is wait”.
And so they were going to do, except Mokuren felt a sudden chill to the spine; he turned, and noticed his silvery cord had froze. It didn’t blur or move anymore, it’s as if it froze in time, stopping its decay.
... And lengthening his stay in that stupid limbo.
“Well, what is it now?”, he moaned.
She boggled at the result, blinking herself out of stupor, she lifted her gaze and her eyes met the fairy’s, and her up thumb.
“EYE AM GREAT!”, she shouted, “Eye can freeze humans, too!”
Ruukoto looked at her mistress, peacefully frozen in a prison of ice as if she was just sleeping, then back up at the blue-haired fairy with the intelligence and awareness of an overused internet meme. She was proud of it; she was proud of it, that was the worst part.
“WHAT DID YOU DO?!?”
Cirno instinctively cowered, the band-aid on her forehead was a pretty good (and fresh) reminder that Ruukoto was not the kind of person to piss off, “Waaah! What else did you want ? I’se a snow fairy!”
“My mistress is frozen in ice! How am I going to save her now?”.
The robot maid kneeled down by her mistress, she was on the verge of tears, which was pretty odd considered she wasn’t supposed to have such biological functions, but Cirno was more worried that she could go berserk again, so she thought hard for a solution.
“AHA!”, she then said, as the hamster powering her brain had a heart attack and died horribly in soul-searing agony for having overworked, “I know! We need a prince!”.
“... A prince?”
“YES! A prince!”, she nodded proudly, “When you need to wake up a princess, you need to have a prince kiss her!”.
“But mistress is not a princess...”, Ruukoto looked depressed, caressing the ice casing, unaware that a princess kissing an ice casing containing a frozen human being was the most ineffective cure since banging one’s head against a spiked wall.
“Uh... Well, she can be. Is there not a game called Princess Bride or something? She can be that”.
“But my mistress is not a bride, either!”, Ruukoto then stopped, and her wicked and sick artificial intelligence started visualizing images of Meimu in a bride’s dress. Long, flowing and pitch black.
“Uh...”, Cirno was starting to get out of options and brain power, and ordering another hamster would have taken time, and drawn the righteous anger of the WWF, “We can... Dress her up?”.
Ruukoto quickly slapped her hand on her nose, in time to prevent the blood to spray on the ice casing, since it could have melt it, “N... No”, she said as she turned, muffled behind her own hands, “We... We can’t”.
Moments of embarassed silence followed as Ruukoto used some water and a handkerchief to wash herself. “Well then”, she said as she stood up, “We need to find a prince”.
Return to Mokuren