Author Topic: (Setting) (Under construction) The City  (Read 1738 times)

(Setting) (Under construction) The City
« on: August 24, 2013, 02:28:50 PM »
Started from a goddess. Lot of big things do, I'm told, good and bad. First ? and stop me if this starts sounding familiar ? the goddess gave us fire, right from the heart of the sun. Then she gave us steel, figuratively. Steel, lightning, technology, machines... you name it, she gave it to us, just a regular Prometheus. A name, I might add, which I didn't even hear about until she started going on about it.
     
Obviously, fire can burn and steel can cut, believe you me, I know that better than most people. Back in the old days, that was all you had to worry about, but that's not the problem any more, you understand? 'Course you do, just need to look around. The problem now is that fire and steel can create, they can build, and that's where the trouble starts.
     
Now, this goddess, she figured out that you catch more flies, so to speak, with honey than you might with vinegar. Give 'em machines that spit out miracles on the regular, and just why wouldn't they flock to worship you? Crank out enough of those, and humans, crafty bunch that they are, take it from there. She always took care to stay at the top of the pile, though; not that she'd be so crass as to sell 'em, of course.
     
No, she did things differently. She won't charge you, oh no, that wouldn't be right coming from a goddess. But it'll take a tithe, you understand, and a bit of the old worship here and there won't hurt any. When everyone else charges an arm and leg, the ones that only want an arm and a prayer start to look real attractive, you follow?
     
...Way it used to be, I could get a nice, dark, stormy night for this kind of story. Not any more. Sky as black as a fallen angel's wings? Wind and rain knocking on your windows like a beggar, hoping this'll be the one house that lets 'em in? Forget about it. Only colour you're getting on these nights is neon, and the lightning and rain? All gets bottled up and sold to the highest bidder; you know this city's a lost cause when even the sky's a slave to the corps.
     
Speakin' of corps, that's how little miss Prometheus wound up, and her family too. After a couple decades of running like a business, no one really knows the difference, 'part from a few 'eccentricities' you hang on to. Those divine types have to keep themselves fed somehow, after all; all the money in the world doesn't quite cover that.
     
She's not the only one running the show, you understand. Everything from the gutters up to the Violet Lady herself has someone in charge, trying to claw their way up. No, I'm not saying her name, it's bad luck when she's got eyes everywhere. Long and short of it is, we sold half the city to a goddess and half of it when the devil came along in a shiny red suit. Know what the difference between them is?
     
Damned if I know, probably just the rent.
     
'Course, it's not all bad. Nothing's all bad. We've cracked the secret to immortality, got a cure to everything you can name. Everything but being too poor to live, and the only ones who can afford immortality are the ones who got there already. Turns out that when you find a way to show death the door, all you've done is put a price tag on life. Funny, huh? Word to the wise, though, you ever get a chance, don't spring for one of those.
     
Cleaned up the stree- nah, who am I kidding? Got rid of the monsters, though, all the types that go bump in the night, 'cept for the ones that go into security work or run the world already. One by one, they find out the night, the wild, it's all gone, and they just have to file into their little shanty towns. Used to have an exorcist around these parts, too, our own little guardian angel in the old days. Stood out like blood on snow, might have saved the city once or twice. Old and retired now, living off charity.

Then again, I guess you can't rightly call most of us human any more. Used to be something special when you're, say... part mask or something, but it seems like everyone's got a bit of machine in them nowadays, walking around with their face full of metal and their brain hooked up to some kind of... whatever you call those big, fancy calculators. I haven't been keeping track.
     
Some people will tell you half of what's been made out there is impossible. You know, I'd believe it, but when you've been here long enough, you start to get used to that. Might be the only reason it works. Soon enough, it turned out all those old 'myths' were right, and you know, no one bats an eye at that either. Bet you've heard about it a couple times, the way one of those cameras  takes your soul with your picture? Scientifically proven. Wonders of the modern age, I'll bet.
     
They panicked well enough for a couple years, but eventually... well, you've got to have cameras, you know? Security. News. Keeping some memories. What's a soul anyway? Soon enough, people move on and let it slide; I'd be surprised if a newborn baby kept its soul for more than a couple minutes. Gotta say, there's a point to the ones that don't care, if you think about it. You'd have a hell of a time finding anyone with a soul in this city, this just makes it official, you know what I mean?
     
This sort of thing, though, it leaves... ripples. The afterlife's as empty as anything. No ghosts there, see? Not much in the way of people either, and it's got some beautiful gardens. What I'm getting at is that soon enough, people cottoned on to the last pristine place they could get their hands on, like a pack of vultures that just heard about our fair city's darker alleyways.
     
Now? Nowadays, it's nothing but tourists, holiday makers, resorts and shops. The afterlife's one of the most popular vacation spots around, believe it or not. You tell me what it says when the richest and brightest of our city would shell out all the money in the world to die for a weekend. I don't want to think about it.
     
Others didn't adapt fast enough. Hell? Just a bad neighbourhood. Judge of the dead? Out a job, living in a dingy little apartment, runs a police station about an hour's walk from here. Only cop you can trust  nowadays, between you and me. Guess that explains why she's one of the poorest. Going to catch her death at the end of a corp's knife one of these days, I reckon, not that the average thug's a match for her.
     
Look, kid, I don't know what more to tell you. I don't know what happened, and I don't recognise this place any more. The city's screaming for help and no one's stopping to listen. I've heard talk about how the city and 'the land', whatever they think that might be, is like a phoenix. Rising from the ashes, no matter what. Let me tell you, I've got a notion or two about that, and it's not as simple as they say.
     
'Sides, you have to kill a phoenix before it comes back. Guess we're halfway there already, though.
     
This place... well, I call it home. I don't have a choice, rotten as it is. At least it starts to look a little rosier after the third glass. Most of us call it... ah, all sorts of things; you look like the gentle type, I'll spare you the list. Then you get the poor buggers who don't know when to quit, the ones that don't know when to let go, when it's a lost cause. They stick to an old name, years after it stopped fitting or meaning anything.
     

They call this place Gensokyo. Brings back memories, eh?



- - - - - - - - - - -



What you see here is the end result of a bad joke taken much further than it should have been. A few weeks ago, fueled by a head full of Shadowrun and the Gunpoint soundtrack, I wrote this over the course of about two hours. If you scrolled down here immediately, that probably spoiled the twist for you. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything. If you read the whole thing, thank you for your time, and I suppose I need to give a few explanations.

Firstly, this is Gensokyo roughly 30 years in the future, after the plans Kanako hinted at in MoF and SA went through, then subsequently went out of control. Secondly, the narrator is Mokou. The washed up exorcist mentioned above is Reimu, while the Violet Lady is Yukari, if you couldn't guess. The judge is of course Eiki, perhaps the only honest member of the force - she is, after all, incorruptible by nature.

The 'devil in a shiny red suit' is, of course, Remilia Scarlet, CEO of Scarlet Enterprises.

Part of the technological advancements can be attributed to magic helping along, and another part to Gensokyo's nature: All sorts of discredited theories and pseudoscience that would never fly in the real world are perfectly fair game here.

I have... a good few more setting details, a few writeups and so on if anyone is interested - an exchange between Marisa and Reimu, and a two-part story for Hina - but I'll hold off on that for now. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them. If you're already reaching for something to pelt me with (understandably), I know a good supplier for rotten fruit, so just say the word. Looking forward to any feedback I may get on this, either way. Thanks for reading!

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
Re: (Setting) (Under construction) The City
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2013, 02:54:54 PM »
Interesting setup. I'm curious as to where you're going to go with this. :O

Re: (Setting) (Under construction) The City
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2013, 03:18:15 PM »
Interesting setup. I'm curious as to where you're going to go with this. :O

Thank you. I've got a little more on me, so here's another sample. Some back-and-forth, dialogue only again (last time, I promise!) between Reimu and Marisa. The first bit of supplemental material I wrote for this.

- - - - - - -


   

"You remember chickens, don't you? From when we still had fields? You know how they would keep running around even after you take their heads off?"
     
"Sure, I've seen it a few times before. Like that time when I was flying by the village about thirty years back, only I overshot a bit and ended up-"
     
"Right. And you know how a shrine maiden is supposed to conduct rituals?"
     
"Yeah, but you never did. Said it was too much hassle, and no one's listening anyway."
     
"That was then. Call it... call it a favour for a very old friend. A family friend. Take a look out the window, if you can see anything through the smog. What does Gensokyo look like?"
     
"Different. Colder, brighter. Less green. Less... lively? Look, this hasn't been good to any of us, but nostalgia's not gonna help us. Go on, put the bottle down, you shouldn't even be up so late."
     
"...Too good to me, Marisa. I tell you, life'd be a lot simpler if another late night killing my liver was enough to put me down. We're not old enough to have it that easy just yet. Do you know what you saw? I was at this before the spell card rules even got started. I know a corpse when I see one, but no one in this city cares. When the day comes, I'll..."
     
"We'll save Gensokyo together, is that it? Just like old times? C'mon, cat's out of the bag, I bet that's what you called me here for. Don't worry, you've got me on your side-"
     
"Save it, please. Heart can't take seeing you all hopeful like that. Reminds me of the old days. No, I'm just... just going to give it a nice little send-off. Put up a headstone behind the shrine, give Gensokyo at least half the funeral it deserves, so it can tell, at least, that I know what happened to it. Favour for a friend."     
     
"...You make sure you tell me when that happens. Wouldn't want to miss it. But why toda-"
     
"No real reason. I know it's loud here - I can hardly hear you over the cars, but... some nights, the shrine's still too quiet when I'm by myself. Simple as that."

Re: (Setting) (Under construction) The City
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2013, 11:19:24 PM »
Last of the currently existing writeups, this one is a two-parter for Hina. With fancy titles and everything.
------


Rota Fortunae

   

It took a strange road to make a man choose to sink into the sewers, doubly so when they held almost certain death. It was a stranger road still that led one to do all they could to secure gifts from under crushing debt for the honour of descending into a deathtrap. Gifts for a rumour, an urban legend, a myth that, if it had ever been real, was probably long dead. Alive or not, it had no reason to care about him.
     
Desperation was a curious driver, and it took the carriage of his life down unfamiliar and frightful roads. It might have seemed mad, to put all his stock, trust and future in the hands of a myth, and had he been asked at that exact moment, he would have agreed in a heartbeat. On the other hand, given how little help reality had been, he was forced to look for solace where he could.
     
With a heavy heart, he started down the ladder, looking up for what might be his last glimpse of the sun. It was just his luck, then, that a cloud of smoke had chosen that moment to block it out completely. A parting gift from his former employers at Scarlet Enterprises.
     
When his feet hit solid ground again, greeted by damp concrete, he hardly noticed the stench. Fear has a scent all of its own, and it has a way of drowning out all others. In the silence of the tunnels, he knew that the other residents of this place had smelled it as well.
     
He looked at his shaking, calloused hands again. The withered hands of a man who was far too old to be here. The city had seen to it, for that matter, that he was too old for his age. The city made old men of countless others who had barely caught a glimpse of it in their short lives; he would not be the first or the last.
     
The offering was intact. A small cup of rice wine, the largest he could afford - he worried, even now, that it might be small enough to insult the ruined goddess of the tunnels - and an old, broken doll. He had heard that she was fond of dolls. That she had a soft spot for broken things; if he did not qualify, perhaps the doll would.
     
As he searched in the gloom, fearing with every step in complete darkness that he might trip and lose or destroy the offering, he did not once call for her. On this, the stories were clear: Do not call the goddess of the sewers. Do not light your way to search for her. Though you may never find her, she will find you. If you search for her yourself, you risk drawing the attention of the hungry mouths that lived below the ground.
     
The air here was cold, damp, and yet he found himself sweating regardless, shuddering with every step for reasons that had nothing to do with the cold. The wet floor tried with every step to drag him down and dash his frightened mind against the concrete, hateful, jealous of the sunlight it would never see, and determined that he would share his fate.
     
Steadying himself against the wall, he picked up his pace quickly when he saw a change in his environment. The darkness had been quiet, omnipresent, oppressive and hostile, but until now, it had never once watched him. The darkness had never seemed so starved and desperate, so eager to see him fall. Somewhere, he could hear a quiet shuffle, the movement of countless tiny feet.
     
The darkness was getting closer, denser, punctuated only by staring eyes. He moved as quickly as he could, little more than a brisk walk, with the cargo that could be his only hope. He might have turned back, if he fancied his chances of reaching an exit in time, but that sort of suicidal optimism had been bled out of him years ago.
     
Soon, he heard the first squeak. They were watching, waiting for their chance.
     
The longest minute of his life came and went in a darkness suddenly so quiet that he dared not breathe. At the end of it, he was no longer alone. Someone was in the tunnels with him, shown only by a pair of green eyes, narrowed to slits. A bright light in these gloomy surroundings, accompanied by the sound of breathing that could, with great effort, almost be called human. A wheezing, rasping, hissing intake and exhalation of air, a breath almost as tortured as that of the city above.
     
His own eyes widened in terror, and he tried to back away, as quickly as he could. Suddenly, he longed for nothing more than the company of the hungering dark. A hand reached out, smeared with dirt, but otherwise as pale as the dead, snatching the offerings away from him. The figure drank the wine down after a moment of confusion, unsure as to what was to be done with it, before dropping the cup, where it shattered against the concrete in a thousand pieces.
     
It then clutched the ruined doll to its chest, with a soft cooing sound, and the yellowing, fang-like teeth, framed in red and green against the surrounding shadows, formed a warm smile, however twisted. And then, just as quickly, it shooed him away, pointing down a passage without a word, before disappearing into the tunnels' endless night that it had come from.
     
The first panicked, speeding footfalls were all it took. Seconds later, with a cacophony of squeaks and hisses of hunger and excitement, the rats were after him, the pitter-patter of thousands of miniscule paws racing across the floor. Thousands of fangs drawing closer.
     
The slick concrete finally won out, and he slipped, striking the ground with a crash that rattled his bones, but that was nothing compared to what it did to his heart. His terror only grew when he felt the wound on his forehead. The swarm could smell blood, now, driving them into a frenzy. He started to run again, but he could already feel fangs nipping at him through his shoes, barely grazing his feet. Rats scattered in every direction to avoid his footfalls. He had come here in the hope of salvaging what little good luck could be found, but already, sheer misfortune and foolishness was promising to kill him where no one would ever find a body.
     
It was enough to make him wonder if it had been a mistake to leave on this mad search without leaving a note behind. At least no one would look for him.

Suddenly, a section of old, rusting iron pipe fell from behind him, disrupting the swarm. It struck the ground with a loud crash, flattening some of them and scattering the others in every direction, set to a chorus of panicked hisses and squeaks. It would buy him a few seconds, but no more. He clasped his hands together in a gesture of prayer as he ran; even down here, someone might be listening.
     
A beam of cold, electrical light shone down from above, the glow of a street lamp, the numberless stars of the city that had helped to bury the old world's nights. A ladder lay ahead, rusted and lit with what looked, to him, like a pillar of light from heaven itself. It had not been open when he had came through this path before; he could not imagine why the cover above was gone now, nor did he care.
     
Scrambling up the ladder, clinging to it for dear life as the bites of the horde below threatened to drag him down, he escaped to a choir of starved, disappointed and furious rats, deprived of their first real meal in days. Hurriedly closing the path behind him, he looked around at the empty street, covered in filth as he was, and could only feel lighter than he once was.
     
For his offerings, the ruined goddess had taken a great weight off his heart, and left hope in its place.

---------

Broken Spokes

   

It was, technically speaking, a pilgrimage of sorts. She was never the religious type - despite what her profession might indicate - and certainly never thought of herself as such, and so the decision would most likely strike many as a rather odd one. Yes, she brought a gift, in a manner of speaking. She was making a journey to a shrine, to visit and speak to a goddess. A journey many others would consider dangerous, but even in her relentlessly advancing age, she knew she had nothing to fear here.
     
Technically, her trip into the filth-ridden, gloomy tunnels held every possible trapping of a religious pilgrimage, and yet, she thought of it as anything but that; the notion had never so much as crossed her mind.
     
This was a visit for a friend. True, a friend that might not recognise her, had not spoken in years, and one she had barely known before the world changed, but... a friend, all the same. She needed the help, and for once, Reimu was in a rare position to give it. She had come down here once a month for years, because it was only right to do so.
     
The gift she brought was nothing so extravagant as those of the desperate, harried and skeptical souls that the city had ushered down here. It was hardly a gift at all. A shopping basket - she didn't quite have anything else on hand - with a kettle of water, some tea leaves, a pair of chipped tea cups, a rag, a portable gas stove and a spray bottle containing some soapy water.
     
It was not, in other words, much of an offering. It was never really meant as such.
     
The dark, dank silence of the tunnels was oppressive, and the shrine maiden had no such patience for such things. She struck a match against a drier patch of the wall, igniting the wick of a candle with it to light the way as she called out for the goddess.
     
"Hina? Are you home?"
     
At least she knew her way around the tunnel, as much as was needed to take her to the once-goddess's shrine. It was a sad, broken thing, a reflection of its owner, all splintered wood, rust, grime, rolling hills of dust, broken glass and rotted paper tassels. It was, despite her monthly efforts, a sorry sight. Some days, she wondered if Hina was even aware of its state. That might have even been for the best, if she was oblivious.
     
The lady of curses herself only nodded ever so slightly at Reimu's question. There was no way it would have meant anything if she could not already see the goddess, though she could only wonder whether or not her hostess was aware of this.
     
The goddess was in a sorry state herself. Caked with grime and dirt, eyes sunken and hollow but glinting with an almost feral light, she stared out from between matted hair as if trying to hide behind it. Her once extravagant dress is tattered and soiled beyond recognition, only showing the slightest glimpses of red here and there. Overgrown nails extend like claws from her hands, stained with mud, the odd bit of blood and other things best left unconsidered.
     
In spite of her almost monstrous appearance, she smiles warmly through yellowing teeth that sit on just the wrong side of fangs, inadvertently showing the remnants of her last meal caught between them. One of the many sewer rats, by the look of it. Reimu made no comment as she set the basket on the floor and sat down on the moldering straw mat. She never did.
     
"I'm here for my monthly visit," Reimu explained. Slowly, quietly and clearly, so as not to startle or confuse her hostess. Despite the savage and - to some, at least - no doubt fearsome appearance, the shrine maiden saw, somewhere in her eyes, a look that would be more at home on a wounded, frightened animal. At this, Hina only stared with a look of gentle befuddlement, still maintaining the same blank smile.
     
This again, then. The same song and dance that came with every single visit. Practice, contrary to what she had heard throughout her entire life, did not make this any easier, but she began all the same, with a resigned tone, though not so much as a sigh, or anything else that might show discontent.
     
"I'm Reimu. Reimu Hakurei. Shrine maiden. I come here every month. I... no, it's okay, I don't need anything. I'm not here for favours, I just came to visit. Really. I come here, clean up the shrine a bit, and we have tea and talk together. That's all. Remember me yet?"
     
The smile, never wavering, turns a little apologetic, and the goddess slowly shakes her head. She never thought she would get another answer, but it didn't hurt to hope. Years upon years, and she remembered none of it. The visitor returns this with a smile of her own, patting the ragged goddess - who seemed all too keen to back away and hide from the light of the candle, as if afraid of what Reimu would think if she were to get a better look - on the shoulder.
     
"...That's alright, Hina. I'm just passing through. A visitor for the shrine, just like old times." This seems to relax Hina ever so slightly, and she gives a quiet nod. In all her visits to these sewers, the shrine maiden had never once heard a word out of her. She suspected for a long time now that the broken wheel of fortune could no longer speak.
     
The queen of the tunnels, such as she was, watched as Reimu set up the stove, boiling the water and eventually placing a cup of tea in front of her, which she takes with the same tranquil, happy expression, sipping slowly at it. The drink was still practically boiling, but she didn't seem to mind, if she even noticed.
     
"There's more where that came from, just say... just get my attention if you would like another cup, Hina. I'll get to mine in a bit, I have work to do." With that, taking up the rag and spray bottle, she sets up cleaning the ruined shrine. She might have tried to rebuild it, but she could hardly afford the tea she had brought down here. The least she could do was clean up every now and then.
     
As she goes about wiping the old, broken wood, her eyes come to rest, as they did every time, on the doll sitting on one of the shelves. An old, worn out doll with loose threads everywhere. A Nagashi-bina, dolls sent to drift down the river, to absorb the misfortune of others as they spun downstream in their little straw boats. It might not bear the slightest similarity to her now, but the way she used to be, as Reimu remembered her... the resemblance was almost uncanny.
     
She had heard stories, back in the day. Theories that Hina was not just a minor goddess, but a strange sort of ascended tsukumogami. She paid it no mind at the time, but the question came to mind, now, every time she touched the doll to move it aside, ever so briefly; the only object kept painstakingly pristine by the goddess's hands, unlike the rest of the shrine.
     
"Hina? Who is..." No good, she would have to talk to answer that particular question. After a few seconds of consideration, she rephrases the question. "This doll. Do you know who it's supposed to be?" The question catches the attention of her hostess, who immediately and intently watches the doll, scrutinising every part of it. For a split second, hesitation crosses her expression, but then she smiles again, shaking her head from side to side. Just a stranger. A doll in the likeness of no one in particular.
     
Reimu nodded in response, returning to her work for another twenty minutes or so, before sitting down to sip at her mug of still-lukewarm tea alongside Hina. She talks, for a while, in a completely one-sided conversation, of things Hina did not know, would not remember, and did not have any way of seeing for herself without the tunnels.
     
Gensokyo was doing well, far above, though Youkai Mountain might still take a while to recover. Spring had arrived, clouds of fairies filled the air, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. There would be a festival at the shrine next week, with all the old regulars, starting with Suika, attending it. Hina herself was invited and more than welcome to make an appearance, if she could find the time. Everyone on the surface missed her, after all; they would all be happy to see her back.
     
What she didn't know - much less remember in a few hours from now - couldn't hurt her.
     
The broken goddess followed every word of this with her characteristic blank smile, nodding excitedly every now and then, and declining the invitation with an apologetic, wistful look. Even now, she knew precisely how dangerous her presence was; the very instinct to avoid human contact until she was needed was what kept her here, even if she could no longer recognise it. Still, the news made her happy, as far as Reimu could tell. It was hard to say, sometimes, if everything did, or if the opposite was true and her fixed, glassy smile meant nothing at all.
     
With her supply of news from the outside exhausted after a little over an hour, the two sat there in amicable silence for a while, lit by flickering candlelight. As it began to dwindle, however, Hina quickly stood up, ushering her out. It was not safe to be here any longer, in her eyes; spending over an hour in her company was bad enough. She holds Reimu's hand, drawing the shrine maiden away while hearing, like every other time, the promise to return in a month's time.
     
In return, Reimu received the same look she always did. She had learned to read it over the years, having seen it once a month. It said only a simple five words, clear as day every time, five more than the goddess could bring herself to say. Every time, every visit, the message was the same, And she left knowing that nothing she did could change those words.
     
Thank you, whoever you are.