Author Topic: Rising Star (Complete At Last)  (Read 66417 times)

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
Re: Rising Star
« Reply #120 on: August 11, 2010, 06:21:40 PM »
A sizable update for once! And I might even wrap this arc up tonight! Please don't hold me to that. ;_;

-----

I don't know what was worse. The fact that this was happening, or the fact that there was nothing I could do about it.

"Hijiri...what are you doing...?"

I must have looked pathetic, trying with all my might to get to my feet and falling uselessly back onto the floor. My grip kept slipping thanks to a pool of my own blood - a reminder that life's strongest cruelties were in its ironies.

"The hell is wrong with you?"

"Hijiri, it's dangerous out here! We'll...we'll buy you time!"

Unlike me, Ichirin and Murasa were still ready to fight at a moment's notice, even if they were well aware that they were outmatched. Misato ignored them entirely, focusing only on the target she was called upon to take care of.

"Is this a trap? The demonic witch I've been ordered to exterminate would never give herself up so easily."

"Then I'm afraid you've been misled, child. I am not so selfish as to let these innocents die in my name."

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

Don't move.

Don't you dare move.

I just took the beating of a lifetime to protect you. You are not giving yourself up when everyone here is willing to fight to the death to keep you safe.

Don't. Don't-


"H-Hijiri! Stop it!"

Ichirin suddenly found herself turning a 180 - rather than blocking Misato from reaching Byakuren, she was stopping Byakuren from reaching Misato. She stood firm in front of the monk, set to hold her back by force if necessary.

Byakuren simply took her by the shoulder and nudged her out of the way, as if Ichirin was offering no resistance at all.

"Ichirin. What sort of example would I be to save you, then ask you to die in my name? I am no zealot, and I will not flee with your blood on my hands."

"Cut the shit!"

Murasa was next to interpose herself, wielding her usual makeshift weapon. If it was going to take an anchor over the head to get her to see sense, then that was what Murasa was going to give her.

"Are you braindead or something?! Think of all the youkai you could save if you get out of here right now. Their blood is gonna be on your hands instead if you just let things end now!"

She pulled the anchor back, ready to take a full swing. It would hit with enough force to knock a human's head clean off, but Byakuren was no ordinary human. No point in holding back.

But.

"...You're not listening to me. Listen to me, dammit!"

In the crucial moment, the one moment where she had an opening to make her strike, Murasa hesitated. There was a tiny voice in her head reminding her of what Byakuren had done for her - that one night, years ago, on the stormy seas. The night where she finally got a second chance and received what she'd been looking for her entire life.

She couldn't hurt someone like that. Captains have standards, after all.

"Murasa...you act stubborn, but sometimes I wish you would just accept that there's still a little girl in there who needs some attention as well."

Byakuren continued to walk straight towards Murasa, literally phasing through her. By the time Murasa's brain had clicked back on again, it was already over.

"...Shit. SHIIIIIIIT!"

There was no point in trying again. Hell, there had been no point in trying in the first place. Byakuren could have outpowered the three of us with a finger if she felt like it. If she wanted to hand herself over, she would do it whether we liked it or not.

But that wouldn't stop us from trying. Not even if we were battered and bruised. Not even if it was a challenge just to stay conscious. Not even if all we could offer in resistance was a hand clasped around her ankle and a choked plea.

"...Run..."

Byakuren did not jerk to a halt - she had been standing still when I grabbed at her leg. She knew full well I was going to try and stop her, and she looked down at me with a calming smile.

"I hope you aren't too inconvenienced by your new promotion. You should be able to run the temple in my stead, right?"

I wanted to scream, but my body was too battered to managed it. All that came out of my mouth was a choked sob as she effortlessly released herself from my grip, finally meeting Misato face-to-face. The shrine maiden's expression remained firm in face of these events, which was more than could be said of anyone else.

"If this is all some sort of trick, I have to say that you've tought these youkai to act pretty well."

"Don't give them credit where it isn't due. Shou in particular wears her heart on her sleeve."

Why are you kidding around now? Do you realise what she's going to do to you? Even if you can't die, she'll just banish you to some unseen corner of the cosmos forever. At its best, you'll be alone; at its worst, you'll be in agony for the rest of time.

So why? Why are you still smiling?


There was so much I wanted to say, but I didn't have the strength left for any of it. By now she had disregarded us entirely, simply giving the shrine maiden a long hard look. For a minute, everyone gathered watched on in total silence.

Misato clicked her fingers.

"Bring it up from down there."

As the order was given, the crowd behind Misato murmured amongst themselves. They shuffled around, and eventually I could make out a bag being carried from the end of the crowd. It was large, and from the way grown men were struggling with it it was heavy as well, but when the delivery finally reached Misato she took it in one hand without a second thought.

"This sort of ritual is complicated, I'll have you know. I needed to make some special arrangements to set this up, so feel complimented you took up so much of my time."

"Certainly, Lady Hakurei."

I could see a hint of irritation flicker on Misato's face at that comment. I'd have taken a mental note to compliment her like that more often if my body wasn't busy putting itself back together.

Misato dropped the bag, allowing some of its contents to slip out. A single wooden block landed at Byakuren's feet. Her eyes widened.

"I assume I don't need to tell you what these are?"

She looked down at the fallen blocks with an expression of amazement. She reached down and picked one up, pressing it lightly. It was as immaculate as the day it was cut.

"Incredible...I didn't even realise so much of the Tobikura survived."

"Myouren Hijiri was a great monk. Simple preservation magic wouldn't have been a problem for him."

The Tobikura...? That was her brother's ship, wasn't it? The one she was riding when...

"Even in death, it still stays spotless. Gotta admit, that's pretty impressive."

This time, Byakuren had no response. Her smile wavered slightly. Misato had picked a sensitive topic, and I was already primed to see her rub the guilt into Byakuren's face. I was convinced now, more than anything, that Misato wanted to see her foe hurt in every way she could manage.

Except...she didn't. Rather than take her time to give Byakuren the guilttrip from her, to send her away from us a gibbering, self-hating wreck, she simply moved on and gave the topic no further thought.

I was confused. Was that...mercy?

"Anyway. I'm not going to explain this to you in painstaking detail, but these blocks are gonna serve as the catalyst. I don't suppose you have any last words?"

"You have no intention of honouring them, so I see no point in talking."

"Heh. Guess you understand the situation better than I thought."

Misato raised her gohei upwards into the air, murmuring an incantation beneath her breath. A circle of light emerged around Byakuren, and an army of chains sprung out from its edges, wrapping themselves around her. These were chains that no amount of physical strength could break, so the captive made no attempt to even try.

The shrine maiden reached down to the bag of wooden blocks, touching one of them with her gohei. The block began to glow, taking on the same radiance as the circle, and it lifted itself off into the air, hanging in front of Byakuren's face. The rest of the Tobikura blocks followed, until Byakuren was surrounded by dozens of them.

"Byakuren Hijiri. You have been found guilty of black magic and youkai sympathising. There is only one punishment fitting for a criminal like you."

The blocks began to spin around in the air, rotating around Byakuren slowly to start. As Misato continued the ritual, they began to turn faster, growing brighter all the while.

"You will be imprisoned in the deepest, darkest region of Makai for the rest of eternity, never again to show your face amongst humanity. You will live out your immortality in solitude, and spend every waking moment of your existence praying for a death that will never come."

The light was almost blinding now, and I had to squint to make out what was happening. Misato's face remained frighteningly calm in the midst of it all. I couldn't see Byakuren's expression anymore, but she was still making no attempt to escape her prison.

It was now I thanked Vaisravana for being born a youkai. Maybe I wasn't in full fighting shape, but I was strong enough to stand again. Slowly, I trudged to my feet, still feeling like my innards were set to fall out any minute.

"Hi...Hi-"

""HIJIRI!""

Two bodies dashed past mine, still able to give their all. Ichirin and Murasa had finally grown tired of standing around, waiting in silence for their saviour to disappear. Maybe they couldn't do anything, but they could damn well try.

"Yaaah!"

Murasa wielded her anchor like a maniac, aiming straight for Misato. She was distracted, and this was the only opening she was going to get. Ichirin dived towards Byakuren, trying to push her out of the circle. If that meant she was going to be sealed instead, then so be it.

Both plans failed miserably.

"What the-?!"

Murasa didn't have time to react when it appeared in front of her. By the time she had a clue what was going on, she already had one foot in the dark violet gap.

"Aah!"

Behind her, Ichirin faced a similar fate, with a gap emerging between her and the circle. Unzan, bound to his master by principle, followed her into the abyss with a look of fear on his face.

But there was more.

Perhaps the most frightening part was how silent it was - how I had no idea it was happening until Misato's lynch mob began to let out various gasps of amazement. Turning around, I could see the Palanquin being pulled along the ground by the largest of all the gaps. It must have weighed tonnes, but still the purple tear in the sky drew it in in a matter of seconds. I had to blink a few times to believe it, but the ship had...vanished.

And a few seconds later, so had all the gaps.

"...Ku-Kumoi-san? Captain?!"

It had all happened so quickly that my brain was still playing catchup. One minute they had been there, and the next they were gone. And all the while, Misato hadn't so much as looked away from the ritual.

"Now, let the world be purged of this menace. This earth has no place for youkai and its ilk, and as a Hakurei maiden I sentence you to the bowels of Makai for the rest of your neverending, miserable life."

The blocks were spinning around at an insane velocity now, almost creating a whirlwind around their captive. By now they didn't even look like wodden blocks any more - they were rays of light, tracing some ornate patten in the air above the magic circle.

I couldn't stop it. I couldn't even try. It was taking everything I had just to stand. I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry, I felt so powerless. Everything I'd come to care about was being taken from me, and I could only sit and watch.

"Shou."

Amidst the whirring of the spinning blocks, I made out a voice. One that stayed completely calm and relaxed in the face of an unimaginable sentence. Byakuren pulled her head around to give me a final look, smiling.

"Don't hate them, Shou. They're just afraid."

The light began to emanate from her as well, and her features vanished into the sea of white. Misato's eyes widened slightly. The gohei turned, the light roared, the maiden screamed.

"BEGONE."

The flash must have blinded people halfway across the country, as the crowd gave off little yelps of shock. Even when my eyes had come back into focus, I held them shut. I didn't want to look. As long as I didn't look, it was possible I was wrong, and that this was all a trick, and that she wasn't really-

...Oh, who am I kidding? She's gone.

I forced my eyes open. Misato stood in the same place as always, putting her gohei away with a sigh. Byakuren was nowhere to be seen.

Gone.

All of them. Gone. To parts unknown, to never return.

I fell to my knees, clinging to the spear for what little balance I could muster. It took all my will to keep myself from screaming, but the tears poured down my face regardless.

Why? What had we done to deserve this?

"...Alright. Let's go home, everyone. We're done here."

Misato turned to the crowd, ordering them back down the stairway to whatever village they had come from.

No response.

"...What are you doing? I said to get moving."

One of the burlier humans at the front of the crowd raised his hand.

"Woman, you didn't finish the job. There might be more of 'em in that temple."

I couldn't see her face from here, but Misato took a step backwards at that one. Had she not been planning for this?

Wait...that would have meant she was planning for this the whole time. An outcome without anyone having to die. She had been expecting Byakuren to give herself up the whole time.

Don't hate them, Shou. They're just afraid.

"I didn't get hired to deal with servants of Vaisravana. You guys paid me to take out Hijiri, and I did it. I'm going home, and I expect you guys to follow me."

Was that irritation seeping into her voice? This, at least, she must not have planned. The crowd murmured amongst itself, growing louder and louder.

"Bullshit! We can't leave it now, they might come back and attack us again!"

"Yeah! What if they hide some another witch?"

There was aggression building up in the crowd. Misato's gaze shifted between them, trying to pull them away or scare them off, but they were driven by a force that few others could match.

Fear.

"Outta the way, girl! If you're not gonna take care of this, we're gonna do it ourselves!"

The gang grew tired of waiting. They wanted blood, and they were going to quench their thirst whether she liked it or not. They charged forward, madness in their eyes as they turned their fear inside out. They turned it into rage.

Misato was fast enough to avoid the oncoming riot. I, on the other hand, was barely standing after my fight with the shrine maiden. There were dozens of them coming for me, and no-one cared to stop or make their way around me.

So I fell to the floor, and felt a dozen feet slam into me.

No part of my body received mercy. They trod on my face, my chest, my arms, my legs. I was trampled beneath the stampede, feeling muscles tear and bones snap. By the time they had finally made their way past me, I was barely conscious.

Maybe I would die here. When they finished their attack on the temple, they'd come back for me. They were pulling out torches, lighting them at the corners and the walls.

"Smoke 'em out! If they don't come out, let 'em die like rats in there!"

One voice, the newly elected leader of the troupe, issued commands to the crowd. They were burning down the temple. I knew enough of its structure to know it would burn easily - there was enough wood in the roof alone to bring around a collapse. Nothing inside would have a chance of surviving-

Wait.

No.

"N..."

It was a second wind that pulled me to my feet. I had forgotten something.

Someone.

"Na...Nazrin..."

She was still in the temple. She'd been by herself since Byakuren's confession. She had no idea what was going on.

Oh god. Ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod-

"Hey, what?!"

They'd already taken everything else from me. But not her. Not her.

"Watch out! The tiger's coming through!"

They called out in confusion and fear. They must have expected me to tear them apart. But they weren't worth my time.

I ran into the temple, already being quickly engulfed by the flames. The humans looked on in confusion, murmuring amongst themselves again.

"The hell is wrong with her?"

"Eh, if she wants to go out that painfully, I sure as hell don't mind."

"Yeah, look at this place. It'd be like hell on earth inside there."

They waited around for a short while longer, until they were satisfied that the blaze was too violent for anything to escape. Only then did they turn tail and leave, crying anthems of triumph as the morning sun came into full view.

In their minds, they'd managed a great victory - they'd banished a witch and slaughtered her subjects. It wasn't their job to care about the damage they'd done of who had to pick up the pieces.

After all, history was written by the winners.

-----

"Nazrin!"

It was even faster than I had thought. The roof was starting to give in, dropping burning planks onto the floor and spreading the flames further still. I could barely make out the structure anymore - I had to rely on my memory alone to guide me.

"Nazrin, where are you?! Nazr-"

My throat burned, and I hacked out a cough. The smoke was spreading. There wasn't much time left.

"Nazrin...come on! Get out of here!"

No response. Was I...? No. No, I couldn't be. Not after everything. They couldn't take everything from me. That was just too cruel, too wrong. It couldn't happen. I had to keep going. I had to save her.

"Naz-kh..."

But adrenaline could only push me so far. The pain was flaring up again, and my burst of speed had worn off. The smoke was coming lower. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe.

I fell to my knees, grabbing at my chest. I was getting faint, and every inch of my body was aching from something. After everything that had happened, I had finally reached my limit.

Everything's...getting dark...

My vision started to waver. I looked upwards, feeling hazy, ready for the pain to end. The statue of Vaisravana looked back down on me, with the same severe expression that had earned my adoration so long ago.

Vaisravana-sama...I...screwed up...

The last ounces of strength I had left me, and I crumpled to the floor face down. Around me, the temple continued to burn as my mind drifted off into oblivion.

Nazrin...I'm...sorry...

Kasu

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  • This soup has an explosive flavour!
Re: Rising Star
« Reply #121 on: August 11, 2010, 07:20:01 PM »
Well.  This is definitely a "Dammit Yukari" moment.

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

FinnKaenbyou

  • Formerly Roukanken
  • *
  • blub blub nya
Re: Rising Star
« Reply #122 on: August 11, 2010, 09:26:33 PM »
It's been hours. I need to stop.

I shudder. I hold the tears back. Not cold. But angry.

I trusted Hijiri. Thought she cared. Thought she was looking out for me. And now it turns out she was just interested in herself.

The bitch.

Maybe she can't die. But I'm pretty sure I can still make her hurt. Let the mice nibble at her for a few hours. See if she's still feeling so high-and-mighty after that.

...Wait, no. That's not what I mean. Dammit, I need to calm down.

I was happy. When it was just me, and Shou, and Hijiri. Not much happened. We spent our time doing stupid things. Pointless things. Talking about useless subjects.

But it was wonderful. I loved it.

Now they've pulled the carpet out from under my feet. Pulled the wool off of my eyes and told me I was living in a lie. From a well-meaning servant to another pawn in Hijiri's game of immortality.

Of course I'm going to be mad.

At the same time...Hijiri's the reason I have a life at all. The scars from the fire still ache now and then. I've learned to deal with it. If she hadn't taken me in then, I'd have died with everyone else.

Everyone else.

No, I don't want to think about this. I don't want to see them again. Not like that. Not seeing some of them scream as their bodies burn. Others gasping for air as smoke filled their lungs. Others still unable to see, falling from the shelves to a sudden stop ten feet down.

But I'm there again. It feels so real. I can hear the crackling of the fire. The smell of distant smoke. Even the heat on my face. It's never felt this real before.

I stare lazily at the roof, lost in memory. The fire plays itself out in my mind. More shuddering. Not angry. But afraid.

It isn't the pain that scares me. Not the threat of death.

I don't want to be alone.

"Nazrin!"

I snap out of the trance. I'm confused. I'm sure I'm in the present, but I can still hear the fire blazing on. It's almost like the temple is-

Aah.

Aaaaah...

"Nazrin, where are you?! Nazr-"

Shou's voice again. Calling for me. I hear her choke on the smoke. She's looking for me. She could run, but she's looking for me.

I can't move.

Not again. I can't deal with it again. I don't want to remember, keep it away, crumple it up into a ball and throw it into some forgotten corner and let it die. Maybe it's coming closer, but it hasn't reached this room yet. I can ignore it for a little while longer if I stay in here.

"Nazrin...come on! Get out of here!"

Any other way. Any other way. Please. Stab me, slit my throat, drown me, freeze me, shoot me, strike me down with a plague. Anything.

Not fire. Not the fire.

Not just for my sake. Shou is looking for me. From here I can tell the fire is running rampant. If she doesn't leave now, she'll die. She can't expect me to come out.

Please, Shou. Don't be an idiot. Get out now. You can't make it. I don't want you to die because I'm a coward.

"Naz-kh..."

The choking sounds get louder. The shouting stops. The footsteps stop.

This isn't happening. It's a nightmare. I fell asleep and I'm going to wake up in a few minutes and Shou will be there to tell me things are fine.

A plank from the roof collapses. Lands on my arm. Helpfully reminds me that I'm awake.

The plank lands on the floor, flickering. The ground catches alight.

It's here.

In the distance, Shou hits the floor.

I'm frozen in place. Staring at the flame as it runs along the floor. I had hoped my memories just made it look fast than it was. But no, it's as potent as I remember.

What do I do? I can't go out there. It's worse out there, I'll burn and choke and die like Shou did.

...Like Shou did?

Wait.

Shou. She's dying. She isn't dead. I can save her.

But I have to face the fire. I stare at it again, my entire body shivering. Can I do this?

No. Wrong wording. I have to do this. I'm scared. But the fear of losing Shou is worse than the fear of the fire.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Keep low, that's where the air is. Get ready to charge and run straight out. Find Shou, carry her out, get away.

Ready? No. But go anyway.

I break down the door, and step out into hell.

Everything is burning. There are only two colours - the blood red flame and the ash-grey smoke. The fire licks at my body, singes my clothes. I've never run this fast before. I need to get out.

I enter the main hall. Vaisravana stands tall as his kingdom crumbles around him.

There she is. Oh, god, she isn't moving. Quick, Nazrin, up on one shoulder. She's heavy, but there's no time to complain.

All that air I stored up before is running thin. I want to breathe, but there's only smoke around me now. Just a little longer, that's all I need. A few more paces and-

"Ahk-!"

Dammit, that's not what I need right now. Follow orders, you lousy pair of lungs. If I tell you not to breathe, you don't breathe. Smoke is hardly going to do you any good.

Shit, that hurts. But it's not far. Deal with it. Keep going, keep going, and-

"Haah, haah, haah...!"

Two for two. I don't have time for celebrations. Too busy gasping for air for that.

Shou.

I lay her down on the ground. She's clear of the temple. I don't care if anyone's nearby, she needs help now.

Please have a pulse. Let me feel something when I press against your neck.

Nothing.

...Aah.

"Press down on her chest where her heart is. Pump it for her."

A voice. Offering help. Don't care who it is. Need to follow their instructions.

One, two, three. Can't be subtle here. Need to be forceful. Might crack a rib, but better alive and hurting than dead.

Eight, nine, ten. Anything? No. Shit.

"That's enough. Give her mouth-to-mouth, her brain needs air badly."

Her lips are cold. Flaccid. Blue. They weren't like this last time.

God, what I would give for last time. That night when I'd sworn to risk everything on her. I gave her my heart that night.

And now she's about to die with it.

"Nothing? Keep trying."

Dammit, this isn't happening. One, two, three...

What happened, Shou? You promised. You promised we'd stay together. You can't leave me now.

More air. Check for pulse. Still nothing.

Come on, Shou. Don't do this to me. You can't go on without me.

Everyone else is gone, aren't they? You were the only one left. The only one who tried to save me. If you leave, I'll be alone again.

You can't make me go through that again. I need you, Shou. I love you.

So please. I'm begging you. Don't die.

...Eight, nine, ten...nothing.

Goddammit, Shou. You can't let this happen. Don't you dare die on me. I'll crawl through the netherworld and curse your name if you leave me here.

Say something. Come on, Shou. Act like an idiot, do something stupid. Forget how to use a spoon, trip up, say something that makes no sense. I don't care what you do. Stand up and slap me in the face if you want to. I don't care. Just do something.

Wake up, Shou.

Wake up.

Please...please...please...


-----

"...up..."

Everything hurt. I felt wretched. There was a part of me that wanted to curl up and die. I could hear it whispering in my ear.

Give up. You've done enough.

Its words were so soothing, so calming. I wanted to give in to it. I had suffered long enough. Surely I had earned this peace by now.

"...ke up..."

That voice. It sounded familiar, but I couldn't put a face to it. No matter, I would be gone soon. I would just ignore it.

"...wake up..."

Be quiet. I'm trying to die here. Do you know what I went through? I was beaten to a pulp, trampled on, and threw myself into an inferno to try and save-

Nazrin.

"Shou, wake up already. This isn't funny anymore."

What was I doing? How could I be so selfish to try and leave her behind to face that nightmare? To live on without anyone else she knew? I promised her, didn't I? I said I'd stay with her, I'd never let her down.

How shameful.

...What are you doing? Why are you fighting me?

The voice was getting quieter. I was rejecting it. The pain grew stronger again, but I didn't care. I could deal with it, and it would hurt worse if I left her behind.

It was getting brighter again. The world was coming back. Or rather, I was going back to the world.

You can't do this! You can't put yourself through that again!

...Shut up. I'm not weak enough to put my desires above hers like that!

I directed my anger at that voice, at that weaker side of me. The emotion was pulling me out of the void, back into the world I knew.

THAT'S NOT JUSTICE!

-----

"Shou, wa-"

I came back not with a bang, but with a choked whimper. My first instinct was to cough my lungs out, and the next few to follow were more or less the same. Nazrin was taken aback for a moment by my violent reaction, but soon afterward she was wrapping her arms around me.

"Shou...Shou...! You're...aaaah..."

She'd been through so much, and at last she'd reached her limit. The emotions were welling out of her, and she held me upright with tears flowing from her eyes. I'd never seen her so overjoyed before.

"Y-You idiot...You're so selfish..."

She spat out a complaint, desperately trying to maintain face, but the facade had come down. My arms almost creaked as I raised them, but I managed to wrap them around her eventually.

"Hah...sorry...for making you worry like that..."

That just make her tear up harder, squeezing at me. It hurt, but it wasn't like a little more pain was going to make me collapse any more. I looked straight into Nazrin's eyes, and none of the physical pain mattered. It didn't even matter that we'd lost everything.

I still had her. She still had me. We'd get by.

...Huh? Is that...?


My eyes glanced over to Nazrin's side. A figure stood in the distance, at the stairway back down, looking on as the temple crumpled.

Misato?

She was looking at me, I realised - and this time, her eyes were filled with guilt. Her lips silently mouthed a word out in my direction.

"Sorry."

With that, she turned around and made her way down the stairs, leaving us to pick up the pieces. Had she...helped?

"Nnn..."

Now wasn't the time. My body was begging for a rest now, and I felt my eyes start to close again. I'd need a few hours to recover from this, even as a youkai.

The last thing I saw before I closed my eyes and fell asleep was the sun rising in the sky. The morning had come.

And the stars were nowhere to be seen.

-----

It was a screwed up job.

Misato Hakurei could only mutter to herself on the stairway back down. She hadn't expected them to lash out like that - the plan had been to cause as few casualties as possible while taking care of Hijiri. She'd followed the orders she'd been given, used the right ritual, but she hadn't been ready for the crowd to go haywire.

Thank god the mouse had been willing to follow orders. If the tiger had died, it would have been hung on her conscience for who knows how long.

"Still beating yourself up?"

There she was. Took her long enough to show up. She needed to have a good talk with her about all of this.

"Don't give me the boundary act, Yukari. Just talk to me face-to-face for a change."

"You really are feeling bad about this, aren't you? A frown doesn't suit that face of yours, you know."

Another of the purple gaps appeared in front of Misato. This time, rather than taking someone in, someone stepped out of it - a young woman with long blonde hair in a long violet dress. She twirled a parasol around in one hand, appearing rather spry against the solemn expression of Misato.

"What did you do to them? Where are they?"

"Oh, around."

"This isn't the time for games, you old hag. Just answer the question for a change."

Yukari pouted.

"Your mother would be ashamed if she heard you call me that. She treated me with the utmost respect. Kids these days-"

"You're stalling again."

A moment of silence. Yukari finally accepted that now was not the time for playing around, and her face grew deadly serious.

"They've been sealed away beneath the ground. They'll sleep for a good few centuries, most likely."

"And then what?"

"I have plans for them."

Misato sighed. That was how Yukari answered every question like that, and she knew full well that she would get no more out of her than that.

"...Misato-chan. You did all you could."

Misato sat down on the stairway, placing her head on her knees.

"I know, I know. But still...it just seems so unfair on all of them."

No-one was looking now. Misato allowed herself a single tear down her face. What she'd done was unfair and horrible, but it was the lesser of two evils. Humanity was afraid of youkai, and if no-one made a show of stopping them the fear would drive them to madness.

"There...there has to be a better way than this. Come on, Yukari, you have to have an idea."

Yukari was silent, looking away for a moment in thought. Her face remained severe.

"...There is one possibility, but it's rather absurd."

"Absurd, but not impossible, right?"

Yukari pouted.

"No, but it would be slow. To prepare it would take centuries of effort on your part, and on the part of your descendents. It would be a duty I asked not just of you, but of the entire Hakurei line."

Misato inhaled deeply. Yukari was toying with her again, and she knew it. The youkai knew she had no intention of refusing - not after a travesty like that. She had been biding her time, waiting for just the right moment to ask this of her.

But it was hardly new. Getting used by Yukari was as common an occurance for her as blinking. Maybe as well get hooked on the big one now and get it over with.

"...Well, if it won't be finished by the time I pass on, then I don't get to take the blame when it's finished. What's the plan?"

Yukari's face lit up immediately. Misato wasn't sure if she was a serious youkai putting on a masquerade of cheerfulness, or a cheerful youkai pretending to be severe. She'd long since given up on figuring it out.

"Oh, excellent! I've always wanted to make my own country!"

Misato raised an eyebrow.

"Country?"

"Well, if the youkai can live amongst themselves, then there's no need for the humans to persecute them, right?"

"...It can't be that simple. If humans found out about a nation of youkai, wouldn't they just invade?"

"See, that's where you come in, Misato-chan! It'll take a long time to get the magical power together, but if we put enough time into it we can put up a boundary between it and the outside world!"

Misato took a moment to think it over. She began to nod in approval.

"Heh. I gotta admit, that's pretty damn clever."

"I know, right! And we can call it Yakumoland!"

Silence.

"...Yakumoland?"

"Well, Hakureiland isn't quite as catchy."

"Both those names are terrible! If you're gonna make me devote my life to this, at least let me give it a name that isn't as bad as that!"

Yukari flinched, pouting childishly.

"Fine...Misato-chan, you're mean."

"You're welcome."

Misato smirked slightly at the sight of Yukari cowering. It was fake, yes, but it was as close as she was going to get.

"...Alright, I've decided."

Misato stood up again, feeling a new wave of hope rising up in her. This was a chance to end this sort of tragedy. Maybe it'd take a lot of effort on her part, and on the part of her children, but it would be worth it to save youkai from a fate like that.

"This country you're proposing...it'll be a land that the world thinks doesn't exist. They'll think it's an illusion, right? So there's only one fitting name for it."

Yukari looked on, paying close attention to Misato's words and clapping childishly when she saw where the shrine maiden was coming from.

"Ooh, I like it! You have good taste, Misato-chan!"

"Drop the chan, already."

"Aw..."

Misato started making her way down the stairs again, a newfound spring in her step. This was the start of a new era in her life. Maybe a new era for the whole world, if she succeeded.

"No complaints, then?"

"None at all."

"Good. I wouldn't have listened to you, anyway."

Back to the shrine for now, Misato thought. This was going to take a lot of work, but the nation had already been born in her heart. That image would drive her on for the rest of her life, and she would tell stories of it to her daughter to continue the dream.

Gensokyo had been born.

-----

Hopefully that makes up for the pace of my updates until now. =_=

Silent Harmony

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #123 on: August 11, 2010, 10:10:56 PM »
You know, for a while I forgot why I love your stories so much. Thanks for reminding me.

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Kasu

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #124 on: August 11, 2010, 11:16:48 PM »
Hoho~  Can't wait to see what happens next.

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

Fetch()tirade

  • serial time-waster
Re: Rising Star
« Reply #125 on: August 11, 2010, 11:30:13 PM »
That's it, I think. That does seem like an ending. And what a nice ending it is.

FinnKaenbyou

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #126 on: August 11, 2010, 11:40:20 PM »
I'm undecided over whether to end it here. On one hand, there's a lot more ground to cover between this and UFO; on the other hand, I'm not sure if there'll be any action comparable to this. I'll leave it to public vote whether or not to let this be the end of Rising Star. I figure I've taken this thing pretty far already, and if people figure this is the right place for it to end I'll let it end.

So yeah. Is it time to call this a wrap, would you think?

Kasu

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #127 on: August 11, 2010, 11:43:58 PM »
It might be best to end it here as it was originally an origin story of the UFO cast and Shou correct?  If you aren't planning to continue, then its probably best to end it here.  There is also the fact that you started that other fic as well a couple days ago, so you would have more time to contribute to that if you ended this now.

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

FinnKaenbyou

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #128 on: August 12, 2010, 12:02:40 AM »
It might be best to end it here as it was originally an origin story of the UFO cast and Shou correct?  If you aren't planning to continue, then its probably best to end it here.  There is also the fact that you started that other fic as well a couple days ago, so you would have more time to contribute to that if you ended this now.
I had been intending to follow Shou and Nazrin up until the reunion, but it'd be little to discuss over a quite lengthy period of in-universe time. I'm considering whether or not this stands up better as an ending, so I'll leave it to public opinion.

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #129 on: August 12, 2010, 01:27:21 AM »
I have passed my ideas to you on IRC. Use them however you will. :3

MysTeariousYukari

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Re: Rising Star
« Reply #130 on: August 12, 2010, 02:55:10 AM »
Go with whatever you think is best :) I would like it to continue, but if you end it here, I won't complain.

FinnKaenbyou

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Rising Star (Epilogue)
« Reply #131 on: August 12, 2010, 03:30:07 AM »
Epilogue

I missed the days when my room had a roof. It made it easier to sleep in.

"Nnngh..."

The sun was glaring down on me. There almost seemed to be a face on it, staring straight into my eyes and muttering 'Get up, it's morning'. I'd stare back at it, but I appreciated my eyesight.

And I appreciated sleep a whole lot more.

"Oh, forget it...the day can wait a little longer."

I rolled around in bed, burying my face in the futon. A few more minutes were hardly going to kill me.

After the dowsing rod jabbed itself into my back, it became obvious that there were forces more powerful than the sun calling on me to wake up.

"Ow! Alright, Nazrin, I'm getting up..."

Nazrin continued poking at me as I scrambled to my feet. This was more or less our morning routine now - Nazrin got up at the crack of dawn, and made sure I woke up alongside her. Breakfast was the first order of the day (thank Vaisravana so much of the kitchen was still standing), and after that we found ourselves engaging in our daily training.

It was a different style of training from the ones we had practiced before, though - one that was, by our standards, relatively new. But lots of new things were happening nowadays.

This was Gensokyo, after all. Incidents came and ended along with the seasons, more or less. We were more or less in the aftermath of some weird underground geysers popping up, and no-one above the surface really knew what had happened down there. The tengu would put out a news report soon enough, but that had to be taken with a metric tonne of salt.

I'd heard the stories about the Hakurei family suddenly falling out of the spotlight, secluding themselves to their dusty temple in the distance. I had wondered why for years, but eventually the thought slipped my mind as I continued with my daily life. Even without a temple to preach in, a servant of Vaisravana had duties to follow.

Then the Hakurei Border came into being. The priestess of the generation, Chihiro Hakurei, claimed that it was a precaution to 'keep youkai from doing any more damage to humanity', and that she would serve as its police force if anyone tried to disturb the peace.

I didn't believe her for a second. I saw her ancestor's expression as the temple of Vaisravana burned. The Hakurei family had never approved of the brutality that mankind had shown to youkai - while there were definitely feral beasts among us, culling entire races for the crimes of one or two individuals was a disgrace.

I would have thanked her, but she would never have remembered me. Humans were a strange race in that way, so unique and yet so fleeting.

If only you could see this now, Hijiri.

She would have loved this place, wouldn't she? A world where youkai could exist in peace, without the constant fear of persecution that drove their lives beyond the border. It would have been wonderful if she could see it. Ichirin, and Murasa too.

Every so often, I'd stop to think about it. To think about everything I'd lost in that fire. My friends, my home, my idol. I'd tear up over it, bring myself almost to the verge of tears.

Invariably, that would be the moment when Nazrin put a hand on my shoulder and reminded me that I hadn't lost everything. As long as I had her, I would get by.

So the two of us made a simple existence together, surviving in the ruins of our old temple. The last few years had been devoted to a new sort of training - for a method of battle that had only existed for a few years now.

"Hide wherever you want, but you won't escape this rod of mine!
Search Sign [Gold Detector]!"

Nazrin held a simple paper card in the air dramatically, and a flurry of golden bullets emerged from within. They flew around in random directions, with the intent being that one of them would be fortunate enough to hit me. They weren't a problem.

The green lasers that followed, though, definitely were.

"Gh-!"

My sidestep had earned me too much momentum, and before I could stop myself I had jumped straight into the path of one of the golden bullets. This was where I was supposed to unleash a counterspell and fight back with my own danmaku pattern.

Instead, I simply let the bullet slam into my chest. This was the same weapon that had 'killed' Murasa the first time I had met her. But things were different now.

The bullet let off a dramatic and colourful array of fireworks as it collided with me. It propelled me backwards and sent me to the floor, but compared to what Murasa had went through it was totally harmless. It was merely an aesthetic system, designed to reveal that Nazrin was the winner of what was known as a spellcard duel. It was another rule that stopped humans being victimised by youkai - and as such, it meant there was no ill will against youkai on the part of Gensokyo's small human populace.

"What was that? You had plenty of time to declare a spell, Shou. You had better not be going easy on me."

Uh-oh. I had been hoping to get away from giving an explanation, but if she thought I was going easy on her she'd inevitably want a rematch. Sooner or later the truth was going to come out, so it was probably best to talk now while Nazrin was still relatively calm.

"Uh, yeah...well, there's a story behind that."

Nazrin's ear twitched in curiosity. It was now that she became aware that something in my usual attire was missing.

"Well...remember yesterday, when I took a trip to the Human Village to buy some rice?"

"You dropped it, didn't you."

The jewelled pagoda, the artifact Vaisravana Himself had entrusted me with, was missing.

"...Sort of. I looked around the area I dropped it, but I think it fell into the river..."

I twiddled my thumbs, feeling my self-respect collapse into the negatives. Nazrin looked angry for a moment, but eventually she let out a heaving sigh, looking off into the distance behind me.

"I assume you want me to look for it...?"

"Please and thank you. Oh, and don't let anyone know about this, 'kay?"

Nazrin didn't respond. She just stood in place, paralysed, looking out behind me in awe.

"Nazrin? Are you alright?"

Still nothing. I waved a hand in front of her eyes, clicked my fingers, poked her side. No response. Her mouth slowly opened, and her left hand pointed upwards into the sky.

"Huh? Is there something in the-"

I followed her finger as I spoke, and sure enough what she had witnessed was enough to silence me as well. Something impossible was floating in the air. Something absurd, something that had disappeared centuries ago.

But as impossible as it was, the Palanquin ship sailed through the sky regardless.

"...Nazrin...am I dreaming?"

She poked me in the back with her rod again, smirking with a hint of nostalgia as I flinched.

"Guess not."

The ship felt like it took an eternity to land, but in actuality it couldn't have been more than two minutes. The ramp on the deck slowly lowered itself until it reached the ground.

All of it impossible.

And the two people to emerge from within?

"K...Kumoi-san! Captain Minamitsu!"

"It's Captain Murasa, goddammit! Now get up here and give me a hug!"

Well, they were impossible as well.

-----

The worst part about seeing those two disappear had been having no idea where they were or if they were even still alive. Imagine my relief to find out that they'd simply been buried underground nearby along with the Palanquin, only to be pulled out of their sleep by one of the geysers the latest incident had brought around.

I thought for a moment if this might all have been the work of some omniscient youkai, planning things behind the scenes for the best possible ending.

Poke.

"Shou, you're daydreaming again. Not when we have guests."

"Ah, sorry, Nazrin. Thinking of something ridiculous."

This was the second time we'd taken in Murasa and Ichirin as guests, though this time space was much harder to come across given that we only had half a temple left. Eventually we managed to find somewhere to place a table and sit together as a group in the main hall, amidst the collapsed roof and destroyed statue of Vaisravana.

We exchanged silly trivialities. We told them about Gensokyo, about all the new youkai who'd emerged since, about the spellcard system that had been invoked in their absence. I tried to ask them what they'd been doing since we last met. They hadn't been doing anything, they'd been 'buried underground goddammit why are you asking silly questions get me a drink'. They asked the same question of us, and Nazrin and I honestly couldn't come up with a single interesting incident that had happened since...

"...since the attack."

Mentioning that was enough to kill the atmosphere entirely. Nazrin and I stared down at our cups of tea. Ichirin looked awkwardly at Unzan, while Murasa just chugged her drink and slammed the cup into the floor.

Maybe ghosts didn't have a concept of heat. I certainly wouldn't have been able to down a cup of tea in one shot like that without scalding my throat.

"Toramaru-san...can I ask you a question?"

Ichirin seemed nervous as she spoke up, afraid she was about to ask something absurd.

"That ritual the Hakurei maiden performed. Did you recognise it?"

I felt my body shiver a little at the question. It wasn't because I didn't know the answer - I had done my research since, and I knew what Misato had done - but because I knew she wasn't going to like it.

"...Well. I looked into it, and the ritual is apparently known as the Trial of the Makai Butterfly, a ritual designed to punish those who flirt with immortality. Basically, what it does is it traps the target in their own little prison in Hokkai, Makai's farthest outskirts. They're trapped there for the rest of eternity to contemplate their mista-"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it. We need you to answer something, though."

Murasa cut my sentence short, glaring across at me from the other side of the table. Determination was blazing in her eyes with absurd intensity.

"This ritual. Can you reverse it? Can we bring Hijiri back?"

This was what I hadn't wanted her to ask. I felt my heart sink before I'd even started to talk.

"Well...the ritual needs an item that has emotional value to the subject in order to work. That's why Misato collected the remains of the Tobikura. If we were to collect those pieces and take them to Hokkai, I could use the pagoda to release the seal..."

I hung my head, feeling more powerless than ever as I had to admit the downside in this plan.

"...But that's the problem. The Tobikura fragments would have been scattered after the ritual. They could be anywhere across the world, at any point, in any form. They might even be outside of Gensokyo now. So...it's impossible."

Silence. I didn't have the nerve to look either of them in the eye after saying something like that - they'd come to me looking for hope, and I'd shot them down completely.

It took Nazrin poking me in the side to build up the nerve to look again. I opened my eyes, expecting to meet a pair of distraught faces.

Instead, Ichirin was looking at me with something resembling elation, and Murasa was as cocky as she had been when she asked the question in the first place.

"See, tiger, that's the strangest thing. 'Cause we found a few things floating in the sky on the way over, and they seemed awfully familiar."

My heart skipped a beat. Murasa reached down into a pocket on her shorts, pulling something out.

It couldn't be. Could it? It was absurd, almost impossible.

But I'd already been through enough impossible today. A little more on top shouldn't have been that shocking to me.

"That's...!"

Murasa placed a single piece of the Tobikura on the table, slamming it down dramatically like a decisive move in a game of Go.

"Alright, kiddies, don't get too excited. There are still plenty of these out there for us to find before we can celebrate."

Nazrin and I stared at it in awe for a few seconds, and before we knew it we were wearing the same silly faces as they were. Ichirin turned to Nazrin with a new look of hope on her face.

"Nazrin-san. You'll help us find all of these, won't you?"

Nazrin didn't even take an instant to think it over, nodding as fast as her neck would let her. I motioned towards her as well, a silent reminder of 'you'll need to find the pagoda as well'. She did her best to contain a sigh, which for Nazrin wasn't very well at all.

Murasa's attention turned to me.

"Well, tiger? You're in, right?"

She stretched a hand out towards me, beckoning me to shake it in agreement. I took a second to stare at it, at that outstretched, ghostly hand, and comprehend exactly what it represented.

It was a chance to set right a mistake that had been made hundreds of years ago. An opportunity to save an innocent woman from unfair imprisonment. A chance to pay back a debt from centuries past.

It was something I would have asked for only in my wildest dreams. I had dismissed it as impossible - I didn't have the means to find the fragments, assuming I even could find them. But in the space of two minutes, my life had turned itself on its head.

That happened a lot to me, in retrospect.

"...Well, I was planning to spend today taking a relaxing walk by the riverside, but I think that sounds a lot more interesting."

I clasped Murasa's hand firmly, almost expecting to slip through it rather than actually shake it. Had I been waiting for this moment, silently praying to Vaisravana for a chance to make up for my mistakes and to set free the woman who had given me everything I valued in life?

Perhaps.

Well, if so, he'd certainly been listening.

"Alright, Captain. Next stop, Hokkai!"

-----

A lot of humans assume by default that youkai are extremely intelligent. That they have the brain to go along with their brawn, and that they're capable of useful, witty conversation.

But going on a quest across dimensions to save an imprisoned friend? For some reason, no-one ever seems to think we're capable of that. They think that even the smartest among us are doomed to live every day in just about the same manner, never doing anything revolutionary. A happy enough existence, if a rather dull one.

We're going to prove them wrong. Makai won't stop us. Hokkai won't stop us. Nothing will stop us. This is a rescue that's been 700 years in the making, and we aren't going to let anything get in our way now.

Hijiri...just hang on a little while longer. We're coming for you.

-----

RISING STAR
FIN

-----

Over 63000 words. Literally longer than various novels. Six months of on-and-off writing. The most complicated and thorough piece of fiction I've ever written, and possibly the longest I'll ever write.

And to think it started as an experiment in writing the first-person POV.

Thanks to everyone who's commented and contributed. Until next time.

MysTeariousYukari

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Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #132 on: August 12, 2010, 03:47:41 AM »
Honestly, happiest ending to a story I have gotten in a while, bravo!

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #133 on: August 12, 2010, 03:51:27 AM »
I am very proud of you, Rou. Well done.

Fetch()tirade

  • serial time-waster
Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #134 on: August 12, 2010, 03:58:11 AM »
1. Copy text.
2. Make a book.
3. ???
4. Profit!!!
5. Sued by ZUN.
forbidden 5th panel ftw


This was great. There's nothing more to say.

Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #135 on: August 12, 2010, 04:24:48 AM »
Even when I know there's gonna be a happy ending (well because I played UFO, so I know
Spoiler:
everyone comes back and they live happily ever after in their temple
), you still managed to make me feel all sorts of emotions throughout the story. I love Misato btw.
Be right back, rereading the entire thing :D :D :D

MysTeariousYukari

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Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #136 on: August 12, 2010, 04:26:41 AM »
rereading the entire thing :D :D :D

You are a genies for that.

Kasu

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Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #137 on: August 12, 2010, 02:25:25 PM »
I do say you wrapped that up quite nicely.

This was a great fic.

Apparently, Thomas the Tank Engine isn't one to take crap from anyone.

Iced Fairy

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Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #138 on: August 12, 2010, 08:40:13 PM »
And a fine ending to wrap everything up.  I'll have to make note of this for my own work.

Though seriously Shou, would it be too hard to fix the roof in a century or two?

Esifex

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Re: Rising Star (Complete At Last)
« Reply #139 on: August 12, 2010, 09:02:33 PM »
I 'd'aaaawwwwww'd at Murasa and Ichirin's return.