~Hakurei Shrine~ > Patchouli's Scarlet Library

Weekly Writing Challenge Thread 2 - The Morning After (Deadline December 31st)

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Iced Fairy:
It's been a quiet week in my hometown of Gensoukyo.  No new comers.  No big events.  And only twenty or so danmaku fights.  Just lazy days leading to lazy evenings where you could go out with your family and watch the fireflies gather.

This was all great for the village, but up on the mountain it was a little different.  It started out fine.  The crow tengu flew around having fun, writing joke articles on flower shows and in depth resturant critiques of ramen stands.  Filling up the pages of their papers with articles saying things like ?The broth has a deep and full body with hints of many exotic seasonings,? and ?The expert  cut of the tuna cooked sweetly to perfection in my mouth.?  They started competing with each other to make the descriptions more and more extravagant, pouring over their thesauruses to pull out words like ?ambrosial? and ?saliferous? and ?effluvious.?

But after the third or fourth page of this they started getting tired.  They'd reviewed all the restaurants that served enough sake to be worthwhile.  Visited all the flower shows, twice.  Once to see the flowers and once just in case Yuuka had shown up.   And the only words that were left in the thesaurus were words like ?saltish? and ?yummy.?  The well of the news had run dry.

Now the Crow Tengu have a saying.  ?When the well of news runs dry, throw down a tsurube-otoshi and see what you can pull up.?  A lot of the younger tengu think this is a figure of speech, but in the old days they'd actually do this.  They'd go sneak up on a tsurube-otoshi, very carefully approaching from above because they don't usually look up.  Light wing beats and all that.  Then they'd tie a rope around it's bucket fast as they could, run over to a well and then toss the bucket down!  After that they'd just pull the rope up and see what they got.

Things being as they are what they usually got was a bullet or two from an angry tsurube-otoshi.  Apparently they don't like being tossed down wells.  They frown upon it.  However crow tengu don't care about those sort of things.  They care about their headline.  And while ?Tsurube-otoshi Breaks Tengu's Nose? isn't the most flattering of headlines, it does sell papers.

These days there aren't any tsurube-otoshi to throw down wells up above ground.  So the tengu have to make do with a substitute.  Fortunately Gensoukyo was built around a substitute for those youkai traditions that couldn't be transferred over from the real world.  I am of course talking about bothering the shrine maiden.

It started out simple.  The tengu who got out the most were first, since they had already been planning articles on flower shows and restaurants.  They geared up, got their cameras, and started bothering Reimu about long term subscriptions.  The kind that last three years and come with a lottery ticket for a prize you actually don't want, even if you could win it.  Second came the sharper tengu, the keen eyed story thieves that were always on the lookout for new headlines.  They saw the first group coming back with broken noses, and arms, and the smile of a tengu who has a full camera.  So they grabbed their cameras and rushed out to question Reimu about what the other tengu had seen.

After that it sort of grew on it's own, like a tree in good soil or a snowball war when the fairies show up.  The slower tengu came to get their pictures of a fight with Reimu.  The conspiracy specialists came to ask what Reimu had against honest hard working reporters.  ?First responders? came to report about the sudden increase in reporting.  ?In depth reporters? came to interview the other reporters about their reporting styles.  The ?media critics? came to complain about how no one was doing serious investigative journalism.  The reporters who had already been here came back to catch up, because their original story was no longer new and fresh.

In the end no one really remembered how this had started.  There were tengu reporting on reports of a critique of a report about reporting critiques.  And chances were when they were done there'd be another reporter standing right behind them, asking for their ?expert analysis? of the news they'd just finished compiling.  It had become a self sustaining news event, reports feeding new reports, like ouroboros eating its own tail.

It was a couple hours in that one of the ?media critic? types opened up a drink stand as a satirical protest.  Of course the reporting had been going on for so long even the tengu were starting to get tired and hungry.  He sold out all his stock within five minutes.  Seeing that business was good some of the youkai who'd been watching just for fun ran in and opened up their own stands.  Soon there was a rush of people running back and forth to the human village to restock, which meant some of the more curious humans wandered over and started browsing the booths.

So just as quickly as it had appeared the tengu's ?big scoop? turned into the ?Gensoukyo Correspondence Appreciation Festival.?  The alcohol started flowing, and the tengu put away their cameras, and eventually even Reimu stopped shooting everyone and just tried to relax while shaking down the vendors for money.

This might seem like a strange way for a festival to form but Gensoukyo has a long history of festivals and businesses starting up because of a passing whim.  Especially if that whim was to annoy someone close to them.  In fact four of the best known shops were built just to annoy someone.  And the most famous example of that would be the Kirisame family.

Back when the barrier had just formed Kiichi Kirisame was one of the finest onmyouji in Gensoukyo village.  They said she was so good she once sealed a youkai with chopsticks and an squid bowl.  Just stabbed the chopsticks into the ink sac, scribbled a sealing charm, then went back to his rice.  Impressed the heck out of the cart owner.  He didn't know you could use squid ink for sealing charms you see.

Now that last story might be a bit of an exaggeration, but even so Kiichi was the kind of guy people made exaggerations about.  He was a figure of legend.  People looked up to him, respected him.  So when he finally settled down and had a son, everyone was certain his son would follow in his footsteps, Kiichi most of all.  He went so far as to name the boy Takemi, to 'try to get a little extra courage in early.'

Kiichi did everything he could to make the boy a great spiritualist.  Long trips to stand under freezing waterfalls, memorizing ancient writings, and calligraphy lessons every day.  A lot of people thought he was pushing the boy too hard, but Takemi loved it.  While the other kids played hopscotch he'd scribble kanji in the dirt.  He knew four languages before most of his classmates mastered one.  He'd even complain about the bathwater not being cold enough in the summer.  He was a perfect student, everything his dad could have hoped for.

Then one day, when Takemi was about fourteen, he walked in and said, ?Dad, I'm going to become a hatter.?

Kiichi kind of blinked and scratched his head a bit and asked, ?But why?  You've been training all this time to become an spiritualist?  Why quit now.?

Takemi just sighed and shook his head.  ?Dad, one day you have to grow up and get a real job.?

?What do you mean a real job, Son??

?Youkai incidents are on the decline, Dad.  And with the shrine maiden monopoly there's no room for growth in market share.  Hat's are new.  Hats are in.  There's a big market for hats.?

?There's more to life then money son.  This is a family tradition.  You'll shame the family name if you become some second rate tailor, Son!?

?I'll show you, Dad!  I'll become the best hatter in the village.?

Well as you can imagine that didn't go over well.  The argument lasted about a month, the burning passion of youth clashing against the iron will of tradition, before Takemi left home and took up as an apprentice to the village's tailor. 

There he mastered the way of lace and frills.  He learned how to make good proper stiff brims and flexible headbands.  And at the age of sixteen he opened up his own store, the ?Kirisame Hat Shop.?

It was an incredible success.  People who loved hats went there.  People who didn't love hats fell in love with hats.  People who hated hats bought ribbons and bows so people would stop asking them if they needed a hat.  Even youkai came in to buy hats.  Hats became the new big thing.  He personally was responsible for the hat's place in Gensoukyo.  Takemi Kirisame was the best hatter in the village and for him everything was perfect.  He was in hat heaven.

Time moved on, as it always does, and Takemi married a nice woman who knew how to weave silk, and had a son of his own, Shinzo.  Takemi was ecstatic.  Takemi taught that boy everything he knew about hats.  How to make them, how to fix them, how to find the best hat for someone.  Every little trick and tip that made the Kirisame Hat Shop the best store in Gensoukyo.

Shinzo hated all of it.  He hated the sewing.  He hated the lace.  He hated the customers.  He hated everything about that store.  It got to the point where he would knock the hats off of people around town then run away.  He kept his hair short so he wouldn't need hairclips.  He started distrusting umbrellas for being too hat-like.

As he got older would sneak away from his lessons and run off into the fields to help the farmers plant.  He'd go fishing way out past the safe areas of the village.  He started hanging out in bars, trying to learn how to be 'tough' and 'cool.'

Takemi tried to compromise with the boy.  Started planing camping trips in the woods out where his father trained him.  Explained how tough a shop owner needed to be tough and strong to protect their stock.  But it didn't go anywhere.  As soon as Shinzo got back in the hat shop his head drooped and his shoulders slumped, and he just started going through the motions again.

Finally Takemi decided he needed to force the issue.  He pulled Shinzo aside out behind the shop where no one could hear them and said, ?Son, there comes a time in every man's life when he needs to grow up and pick a career.  Now maybe I've been wrong.  Maybe hats aren't the thing for you.  But you need to think of what you're going to do with your life.?

Well Shinzo perked up at that.  ?Dad, I know what I want to do with my life.  I want to be a lumberjack!?

?A lumberjack??  Takemi didn't quite believe what he'd heard.  ?You can't make a real living as a lumberjack son.  There's no future in the business.?

?It's not about the money, Dad.  It's about a sense of accomplishment.?

?There's plenty of accomplishment in real work too son.  Now your gonna get back to your training until you think of a real job you like.?

In the end Takemi was the only one surprised when Shinzo ran away from home and took up in the forest.  It crushed the poor man, seeing his oldest son reject his beloved paradise of headwear.  It took him two years to recover, and start focusing on training his second son to take over the business.

Meanwhile Shinzo was enjoying the woods.  He went out there and carved out a spot for himself.  A small house, with a little farm and easy access to all the stuff he needed to survive.  The local youkai bothered him of course, but a few amulets made them decide he wasn't worth the effort.  Then, one day after he settled down a bit, he dragged back the most perfect ceder tree the village had seen.  He auctioned it off right then and there, and with that his business was off and running.

Shinzo became every bit the legend among loggers as his father was among hatters.  He cut down almost one of every tree in the forest, and considering how mean some of the trees are around here are that was quite the feat.  It's hard to get a proper cut when the tree keeps stealing your ax.  But Shinzo did it, and he did it without breaking a sweat.  He was so good he didn't even need to run the business side of things.  People just came to him with orders and he'd name a price.

Shinzo got married to strong woman who wasn't afraid to live out in the woods, and eventually he had a son of his own, Taro.  Shinzo did his best to make sure the kid knew his way around the forest.  That he knew the names of the plants and their uses.

By now I bet your sensing a pattern here.  Taro was always more interested in the village, especially the marketplace.  He loved the bargaining and bartering.  He was fascinated at how an egg could go from the farmer at one end of the market, to a passing fish vendor in exchange for a tilefish, then to the ice seller for a few extra ice shards, then finally over to the takoyaki vendor at the far end, only to end up in the batter for the next batch.  To him it was like a dance, an intricate ballet of goods.  It was a huge revelation to the boy.  The idea that you could get things, even simple everyday things like food, without having to beat up ten fairies and farm it yourself.

So he went to his father and said, ?Dad, your wood brings in a lot of money.  Why don't we use some of that to buy our food instead of hunting all the time??

Shinzo just stood there for a moment dumbfounded.  ?Well... it's not right to do that.  Money isn't everything son.  You should contribute all you can.  Accomplish something with your life.?

?But what if I want to accomplish other things, dad?  What if I want to hang out with other kids, or play games or something?  Why shouldn't I just make a lot of money fast and use my free time to do what I want to do??

Shinzo wasn't the type of man used to frowning.  He hadn't frowned in a long time.  So when he heard his son say that his face twisted, bent into strange shapes not meant to be on a face.  But he did his best to keep his cool.  ?That's merchant talk,? he said.  ?And I don't want to hear any more of it.  Now lets get back home.  We've got radishes to pick and the fairies will probably be trying to steal the laundry.?

The very next day Taro was gone, along with all his possessions.  All that was left was a note that said, ?I'll become the best merchant in town, Dad.  Just you see.?  Shinzo just shook his head sadly.  He  never spoke about his son again, but he started spending more time training his daughter, who truth to be told was a better lumberjack to begin with.

Meanwhile Taro started small.  He dusted off a spot in the marketplace and started selling herbs that he found in the forest.  All he had was his stock and a sign that read ?Magic Forest Healing Herbs.  Sure to Ease Your Pain.?  But Taro was good at buying and selling.  Within a week he'd gotten his own stall up.  By the end of the month he was selling the items that other people had traded to him instead of herbs.  A year later and the Kirisame Second Hand Shop opened up, just a few blocks down from his grandfathers hat shop.

Business boomed for the newest Kirisame shop.  Taro had a bunch of assistants, one of whom eventually became his wife.  And they in turn had a daughter Marisa.  And as soon as news got out bets were ten to one that she'd run away before she was thirteen.  People in Gensoukyo are nothing if not skilled at pattern recognition.

For a long while though it looked like they'd all be wrong.  Marisa was just as fascinated by trade as her father was.  Admittedly sometimes she was a little bad about the payment part of the trade, but she was sharp as a tack and she loved the store.  She would sit behind the counter just to see the new items people would bring in.  Every battered lamp, rotted book and faded picture was a treasure to her eyes.  A mystical relic that needed to be investigated, cleaned and traded only if a better item came in exchange.

Which is why Taro was so surprised when Marisa came up waving a book of magic spells above her head and proclaimed loudly, ?I want to be a witch!?

Taro looked down at that book with great trepidation.  He'd always known that his daughter might find a different path then his own, but a witch?  No one would willing go to sell a witch their old goods.  But if he told her to give up on her dream, well, he could recognize patterns too!  He stared at that book as if it were a mine.  A horrible trap that was sure to take his daughter away if he couldn't find a way to disarm it.  Finally he simply said.  ?That's nice dear,? and patted Marisa on the head.  Then he stole into her room that night and took the book away, figuring Marisa would just think it had been lost.

It might have worked too, if Marisa hadn't been sneaking into her parents room already to see what rare items he picked up each night.  Two days after he hid the book away Marisa had gone off into the woods to become a witch.

A few years of mage training in the forest later the Kirisame Magic Shop was opened.  And while Taro had been right about people not being keen on selling her their used goods, they were happy to buy things from her for ridiculous prices.  She sold potions, and charms, and most of all fireworks.  The finest fireworks in all Gensoukyo, built not just with gunpowder but with her own magic.  Sparklers that lasted for days and rockets that changed in dragons midair were just some of the few new and exciting fireworks she made.

So of course when the Gensoukyo Correspondence Appreciation Festival started she was there, preparing a new show for when night fell.  Tengu, kappa and humans alike would wander over and hand her a few coins, and she'd smile and ask what type of fireworks they liked best before adding another round to her mortars.

Night fell, and people cleared the skies for the performance.  And what a performance it was.  There were noise makers, and color changers, and sparklers and lasers.  Rockets that spun and twisted to form a camera that took a picture of the watching crowds.  And of course leaflet droppers to spread the newspapers from the higher paying customers out around the crowd during intermissions.

When it was all over and done with Marisa looked at her handiwork with an amount of pride.  It was a great accomplishment from her perspective.  She it didn't match fighting through strange dimensions and stealing from aliens, but it was a lot safer.  You had to appreciate the small jobs after all. 

As she was standing there she heard a cough and her father walked up beside her.

The two stood there silently for a long while, each stubbornly looking out at the festival.  A sort of anti staring contest, where the first one to look the other in the eyes or walk away would lose.  People would wander over to talk to one of the other, then freeze and walk away, somehow realizing there was mental battle, a cosmic struggle going on between the two.

Finally Taro cleared his throat again, signaling his defeat.  Marisa started to walk away, but before she disappeared into the crowd he said, ?That was a good fireworks display.  The best.?

The young girl didn't turn around.  But she replied, ?Thanks, Dad.?

Sometimes in life, a few words are all you need.

That's the news from Gensoukyo.  Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are about average.

Iced Fairy:
Week 1 Ends here
Week 2 Begins Now!

Iced Fairy:
Come on now.  Over 25 topics and no entrants?  Some of you have to have an unfinished entry from before you can put together.

Don't make this a win by default.   :(

capt. h:
Doctor Komeiji challenge


?I hear voices.? Utsuho said, lying on the couch next to me.

?Those are perfectly natural. I hear them all the time!? I say. ?Usually when people are talking to me.?

?No, I mean in my head.?

?Well, where else are you going to hear them?? I ask. ?I mean, maybe if you heard them in your belly button there would be a problem, but your head is a perfectly normal place to hear voices.?

?I mean I hear voices, but they aren?t real.?

?Of course the voices are real! If they weren?t real, you wouldn?t be hearing them,? I say. ?Do you listen to them? I find that voices usually say stuff.?

?They tell me to burn everything.? The raven scowled.

?That?s normal.? I say. ?Are there people saying these things??

?No. The voices aren?t real, they all come from me.?

?Well then,? I say, tapping my pen on my cheek. ?You should know that just because a voice is in your head, doesn?t mean it?s not real. I suggested doing what the voices tell you.?

?But they tell me to kill people!?

?And do you want to kill people?? I ask.

?I don?t know anymore,? The raven says, clutching her head. She?s really worried, isn?t she? Ah well, only one fix for that.

?I think the voices are your subconscious. You should listen to it! You secretly want to destroy people, and the healthy thing to do is to listen to yourself!?

?But?? Utsuho stutters.

?No buts! I am your Psychiatrist, and I?m telling you to go out and burn things! Understand? Now go!?

I am such a good psychiatrist, I tell myself as I see my raven out. I should get a degree!

I might have poasted something by now but I have a heb code and it's thlowing me down. *sniff*


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