Touhou Project is the creation of Team Shanghai Alice.
Shou felt the burst of magic without ever seeing it. She fell to the side—her body tracing a tight arc through the air—and felt it as something passed entirely too close, something that crackled with energy and made the hairs on her neck curl. They're not using play danmaku, she thought, and that scared her more than anything else.
Nobody broke the rules, not here, not unless they had something impossible to gain.
The worst part of it was—she wasn't sure if these people were chasing the right person, not really. Less than an hour ago she'd been nobody—tiger youkai, semi-lapsed Buddhist, content to kill the hours rearranging the odds and ends kept away in her attic—and then there had been something like light, behind her, and she had turned—
And it had been a surprise, to say the least, to see a god materialize into her house.
She'd fallen to her knees. Inobservant she may have been, but there were procedures to follow when it came to gods. Or maybe her legs had just given out. She might have gasped the god's name in fright and wonder, but she couldn't remember that, either. There'd been the inane thought—If I had known he'd be stopping in I would have worn something better, I wouldn't have worn this ratty sweater, what if he doesn't like red—
(A laser cut into her path. She twisted up into the sky, just missing it, and felt the air beneath her burn.)
And then the god in her attic (the god in her attic) had pressed his pagoda into her hands.
"You must go," he'd said, his face tense.
"What?" she'd said.
"I can do little for you now," he'd said. And then again: "You must go."
And Shou had been about to say something, maybe ask where, but then the trapdoor had fallen apart in a flurry of splinters and between the command of a god and the masked youkai with very large weapons hauling themselves up and in the question had suddenly seemed less important.
A wall of fire appeared in front of her, surely impenetrable, but something in Shou's mind spoke of a weave. Her body found the gap almost before she was conscious of it, straight and narrow and through even as the heat closed over her heels.
She should have asked—she was sure of that now, with the air thick with danmaku and Bishamonten's pagoda a too-light weight in her palm. She should have held there long enough for a place, a name, even just a cardinal direction.
But she'd panicked, and she'd fled, and now there wasn't anything she could do but flee and wonder how long she could keep dodging a storm. She was still alive, but she'd been a Buddhist, long ago. She'd presided over enough funerals to understand how thin the boundary was.
And then, as if the thought alone was all it took, she slipped left when she meant right, and the bullet struck her between the shoulder blades.
There was no pain, only the force of it. She wondered, almost idly, if she hadn't been struck after all—if maybe it was only her imagination.
She didn't even realize she was falling until she hit the ground.
What woke her wasn't the sting of her back, burnt to peeling. What woke her wasn't the singular throbbing bruise that the rest of her body seemed to have transformed itself into during that blank space in her memory.
What woke her was something hard and cold prodding her in the forehead.
She opened her eyes. And then she closed them again, quick, the color and light too much. Her head swam. There was noise from somewhere close, but she was half certain it was coming from the inside of her battered skull.
And then the hard and cold found her again, this time square to the bridge of the nose. She opened her eyes again, more from surprise than will, and saw—
"So what the hell are you doing here, kid?"
The woman standing above her was no one she'd ever seen before. She didn't even look like anyone she'd seen before. Her short, gray hair was unkempt beneath rounded ears and a long tail coiled out behind her, but what was truly strange was the winkled blue jacket—thick, with apparent stitching. Shou had never seen the material before. It seemed almost too big for the woman, as if she was bundled into it instead of wearing it.
The woman was smoking a cigarette, too, something poorly wrapped that she kept shifting from one side of her mouth to the other. Whenever she did, the rod in the her hand (so that was what had poked her) tilted with it.
"Well?" the woman said. "You break through my roof, least you can do is give me a reason for it."
Roof, Shou thought, incoherently. Her eyes slipped past the woman, up to the splintered wooden beams and the blue sky glaring through. Oh, she realized, I broke through her roof.
I wonder how that happened?
And then, all at once, she remembered.
"Whoa, whoa, settle down there, kid." The woman was suddenly kneeling over her, with an iron grip pressing against Shou's shoulder. "You just took a nasty crash there. I'm not expecting you to take a walk, but you can talk, can't you?"
"You don't understand," Shou heard herself say. "The pagoda—"
There was a sound from the next room, the sound of a knock at a door, and there was no doubt in Shou's mind who it was. I broke through her roof, she thought again, and wondered how obvious her landing had been from the air.
And then the giddy, stupid thought: They broke into my attic, but they're knocking here? It's not fair.
The woman looked over her shoulder, toward the source of the sound, then back to Shou again. She took the cigarette out of her mouth, crushing it against the floor, and then seemed to come to some kind of decision.
"You make yourself quiet, kid," she said. "I'll get this."
And then she stood and left the room, leaving Shou alone with her wounds and—and no pagoda, Shou realized, and her panic, all-encompassing before, reached a new peak. The pagoda—where was it? She'd had it, flying away from the youkai. Had she dropped it when she'd been hit?
She'd been far up, far enough. It could've dropped anywhere.
Her heart was pounding in her throat, in her ears. She almost couldn't hear the woman when she spoke, her voice drifting in from the room over:
"Yeah? What do you want?"
There was a pause. Those youkai—were they talking to the woman, or had they already struck her down? Losing the pagoda—dying would be bad enough. But to take someone else down with her, someone who didn't deserve—
"Yeah, I know what you're talking about. You're after that kid, aren't you? The one that came through my roof." A shorter pause. And then: "You're too late. I ran her off already."
Something like sheer thankfulness seemed to diffuse itself through Shou's chest. Please, she begged, please, let this work...
"I don't know, and I don't care. Kid nearly fell through a load-bearing wall. I didn't have time to keep an eye on her and my house at the same time. Why don't you shove off and look for her?"
The silence stretched for ages.
And then, at long last, Shou heard the door close.
She closed her eyes. She thanked Buddha. She thanked Bishamonten. She thanked every god she'd ever heard of, even the ones that didn't believe in each other.
She'd sort it out, later. She had time.
"Look alive, kid," came the woman's voice, much closer.
Shou opened her eyes—and then her eyes widened even farther at the sight of something coming through the air right at her. The panic was made anew—instinct took over—
She was sitting up, suddenly, cradling something as it landed hard against her chest, taking a sharp breath at the pain of it. And then she saw what it was she'd caught and she forgot she was hurt at all.
"Your pagoda. Kid, you have any idea what kind of people you're dealing with?"
Between the crash, the close call, and the pagoda returned, she could barely recall her name. "Those youkai were trying to kill me," she stammered.
"Of course they were trying to kill you," the woman said. "They're a cult. They want to rule the world."
"They do? Wait—how do you know that?"
The woman scowled down at her, looking her directly in the eyes. She was a small woman—if Shou had been standing, the woman would've barely come up to her shoulder—but under that glare Shou didn't even feel ten centimeters tall.
"I've been around, kid," the woman said. She glanced down at the pagoda Shou had nearly died to keep, and Shou didn't know if she was relieved to have that glare turned away from her or even worse off now that this woman was paying attention to the pagoda instead.
"What is that?" the woman asked.
Shou made a decision of her own.
"It's a pagoda," she said, and before the woman could say something she probably deserved, she continued to explain: "Bishamonten gave it to me—and then those youkai came in. I don't know why. I don't even know where to go now."
And there it was, all laid out in the open, and Shou didn't know what reaction she was expecting—wonder, maybe, or at least astonishment—
But all there was was the trace of something passing over the woman face, a flash of teeth and the tightening of the eyes.
And then that was gone as quickly as it came, and there was only the even gaze fixed somewhere beyond her.
"I'll put out a futon." The woman turned to leave. "You stay here for tonight—then you're out of here."
And those eyes were back on her. "What?" the woman growled.
"I'm Shou Toramaru. What's your name?"
She didn't know what she was doing, she didn't know why she wanted this woman to know her name, and she was sure—she was certain—that she was setting herself up for something unkind.
But the woman only grimaced for a moment before she spoke.
"I'm Mousedowser," she said. "Naz Mousedowser."
And then she left the room again, and there was nothing for Shou to do but sit there in the wreckage and wait as her bruises healed.
Also, The Final Sacrifice was produced by Flying Dutchman Productions Ltd., and I may have accidentally-on-purpose forgotten to attach the "parody" tag. When full appreciation of a fic requires exposure to a obscure terrible Canadian indie flick from the nineties, that means it's good, right?
I regret nothing.