The snow maiden happily floated along the edge of the Misty Lake. There wasn't a blizzard going, but it was noon, and the unnatural mist that gave the lake it's name had formed a massive freezing cloud. Letty loved every second of the deadly cold, which is why she had decided to make her home here, instead of in the mountains like most of her kind. The mist also served to keep the area cooler during the less pleasant months.
In fact, today the air seemed even more cold then usual. Perhaps spring would come late this year. Letty smiled at this thought, which quickly turned to a grimace as someone hit her in the back of the head with a iceball. Only a fairy would be so stupid as to pull that sort of prank on a youkai like her at the height of winter. She turned and focused her killing cold on the area, to teach the spirit a lesson.
To her surprise, the tiny blue haired figure just giggled. Letty had enough time to see the tiny icicle wings flutter in the frozen air before the ice fairy ran off.
The snow maiden's annoyance quickly turned to mild pity. Fairies were unkillable by normal means, but they only lived as long as the natural force that kept them alive lasted. Those that represented the moonlight through the trees, or the winds over the lake, would last for centuries. Ice fairies, on the other hand, usually lasted only though the winter outside of the mountains. Ice had no memory, unlike flowers, and the world didn't remember ice like the accursed spring, so even if the area froze again the fairy created would be a completely new being.
Letty quickly forgot the matter and spent the rest of her winter wandering about searching out the fiercest snowstorms. She'd seen too many of those fairies come and go to dwell on it too much.
Cirno floated over the lake. It had gotten nice and cold again, so Cirno could go out and play. There had been a big stretch where she had done nothing but use her powers to keep her home from melting. She had shrunk to almost half size before the weather had cooled down again. But now she was bigger and stronger then ever, so she could go out and play with all the other youkai.
As she passed by the part of the lake that hid her home she saw a figure moving through the heavy snow. At first she was worried. Perhaps it was a human, or bad youkai who wanted to hurt her house. So she flew towards the figure in order to scare it off.
Then the icy fairy noticed that things had become even colder. It was that odd feeling she had felt about the nice lady who had made things real cold in thanks for playing with her. She decided she would play with the nice lady again. So she rolled up a ball of snow and smoothed it out with her ice powers (to make it fly better) then smacked the nice lady right in the back of the head.
The lady said some words Cirno didn't understand and turned to her. Once again, that wave of wonderful cold rolled over her. Then the lady looked real surprised. More surprised then normal for people who Cirno had just hit with an iceball. Cirno took a quick glance behind her to make sure nothing was sneaking up on her. There wasn't anything there, but then the lady put her hands around her neck. That felt less comfortable.
"You shouldn't hit people with ice chunks little fairy," the lady said. "They tend to get mad."
Cirno found the pressure on her neck wasn't enough to prevent her from talking. "But you thanked me last time. And could you stop holding my neck? It hurts." She began to squirm to get out of the hold, and the lady let her escape.
"So you were the fairy from last time. Did you come down from the mountain to play here?"
"Nope! I live here."
The lady frowned. "Hm... Well try not to be too noisy." And then she proceeded to walk away. Cirno floated after her.
"Hey. I'm Cirno. We should play. What's your name?" The little fairy rambled.
The lady just sighed. "So troublesome. Shouldn't you check on your home to make sure no one's disturbed it?"
Cirno got worried at the thought. "Oh yeah! You're right. Thanks miss." She flew off, thinking of ways she could make sure no one would disturb the small ice cave. Perhaps if she got stronger she could chase dangerous things away from the area...
Letty sighed and reached out with her power. She could decrease how cold an area was in addition to increasing it. That was how the Yuki-onna drew humans to them, after all. This time, however, she used her powers to counter that of the little ice fairy, preventing her from making the icicles on the tree too large. "Cirno. If you keep that up you'll make the branches snap."
Cirno pouted, "I know! That's the fun part. Then the snow on the branches falls down." Fortunately, she stopped using her powers allowing Letty to relax as well.
Letty sighed again. For creatures created by nature, fairies seemed completely oblivious to the damage they caused to the natural world. Something that annoyed her to no end. Cirno was worse then most, as ice could deal a lot of damage, especially now that she had grown. Fortunately the little one had taken a liking to Letty for some reason, and either listened with a minimum of whining or stomped off, leaving Letty some peace and quiet.
Still... "Why don't you play with the other ice fairies as often?" Letty asked.
Cirno shrugged. "They never remember my name. Except the mountain ones occasionally. And usually they're different every year too. They're fun but it's always a little weird."
"Well, fairies aren't all that good at remembering things. In fact Youkai all have weak memory." Letty commented.
Cirno looked over at the yuki-onna. "Nuh uh. I'm a fairy and I remember everything. At least now that I'm grown up. I remember the flower festival, the demon explosion, the time I froze a fish on that fisherman's hook..." The fairy began to ramble on, leaving Letty to think.
A memory like that was very odd. Letty knew that even the strongest Youkai let most events, especially repetitive ones, fade into the background of their memories. It took something like a spectacular defeat, or a passionate love, to leave a lasting mark. That was how they kept track of things over such a long life. She tried to remember if the ice fairies of the highest mountains had been different, but her tendency to avoid them and her own memory worked against her.
"So yeah. My memory is great." Cirno finished with a beaming smile.
"Hmm... Is that so? Didn't you say you had a match with that Darkness Youkai right about now?" Letty replied looking at the approach of twilight.
"What? Then I have to go beat her down! Bye Letty!" Cirno quickly flew off.
Letty felt odd about tricking the ice fairy like that. She actually didn't recall at all when Cirno had said she was going to have that match. But it was just so easy to get the flighty girl to wander off. She only wondered why she didn't use those tricks more often.
Cirno picked herself off the snow of the forest floor. "Gah! You stupid humans! I'll make you cry next time!" She wiped the tears from her own eyes as she screamed her fury. This was the second time that those stupid humans had made fun of her, and she wouldn't forget it. She was going to be the strongest and she would make them pay.
She fluttered her wings to make sure they had healed and then took to the sky. She had made it a little way into the air when the flash of a spellcard breaking came from along her assailants path. Cirno winced in sympathy for the poor youkai caught by that storm of bullets. On a whim she went to check on the person they had defeated. Most Youkai didn't like this weather either for some reason, so she was curious as to who it was.
When she arrived at the battle site she saw a familiar hat and translucent cape half buried in snow. "Letty!" The figure in the snow muttered something unintelligible, so Cirno grabbed an arm and pulled her out. "Are you okay?"
The tall woman brushed the snow off her face with one hand while clutching her side with the other. "I'm fine Cirno. I can't revive from death, but this isn't much of a wound." She tried to stand, grimaced at the pain, and settled for sitting. "Ah, but it looks like this winter will end soon. Well, I suppose I was getting a little tired."
Cirno offered her hand to the yuki-onna, and after a pause Letty allowed Cirno to pull her up. The two began slowly walking back towards the lake. After a few moments Cirno spoke up again. "I'll miss the winter." She brightened up again. "But then I guess I'll get to see the flowers. And freeze frogs again!"
Letty frowned and sighed. "You shouldn't mess with nature like that, Cirno."
Cirno felt an odd twinge inside at Letty's disapproving words. "I'm just giving them hibernation training, that's all. I'm not messing with them." Normally fairies didn't bother giving excuses, but Cirno didn't like that look from Letty.
Letty merely shook her head then stood up straighter. "Well in any case, I should be going home to sleep now. You probably should go home too, Cirno." Letty ascended into the air and flew ahead, while Cirno began her own trip back.
After a few moments Letty sped up a bit, so Cirno sped up too. Letty increased her speed little by little with Cirno matching her every step of the way. Cirno found the exercise fun, though she wondered why Letty was sticking around to play when she said she was going home.
Finally on the banks of the misty lake Letty turned to face Cirno. She looked angry. "Why are you following me?"
Cirno thought it over for a moment. "Uh, I wasn't following you. I was going home. Why are you going this way? Weren't you playing with me?"
Letty looked confused for a moment. Then looked around to see if there were any observers. "Cirno. Where exactly is your home?"
Cirno felt fairly nervous about pointing out her home to anyone, but she trusted Letty naturally. So after a quick check of her own, she pointed to a hidden overhang by the lake.
For some reason Letty put her head in her hands. "I'm too tired for this. I'll see you at the end of fall, Cirno." She then moved to a pile of snow covering a dead fall, carefully removed the branches, and stepped into the hole revealed, covering it up behind her. Cirno noticed the hole wasn't all the far from her own home.
After a bit Cirno smiled. "Oh cool! We're neighbors." Well she'd do her best to keep everyone away from both of their homes then. An easy task for the strongest fairy.
The last year Letty had been dreading the inevitable recap story from Cirno, but it was almost fun hearing about what happened during her long sleep. She wouldn't want to be out and about in that heat, but the tales were interesting. Especially since the late fall rarely had any good snowstorms to dance through.
Cirno gave another exaggerated gesture. "And then I saw Lilly White flying around during the festival and I shot her down. Boom! It was great."
Letty tried to give a look of disapproval, "Now now. Even if she is a horrid bringer of pollen and warmth you shouldn't be messing too much with nature."
Cirno pouted. "But she shot at me first!"
Letty smiled widely and patted the fairy on the head. "Well that's okay then. Good job putting her in her place." Cirno beamed back at the praise. She was sorry she had missed THAT show.
"Yep!" Cirno continued. "Daiyousei said that I was the strongest fairy for sure now that I beat Lilly! And Daiyousei should know, cause she's the smartest fairy."
"I see. That's impressive Cirno, you should keep up the good work." Letty wondered if this Daiyousei was the rumored 'fairy of fairies' or if she was just the longest lived one in the area.
"But that one Lady was kinda annoying. She said I was too powerful." Letty looked down to see Cirno frowning.
"Who said that?"
"The Yama. She said I was too powerful and that I might die. But fairies die all the time right? And then we come back." From her expression Cirno had tossed the idea aside.
Letty felt that odd feeling again. "You shouldn't be so careless, Cirno. A fairy who dies too far from their home won't return. And a fairy who's home is destroyed will vanish forever. Gensoukyo is a small place, but it's best to be careful."
Cirno looked almost humbled for a few seconds. "Okay Letty. I promise I'll be careful."
Letty patted Cirno on the head again. "Good girl." Most fairies were annoying and burdensome, but this one made up for it somehow. Maybe the increase in maturity explained it.
Cirno stopped Mystia from flipping past the recipe. "Why don't you use this one? It looks pretty good."
"What?" The night sparrows wings flapped violently and Cirno had to quickly grab the book so that page wouldn't be lost. "How could you suggest using a recipe that requires bird meat!?"
"You idiot! That word doesn't have anything to do with birds!" Cirno pointed at the preceding sentence. "See! 'Seikin.' It says you have to capture the eels live and keep them that way." The fairy folded her arms and gave Mystia a stern look. "The only reason you asked me to help is because I can read, so let me read before getting worked up about things."
"Fine. Fine." Mystia replied with a huff. "Still that's not fair. I've never even heard that word before. Did you get it off Tewi?"
"Well, yeah." Cirno muttered. "At least I got something useful out of her. Stupid rabbit and her tricks. If I ever caught her in a fair fight... Hey that's an idea. You could add rabbit to your menu."
Mystia gave Cirno an incredulous look. "That wouldn't really fit with the rest of the menu. Though it's better then your idea of selling popsicles in winter."
Cirno sniffed. "I still think it's a great idea. They won't melt, and youkai would buy them."
Mystia sighed. "I told you, the only youkai who would be willing to eat frozen foods outdoors in winter would be fairies. And YOU are the only fairy that uses money. And it's stolen money at that. You stick to reading, I'll handle business."
Cirno was about to reply when a figure moved through the woods. "Letty!" Cirno flew towards the woman in blue and white that had just entered the clearing, and hugged the woman tightly. Letty accepted the treatment for a while before disengaging from the fairy and giving Mystia a nod. The two usually had little to do with each other, but the Night Sparrow appreciated the business winter sent her way.
"Hello Cirno. It's been a while. You seem taller then ever."
"Yep!" Cirno tried to strike a more mature pose. "You're up early, Letty. I wasn't expecting you for another week."
"There's going to be a lovely snowstorm soon. It should bury the lower mountains. With that autumn will be over." Letty explained.
Mystia started to fire up her grill and began absently singing to herself as the two ice youkai chatted. Cirno went recounting the events of the past year, and Letty sat alternately praising or chiding the fairy, and occasionally even asking for more detail.
"... So the gate guard rushed straight into the "weak spot" of my spellcard and slammed straight into my bullets. It was great. So with the gate guard beaten I was able to wander into the mansion to challenge the mistress herself."
Letty seemed to be unsure if she was proud, worried or just found the whole thing funny. "And what happened then."
Cirno looked chagrined. "Uh, then I got blasted. A lot. The witches were having tea together that day and, well..."
Letty used her hand to hide a grin before adopting a serious air. "That's what happens when you get overconfident. You shouldn't pick a fight unless you're also willing to lose it."
"Hm... I would say that you shouldn't start a fight unless you're determined not to lose it." A dry voice interrupted.
Two more figures entered the clearing. Both were easily recognizable to the three youkai. All of them knew the Hakutaku that guarded the village, and Mokou was an oddity even in Gensokyo.
Mokou continued. "If you refuse to accept a loss, you'll go further then if you just give up. That's why I beat Kaguya whenever she doesn't cheat enough."
Letty frowned. "That seems like dangerous advice to people who can die."
Mokou shrugged and let the matter be. She turned her full attention to Mystia, who was puffing up and glaring daggers at her rival in business, though likely the night sparrow's anger was mostly over Mokou's willingness to cook bird. Keine smiled apologetically at the two sitting youkai. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I needed to ask a question of you. If you could just spare a moment?"
Letty looked over at Cirno, who also seemed to have no idea what was going on. "I suppose I could try, but Youkai like you who can memorize histories are rare. I probably won't remember what you want to know."
Keine nodded. "I expected that. Which is why I'm asking Cirno. If that's alright, of course."
"Me?" Cirno looked incredulous then puffed out her chest in self praise. "But of course. I can remember anything I've seen. What do you need to know?"
"How old are you?"
Cirno blinked. "Uh. Let me think." The ice fairy closed her eyes. "This will be two hundred and thirteen, no two hundred and fourteen winters. Told you I could remember anything!"
Letty gave the historian a questioning look of her own. "Why such an interest, Ms Kamishirasawa?"
Keine turned away. "I think you already figured out the answer, Ms Whiterock."
Cirno glanced over at Letty. "What did she mean by that?"
Letty looked over at the Youkai Mountain. "Hm... Well I should hurry if I want to make that snowstorm. Besides I'm sure Ms Lorelai will want me away from her shop so the customers won't be cold. Do you want to come with me?" She stood.
Cirno narrowed her eyes slightly. "That's not an answer."
Letty laughed. "You're growing up, Cirno. You used to miss those all the time." She waved to the three still by the food cart and began heading towards the mountain. Cirno flew quickly after.
"That's not an answer either!"
As they left Mokou shook her head. "That's an odd pair. You see such strange things as time passes."
Keine smiled. "Indeed." She looked towards the cart. "Well since we're here, I could buy you diner, Mokou."
Moukou looked to where Mystia had gone from violent looks to pretending to ignore them. "I don't think that would work well. Besides, it looks bad when you eat at the competition's shop."
Keine waved the comment off. "Don't worry, I'll erase the history of this meal so no one will remember."
Mystia grimaced but pulled out a few dishes. "I'll serve anyone with money, stupid human or not. And after tasting this lamprey, only the most stupid wouldn't swear off bird for life."
And so the years passed ~
"Hey Letty! Guess what happened!"
"Hm... Did you finally beat the giant frog?"
~ and passed ~
"Cirno! Why was the door to my house frozen over?"
"Uh... I wanted to wake you up early so I dropped the temperature... I'm sorry!"
~ though the two would only meet one season out of four ~
"I found this near the boarder. I thought you might like it, Letty."
"It's very pretty Cirno. It almost looks like real snow."
~ they enjoyed their time together to the fullest ~
"I hear you've gotten a name for yourself in the village."
"Yeah. Humans are weird. You'd think that leading them into snow drifts would remind them I'm a fairy."
~ but like all things of nature, seasons, years, and centuries must end.
The sound of someone entering her home awoke Letty from a light doze. It was still odd to spend so much time here awake, but she really didn't have the strength to go outside anymore. Shifting slightly, she raised her head and smiled at the woman who had entered, her sole visitor. "Hello Cirno. Come in."
Cirno gave a weak smile and moved next to the bed. "Hey Letty. How are you?"
Letty took a long breath. "I'm fine. Just tired." There was a long silence. "Hey Cirno, when will spring come?"
The fairy looked away, feigning interest in the snowglobe by the bed. "In another week or so."
Letty chuckled lightly. "You said that last week, Cirno. And the week before." Her tired smile widened just a bit. "You shouldn't mess with nature, Cirno."
"It's *sniff* it's just around your home, Letty. I... I... I don't want you to go away, Letty!" Cirno finally broke down and started sobbing.
Letty mustered her strength to pull the girl closer. "It's okay. Let it all out. Fairies are supposed to let all their feelings out, even if they are the strongest."
Cirno tried to speak, but in the end just hiccuped and cried some more. The two sat like that for a long time, until Cirno's crying had lapsed to an occasional sob.
"Cirno, I have something to tell you." Letty raised a finger to shush the girl when she looked up. "I'm the one responsible for your birth."
She paused to take a deep breath. "The mist over the lake may have offered a little protection for the ice that is your focus, but me lowering the temperature for my hideaway was really why it wouldn't melt. I'm sorry I didn't take responsibility for that even after I figured it out." She brushed some hair off Cirno's face. "But now you can keep your home safe yourself. I'm glad."
Cirno almost managed a smile. "Letty. I already knew. I've known ever since I saw your face when Keine asked my age. And you were always there for me. Even when I was really annoying."
Letty closed her eyes. "Thank you Cirno. I'm glad you were there too. Even if you were sometimes really annoying." There was another long silence. "Cirno. I'm really tired. It hurts to be awake. Could you let me sleep?"
Cirno gripped Letty tighter, but managed to simply say. "Yes."
The air started to get warmer, and Letty began to drift off. She felt a certain pride for the girl, no, the woman, she had spent so much time with. It was rare when winter got to leave something behind. Especially something so full of life.
Cirno floated above the lake, her face still marked by tears, but with most of her crying done. She moved to wipe away the last tears when a hand presented a handkerchief. "Here," said Mokou. "Use this."
Cirno wiped her eyes, and shook the kerchief to unfreeze it before blowing her nose. She offered it back, but Mokou simply waved it off. "Consider it my donation to the 'ice goddess of the lake'," the immortal replied with a smirk.
Cirno frowned. "You of all humans should know I'm not a goddess. And that's a terrible donation."
Mokou laughed. "Good point. How about this." She raised a bottle of sake and two cups. "You'll have to chill it yourself though."
Cirno managed a grin. "Thanks again. But I'm still not a goddess. I have no intention of letting the faith of idiots bind me."
Mokou handed over a cup. "Then a wake. To our mothers."
Cirno started at the words. Then choked back a sob. Perhaps Letty had been something of a mother. At least as close to a mother as a fairy would have. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose again, but she was smiling along with the tears.
She took the cup from Mokou and they each filled the others glass. They raised their cups in unison and each drank. The two began reminiscing on the past. Tales of old matches, interesting times, and past friends. After a while Mokou sighed. "It's nice being able to talk with someone else who remembers. You, Keine, and HER are the only people who seem to remember things around here. At least things that weren't huge incidents."
Cirno refilled her cup. "Ice doesn't forget." Seeing Mokou's odd look she explained. "When it melts, ice turns to water. If that water refreezes, it's new ice. But until it melts the ice doesn't change. It remembers everything. Since my focus doesn't melt much anymore..."
Mokou nodded. "You remember everything. Not a bad skill. And I guess that's why you're smarter and stronger then most fairies too then."
Cirno shrugged. That was enough introspection for one day, in her mind. Even with the wine.
Mokou stretched a bit. "Well, I imagine soon even the most sleepy youkai will start remembering things. I hear the new shrine maiden has got a lot of talent. And there's another witch girl making a name for herself down at the village."
A thought fluttered across Cirno's mind. "Hm... That sounds familiar. I take it the shrine maiden is very laid back?"
Mokou nodded. "Some would say lazy."
"And the witch is almost certainly insane. Trained by the black white?" Cirno said with a grin.
Mokou shrugged. "Probably insane, though she's training under the puppeteer. But that one was pretty warped too."
Cirno rubbed her hands together in expectation. "Well it would be untoward if they didn't have something to do. Maybe it'll wake up that mountain miko too." An idea had definitely formed. "Hey, what do you say? I could use a stage 5 boss."
Mokou laughed. "Sorry, I do EX stages only. Besides Keine would have a fit if I caused an incident. But if they do fly out my way I'll be sure to set them straight." The immortal picked up her bottle and flew off. "Have fun Ms Ice Fairy. Do keep the damage down."
Cirno waved the comment off. Of course she'd keep the damage down. Letty would be sad if her big send off hurt nature. The Hakurei Shrine, on the other hand...
She raised her arms to the heavens and a vortex of ice and snow formed at her command. With careful aim she split it and dropped one on the forest of magic and the other on the shrine. After that it was merely a matter of making a proper trail back. She smiled as the other fairies started fluttering about the lake, each looking to take advantage of the fun. Now she just had to prepare her spellcards and wait.
Authors Notes: The second Touhou work I put together. However this one is far more connected to my other stories currently so I decided to post it first. (April Showers was the second to last work I've put together so far.)
On the Mystia/Cirno dialogue: The archaic term Seikin does use the bird kanji. Mystia, not being a master at reading (she can't read Aya's newspaper for example), would have no clue about it.
(btw: I've got a chunk of works that I put up on imageboards before that I'm trying to both archive and share here, so no, I'm not actually writing that fast. My actually worktime per story is pretty long.)