Disclaimer: Team Shanghai Alice owns the Touhou Project and all its component characters, settings, and others.
She couldn't believe she was stooping so low. She was now reduced to a harmless prankster, a wanderer. The change was too quick, too sudden, and now she, a trickster of several centuries, had been tricked. What little pride she had was taken away from her.
Mystia Lorelei ran, hustling about with several pieces of clothing. The night was still young, but no one but she could see what was going on. No one but she could know about this, lest she lose her another opportunity. Time was crucial; if she took too long preparing, there would be no more victims.
Over her usual pink dress, she donned a brown nondescript kimono, which was unusually clean and neat. (She never used it anyway.) Within it, her wings were folded and hidden, because unlike her dress, it was only made for humans; though it was painful, she wasn't going to cut two slits behind it for comfort. She tied a stolen blue apron around her waist. To her, this outfit was a stupid idea, but she had to play the part. She couldn't be a youkai.
Her feathery ears perked up at the sound of a faint thud. As quickly as she heard the growl, she shot her gaze at the onlooker. Even with her acute eyesight, she could only make out the faint outline of what appeared to be a wolf.
Only a single growl was needed to shoo away the wolf. They both knew that the night sparrow would eventually overpower the other youkai in a brawl. Nothing more needed to be said.
Mystia replaced her hat with a blue bandana, tying up her pink hair and nearly fumbling with the knot as she finished. Her ears were tucked into the cloth, hidden from prying eyes. There was no need for functionality now.
With her hand grasping her cap, she neared a wooden cart, hidden in an overgrown shrub barely tall enough to hide the cart's frame. No one had found it. Mystia pulled it out by its large front handle, but struggled to shake off stray branches that had clung to it.
"Rrrrgh!" she grunted. By the time she had freed the cart from its hiding place, she was breathing fast and hard for breath.
Now, she could see it better. It was an average but slightly improvised piece of equipment, with no heating source or any proper fuel. There were only matchsticks in the now-opened grill, and there were a lot of them laid in a pile under the metal plate.
She looked at her cap, only to find it folded from clenching it too tightly. "Oh, great," she murmured, tossing it haphazardly on the cart.
So here she was, Mystia Lorelei, the Wonder of the Night Sparrow, no longer a bird of prey but a mere vendor dressed in human clothing. Even if it was only for this night, it was degrading beyond words.
"This had better be worth it," she grumbled.
She opened a cabinet beneath the countertop, taking out a wooden pot. With dreadful anticipation, she removed the lid.
The lamprey was still fresh.
The night sparrow sighed in relief. "Finally, I can get this over with!"
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.
Mystia's hands twitched.
Not only was she bored and disappointed, but she was also itching to unsheathe her claws and kill. Leaving behind a corpse was a much better threat than enticement, but the new rules of Gensokyo had forced every youkai to "play fair." None of it was fair; where was the fun in challenging humans? It was more satisfying to catch them unawares and kill them where they stood.
She began to sing in a young and mellow voice, filling the forest path with her song. One other thing that she enjoyed besides the art of hunting was singing. It was something she took as a passion, both exciting and calming her.
"Cherry blossom, cherry blossom, this dream is far too short…"
A stray wind blew across the forest. On the cart, a single bright paper lantern shone red in the dark, swinging with the night breeze. It didn't light the place up, but it could be seen from a mile away. The light would be bait for the unfortunate humans who would come across her song's sweet tone.
That is, if there were any to begin with. Not a soul had come along in the past hour, and, to be honest, she believed that no one would come. Only insect noises kept her company.
"Snowflake, snowflake, fall on me, fall on me…"
As she sung, Mystia looked to the black sky, gazing at the stars. The panorama above didn't change, but how many other things did change? How many youkai were there now, now that they had converged in this land of illusion? What would happen to the humans, now that they were separated from the rest of their civilization?
She sang for a reason. This was what night sparrows were known for: their songs of discord and magic of night blindness. Many a human had been a victim of the night blindness she induced, and they all were allured by her song. The poor, deluded fools would die at her hands and become a very filling meal.
But now that hunting humans was no longer an option, Mystia had to compete for wild animals. Fortunately, fish was something she did not have to scavenge for. She could spend a half of the day fishing and come back with enough for dinner, the best part being the fact that no one disturbed her. Cooking them was simple and yielded delicious food, if she did say so herself.
"Sunshine, sunshine, won't you stay? Won't you stay?"
So she had come up with this. If she wasn't going to be known for her ferocity, and if the humans weren't going to fear her, then she would be known for her cunning. Her trickery.
Looking again beyond the path, her eyes scouted for humans. None so far-
"Spring breeze, spring breeze, fill m-m-my breath, fill my breath…"
The night sparrow's voice wobbled and almost wavered at what she saw. No way, she thought. It was a human, probably coming back from the planting fields. From her place, Mystia noticed the lazy gait of the man. His shoulders hung wearily from his frame, and his feet were dragging themselves across. His other features, however, were hidden in the shade of the night.
"Time to work my magic," the youkai breathed out. One last stanza was left in her song, and after that, the night blinding would commence. She inhaled deeply, trying to calm down.
"Land of dreams, land of dreams, cover me in sweet bliss…"
Orbs of black raced towards the human. The man, slow and steady, tripped forward, looking around in confusion. Mystia hopefully observed him, wanting him to come this way. His head tilted upwards, finally noticing the cart's red lantern. His approach began with a crawl, then a staggering walk after he had gotten off the ground.
"Better start preparing," Mystia reminded herself. She took out the wooden pot containing the lamprey as well as some leftover salt that she had scrounged for.
Again, she watched the man come. Come on, you're already halfway, was what she wanted to say, but she had to keep silent; it was already suspicious for a vendor to be out in the open, and drawing attention to herself was bound to get her in trouble.
Speaking of which, there was. From the side, the same wolf from before emerged, ready to pounce on the traveler. A growl wouldn't drive him away this time, which was for sure.
Immediately, Mystia thought of shooing it away personally, but in the middle of her scramble, hesitated. No, she wasn't going to protect the human when another youkai could see it. No, that would ruin her name. But then, she would have wasted this time setting everything up. It was all going to go down the drain if she just stood there.
"Screw this!" She was at a loss for actions. Anger began to penetrate her indifferent face, but not far behind was grief. It was either soiling her name or throwing her plan away.
And against all odds, she ran for it. The human could see her, running towards him with an angry face. Just before he could react, Mystia stood with her back in front of him, with fists bared at the intruder. She glared at the wolf youkai.
The wolf remained unperturbed. It barked with a high tone and sprinted back into the dark confines of the forest.
The human was only scared by the sound, but Mystia understood it clearly.
"You fool! Humans were not meant for us to protect. You will regret doing this."
She would need to take her mind off that. For now, she had some praise and recognition to win.
"Hey, are you okay?" Mustering up her wits, she asked the human. "Come with me; I'll get you to a safe place." The curse of night blindness was still on him, so he could not see the face of the fraudulent youkai clearly. Was he going to trust her? He only nodded.
Mystia let the human place his rough arm on her shoulder as they walked towards the night sparrow's cart.
The rest of the night passed like a blur. She put her cooking skills to use, preparing the lamprey on the flat iron grill, lighting up the matches for the grill, and salting the fish.
While the human was busy eating the grilled lamprey, her hand, hidden behind the grill, channeled the night blindness curse away from the human's eyes. The black energy floated to Mystia's hidden hand, dissipating as she clenched her hand. The human remarked about how he could see properly again, and probably because of eating the lamprey. No comment on the taste of the food and the chef's appearance, though. After some thanks, he left with a relieved and peaceful look on his face.
Hopefully, he would spread the word about her. Then, she would be able to enter the human village without raising suspicion and continue her plan.
Now what? What had she done this night? She had openly helped a human, but at the same time deceived him. What would the youkai view this as, even if she meant to deceive?
"Cherry blossom, cherry blossom, won't you stay for a little longer?"
Mystia hauled her cart out, back into the embrace of darkness.
"Won't you stay for a little longer?"