A Touhou Project fanfic by Achariyth
Disclaimer: Touhou Project belongs to ZUN. Because of the Cosmere elements, per the Warbreaker Creative Commons license offered by Brandon Sanderson, I wave all rights to this work.
Chapter 1: Odium
Kanako Yasaka sat alone in her shrine, gazing into a fire-blackened oak bowl. Occasionally, images would flicker across the still water, only to settle back into a reflection of the goddess's face.
"The sixteenth day of the sixteenth year," she muttered. Always sixteen, such an odd number for ritual. Then again, this wasn't her ritual.
"It's time!" a child's voice chanted. Thin arms wrapped around Kanako's neck, sloshing water out of the bowl in her hands. So much for an evening of quiet meditation.
"I know," the sky goddess said, slipping her head under Suwako Moriya's arms. "And you're not supposed to be here. This is Yamato business."
Suwako planted her hands on her hips. "Well, I'm making it Moreya business. You never let me help. Besides, I shouldn't have to hide. Sanae knows me already."
Suwako's existence used to be one of the most guarded secrets of the Moreya shrine's liturgy. But Kanako herself had written the liturgy, and those who knew the shrine's true history would have been shocked at how incomplete a chronicle Kanako had gifted to her followers.
"I'll be introducing Sanae to the mysteries of the Yamato, As close as you and I may be, you are still not a goddess of my pantheon."
The diminutive earth goddess laughed. "Neither are you, really. You hide behind my name, after all, oh 'great goddess Moreya.'"
"Only because those cursed demons wouldn't listen to me otherwise," Kanako said, frowning as she set the bowl on a stone by her feet. The sky goddess stood, towering over the earth goddess. "Can't you give me one day alone with my priestess so I can initiate her to a deeper faith?
"I know what you're going to teach her," Suwako sang. Kanako's eyes widened as the child-like goddess traced a complex figure around an pair of Xs. Light trailed from her fingertips as they moved through the air.
"You've been spying on me," Kanako said, her eyes narrowing.
"I love secrets, especially when they involve my girls," Suwako said. The child goddess didn't look like she had ever been kissed, much less borne children, but Kanako had spent centuries watching over Suwako's descendants. The earth goddess's face fell as the glowing lines in the air faded away. "I almost had it that time."
Kanako covered her free hand behind a sleeve just long enough to wipe away a set of glowing lines beneath her fingers. "I just ask that you trust me. I won't harm Sanae, you know that. So, please, don't do that again. It's too dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."
"I know that's a light spell. Gracia was never as clever in hiding her secrets as she thought she was," Suwako said.
Kanako sighed as she remembered Sanae's great-grandmother. "I still miss her."
Suwako wiped her eyes. "I do too. She left us too soon. Say, Kanako, what do you think Gracia would say about all this? About Gensokyo?"
The sky goddess laughed. "I don't think she'd even notice. She'd be too busy trying to marry Sanae off. And when that was done, probably Reimu and Marisa as well."
Suwako laughed and arched her back. For an instant, the old goddess of Moreya took her adult form. "As if Sanae needs to worry. She takes after her great-great-grandmother's side of the family after all."
"If she's anything like you, you old horny toad, she'll have a belly full before she's twenty."
"At least one priestess will fulfill her duties. For a girl that's supposed to produce an heiress, Reimu still hasn't found a more interesting use for men than for heavy lifting."
Kanako hid her smile behind a hand. "Are you claiming Reimu as your project now?"
"Hardly," Suwako said, a smile growing on her lips. "But the barrier is important. And if we play our cards right..." The goddesses were always scheming for more faith. The again, they were still around when most of the native gods and many of the Yamato that replaced them were no longer.
"Why don't you check up on your new charge." Kanako laughed as she pushed Suwako through the shrine's door.
Suwako planted her hands against the doorjamb. "Kanako, I will be there tomorrow. Don't think you can stop me."
"We'll see." Kanako's smile grew strained, but she managed to shove the earth goddess out of the shrine. Kneeling back towards the hearth's fire, she picked up the oak bowl and waited for the water to settle.
"Wake up, Kanako!" Kanako awoke with a start, leaping to her feet. Sanae backed away, letting sunlight from the doorway flood into her goddess's eyes.
"Are you okay?" Sanae said. "It isn't like you to sleep out here."
Kanako turned her head and blinked away purple afterimages. It wasn't like her to sleep in at all. However, the images in the bowl had been fleeting. For the briefest of moments, she had seen a cherry tree in the watery reflections. After that, sleep must have claimed her. "I'm fine. Have you been practicing?"
Sanae's shoulders slumped. "Please, no more calligraphy." The priestess rubbed at her ink-stained fingers.
"It's a test of Devotion," Kanako said.
"I followed you here," Sanae said. "That should be proof enough."
"Indeed," Kanako said with a smile. None of the other shrine maidens outside had followed her into Gensokyo. "Consider it tradition, though."
"I thought I knew all the traditions of the shrine," Sanae said. "And all the holy symbols. So what's with all the weird shapes you've had me draw?" She held up a charm with a series of circles and wavy boxes inscribed within.
"Come with me and find out," Kanako said, gliding out of the shrine. She smiled as the morning heat seeped into her skin. Another warmth filled her as well, one she hadn't felt for just over sixteen years, since just before Sanae first drew breath. "Here," she said, stopping in the middle of the shrine's courtyard. The goddess knelt and drew a straight line into the dirt and then bisected it with a wavy curve. Two dots completed the symbol, and a pale radiance filled it's lines. "Does this look familiar?"
Sanae knelt next to her. "You've only made me draw that a hundred times in the last two weeks. The glow's new, though."
"Today's a special day, and I have much to tell you."
"Mom already gave me the birds and bees speech," Sanae said, smirking. "And you don't want to know Suwako's version."
"I've heard it before," Kanako said, grimacing. "And that's not what I meant. Think of this as me giving you your magical inheritance. Try drawing that next to mine." She pointed to the glowing symbol.
Sanae sighed as she traced a smaller version. It, too, glowed, but where Kanako's provided a steady light, Sanae's flared before melting away as if she had never drawn it. She backed away, making signs to ward away evil. "What just happened?"
"You drew it wrong."
"'I drew it wrong?' Wait, you're teaching me calligraphy as magic?" Sanae said, staring at her goddess incredulously. She sighed, and relaxed. "Well, it makes as much sense as anything else around here, I guess. So, how does it work?"
Kanako sighed. At least this was going better than Gracia's first day of learning had. "You know how magic circles focus energy to a magician while she's casting?" Sanae thought about several of the craters left by Marisa's more cutting-edge magical experiments and shuddered. "This is similar, except these shapes are both focus and spell. You can draw these and walk away, and the magic will still work as long as the symbol lasts."
The priestess paled. "Just please tell me that Marisa can't do this."
Kanako shook her head and smiled. "Not a chance," she said, smoothly as Sanae smiled in relief. Actually, if anyone could make this magic work, it would be the Ordinary Witch. Where everyone else in Gensokyo relied on raw talent, Marisa instead used guile, dogged perseverance, and sheer willpower to squeeze every last bit of potential from a spell. Keeping this a secret from her was even more important than from Suwako.
"This is the mark for safety. Depending on how you use it, it can protect you or dissolve other spells." The goddess tossed a cluster of danmaku at the symbol. The shot ricocheted high into the air. "Like that. And it'll keep working while you do anything else. Danmaku, spell cards, blessings..."
"I get it. This is really about helping me beat Reimu." Sanae said, laughing as she gingerly tapped the glowing mark. She pursed her lips and retraced the symbol. This time, the glowing lines remained. "So, what else can you show me?"
"Remember, form is the key," Kanako said. Out of the corner of her eye, a small straw hat bobbed behind a bush. Her hand shot out , tracing figures inside a circle. A ball of light shot out, crossing the field faster than any danmaku. Leaves and branches shot into the air.
"That was cool! Do it again!" Suwako said. Her arms flailed as she drifted to the ground.
"What did I tell you last night?" Kanako snapped. She traced more symbols in the air with one hand and flung danmaku with the other. Suwako flittered through the air like a hummingbird, weaving through the light and flame streaking towards her.
"I told you I was going to be here," Suwako chirped as her feet touched the ground. "What's so secret about some drawings?" Light trailed from her fingers as she sketched in the air.
Kanako ground her teeth. Trails of light formed complex shapes in the air.
"Stop!" Sanae shouted. Kanako pulled her hand away as the symbol she drew disappeared in a puff of smoke. A safety glyph as tall as the priestess floated on the wind. Kanako's breath caught in her throat. She hadn't taught Sanae to write without physical media. And the modifiers needed to cancel out glyphs would have been the next day's lesson. Somehow, the priestess had managed to figure out both on the fly. Then again, of all the generations Kanako had taught, Sanae was the most Devoted.
"Looks like I need to teach you caution," Kanako said, flexing her fingers. "That was dangerous."
"Is there any reason you can't do that with Suwako around?" Sanae said, wincing as the earth goddess wrapped her arms around the taller girl's waist.
"I know better than to ask if you'll behave," Kanako growled. Suwako blew the taller goddess a raspberry as she pressed closer against Sanae's side. "You don't try anything if I'm not around."
"I thought that was obvious-" Sanae began.
"I wasn't talking to you," Kanako snapped. She held Suwako's gaze with a cold glare.
"Fine," Suwako said.
Sanae rolled her eyes and shuffled in between her two goddesses, a feat complicated by the goddess clinging to her hips. "So, why are you teaching me this now?"
Parsee Mizuhashi knelt next to a small shrine and prayed. She had hollowed out this nook in the side of the cavern to the Underworld many years ago. Two earthen bowls fit in the recess; one filled with water and the other with lit oil. She rang a bell and tossed fragrant sandalwood into the fire. The Yasna scripture said that "whoever sacrifices unto fire with fuel in her hand is given happiness."
It never worked. Not to Parsee's complete satisfaction. Then again, nothing ever did.
The wood smoke filled the cave, reminding the bridge princess of the sacred fires of her homeland. Parsee always intended to return to the rivers of Gujarat, but if she had to tell the truth, she was as content in Gensokyo as an embodiment of jealousy could be. She had power, purpose, and all sorts of interesting people nearby to stoke her...curiosity. Why should she leave what Ahura Mazda had graciously given her?
Parsee checked the stone shelf beneath the shrine's altar. She would need to buy more sandalwood soon. It wasn't cheap, but Satori always managed to find a supply for her rites. She stood up, groaning as she stretched. The Hidden never knelt during their prayers, she mused. They probably didn't know how fortunate they were.
Behind her, a faint whisper of stone against stone echoed in the cavern. Parsee spun around, her hands full with spell cards. She slipped behind a stone pillar and peered into the darkness.
"I have waited a long time to meet you, Lady Odium," a voice hissed, sibilant and breathy.
Parsee cringed, her heart pounding as she backed away from the pillar and into the shrouding dark. She flicked a glowing card into the cavern. A taller version of the bridge princess snapped into being.
"That won't save you."
A dense scrawl of twisted glyphs flared, outlining a serpentine figure. Parsee's decoy vanished in a cloud of smoke. The bridge princess grabbed for another spell card as she backed away, but she stumbled over what felt like a thick iron tree root. She screamed as she fell, a thick cloud of her spell cards scattering in the air around her.
"None of that, now."
The bride princess gasped as thick white coils wrapped around her neck. Parsee's nails raked at the vise until more coils crushed her arms against her body. Occasionally, something twisted and blue flashed across the serpent's body.
"I would have thought that you'd have put up more of a fight." Even as Parsee squirmed against the ever tightening grasp, a white serpent's head floated into her greying vision. Its tongue flickered out, dancing across Parsee's face. The last rush of air gasped past her lips. "You don't know what you have. Pity. I could have used a servant like you," the serpent said. Muscled coils constricted like great bands of iron.
Limp and unmoving, Parsee Mizuhashi dropped from the monster snake's steely grip.
Parsee's quote is from Yasna 62.1 and Nyashes 5.7, from the Zoroastrian faith.
Thanks to Captain Vulcan for prereading.
Consider this an experiment in writing smaller, hopefully more frequent parts.
Regarding Moreya Shrine, yes, the misspelling is intentional. The Moriya god and the shrine have different symbols than what we find in Suwako's last name. I'm trying to replicate the effect with the vowel change. Considering the dueling sets of romanization in the fandom (Kochiya/Kotiya, Momiji/Momizi, Fujiwara/Huiziwara), I'm loathe to presume any orthodoxy in spelling at all.