A Touhou fanfic.
Disclaimer: Team Shanghai Alice is not a team, not based in Shanghai, nor are any members named Alice.
This fic is inspired by a doujin I just wanted to put my own words to. It's not the same story, though it's based on the same premise. Like several (well, all) of my stories, it involves someone getting hurt. Unlike the rest of them, neither Mokou nor Kaguya are amongst my favourite characters, though I certainly don't dislike them.
/ Another Duck
I crash into the ground. It's not a pleasant impact, I tell you. I don't actually see much, as I hit the ground with my back first, but I feel quite a bit. I wonder if I should consider myself lucky that the bamboo broke my fall. Or maybe the bamboo broke me? But I don't think so, since I don't feel that familiar sensation of a broken spine. Perhaps it would've been better to lose my feeling below the neck, at least for the few moments it usually takes to heal.
I try to wriggle my toes. On the positive side, I have some command over my feet, so my spine is at least relatively intact. On the negative side, I'm much too exhausted and damaged to actually do more than twitch pathetically. My fingers, toes, and eyelids are about what I can manage to move, and maybe my mouth. I don't have a breath, though. I wonder what happened to my lungs in the fall?
So, why am I now lying helpless on the ground in a desolate section of the Bamboo Forest of the Lost? Funny story, that. Long and complicated. I got beaten. Badly. Painfully. Thoroughly. It's my worst defeat since... I can't remember. Okay, not so long and complicated story.
I'm relaxed. Not that I have a choice in the matter. Being tense would require me to actually coerce some kind of tension from my muscles. No go there. I can idly feel my lungs repair themselves. It's a slow process, much more lethargic than I'm used to. My breathing returns. Heavy yet shallow, but the flavour of cool air is there.
I know my regeneration isn't as effective as it should be when I've been through many deaths in quick succession, but this is ridiculous. When was the last time I had time to even reflect upon it before it was over and I was back in action? I can't remember that either.
The full moon shines brightly. It brings back so many memories. But, ultimately, nothing I want to have to do with. I'm done with that part of my life. With about one exception, I'm satisfied with my current life. Maybe not the current current, that's a pain in the... back, but relatively speaking. I hope it can remain for at least a few centuries.
"Oh, there you are. Still crawling on the ground, princess?" My eternal adversary has arrived. Fujiwara no Mokou. I can only see a shadow in the periphery of my vision.
"I'm—" I cough violently. It's the most amount of movement I've managed since I crashed. My eyes blur and my mind fogs up as well. Maybe I shouldn't talk. But I want to. "Viewing the moon," I manage to say. I try to swallow, and I note that there's a fair amount of blood in my mouth.
There's a pause. I can only assume she's glancing up at the moon as well. I can't tilt my head back to look at her. I'm too fatigued to do anything, and too much in pain. Though, truth to be told, the pain is fading into the back of my mind. I'm too tired to care about it.
"Do you miss it?"
"No," I answer immediately, but just as soon I regret it. If I had been thinking clearly, I'd probably have delayed the answer, or just not give a straight one. It's usually what I do when I tease her. Teasing her is fun. For the last few years it's probably been my favourite pastime. I've really enjoyed our constant battles. Even if I sometimes happen to end up in situations like this one, it's worth it.
"Do you know that you've got a bamboo trunk sticking up through your body?"
I have? I can't tilt my head down either, so it's out of my sight. But it would account for why I'm coughing blood, and why I'm not healing properly. Now that I think about it, it probably goes straight through my left lung. With my body fruitlessly trying to heal, it's no wonder I'm as exhausted as I am. It's probably going to take several minutes before I can even move.
"You can't move, can you?"
Oh, shoot. She figured that out.
"Do you also know you're indecently exposed?"
What? There's little I can do to stop my face from flushing crimson. I really shouldn't react like that, not after this time, not after living for so long. It's probably just the surprise, along with my helplessness, that makes my blood rush.
"I lied." I can't see her, but I sure can imaging the smirk on her face.
I want to yell at her, but instead I start to cough again. A drop hits my eye, so I blink. Great, I must have blood spatter all over my face now. I also have tears running from the sides of my eyes. Or at least I think they're tears, and not more blood. But since I'm already in such a feeble state, it doesn't concern me much at all. Just icing on the cake. A cake Mokou's probably gobbling up with gusto.
But... I close my eyes and relax again. I think I'm just too tired to care. She can have the cake; it doesn't bother me. It is, after all, a special occasion for her. This is the first time she's ever beaten all my spellcards at once. A complete defeat for me. I wonder if she—"Ouch!"
She's stabbing my arm with her finger, and none too gently at that. I can feel her nail, even though it's not long, digging into my skin. I can't even twist my arm out of the way. If I remember correctly, it's also exactly where I got hit once during our duel.
"I guess you really can't move at all."
"What are you doing?" I ask. You're annoying me.
"You've got a hole in your sleeve." She moves closer, so I can see her face. She's way too happy about this. It's not a face I mind seeing, but directed at me like this? No thank you.
"So I've noticed." Of course I would have a hole there, since you shot me there. Or maybe I just waved my arm carelessly while dodging, but that's not the point. I try to glare at her, but it's a bit hard from my position.
Strangely, the poking hurts me more than the piece of bamboo still sticking up through my torso. I won't say I'm particularly resistant to pain, but the absolute knowledge that I'm going to heal up and that the damage isn't permanent means I'm not afraid of getting a little banged up. Or a lot, as this case might be. Fear is a huge part of—"Ah!"
Now she's prodding my stomach. It doesn't hurt as much as just being uncomfortable.
"Stop poking me!" I'm sensitive there, you inconsiderate imbecile.
She naturally ignores me. "You've got a hole there too."
I need to move away so I can regenerate properly. But I cannot do that on my own, at least not right now. I also cannot stand the... let's call it attention she's giving me. "Would you..." it takes all my determination to say this, "...please... lift me up?"
"But then you'd heal up."
That's the idea, blockhead. "I won't attack you." It's not an empty promise. I need to recover first, both physically and mentally. I won't ever admit it, especially not to her, but she's crushed my spirit. Temporarily, but still. I don't have the will to fight.
"Do you think I would trust you?"
"Do you think... I even could... in this state?" Talking is a little hard with a pierced lung.
"Got a point there."
She grabs one of my arms and harshly pulls me up and to the side. As soon as I'm free of the bamboo she drops me down again, right next to the sharp pole sticking up from the ground. As unceremoniously as she did that, I'm not going to complain. The end result is that I'm lying comfortable on the ground. It's a little wet, but that's probably just my own blood.
Almost immediately I can feel my wound close up, and my breathing gets deeper. It almost makes me want to sleep. The only thing that's really keeping me from it is a certain individual who won't stop poking me. This time she found a hole at my shoulder.
"Why are you poking me?"
"Just confirming my hits."
I'm sure there are other ways you could do that, but since they wouldn't annoy me, I understand perfectly why you chose that particular method. "The Dragon's Jewel, Buddha's Stone Bowl, the Fire Rat's Robe, the Swallow's Cowrie Shell, and the Branch of Hourai. You captured them all. What's your request?" She has captured them all many times, but not at the same time, and not in an unbroken sequence. I can honestly say I'm impressed. Not that I will.
"Request?" she repeats.
"Yes. They weren't the actual treasures, but you did beat all of the spellcards without getting hit even once, so I'm honour-bound to grant you at least one request. If your father had accomplished the same, I would've married him. But I don't think you want that. That would make me your mother." I'm very certain neither of us would want that.
"Ew! Then I want you to apologise to him."
"I don't want to," I respond with no hesitation. It's partially a natural reaction just to provoke her, but also my honest opinion.
"What?" She puts her hands around my throat to strangulate me. I'm relatively sure I'm still too weak to do anything to stop her, so I don't bother. It's not like it matters. "What do you mean you don't want to? Didn't you say you would grant me one request?" She apparently realises it's hard for me to say anything if I can't breathe, so she lets up on the pressure. "Speak."
I gasp a few times to recover from her manhandling. That girl is far stronger than a human should be allowed to be. "I didn't say I wouldn't. I said I didn't want to."
"Oh." She remains silent for a few seconds. "Why?"
Are you asking me to speak ill of your father? Well, if that's your wish, I shall indulge. "I never trusted your father. He was just one of many men who just wanted a pretty trophy of a wife. They all spoke highly about themselves to make themselves seem more impressive, but none of them actually did anything to impress me. No one cared about me. I'd rather just..." I cut myself off, before my emotions run wild. I loved my life back then, and the family I lived with. My family. But I'm not particularly inclined to remember the suitors I had. They wanted to take that life away from me.
Mokou is unusually silent throughout my... complaints, to be honest. Well, she's never been one to talk a lot, but I expected her to blow up on me. "You still disrespected my father. You've put shame to my name."
"No? How can you say there is no shame?"
"There is no shame." We're repeating each other too much, but I'm too tired to care. I'm too tired to argue anymore. "The name Fujiwara is one I respect. You've impressed me, Mokou. You've already restored your honour."
"I..." She trails off, but I have no idea what she wanted to say. It's not important. The past isn't important. The future is.
"Can you live with that?" Will this end our feud? If she forgives me, she might not want to kill me any more. That would, strangely as it may sound, make me a little sad.
"Truth to be told, it's not new. I've believed that since... I'm not sure. A century or two, maybe." Someone who could keep up with me for that long deserves respect.
"Why didn't you say so? We could've avoided a lot of—"
"Exactly. That's why. I enjoy trying to kill you. I enjoy you trying to kill me."
"So you like the situation you're in now?"
"You've completely humiliated me! I never thought I would lose that badly. I didn't even get one hit in. Of course I don't like it!" How stupid can she be? But that's not the point. I take a breath to calm myself down again. "Even if I end up like this, it's worth it. I don't want that to change. That's why I've never said anything." But now I have, and it scares me.
"Well, if you just wanted me to kill you, you could've just asked."
She places a hand against my chest. Wait. "Where are you touching? Stop tha-ow!" Her hands starts to burn me. I don't mean a burn you'd get from brushing against a hot pot on the stove. I mean the kind of burn that incinerates me from the outside and in. I'm sure most people would die of shock long before they feel their heart literally turn into ash, but if you're immortal like the two of us, shock from severe trauma simply doesn't happen. I don't scream, but I'm sure the agony is written all over my face as my consciousness fade away.
It can't be many seconds after when I return to the world of the living. So to speak. While I was out, it seems that Mokou has picked me up.
"Put me down."
"Now!" That stubborn...
"No." She takes to the air. "You're too weak to do anything on your own right now, so I'm going to take you to Eientei."
"But..." The worst part is that she's right. On my own, I'd just have lied helpless until I could gather enough strength just to move away from there. "But it's embarrassing!"
She says that as if it the point. Argh. I want to slap my forehead. It probably is. "You're horrible." One of my lamer comebacks. I just cannot seem to add a sting to it.
"Hate me all you want."
"I won't. Life is too short to spend hating people."
"You're right." I am? "I'll let you in on a secret, since you told me one. I forgave you over a century ago."
I'm... honestly not terribly surprised at that. I think I can guess why.
"You see, it was easier to pretend to hate you than to change my life. Most of the time I even believed it myself. And you're not the only one who enjoys our battles to the death."
We land in front of my home. We didn't fight that far away, it seems.
"Hello, Eirin!" Mokou's animosity was always limited to myself. She never really had a problem with the rest of the people living here. She raises her hand to wave.
"Ah, Mokou. What..."
Now, the problem here is that Mokou was carrying me like the princess I am. Emphasis on was. The hand she uses to wave at Eirin is the one she had under my upper body. The inevitable result is that while Mokou and Eirin greet each other, the veranda floor and the back of my head greet each other.
"I found this useless thing back in a grove over there, and I think it belongs to you."
"Why thank you, Mokou, for bringing it, I mean her, to us." I don't hear any concern for me in Eirin's voice. She can be so indifferent to other people's plight at times. "We're just about to have dinner. Do you wish to join us?"
"Nah, I'm heading over to Keine's. Promised her to help out with some stuff, since she's writing now."
"Very well. Take care!"
I can only assume Mokou leaves at that point. Well, I can also open my eyes, but I don't feel like it.
"Did you two have fun tonight?"
I don't respond to her. I had fun. I had a dreadful time. I actually got a bit frightened for a while, and I don't know what the future will hold. But Mokou will be there. I may not be a simple girl, but I've learned that having a simple life doesn't mean you can't be happy. A certain bamboo cutter taught me that. All you need is love, and the rest will follow.
"Well, as I mentioned, we're having dinner soon, so please get cleaned up before then."
Thus ends this story. In case you've not read it, the doujin in question is Idakisu by Chihagura. Personal favourite moment in it: Kaguya saying no.
I found it amusing to write an entire story where the viewpoint character does absolutely nothing. Well, aside from talking and thinking, but that doesn't count. And twitching, I suppose. As I mentioned, Kaguya was never my favourite character, but I find her a lot more interesting after this. Same with Mokou, but less extreme.
/ Another Duck