These stories are both follow ups to A New World, so I'm breaking them off into their own section. Both are somewhat introspective pieces, but a few nuggets of information should be about inside them as well. If I get a solid idea for another story in this 'timeline' I'll add it here as well.
The spider youkai ran through the trees.
She knew someone was there. Someone was hunting her. She could feel it's presence lurking in the darkness of the forest.
She changed her course, running deeper into the youkai infested woods. Perhaps the fear of some stronger predator would get the hunter off her tail.
Her hopes were dashed when the song began. A terrifying melody that youkai and human alike had come to fear. As the wordless tune echoed through her mind the shadows seemed to deepen, leaving only the light of the moon as a piercing lance of illumination to her blurred vision.
She stumbled on through the woods. She could escape if she made it to the canyon. The bird youkai couldn't chase her beneath the ground, and the residents of Chireiden wouldn't ask questions. She just had to get there.
Her hopes shattered as the melody changed to a triumphant tone. She barely dodged the blurred spear that flew from the air in front of her. She turned to run again, not caring about direction anymore, just trying to get away. To escape the deadly melody.
She realized her mistake when she hit the first tree. With the moon now behind her, she couldn't see anything. She tried to sidestep the barrier, only to run into another tree.
The light crunch of leaves told her that the hunter was close.
She desperately put her back to the tree and threw her web all over the area. "Why, why are you here?!" she screamed. "It was just an old drunk! An old rude drunk! What was I supposed to do when he blundered into my web? No one would miss him! Why? Who called you?"
The moon darkened as a figure stepped in front of this, then there was pain, terrible pain, as the next spear tore through her heart.
As her consciousness faded she heard her killer say, "The wind itself calls for justice."
Mystia looked up from her meal when she heard the girl approach. There was only one person who combined such innate grace and careless clumsiness. "Hello Kanon."
The kassha miko popped out of the bushes and bowed her head to the young bird youkai. "Heya Misuchi." Kanon looked over at the youkai Mystia had killed. "I see you got her first. I guess the guy's kids didn't need to call us miko up."
Mystia nodded. "So then he did have a family. I wondered if she was lying." Mystia delicately tore off a bit of leg, then looked back to Kanon. "You can have some if you want. I'm not that hungry. And spider doesn't taste that great."
"No thanks." Kanon sat down. "I'll just be carting off that corpse when you're done. Though you might want to hurry if you don't want to wind up sharing with my sisters."
"Hm? She must have annoyed someone important if they bothered calling up all of you." Mystia went back to her meal, focusing on the tastier organs and meats.
"No, we're just kinda bored. Lady Reiuji's wandering around on vacation, so we don't have much to do." Kanon stretched and started combing her hair. "Sanso was talking about raising every corpse in the cemetery for a musical number if something didn't pop up."
Mystia thought about what that might look like for a bit. "That might be fun to watch."
The two continued their various activities for a while. Kanon grooming, Mystia eating. Finally Mystia wiped her hand and turned to the kassha. "Hey, Kanon, um..."
Kanon's eyes flickered over. "Yeah?"
Mystia took a deep breath. "Uh, I heard you were around during the war. And, well, I was wondering... if you knew the first Mystia?"
Kanon's ears twitched at that. "The first Mystia..." Kanon's tails swished mournfully as she thought. "I was still young, even for a human, back then. I know she had an eel stand just like you." Kanon frowned as she tried to think back across the years. "I'm pretty sure she was a night sparrow though. That's why she had the blinding song."
"Sparrow?" Mystia felt mildly insulted. Sure sparrows were okay, but she was a shrike. A proud hunting bird, not a seed eater.
"I'm pretty sure about that." Kanon suddenly gave a catlike grin. "Why don't you ask Mokou. She'd know."
Mystia flushed. "That! I... er, don't want to bother her with that kinda-"
Her response was stopped by a sudden impact that sent her into a rolling tumble across the clearing. When the world stopped spinning she found herself pinned under a much more feral looking kassha with fiery red hair. "Well, the criminal's already been apprehended, but I caught a birdie!"
Mystia fluttered her wings uselessly against the ground. "Very funny Hiso. Get off me."
"I don't think so. You ate all the good parts of the corpse so you'll have to pay up!" Hiso said cheerily.
"Augh, Kanon help me here!" Mystia pressed futilely against her captor.
"Sorry Misuchi. Gave you fair warning, so now the corpse is mine." Kanon whistled as she summoned up a wheelbarrow. Then cried out as another kassha entered the fray with a pounce.
"Not so fast sis! This corpse is mine." Sanso yelled as she landed on Kanon.
Mystia groaned the turned her attention back to Hiso. "So aren't you gonna go for the corpse too?"
"Nah, I'm fine with what I caught," Hiso said brightly.
There was another impact from the side, and when the whirling stopped Mystia was unsurprised to find Io there on top of both her and Hiso. "Heya sis. Were you gonna share?"
Mystia groaned and started trying to wriggle free again. Cats were such infuriating creatures!
"Another beer please miss."
"Sure thing," Mystia replied before grabbing a bottle out of her ice bucket and placing it down in front of the man. "Though you shouldn't stay up too much longer. The streets can be dangerous at night."
The man tapped his pistols and smiled. "Thanks for the warning miss, but I think I can take care of myself. Otherwise I wouldn't have come from the Shogunate" He took a long drink before continuing. "Still I should be heading back soon anyway. Don't wanna get locked out of the hotel."
"A good idea sir." Mystia placed a slip of paper down next to the empty plates. "I'll leave the bill here so you can go whenever you need to."
Mystia tossed a few more skewers onto the grill as the traveler finished his drink and left the tab. Normally she'd close up about now, but it was the night after a full moon.
She always showed up on the night after the full moon.
Sure enough the lamprey was done right when a slim figure landed next to her cart. Mokou winced at her landing, then slowly slid into the chair. "Heya. The usual."
Mystia let her eyes wander over Mokou's wounds as she dished out the rice. The immortal's eyes were surrounded by blood, like someone had gouged them out. Her shirt was burned all on the left side, and her pants were caked with blood around a spear sized hole. Mokou must have done well tonight, Mystia thought to herself. She expertly flipped the skewered lamprey onto a plate and placed it and the rice before the immortal. "Here you go."
"Thanks kid." Mokou dug into the meal like she hadn't eaten in weeks. Which might be true now that Mystia thought about it. She rapidly discarded that idea though. Keine would never let Mokou go that long without eating.
"Something on your mind?"
Mystia jumped at the question. "Ah no! Nothing important!" She turned to start washing the dishes, hoping the warmth in her cheeks wasn't obvious.
"Really?" Mokou raised an eyebrow at that.
"I was just thinking about something that happened earlier this week. For my other job." Mystia let her wings flutter a bit before bringing them back under control.
"Ah I see." Mokou's posture slumped just a little, and her gaze flickered to the statue down the street.
Mystia found her own gaze wander to the statue. It was hard to see in the dark, but she knew it by heart. After all it looked a lot like her. A statue to the first youkai to bear her name. The hunting youkai that helped save the village during the war.
"Hey Mokou. Can you tell me about my predecessor?"
The question seemed to burst from her. The second after she said that she cringed, knowing both how tactless and foolish it sounded. She looked at Mokou to see if she'd offended the immortal.
Instead Mokou was looking at her with an appraising air. Like a parent who is trying to decide what they'll tell a child about some serious matter. "That's a dangerous question to ask for a youkai. Are you sure you want to hear the answer?"
Mystia bristled at the accusation. "I'm not a child, Mokou! I can handle hearing a story."
"It's not that simple kid." Mokou waved her hand in annoyance. "You were born from her legend."
Mokou's voice grew distant as she repeated the tale Mystia had known from the moment of her birth. "'The youkai of vengeance, who secretly hunted down those who betrayed the village. She lived among humans as a simple food stand worker, singing songs that made the children laugh. When the Lunarians came she led the youkai to save the village, fighting alongside Keine even to the point of death until rescue arrived. Then she passed away from her wounds before she could be saved.'"
Mokou looked back at her. "That story is the basis of your entire being, the truth of your existence. The history can never live up to that myth."
"So? You think I don't know that?" Mystia glared down at Mokou. "I know the story's got to be different from the truth. But that doesn't matter anymore. We youkai aren't slaves to people's imaginations anymore. We're born from legend but we are what we believe we are." Mystia pointed to the celestial dragon in the sky. "That was the victory of the youkai sage."
"You still don't get it." Mokou sighed much to Mystia's annoyance. "Think about what you said. You are what you believe you are. What if what I tell you changes all your beliefs. What if what I say leaves you wondering what to believe?" Mystia froze as Mokou's glare pierced through her. "I can't hurt you, but you can destroy yourself."
Mokou's gaze fell. "But... I think she would have wanted the person bearing her name to know her real story."
The immortal sighed. "So yeah. If you think you can handle having your world turned upside down, I'll tell you kid. But don't think it'll be everything in the stories."
Mystia hesitated. She wanted to know now, more then ever. But Mokou's words ran through her mind. The what ifs cascaded through her thoughts, each worse then the last. She had to take a deep breath to steady herself.
She looked up at Mokou. "Tell me this. She was still a hero right?"
Mokou looked towards the statue again. "She was."
"Then tell me."
Mokou turned back to her, then smiled sadly. "Very well, then."
"First you have to know her business was mostly a scam..."
The sun was rising when Mokou's tales finished. And Mystia had to admit the immortal had been right. The story had changed her. Changed what she was. Who she wanted to be.
But as Mystia sang to welcome the dawn she felt happier then ever. Perhaps her namesake hadn't loved the village like she did. Perhaps the little night sparrow had fought for her own sake instead of the lives of the villagers. Perhaps her heroism had come from a fear of losing, instead of a need to protect.
But no one could say that her predecessor hadn't stood for herself.
As the sun rose Mystia swore she would make this tale part of her. She would not be a creature of blind loyalty or servitude. She would follow her own path, even to her death.
Perhaps that path would be the path of justice that everyone thought she should follow. But it would be her choice. The one thing that was hers and hers alone.