Thursday, February 25, 2010


Kaguya walked down to Eirin's lab one summer afternoon, more out of boredom than anything else. Summers always made Kaguya restless – she wanted to go out, see people, do things. The sun, the heat, the scent of fragrant life in the air; it was intoxicating.

“Good afternoon, Eirin,” said Kaguya as she walked into the lab. Eirin, standing with her back to the door, was at her lab table. An array of glass jars, flasks and decanters, tubes snaking between and among them, nearly completely covered the table. Despite the clutter, they were impeccably clean.

“Good afternoon, Princess,” Eirin responded, stirring something in a ceramic jar with a glass rod.

“Busy?” asked Kaguya as she sauntered up behind her.

Eirin nodded her head and sighed. “Afraid so. This is kind of an emergency situation.”

“Oh?” Kaguya's curiosity was piqued. “What is it?”

Eirin set down the jar and turned around to Kaguya, leaning against the table. “It's Cirno.”

“Cirno?” What possible emergency could involve her?

“Yes. I had three very bothersome little fairies come up here, begging that I help their friend Cirno. I was reluctant at first, but then the slightly more intelligent of the three – I think her name was Star – made a very heartfelt plea. You see … hm.” Eirin thought for a moment. “Well, Cirno has reached a certain age of significance among fairies. To put it simply, she's ready to breed.”

“Oh.” Kaguya nodded. “So what's the problem?”

Eirin rubbed her nose. “Well, fairies aren't like us. They have reproductive cycles – they're only able to breed one month out of the year, typically in early summer. Males become more aggressive, females become more compliant. To an outside observer, it can appear rather brutal.”

“Sounds fairly animalistic.”

“It is, in a way. And the problem, Star believes, is that Cirno's just not ready. I mean physically, she is, sure. But emotionally, she's just not there yet. For her body to be sending out signals, whether she likes it or not, when there are males on the prowl, well … I'm sure you see the problem.”

Kaguya felt a sharp pang in her chest. She shook her head.

“Plus, I can never resist the chance to create something new. So I'm making a drug that will suppress the process beneath perceptible levels until the month passes,” Eirin continued. “That ought to take care of her until next year.”

“And what then?” Kaguya asked.

Eirin shrugged. “Well, then, I guess we'll see if she's ready.”

Kaguya nodded. A liquid bubbled in a small copper urn over an open flame. Will Cirno ever be ready for that? Kaguya wondered. She tried to imagine Cirno being taken by a male fairy, him being aggressive with her, like a stray dog. She couldn't imagine Cirno enjoying such a thing, ever. Poor thing.

Eirin turned back around, pouring the solution from the ceramic jar into a bottle, corking it, and sealing it with candlewax.

“There,” she said with a satisfied sigh.

“So is Cirno coming here to pick this up?”

Eirin gave a short laugh through her nose. “I think the dear thing would get lost on her way here within minutes. No, I'm having Tewi bring it to her.”

Kaguya paused. She felt a rising fear growing inside her. Without fully knowing why, she said, “I was just on my way to see Tewi. I can give it to her.”

“Really? Well, alright. If you're on your way there anyway.”

Kaguya smiled politely as she pocketed the bottle. “It's not a problem. Well, I'll let you get back to work.” Kaguya turned, walking to the door. “Don't work too hard, hm? It's summer. Everyone should be having fun.”

Eirin nodded, watching Kaguya's back as she stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her.


Kaguya slept restlessly that night. She lay on her bed, watching the smoke from the incense stick in the window as it danced slowly among the stars above the silhouettes of the bamboo forest.

She hoped she could trust Tewi to do as she was asked. She was only reliable to an extent. Kaguya's plan, conjured up on her way to see Tewi, was itself very risky. And she didn't fully understand why she was so concerned about the well-being of an ice fairy. But she knew, on a visceral level, that it was very important that she intervene. What was going on here? She breathed deeply, turning to look up at the ceiling.

Cirno was entering an entirely new world. That she wasn't ready didn't matter. Putting off the inevitable, as per Eirin's plan, was not going to solve anything. Kaguya felt a certainty about this that resonated in her bones. Sexual awakening is scary enough when it's the mind that controls the body. What if your body was in charge, inviting and then surrendering to the desires of others, whether you wanted it or not?

Kaguya felt that pang in her chest again. Lurking behind it, like scared mice in the shadows, were pieces of memories from thousands of years ago. She'd always been fawned over, told how beautiful she was, her cheeks pinched, her hair stroked. Images floated before her eyes like they were painted on fog, these memories.

She knew she was happy with the attention as a child. But she could not place when she began to realize that men desired her. As she tried to approach that valley of her past, darkness would surround her, and she couldn't see it. The only thing that remained clear to Kaguya was her response to the desire of men – immediate contempt, a loss of respect, disgust. Sending them to chase after impossible requests was a fitting response.

She could not say she never felt desire herself – she had, and even acted on it. But she had to be the one who did the chasing; she could never be pursued. A wanton smile, a lingering hand – these would send a cold wind blowing over her skin.

Kaguya sighed. A memory floated before her: standing in front of her mirror in her old room, back on the moon. She could see her reflection very clearly, and she had been crying. She was wishing that she was ugly.

When was this? Kaguya wondered. She could not recall what led to this moment, nor what came after it. Windchimes tinkled softly in her window.

Cirno should have a choice, Kaguya thought, turning over in her bed for the twentieth time. Her body might attract many suitors, but she should still have the final say. Your own body forcing you to surrender to the desire of others – just the thought of it made Kaguya curl up tighter.

She felt bad about throwing away Eirin's potion, and about sneaking back into her lab to take a different one. But that's the way it had to be. She didn't want to explain her motivations for what she planned for Cirno to anyone, even her best friend. Despite feeling guilty about this, the old Lunarian proverb rose to mind: “One side of the moon is always light, and the other side is dark.”

Kaguya watched the incense smoke floating up to the stars, and felt herself drift off to sleep.


Cirno lay on the shores of Misty Lake, dangling her feet in the water in a vain attempt to cool down.

“Why is so summer sooo hot?” she groaned. “I feel like I'm gonna boil up and blow away.”

Cirno sat up, pulling up a lilypad, and began to fan herself with it. Only the lilypad was flimsy, and didn't generate much of a breeze; it only dribbled mud onto Cirno's dress.

“Oh darn,” Cirno pouted. She looked at the mud on her dress, then looked around. No one in sight. And the lake did look very inviting. She could wash her dress in the lake, and then lay it on a rock to dry in the sun while going for a swim.

Cirno unbuttoned her dress, and then furtively pull it off before tiptoeing into the water. She couldn't help but sigh with relief as the cool water slid up her legs and hips. Working the dress underwater, the mud easily washed away. She walked it back to shore, laying it on a rock in the sun, and then giggled, leaping backwards into the water. She paddled backwards as the water glided over her skin. Once she was a few meters from shore, Cirno spread her arms and legs, floating, her eyes closed, enraptured as the lake's small waves lapped at her body.

“Hey Cirno!” a voice called out. Cirno quickly rolled her body forward to a treading-water position. She squinted through the sunlight towards the form at the shore. Tewi.

“Oh, hey, Tewi!” Cirno called out. “Surprised to see you here. What brings you around? You wanna swim, too?”

Wordlessly, Tewi walked over to the rock where Cirno's dress lay. She picked it up, folded it, and turned back towards the forest.

“Hey!” Cirno yelled. “What do you think you're doing?”

Tewi stopped and turned around. “Why, I'm going home,” the rabbit said matter-of-factly.

“But my dress!”

Tewi looked at the dress, then looked back at Cirno. “This? I found this lying on a rock. Are you saying it belongs to you?”

“You know it does, Tewi” Cirno snapped. “Now put it back!”

“You want it?” Tewi smirked. “Come and get it.” This wasn't part of Kaguya's instructions, she knew. All she was supposed to do was lead Cirno into the woods. But then, Kaguya never specified how. “What are you waiting for? Do you want it or not?”

Cirno hesitated. Then she began paddling back to shore.

“There we go,” Tewi whispered under her breath. She watched, smiling, as Cirno got to shore. “Alright then,” she said to Cirno. “Come on out and get it.”

Reluctantly, her eyes darting around the area, Cirno slowly rose, covering herself as best she could with her arm across her chest, the opposite hand over her crotch. Water dripped from her hair and down her skin as the fairy shivered; most likely not from cold.

“Can I have my dress back now?” Cirno mumbled, looking down at her toes.

Tewi held the dress out with one hand, within arm's reach of Cirno, but not handing it to her.

Cirno glared at Tewi, and stepped closer. Tewi took a step back. “Reach for it,” Tewi smirked.

Cirno's ears burned with shame. Quickly, she took her arm from her breasts and tried to snatch the dress from Tewi. But Tewi pulled the dress from her grasp, chuckling.

“Tewi, c'mon,” Cirno pleaded. “I did what you said. Now give it back.”

“Oh you can have it back. When you find it.” Tewi turned around and headed into the woods without another word.

Cirno hesitated. If she stayed, she'd likely never get her dress back. And the longer she waited, the further Tewi would get from her. Steeling her nerves, she stepped into the forest, hurrying after Tewi while trying to keep herself covered at the same time.

“Wait!” Cirno called out, stepping gingerly over the forest floor. Normally, she'd just fly over the trees. She'd never actually walked through the forest before. But of course, flying was out of the question, given the circumstances.

“Ouch,” she cursed as she stumbled, losing her balance a little and stepping on a sharp twig. Covering herself and walking at the same time was impractical, she realized. She sighed and, her heart pounding, removed her hands from her body, holding them away from her hips, palms down, fingers splayed. Cicadas screeched unseen in the branches.

Cirno could feel her pulse racing as she stepping carefully through the forest, painfully aware that she was naked, completely exposed, with no choice but to move forward and try to find Tewi, wherever she was.

“Tewi,” she called in a loud whisper. There was no response. “Tewi?” she called a little louder. She didn't want to raise her voice too much, lest she draw attention to herself from someone besides Tewi.

Underneath her fear of being seen like this, walking naked through the woods felt strange to Cirno, but not in an entirely bad way. She was acutely aware of the air moving over the surface of her skin, the shafts of sunlight through the tree branches that slid over her body. The exposure made her feel lighter, freer. Like one of the wilder, more primal youkai of the forest, who wore no clothing at all, who couldn't even talk but shone brightly with a shameless, feral power, their pheromones like clouds drifting in the summer breeze. These were their woods, too, which surrounded her naked body on all sides. Sparks ran up Cirno's spine, her eyes widening, a kind of electricity gathering in her chest.

She could feel eyes on her, following her. She stopped. Her eyes flitted about, searching, but she could see no one. Just the trees and plants smattered with pieces of the sun, pulsing with summer life. Still, she was convinced she was being watched.

Cirno felt her fear rise, but she also felt an inexplicable tightening between her legs, moisture gathering like heavy dew. The reaction confused her. Still, she didn't dare move.

It was then that she noticed the shadow, in a spot between two trees where a shadow wasn't supposed to be. Within the shadow, she could detect movement, as if the darkness itself had rippled.

Cirno could feel the blood rushing in her ears. Panic began to stir to life in the pit of her stomach. But still she remained motionless, one knee raised slightly, her hands held out from her sides, trembling fingers splayed. A breeze moved through the branches like a silently drawn breath.

Kaguya stepped from the shadow. Her eyes shone brilliantly, reminding Cirno of onyx stones at the bottom of a clear pond. Cirno nearly gasped at Kaguya's otherworldly beauty. She had never seen her close up before. Cirno wanted to run. She wanted to move, to cover herself. But she couldn't. All she could do was look back at Kaguya, who looked at her, appearing mildly surprised by her nakedness, but neither embarrassed nor offended. Then the moon princess began to approach Cirno, very slowly, moving as if she were floating – her upper body remained still, only her dress fluttering soundlessly.

A darkness washed over them now, like a heavy cloud sliding under the sun. Cirno was keenly aware of everything – the pounding of her blood through her veins, the tightness in her chest and between her legs, the goosebumps rising on her skin, her hardening nipples, Kaguya's eerie beauty as she approached her, silently and intently. Thousands of years reached back in the depths of those eyes. Cirno simply could not look away.

Kaguya stood right in front of her now. She inhaled deeply through her nose, then raised a lithe, pale hand, laying her fingertips on Cirno's right cheek. They felt like smooth tongues of aching fire. Far away, she could her windchimes tinkling. Kaguya smiled.

“Cirno,” she said, as if trying out how the name felt in her mouth. She let her fingertips slide slowly downward, tracing her jawline. “Beautiful child.”

Normally Cirno would take offense to being called a child, but something about the way Kaguya said it made her feel quite the opposite – that she was being honored, cherished even. She did not move, and could not take her eyes off Kaguya. Kaguya's fingers took hold of the ice fairy's chin. She could feel her mouth go completely dry.

“Kaguya,” she managed to whisper. “I-”

Kaguya leaned in and lay her lips on Cirno's. They were very warm and smooth, taking hold of Cirno's bottom lip slightly before releasing it.

“Quiet,” Kaguya whispered tenderly, inhaling again through her nose. “You don't have to explain anything.” Kaguya kissed her again, with more pressure, cradling Cirno's face with both hands. And this time, Cirno began to kiss her back.

Kaguya slid her hands down from Cirno's face, stroking the sides of her neck and across the tops of her shoulders. Kaguya's grip tightened slightly, and she pulled Cirno close to her, Cirno's small breasts pressing against her silk shirt. Cirno could feel her head tilt back from the angle, her knees buckling under her.

Kaguya lay Cirno on her back. She felt the cool soil of the forest floor against her back, arms and bottom. Kaguya knelt as she lowered Cirno, using her knees to spread Cirno's thighs. She wanted to bring her legs together; she had never been exposed like this to anyone before, and the ease with which the Lunarian took control of her scared her a little – both because of Kaguya's beauty, and because Cirno realized she had surrendered so quickly to it.

Kaguya smiled down on her. “Cirno,” she said, languidly stroking her bare thighs.

Cirno swallowed hard. Hearing her name from Kaguya's mouth sent tingles across her scalp.

“Do you permit me?” Kaguya asked softly. This made Cirno's heart ache. A princess from the moon asking a humble ice fairy for permission to do anything … She looked up into those ancient eyes. Slowly she nodded her head.

“I will ask you again. Do you permit me?”

“Yes.” Cirno whispered.

“Cirno. I want you to look inside yourself and answer honestly. You do not have to permit me anything. I will turn and leave right now, if you so desire. It is your right to grant me or deny. I have no dominion over you. So really consider it. Do you permit me?”

Cirno slid her hands up, tentatively laying them on Kaguya's. A bird fluttered from a nearby branch, taking off into the unknown. Kaguya's words washed away all fear, and her nerves unwound, calmly stretching through the length of her body. Yes, she saw clearly. She did want this.

“I permit you,” said Cirno, her eyes brimming with tears.

Kaguya leaned slowly down on her hands, kissing Cirno tenderly around her face. Cirno raised her hands, letting them curl around Kaguya's shoulders. A low moan rose from Cirno's lungs.

“Cirno” Kaguya whispered, her hot breath tickling the fairy's ear. “Beautiful child. You will learn there are many things in life that you don't get to decide.” Kaguya slid her hands under Cirno, stroking her back. “Things that will shape you forever. I can't tell you how to avoid them. But I can tell you ...” She kissed her neck, holding her tighter. “I can tell you that some milestones in life … are sacred. They should be yours and yours alone to decide.” Kaguya lifted her face to look in Cirno's eyes. “Do you understand?”

Cirno looked up at Kaguya. “Why are you crying?”

Kaguya smile warmly and shook her head. “It doesn't matter.”

Cicadas screeched loudly as Kaguya lowered herself again, kissing Cirno. This time, Cirno surrendered utterly. She opened her mouth to her, taking in her tongue. She arched her body into Kaguya's hands as they stroked her all over, as her lips and tongue opened her up and moved into her. The tree branches above them stirred lazily in the wind before the summer's blue sky.

Kaguya was patient. Her fingers and tongue moved over and then into Cirno as if she were opening a rose without bruising a petal. Kaguya inhaled deeply, listening to Cirno's body with her own. Cirno gripped tightly to Kaguya's hair as she watched the sunlight starting to make the tree branches blur. She was awash in a swirl of currents, ebbing and flowing through her body. And then, Kaguya touched a place inside her that made her gasp loudly. She was at once terrified and ecstatic. It felt as though a sun was growing inside her, its rays stretching down her thighs, up her chest, spreading up inside the top of her head.

Kaguya felt Cirno's body tighten when she reached the core of her pleasure. Kaguya stroked it faster, in stronger circles, with the flat of her finger as she lovingly kissed her thighs, her free hand sliding over Cirno's body. Cirno could feel her legs shaking as the sun inside her grew larger, brighter, humming loudly in her ears. What was happening? Its power was frightening.

“Let it go,” Kaguya whispered over Cirno's stomach. “Just breathe. Relax. Let it go.”

Cirno closed her eyes as she let Kaguya's fingers and tongue stir the sun even larger. She could see it turning white as it grew. The humming turned into a dull rumbling, building. And then suddenly, the sun exploded in a soundless burst of light that evaporated every cell in her body, a cry of anguished ecstasy roaring up from her chest. There was nothing in the world but this: the cry of the cicadas and the summer sun, lifting her body into the sky.


When Cirno awoke, she felt her hair being stroked. Her head was in Kaguya's lap. Next to her was Cirno's dress, clean and neatly folded. She smiled to see it, but felt no particular urgency to reach for it.

Cirno rolled over and looked up at Kaguya. She looked at Cirno lovingly. Cirno could not help but smile.

“How are you feeling?” Kaguya asked gently.

Cirno thought about it out loud. “I feel … different. Like I'm older.” A bee flew lazily passed them. “Like, I'm not who I was, and who I was, I … I feel like I've said goodbye to a dear friend. I'm a little sad. But I'm also happy because ...” Cirno closed her eyes, drawing in a long, content breath. “Because the world looks … clear to me now. Less scary. Does that make sense?”

Kaguya nodded. “Oh yes. It makes a lot of sense. Sit up for me, child, would you?”

Cirno raised herself off of Kaguya's lap. Kaguya rose to her feet, and smoothed her dress out. She cleared her throat.

“I have enjoyed this time with you.” Kaguya said. “I hope you have, too. I thank you sincerely for allowing it to happen.” Kaguya bowed deeply. Cirno was so surprised she hesitated at first, before bowing her head in response. “You will notice your dress is undamaged. I found it hanging from a tree branch, not too far from here. I have no idea why you would-”

“It was Tewi,” Cirno mumbled. “Tewi took it from me.”

Kaguya paused. “Did she? Well, that was not a nice thing to do. I hope you weren't too frightened.”

“Ah, it's OK,” Cirno dismissed.

“No, it isn't.” Kaguya said. “I will deal with her when I get home. But anyways: under your dress, you will find a bottle. As you know, for one month at this time of year, you are now old enough to attract suitors. You are aware of this, yes?”

Cirno hesitated, and then nodded. “I am.”

“Well, what you might not have been told is, although your body may respond to their desires, your mind might not. It's apparently part of being a fairy. This is why I asked you to be certain of your permission. It is my opinion that the mind and the body should agree with each other. Cirno, listen to me.” Cirno's eyes locked on Kaguya's. “Listen carefully. Should a suitor approach you, do as I asked you and look honestly inside yourself. If you do not desire that suitor, take a sip of that drink. It will give you the power to erase the desire of that suitor. Consider it a gift. But if Eirin ever asks, tell her you found it, would you?”

Cirno appeared confused. “But what if my mind agrees with my body about a suitor?”

Kaguya laughed a little through her nose. “Then you're one lucky girl.”

Cirno smiled, blushing at her own silliness for missing the obvious. Then something occurred to her. “Kaguya?” she asked tenatively. “Why me?”

Looking down into those big, blue eyes, Kaguya paused. It briefly occurred to her to tell her. But then, she remembered the moon.

Kaguya gave Cirno's hair a loving stroke. “Why not you?” she smiled.

Kaguya turned, walking away. “Farewell, Cirno. Enjoy your summer.”

Cirno said nothing, watching her go. There was nothing she could say. It was summer, and she was growing up.

(Image: Pixiv)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to Surprise Friends and Enrage Youkai

Reimu and Marisa were walking their way to the Human Village one sunny afternoon.

“So apparently, that's why Wriggle wears short pants instead of a skirt,” Marisa concluded.

“Wow,” said Reimu, and made a low whistle. “I'd never guess she was the type.”

“Well, yeah, but we all do impulsive things when we're younger.”

“Some of us don't stop doing them.”

“Heh, got me there. But then again, you-” Marisa stopped, and held up her hand. Reimu gave her a questioning look.

“Look,” Marisa whispered, and pointed to a bush by the side of the road, a few meters away. It resembled a normal bush in every way, apart from the giant purple umbrella sticking out of the top of it.

Marisa snickered. Reimu shook her head. “Why does she even try?”

“C'mon,” said Marisa, “Just act natural.”

The two walked on.

“So anyway, Reimu,” Marisa said, raising her voice a bit, “I think it's a really good thing this road is so seldom used. Don't you agree?”

“Oh yes,” Reimu replied. “It sure is. You can just walk and walk without having to worry about anyone suddenly jumping out at you.”

“Totally. Someone suddenly jumping out at me is the last thing I would ever expect.”

“Me too. I think it would-”

At that moment, as they were passing the bush, Kogasa leaped up towards them. Simultaneously, Reimu spun, throwing an open-palmed punch straight to the center of Kogasa's chest.

Kogasa was sent flying onto her back, gasping loudly, the wind knocked out of her. Marisa burst into braying laughter, pointing at Kogasa.

“Look at that!,” Marisa laughed. “She even slid a little. Nice punch, Reimu.”

“Simple physics, really,” Reimu said matter-of-factly. “You see, as she exerts force upwards, her center of gravity is-”

“Reimuuu!” Kogasa whined, struggling to her feet. “That was really mean. That hurt, you know.”

“You only have yourself to blame,” Reimu scolded. “If you think that hurt, just imagine what Marisa's Master Spark would feel like.”

“Eh, I really wouldn't waste Ol' Sparky on her,” Marisa said.

“I just wanted to surprise you,” Kogasa pouted.

“Ah jeez,” Marisa groaned. “You couldn't surprise a deaf old man with a blindfold on.”

Kogasa's eyes widened. “W-What are you saying?”

“She's saying you couldn't surprise anyone,” Reimu snapped frustratedly. “Alright? You can't. Just give it up.”

Kogasa's eyes welled up with tears. Her bottom lip quivered.

“Oh no ...” said Marisa. “This is awkward.”

“Kogasa, look,” Reimu began, reaching out a comforting hand to Kogasa.

“No!” Kogasa shouted. “You get away from me! I hate you, Reimu! I hate you!”

Kogasa burst into sobs, and flew off in a hurry.

Reimu sighed.

“Well, Reimu, I hope you're proud of yourself.” Marisa smirked. “You made an umbrella cry.”


Kogaga flew off over the trees, wiping away tears. Stupid Reimu. What was her problem anyway? How come she doesn't want anyone to have any fun, ever?

It was then that Kogasa saw a strange purple band of light, about a meter long and no wider than her finger, appear seemingly out of nowhere, floating in the air before her. Kogasa stopped. Suddenly, the band expanded, like the opening of a mouth. Kogasa was struck with fear. Inside, there shone a dark, violet haze, and several red-irised eyes peered at her from within.

“Uh oh,” Kogasa said out loud. “This can't be good.” What was this thing? Some strange and terrible sky monster?

Yukari Yakumo rose up from within the opening, smiling at Kogasa, and stepped out. The strange purple mouth closed behind her, and disappeared. Yukari floated in the air before Kogasa, regarding her steadily.

“Nice umbrella,” Yukari said at last.

“Wow.” Kogasa was amazed. “Who are you?”

“A friend,” Yukari smiled. “You can call me a friend. I saw what Reimu did to you. Tsk tsk. Deplorable.”

Kogasa paused. “I know,” she mumbled. “She's so mean.”

“Oh, she has good intentions, really. She's just … overly serious at times, that's all. But enough about her. Let's talk about you.”

“Me? Huh?” Kogasa stammered. “W-What about me?”

“You like to surprise people, hm?”

“Yeah ...”

“I can relate.”

“Really? You like to surprise people, too?”

Yukari nodded.

“Well, you're pretty good at it,” Kogasa chuckled. “You sure surprised me.”

Yukari put a hand on Kogasa's shoulder.

“I'd like to help you,” Yukari said. “I could make it so you could surprise anyone, anytime. Would you like that?”

Kogasa's eyes widened with wonder. “Well, sure! But wait – why do you want to help me?” she asked suspiciously. “What do you want?”

“Me?” Yukari asked coquettishly. “Why, nothing. I just think it would be amusing, that's all. Can't let people get too comfortable with life in Gensokyo, you know.” Yukari poked Kogasa's nose playfully.

Kogasa smiled. “Well, then, alright. Sure. I'll take your help.”

“Wonderful,” Yukari beamed, putting her arm around Kogasa's shoulders. “When it comes to surprising people, the first thing you have to know is: you can't go wrong with the gap.”

“The gap? Oh, was that that thing you did where you came out of the sky?”

Yukari nodded. “But really, you can make the gap appear anywhere. You can surprise people no matter where they are. And they never see you coming.”

“Ooh! So when can we try it?” Kogasa asked excitedly.

“Why, right now, if you want.” Yukari smiled. “In fact, I know just the person you could try first.”


“Ah, there we go,” said Nitori, surveying her handiwork. The automated watercress harvester was near completion. “This ought to save a lot of work.” Nitori whistled happily as she looked it over. The rotary blades were in good shape, the frame was stable, and the engine was ready. “Now I just need to calibrate the water intake/outake system.”

Nitori turned and casually walked to her tool cabinet. Some days I really love being an engineer, she thought to herself. She opened the tool cabinet and bent down, retrieving her socket wrench set from the bottom shelf. She then stood, turned around and-

“Hey there!” Kogasa yelped happily, inches from Nitori's face.

Nitori shrieked, stumbling backwards against her tool cabinet, landing in a sitting position. Sockets rolled across the floor.

“Ow ...” Nitori moaned.

“Oh? Did I surprise you?” Kogasa asked with barely concealed glee.

“Surprise me? You scared the crap outta me,” Nitori mumbled, standing on her feet.

Kogasa laughed giddily.

“What is wrong with you?” Nitori glared, rubbing her sore bottom. “Seriously, who are you anyway?”

Kogasa looked at Nitori, thinking.

“You're surprised pretty easily, aren't you?” Kogasa asked, a grin playing across her lips.

Nitori blushed crimson. “I really don't see how that's any of your business.”

Kogasa chuckled. “I'll take that as a yes. Well, I'll see myself out. Bye for now!” Kogasa left the workshop, closing the door behind her.

Nitori glared at the door, shaking her head in confusion. “Buggy little heterochromatic freak,” she murmured.


Kogasa got a lot of enjoyment out of Yukari's help, who gapped Kogasa into any place she wanted – right behind Keine during a class, in Cirno's path as she flew over the lake, even once (and only once) behind Sakuya as she carried a full tea service.

But no one reacted with the sort of intensity of surpise that Nitori did. Each and every time that Kogasa sprang in on her in her workshop, Nitori would belt out a shriek, flailing her limbs comically, invariably falling over something. She never failed to be just as surprised, each and every time. It was very satisfying.

Nitori, for her part, could not understand why this creepy umbrella girl kept plaguing her. It was getting so she didn't want to go into her workshop anymore. But she had to finish the watercress harvester. The stress was getting to her. She couldn't eat, and hadn't slept in days. Weeks of torment left her nerves shaky and frayed.

One day, Nitori went up Youkai Mountain to try and clear her head.

I can't avoid the workshop forever, she thought. My whole livelihood depends on it. But every time I go there … argh!

In her rage and frustration, Nitori clenched her fists, shut her eyes tight, and screamed at the top of her lungs. What else could she do? The creepy umbrella girl was-

Just then, as often happened to Nitori, she received a sudden flash of inspiration. The answer to her problem: the enemy of umbrellas everywhere, of course. Nitori couldn't help but giggle as she hurried back to her workshop.

“So the little freak likes surprises, eh?” Nitori grinned. “Let's see how she likes getting them.”


Nitori nonchalantly puttered around her workshop, pretending to be busy. The watercress harvester rested on its side on the workbench. Nitori crouched down on the floor in front of the workbench, sorting her tools. She knew it would only be a matter of time.

It was when Nitori was arranging her Alan wrenches by gauge that Kogasa silently gapped in behind her. Slowly, she tip-toed up, making her way right to Nitori's crouched back. She grinned mischievously.

“Workin' hard?” Kogasa yelled, which as expected made Nitori gasp loudly, startled, little Alan wrenches flying everywhere. Nitori turned around slowly, still in a crouch, glaring.

“Ah ha ha ha!” Kogasa laughed heartily, “You're really entertaining, you know that?”

Nitori's glare turned into a smirk as she lifted a little steel switchbox connected to a wire.

Kogasa looked at the little box curiously. “What's that do?” she asked, following the length of the wire with her eyes. It lay across the floor, and went up a leg of the workbench, connecting to a big machine with steel blades arranged around a hub.

Kogasa's blood ran cold. “Oh no.”

Nitori smiled broadly and nodded. “Oh yes.” She flipped the switch. The watercress harvester whirred to life, the blades beginning to turn. Nitori crouched down lower.

Kogasa turned and tried to run, but the harvester's blades were already at full power. A powerful wind lifted Kogasa, slamming her against the wall, pinning her there. She couldn't move, and her umbrella was turned inside-out, pinned to the wall next to her.

“My pretty pretty purple parasol!” she cried with despair.

Nitori rose to her feet, switchbox in hand, bracing her back against the powerful wind of the harvester's blades as she made her way slowly to Kogasa. This freak is mine now, she thought. She couldn't help but laugh.

Nitori put her hand against the wall as she leaned in close to Kogasa's terrified face. The sight of Kogasa's expression made all these weeks of anxiety and frustration came rushing up out of Nitori. She cackled with delight.

“What's the matter?” Nitori yelled over the roaring of the blades. “Did I … surprise you?”

“Please!” Kogasa begged. “Turn it off!”

Nitori feigned confusion, holding her hand to her ear. “What? I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Did you just apologize?”

“I'm sorry!”

“And you promise to stay the hell away from me? What?”

“I promise! Just let me go!”

“And you're a stupid little heterochromatic pinhead with the ugliest umbrella ever conceived by god or man?”

Kogasa hesitated, her eyes darting. “W-What?”

“Never mind. You really swear to leave me alone?”

“Yes! Yes I swear! Just make it stop, please! Make it stop!”

Nitori flipped the switch. Kogasa slid down the wall and landed in a heap on the floor as the machine died down. She clutched her broken umbrella, still shaking.

Nitori pitied her then. She's obviously not too bright, and pretty much mostly harmless. I guess it can't be helped. Nitori sighed.

“Here,” she said, crouching down. “I'll fix your umbrella. I didn't mean to break it.”

Kogasa hesitated at first, and then gently handed the umbrella to Nitori.

Nitori rose, and carried the umbrella to her workbench. Fixing an umbrella would be a snap. And a small price to pay for the look on umbrella girl's face. Nitori savored it, chuckling softly to herself as she got to work.


Kogasa was heading into the Forest of Magic with her newly-repaired umbrella when Yukari gapped in before her, smiling warmly.

“So,” she said. “Have fun scaring the kappa again?”

“It wasn't fun at all this time.” Kogasa pouted. “She had this big wind-making thing, and she held me against the wall, and laughed at me, and my umbrella broke but she fixed it, and I fell down, and she made me promise not to surprise her again and- and she's crazy!”

“I see.”

“Crazy! Why did you tell me to surprise her first?”

Yukari shrugged. “Well, she's easy to surprise.”

“But why did you let me keep surprising her? You must've known she was crazy.”

Yukari smiled comfortingly. “Kogasa, Nitori isn't crazy. But she is very intelligent and resourceful. And just as I suspected, she was very capable in teaching you the lesson that you needed to learn.”

Kogasa was puzzled. “Huh? Teach me what?”

Yukari sighed. “That every person's patience has limits. Even the funniest joke wears thin if you keep telling it to the same person, over and over. But it seems you learned that first hand, didn't you?” Yukari stepped back into the gap. “A wind machine, though, that's a new one. I'd have thought she'd catapult you over Youkai Mountain, or stretch you out until you were one long noodle. Ah well, I suppose a wind machine did the job well enough. Bye for now!” With that, the gap sealed up, and disappeared.

Kogasa stood alone in the forest, and clutched her umbrella tighter, apprehensive. “Everyone here is crazy.”

(Image: Pixiv)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kaguya Throws a Party

Kaguya turned over on her futon and watched as two flies buzzed listlessly around each other near the ceiling. She blew a lock of hair from her face, raised her arms as if to sit up, and then let them flop back down again.

She heard a faint, polite knock at her bedroom door. Three crisp, distinct knocks, as always. Eirin. Kaguya sighed.

“Whaaat,” she groaned.

Eirin slid the door open. “Sorry to bother you, Princess, but I thought maybe you were hungry, and would like to have breakfast on the veranda. It's a gorgeous day.”

“But I'm sooo tiiired,” Kaguya groaned again.

“It's the middle of the afternoon.”

Kaguya sat up, leaning on her elbows, and looked at Eirin pleadingly. “Eirin, I'm bored. No one ever comes by. Why doesn't anything ever happen around here?”

“Well, we could go for a walk in the forest,” Eirin suggested.


“We could go to the human's village and see if there's anything interesting at Rinnosuke's shop.”

“Uh … no. Last time we went there the most 'interesting' thing he had was this ridiculous black box that was supposed to be a game but didn't even do anything.”

“Well, actually, that's because-”

“I mean what is that? Oh, hey, here you go,” Kaguya stammered, imitating a man's voice, “It's a totally worthless stupid black box that doesn't do anything. It's a game! Look at me, I'm an idiot! Thuh thuh thuh thuh thuh thuh thuh. Ugh. No. No shopping.”

“OK,” Eirin paused, thinking, “Well, I've been working in the lab and made this potion you might-”

“What's it do?”

“It makes everything taste like strawberries!”

Kaguya looked at her a moment, then cocked her head. “Eirin, I've been alive for thousands of years. Do you really think that's the kind of thing that would make me jump for joy? Strawberry-flavored everything? Really? What are you going to offer me next, a shiny new mirror?” Kaguya pretended to hold a hand mirror up to her face. “Oh my, what's this? Look at the pretty girl! She do what I do!” Kaguya pretended to turn the mirror over, and gasped in surprise. “Oh no! Where the pretty girl go?” She then pretended to turn the mirror back around, and chuckled giddily. “There she is! There the pretty girl! Huh huh huh huh!” Kaguya flopped back down on the bed. Eirin bowed her head, blushing with shame.

“I'm sorry, Eirin,” Kaguya mumbled. “I guess I'm just lonely.”

Eirin cleared her throat. “Well, you were saying no one ever comes here. Why not … throw a party?”

Kaguya paused, then sat up quickly. “Eirin. That's … that's brilliant! Yes!” Kaguya sprang to her feet. “We'll throw a party – no. We'll throw a festival. The biggest, grandest festival ever! Yee – I'm so excited.”

Eirin beamed. It was so nice to see Kaguya inspired. Already she was taking that commanding, imperious pose Eirin remembered from the old days.

“Let's go, Eirin. No time for breakfast. We have to get organized.”

“Yes, Princess.” Eirin bowed formally. “What are your orders?”

“First,” Kaguya said, thinking out loud, “We will need to clear out a large swath of the forest for our guests.”

“Yes, Princess.”

“Then, we'll need chefs and musicians. Send envoys through Gensokyo to find the best of the best.”

“Yes, Princess.”

“And we'll also need ...” Kaguya paused in thought, tapping her finger on her lips, “We will need to gather the rabbits to build a replica of Mount Youkai.”

“Yes, Pr-”

“Made entirely of bamboo. Standing five times the height of Eientei. And hollow inside. But with … with a system of scaffolds and platforms all around it. For launching the fireworks!” Kaguya's eyes shone. “And- and when the fireworks explode, little candies float down from them. And the candies will be shaped like me.”

Eirin began to get a sinking feeling in her stomach.

“And then,” Kaguya continued, “I will make my entrance on the back of a giant golden owl. And it will sing. And flakes of pure silver will shoot out of its eyes as I wave to people. Oh, Eirin,” Kaguya smiled at Eirin warmly, “This was such a good idea.”

“Y-Yes, Princess.”

“And I'm just getting started! You know me – once my mind gets working, there's no limit to what I can dream up.”

“Indeed, Princess.” Some days, moving back to the moon didn't seem like such a bad idea.


A few weeks later, Eirin was slumped against a tall stalk of bamboo, far enough away from the worksite to remain unseen. Maybe she got could a few moments' rest before being summoned again.

This will soon be over, she reminded herself. The Youkai Mountain replica was almost complete. Acres of forest had been cleared, the chefs were planning a banquet menu, the musicians were composing and practicing. It was amazing what an army of moon rabbits could do.

But it seemed Kaguya was still not satisfied. As one project neared completion, she'd come up with something else to create. It didn't matter if it was a giant bas relief mural depicting Kaguya's escape from the Lunarians, or a candy-filled paper effigy of Mokou that the guests could beat with sticks, or that damned golden owl – nothing was good enough. Maybe everything was actually quite far from completion. No matter how excited she'd been about the festival initially, Kaguya now seemed more stressed with each day, and not happy at all.

Eirin understood why, of course. Kaguya liked to give orders, sure, and she hadn't had a party in a long time, so she wanted everything to be perfect. But neither of these were the real reason. The reality was: Kaguya was still bored. And only one thing could hope to relieve that boredom. Eirin sighed.

Just then, Aya swooped down from the bamboo tops, dropping down in front of Eirin with an excited smile.

“Why hello there, Miss Yagokoro!” Aya chirped happily. “And how are-”

Eirin held up her hand. “Not now, tengu. Seriously. I've had maybe two hours of sleep a night for the past three weeks now. I'm exhausted. Just leave me alone.”

Aya chuckled. “Working overtime, are you? Hm.” She took out her notebook, pulling a pen out from under her hat. “So what's Kaguya up to? I was just passing by and couldn't help noticing a lot of busy little bunnies hard at work. Heh. So what is it, hm?” Aya smiled, leaning in closer, pointing her pen at Eirin. “You know I'm not leaving here without a quote.”

Eirin's first impulse was to snatch the pen from Aya's hand and snap it in two. But then she realized Aya could be useful in getting Kaguya what she really wanted.

“Alright,” said Eirin. “I'll tell you. But you have to promise not to tell anyone. Got it?”

Aya looked shocked. “What? Of course, Eirin. Contrary to popular opinion, I can keep a secret.”

“That article on Cirno's new hobby would indicate otherwise,” Eirin said dryly.

Aya waved her hand dismissively. “Cirno OK'd that piece. She just had Interview Regret. Come on, Eirin. Don't insult me. Let's hear it.”

“Alright,” Eirin smirked. “I'll tell you.”


“So then I said to Winston Churchill,” Remilia continued to Sakuya as she sat on the veranda, “Well, sir, that may very well be, but at least I'm not a fat, sloppy drunk.”

“Ouch,” grinned Sakuya. “You sure put him in his place.”

“That I did, that I did. Say, what's for tea, anyway?”

“Well, my lady, I was thinking we-”

Aya flew up from behind the rail of the veranda, landing gingerly beside the table.

“Well, hello there, Miss Scarlet!” Aya chirped happily. “And how are-”

In the next moment, Sakuya was right in front of Aya, one hand gripping the front of her blouse, the other holding a knife to her throat.

“Whoah, hey now,” chuckled Aya, smirking, “Careful there. I just washed this shirt.”

“Sakuya, relax,” sighed Remilia. “The tengu isn't a threat. And I'm sure she has a very good reason for dropping by unannounced. Don't you, Aya?”

“I do, as a matter of fact,” Aya replied as Sakuya reluctantly unhanded her, “and it concerns all of us.”

Remilia looked at her, nonplussed. “Yes?”

“You might have noticed some strange goings-ons around the Bamboo Forest,” Aya began, conspiratorially, “and you may have been wondering what mysterious turn of events are afoot.”

“Not really,” Remilia shrugged.

“Ah, that's right.” Sakuya spoke up, “I'm sorry, my lady, but I forgot to tell you: we received a message this morning that Lady Kaguya is planning a festival, the date of which will be announced soon. We are all invited.”

“Splendid,” grinned Remilia.

“A festival?” said Aya. “Is that what they told you?”

“What do you mean?” snapped Sakuya. “Stop being coy and just spit it out.”

“Very well.” Aya turned to Remilia. “Miss Scarlet, I think you ought to know that a source very close to Lady Kaguya told me personally that she's planning to attack Gensokyo.”

Sakuya looked surprised, but Remilia regarded Aya steadily. No one said a word for a few beats.

“That is a very serious accusation, Aya,” said Remilia at last. “I assume you have more proof than just the word of one person.”

“I do,” winked Aya. She reached into her pocket, and took out several photographs, carefully laying them side by side on the table in front of Remilia. Sakuya and Remilia studied them.

“What am I looking at here?” Remilia said at last. “I can tell it's the Bamboo Forest, and that house down there is Eientei, but what's that?”

“That,” said Aya, pointing to the aerial shot of the bamboo replica of Youkai Mountain, “is a mobile battle fortress. That's why they're cutting down all the bamboo – they're clearing a path for that thing to come rolling in and start wreaking havoc.”

Remilia nodded, unfazed. “I see. And you're telling me this because?”

Aya let out a short, incredulous laugh. “Because? Because you live in Gensokyo, of course. And because you and your mansion will very likely be targets.”

“Oh, I see,” Remilia folded her arms across her chest, leaning back, smiling, “And it wouldn't have anything to do with you being desperate for a hot story, replete with exclusive photos?”

Aya clucked her tongue impatiently. “You know what? Don't believe me. I'm tired of you people doubting my credibility.”

“I'm sorry, you people?” Sakuya said angrily. “What's that supposed to mean?”

“I just meant-”

“What, are we some kind of primitive howler monkeys to you? Is that it? Just because we can't zip around in the sky like a freak and don't have creepy powerful long distance vision? Hm?”

“Sakuya, look, I-”

“I can stop time, you know! I can stop time. I'd like to see a howler monkey stop time.”

“I'm sure a howler monkey couldn't stop time.”

“Damn right he couldn't.”

Aya sighed. “Alright, I'm gone. You two don't have to believe me. You'll see soon enough. Later.” And with that, Aya flew off into the sky.

Sakuya shook her head. “You believe that? Who does she think she's-”

“I believe her,” said Remilia, looking up at Sakuya, almost comfortingly. “I appreciate your concern, but I could tell she was telling the truth. Or that she believed she was.”

“Are you serious?” Sakuya considered this. “Do you really think Lady Kaguya is planning to attack us?”

“Maybe,” shrugged Remilia. “Maybe not.” She eyed the photographs on the table, thinking it over. “Tell you what: assemble the maids. The entire staff. Refresh their combat training and tell them we're going to the Bamboo Forest.”

Sakuya appeared startled, but bowed. “Yes, my lady.”

“We'll see if there's any truth to this, one way or the other. Either Kaguya's bunnies will be ready for a battle, or they won't. Regardless,” Remilia smiled wryly, “you weren't planning on doing anything special tonight anyway, were you?”


Kaguya slammed her fist down on the table in frustration.

“You people are idiots!” she screamed at the musicians. “You call that festive? It sounds like a funeral dirge. I've heard dying cows who sounded more cheerful than that.”

“Princess,” Eirin interjected. “perhaps this would be a good time to take a break. Don't you think?”

Kaguya closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Yes,” she said at last. “Let's take a breath. You musicians … I don't know, go out and ask the night sparrow to teach you how to sing or something.” The musicians filed out dejectedly.

Kaguya held her face in her hands. Her hair was straggled, she had bags under her eyes, and her skin had gone from fair to pale. Eirin couldn't remember having seen her eat or sleep since the festival planning started.

“Princess,” Eirin began gently, “you know, you don't have to go through with this. It doesn't have to be a festival per se. It could be just a banquet.”

Kaguya lifted her face from her hands and looked up at Eirin. “What?” she asked, a hurt look on her face, “You don't think I can do this, do you?”

“No, no, of course I think you can organize a festival. It's just- it's just that you don't seem very … happy.”

“Happy? I'm happy! See?” Kaguya flapped her hands around her head frantically. “Leedle-leedle-leedle-leedle-leedle-leedle! Happy happy princess!”


Eirin and Kaguya turned towards the door. Reisen stood there, waiting to be acknowledged.

“I'm sorry to interrupt … whatever that was,” Reisen said, “but we've received some troubling reports from some of the moon rabbits.”

“Oh, really?” Kaguya sighed. “What is it this time? And don't tell me it's can't train the kittens to dance on their hind legs, because I don't even want to hear that again.”

“No, Princess, it's … well, it would appear an army of maids from Scarlet Devil Mansion are headed this way.”

Eirin's heart skipped a beat. Good girl, Aya, she thought.

Kaguya, blinked, unmoving. “I beg your pardon?” she asked quietly.

“A single column, but they appear battle-ready. They should reach us in less than an hour.” Reisen paused. “Your orders, Princess?”

Kaguya clenched her fists and drew a long, deep breath. “That conniving ...” she hissed “scheming, smug, jealous little posh brat. She's going to try and ruin my festival?” Kaguya chuckled dryly, standing up. “Oh ho, no. My orders? Tell each and every moon rabbit to stop whatever they're doing, arm up, and await orders.”

“Yes, Princess.”

“I will watch the battle. You will be my envoy to the squad commanders. I will control squad movements from my position, through you. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Princess.”

“Then go.”

Reisen left at once. Eirin studied Kaguya. She looked angry, of course, but there was a certain calm in her eyes. All the same, Eirin wondered for a moment if her hunch about what Kaguya really needed had been off base.

But those doubts were quickly assuaged once she saw Kaguya in action. From her vantage point atop the bamboo Youkai Mountain, Kaguya had the distinct advantage of being able to view both Remilia's advancing maids and her own columns of moon rabbits, judging their positions by the movements of the bamboo tops. Eirin stood beside Kaguya, watching with unconcealed pride as Kaguya gave her orders to Reisen, who moved with lightning speed between Kaguya and the troops. Kaguya spoke evenly and comfortably as she directed the positions of the columns, arranging them more like an artist with her paints than a military commander. For the first time in weeks, Kaguya was starting to look happy.

At last all the moon rabbits were in position. Kaguya gave her final orders:

“Send in six columns to charge them from behind. Once the maids have all turned their attention towards the rear, send in the rest of the columns to attack them from the other side. Then make all the columns encircle them. Be fast, be brutal. Leave no apron unsoiled.”

With that, Reisen bowed, and was off. Kaguya leaned back against the bamboo frame, smiled, and sighed. “And now,” she said, “let's enjoy watching the little brat get a spanking.”

And a spanking it was. After an initial flurry of shouting and thrashing of bamboo, the maids were very quickly routed. Within minutes, it was clear the battled belonged to Kaguya. It wasn't long before she could hear the cheering of the moon rabbits from where she stood.

“Well then,” she said to Eirin, “time for me to get down there and gloat. And find out what the hell that brat was thinking.”


In the Bamboo Forest, the maids were split up into groups, forced to sit on the ground, each group heavily guarded by moon rabbits. Remilia and Sakuya, positioned safely far behind their troops, watched, dismayed.

“Well this is embarrassing,” sighed Remilia. “Perhaps our maids should've been better prepared.”

“Perhaps, my lady,” Sakuya concurred. “I do recall suggesting that mops and rolling pins were probably not ideal weapons.”

“Hmph,” Remilia pouted. “Anything can be a weapon if you have enough willpower. Lazy maids. Darn it.” She stomped her foot. “I wanted to win!”

“But my lady,” Sakuya reassured her, “Your objective wasn't to win; it was to see if Lady Kaguya was indeed preparing for battle. And look, you achieved that objective.”

“Unfortunately,” Remilia mumbled. “It would seem Lady Kaguya is planning an attack after all.”

“And how on earth did you get that idea?” Remilia and Sakuya turned around to see Kaguya standing there.

“Well,” Remilia smiled. “I suppose you've come to gloat.”

“In part,” smiled Kaguya, “So let me get that part out of the way now.” Her smile broadened, she took a deep breath, and pointed her finger at Remilia. “Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! You lost! I win! Win win win! Loser! Loooooooser! Ha ha ha! Ah ...” she sighed happily, “That felt good.”

Remilia and Sakuya glared at her.

“Don't think this is over,” Sakuya hissed. “If you think it's going to be this easy to take on all of Gensokyo, you're in for-”

“Shut it, maid.” Kaguya snapped, and turned to Remilia. “Come now. You might be a petulant child, but you're not insane. What possessed you to embark on such a foolish campaign?”

Remilia smirked. “This might surprise you, but I have eyes and ears everywhere. We heard all about your little plan of conquest.”

“Conquest? What are you talking about?”

Remilia studied Kaguya steadily for a few beats. “Your plan to wage war on Gensokyo, of course.”

Kaguya stifled a laugh. “My- what? Oh no, you're serious, aren't you?” Kaguya then let the laughter escape. Deep, hearty laughter. She crossed her arms across her stomach and bent forward as she laughed. Tears appeared in her eyes. “This just keeps getting better!” she panted, catching her breath. “Oh my, I may have wet my underclothes a little.” Kaguya wiped her eyes. “Alright, alright. Let me see if I have this right: you somehow got the idea that I was planning to attack Gensokyo – for whatever reason – so you decided to try and thwart me with … maids? Armed with floor brushes?” Kaguya chuckled. “Oh, Remilia. I think the maid's been putting a little something extra in your tea.”

Remilia smiled. “I guess it can't be helped. My mistake. But since we clearly pose no threat to you, I assume we can just go home?”

Kaguya considered this. “This little stunt of yours was pretty funny. Hm. You know what? Sure. Why not? You're even still welcome to the festival. Just leave the street cleaning crew at home, will you?” Kaguya laughed softly as she walked past Remilia, patting her on the head. “Don't ever change, you. You're adorable.”

Remilia and Sakuya both fumed at the condescension, but said nothing. They turned, watching Kaguya walk away, shouting the order to the moon rabbits to release their prisoners.

“So what do you think?” asked Sakuya.

“I think our plan to see what Kaguya was up to was indeed a success.” Remilia sighed. “She's not planning to attack Gensokyo. I could see it in her eyes. And her laughter.”

“So the tengu did lie to us,” Sakuya fumed.

“No,” corrected Remilia. “She was misinformed. Someone intentionally convinced Aya of a mistruth.”

Sakuya twisted her brow. “Why?”

“I don't know,” smiled Remilia, “but I'd hate to be the tengu once Kaguya gets her hands on her.”


Kaguya returned to Eientei among throngs of cheering moon rabbits. Eirin stood in the courtyard and watched as she approached. Kaguya practically glowed with delight. Her eyes shone, her smile was broad, and her steps were light. She's back, Eirin thought. She's happy.

Eirin walked to Kaguya, smiling. “I take it you were victorious.”

Kaguya nodded, “I paddled her little bottom and sent her to her room without dessert.” She sighed contentedly. “Ah, I needed that.”

Aya flew down from the sky then, her notebook and pen already out, and rushed up to Eirin and Kaguya. “I saw the whole thing – that was amazing! I had to hide pretty well to get some decent photographs, but I managed to get some good shots.” She turned to Kaguya. “So, tell me, Princess – how does it feel to have defeated the Scarlet Devil Army?”

Kaguya raised an eyebrow. “Funny thing about that: it seems Remilia was under the impression that I planned to attack Gensokyo. I wonder where she would've gotten an idea like that?”

“Ah-” Aya froze, then turned to Eirin.

“Hm,” said Eirin, turning to Aya. “That is very strange. How indeed would Remilia ever hear that awful rumor?”

Aya realized she was trapped. Eirin had set her up, but then again, Aya had broken her promise not to tell anyone. Now what?

Aya laughed nervously. “No idea!”

“You know what I think?” Kaguya began. “I think you-”

“We're going to have a festival,” Eirin cut in. “How'd you like to cover it? It's going to be big.” Eirin kept her gaze steady on Aya's. “It's the least I could do.”

Aya nodded, not quite understanding but happy to dodge a bullet. “Ah- Of course!”

Kaguya looked at Eirin sideways. “Yes, very good,” said Kaguya impatiently. “Now get along, tengu, before you get uninvited.”

“Yes, Princess. Don't you worry – a festival at Eientei is definitely front page material. It's been ages, hasn't it? Well, heh, anyway, goodbye!” Aya flew off.

Kaguya shook her head and turned back to Eientei, walking to the entrance. Eirin walked with her.

“You let the tengu off easy,” Kaguya remarked. “You really are too soft-hearted.”

Eirin shrugged. “Aya's a good girl. She's just a little misguided.”

“I suppose.”

“So then,” said Eirin, opening the door for Kaguya, “I guess it's back to festival planning.”

Kaguya said nothing for a few moments as she walked through the door, but then she stopped. “Forget it.”

“Excuse me, Princess?”

“Let's just have a regular banquet. Lots of people, lots of food and drink, good music, and warm company. Nothing fancy. Inform the rabbits. Have that bamboo monstrosity disassembled.”

Eirin smiled. “Of course, Princess.”

“But keep the owl,” said Kaguya, walking on. “I like him.”

(Image: Pixiv)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Best Friends Forever, or, Why Wriggle Wears Shorts and Not a Skirt

Keine and Mokou were sitting together by the edge of the Bamboo Forest one night, the moon three-quarters full.

“It's been a pretty crazy summer,” said Mokou. “Can't believe it's finally over.”

“You can say that again,” sighed Keine. “For a while there I was this close to erasing a fairly large chunk of history.”

“That incident in July? With the wasps?”

“That, and the ants.”

“Oh yes … the ants. What a lot of fun that was, strafing half the countryside to burn out all the anthills,” chuckled Mokou. “Seriously, I enjoyed that.”

“It would have been nice if you told us ahead of time, by the way. The humans in the village have seen a lot of things, to be sure. But even so you don't expect a raining hell of columns of fire to come pouring down from the sky in the middle of the night.” Keine cleared her throat. “Necessarily.”

“They were pretty scared, weren't they?” Mokou smiled. “Running around aimlessly, screaming. Terrified for their lives. Heh. Anyway, what's for dinner?”

“Ah right,” Keine sat up, “Well, I decided to bring-”

She stopped, and held up her hand, listening. Then they both heard it: the whistling, the same, asinine tune as always.

“Oh no,” whispered Keine. Mokou groaned, whispering back, “How does she always know?”

“I don't know,” sighed Keine. “Alright, just humor her, she goes away sooner if you pretend to listen.”


Mystia floated down from the sky, landing before them. “Hey, Keine. Hey, Mokou.” she chirped happily. “What are you guys doing here?”

Mokou bit her tongue. Why do we go through this?

“We were just talking about Mokou's attack on the ants.” Keine said flatly.

“Oh, right. I didn't see that. Hey! Wanna see what I can do?”

Mokou shrugged. Neither said anything. Regardless, Mystia took a couple steps back.

“Ready?” she beamed. “OK!” Then Mystia began to dance, very enthusiastically. Her elbows and knees stabbed the air as she stamped clumsily, occasionally giving it a spin, her smile frozen on her face. Mokou and Keine watched expressionlessly. They'd seen this routine six times already in the past weel alone.

At long last, Mystia made one final spin as she jumped in the air, and then landed in a split, her hands held up high, triumphantly. She panted, out of breath, waiting to get a reaction, her eyes wide with expectation. Keine cleared her throat. “That's … very nice, Mystia, but you've shown us that routine already. A few times.”

“This is kind of embarrassing,” said Mokou.

“Alright, well, I'm still practicing. And I think I'm making progress,” Mystia pouted. “Anyway you're maybe just a little bit jealous. What kind of dancing can you do in those overalls?”

“Eh? Overalls?” asked Mokou, sitting up a little straighter. “Excuse me?”

Keine held up her hands. “You two, I really think-”

“I don't have to wear a skirt like everyone else around here, you know.” Mokou fumed. “I have my reasons.”

“You can't dance.” smirked Mystia.

“What is wrong with you? No. It has nothing to do with dancing.”

“Suuure it doesn't.”

Keine broke in, “Mystia, Mokou's right. And you should respect her position. There's no dress code around here.”

“Yeah, seriously, do you give Wriggle a hard time because of her short pants?” Mokou asked.

“Well no. Wriggle has a very good reason for not wearing a skirt. And I mean a very good reason.”

Mystia smiled conspiratorially. Keine and Mokou sat in silence, waiting. After a few beats it became apparent that Mystia was waiting to be prompted.

“Well?” asked Keine. “What is it?”

“I can't tell you,” Mystia answered happily.

“Oh you have to tell us now,” said Mokou. “You don't just say something like that.”

“Well I promised.”

“OK then.” Keine said, and crossed her arms.

Mystia looked a little surprised. “Well … OK then … “ she said warily. “Have a good night!” and flew off.

Keine sighed, and said, “Anyway, for dinner I brought-”

“You know we're going to see Wriggle, right?,” Mokou cut in. “Now I have to know.”

“You can't be serious. Mystia was probably just lying to impress us, like she knew something we didn't. Think about who were dealing with here.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” said Mokou, and smiled, “Wouldn't hurt to find out, though, would it?”

“I guess not. Seeing as how you're going to insist anyway.” Keine smiled back.


Wriggle stretched out her legs as she leaned back against a tree. “Ah, alone at last,” she smiled, reaching into a small satchel at her side, and taking out her copy of Cities of the Red Night. “Mmm … space travel,” she giggled happily.

Mokou and Keine dropped down from the sky, landing at her feet. Wriggle sat up, startled.

“Uh, hey, you two. H-How's it going?,” she asked with forced nonchalance as her mind raced to figure out what she could have possibly done wrong.

“Oh, not much,” smiled Keine, “We were just passing through, you know, and-”

“We want to know why you wear shorts,” Mokou cut in.

Wriggle blinked, looking at one and then the other. “W-Why do you wanna know that? What do you care, huh?” Her tone turning defensive, “And what about you, Mokou? How come you wear pants, huh?”

“Because I have horrible, ghastly scars all over my body,” Mokou shrugged. “Everyone knows that.”


“Look, Wriggle,” began Keine, kneeling next to Wriggle, “we were just curious. If you don't want to-”

“Well? Spill it,” Mokou cut in again. “We're not leaving until you tell us.”

Wriggle blushed, squirming, hesitant. Mokou grinned.

“Is it because … you're not really a girl? Hmm?,” she teased. “Afraid you'll be flying along, and someone'll look up and notice a suspicious bulge in your bloomers?”

“What?!,” snapped Wriggle, blushing a deep crimson, “Of course not! I'm a girl!”

“Oh yeah? Well, I'm not gonna take your word for it.” Mokou pounced on Wriggle, gripping at the waistband of her shorts.

“Aaah! Get off me, you pervert!” Wriggle struggled, but it was clear Mokou was much stronger. The button of Wriggle's shorts popped off. Keine had to intervene.

“Mokou! Stop it. What is wrong with you?” Mokou paused, still holding onto Wriggle's shorts. Wriggle panted, wiping tears from her eyes, pushing Mokou.

“Get off me!” she snapped. “Gosh. I'll tell you, alright? It's not even that big a deal.”

Mokou got off of Wriggle, and sat besides Keine. “Sorry,” she mumbled, looking at Keine.

“Alright,” said Wriggle. “The thing is, I have … a tattoo. On my right thigh. It's nothing, really, but it's pretty obvious, and I got it a long time ago, when I was young and having a phase. I'm over it. I just don't want to keep answering, 'Hey, Wriggle, what's that on your leg? Hey, Wriggle, why'd you get that on your leg? Hey, Wriggle, blablabla I'm a stupid stupidhead.' That's all. There. Happy now?”

Keine and Mokou both looked pretty surprised. Then Mokou started laughing.

“A tattoo, Wriggle?,” asked Keine, confused. “You? Of all people?”

“I said I was young. And I was hanging out with the wrong crowd.”

“I have to see it,” said Mokou between laughs. “Seriously, you have to show it to us now.”

“I have to say I'm pretty curious myself,” Keine admitted.

“Please no!” Wriggle begged. “Please don't make me do it! Seriously, it's really embarrassing.”

“Wriggle,” Mokou smirked. “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. And you don't want the hard way. Remember the ants.”

“The ants,” Keine agreed, nodding.

Wriggle realized there was no way out. She had no choice. Slowly, she stood, and pulled up the right leg of her shorts. Keine and Mokou watched with rapt attention, then gasped simultaneously.

Wriggle's tattoo was done on the inside of her right thigh, almost completely covering it. It was Flandre, riding a kirin, which was bucking up on its hind legs, while Flandre held Lævateinn aloft, and appeared to be pointed it at Wriggle's crotch. Above the image of Flandre was an unfurled scroll, on which was written “MY BEST FRIEND”, and beneath it was another unfurled scroll, on which was written, “IS TOTALLY COMPLETELY AMAZINGLY COOL AND I LOVE HER SO MUCH FOREVER AND EVER”.

“Oh my,” murmured Keine.

Mokou considered the image for a moment. “What's that coming out of Flandre's eyes?”

“Lightning,” Wriggle mumbled.

Mokou snickered, then burst into laughter.

“It's not funny!” Wriggle cried. “I was a totally different person back then.”

“Yes, stop it, Mokou,” said Keine, even though she was laughing herself. Then she paused, thinking. “Wait, I don't understand. Since when are you and Flandre friends?”


20 Years Ago

“JUH-juh-uh-JUH-juh-uh-JUH-juh-uh-JUH-juh-uh-JUH! JUH! JUH!” Flandre jumped up and down on Remilia's bed, singing, while Wriggle stood beside the bed, fists clenched, enthralled. Flandre is so cool, she thought. Wriggle's eyes shone as she watched Flandre jumping, laughing gleefully. Flandre doesn't care what anyone thinks. She's not stuck up like her older sister, or tightly wound like the maid. She wouldn't cry if she got teased by other youkai for playing with bugs. She'd fight back if they threw mudballs at her and called her names like "Spittle Roach Butt". That's just how cool she is.

“JUHJUHJUHJUUUUH-juhjuhjuh!” Flandre concluded her song.

“Alright!” cheered Wriggle. “That was awesome!”

Flandre shrugged. “Yeah. Comes pretty natural to me, really. I dunno. Sometimes I'll be just sitting there while Remi's talking to me and all I hear is bssssshhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“Bssssssshhhhhhh! Haha. That's so her.”

“I know. She can be so …” Flandre, at a loss for words, put her hand under her armpit and started making fart sounds. Wriggle started laughing so hard she doubled over. She could never get the same sound Flandre could, no matter how many times she showed her how to do it.

“Oh wow that is so funny. Stop it, Flandre, please. Stop!” Wriggle gasped.

“Yes, do.” Sakuya sighed, entering the room. “And what are you doing up here anyway? You know how your sister feels about-”

Flandre belched loudly, causing Wriggle to laugh again. Sakuya rolled her eyes.

“Yes. Hundreds of years old and you still have the mind of a child.”

“I am not a child!” Flandre shouted. “I'm older than you.”

“Well, if you acted like an adult, maybe you'd get treated like one,” Sakuya replied. I'm even starting to bore myself with as many times as I've said that, she thought.

“Whatever.” Flandre hopped down from the bed. “C'mon, Wriggle. Let's leave the domestic help to do her chores.”

“Yeah,” Wriggle scoffed. The two of them stomped out of the room.

Sakuya watched them leave. I should probably tell Remilia that Flandre is probably leaving the mansion to do who knows what, she thought. But then again, it'll probably be me sent after her. In which case, no thanks.

“This place is so boring,” groaned Flandre, kicking a rock as she and Wriggle walked through the Forest of Magic. “Nothing ever happens here. Like ever.”

Wriggle snorted in agreement. “Totally.” Normally, she'd be keeping an eye out for the youkai who enjoyed bullying her. But with Flandre around, she walked tall. She looked at Flandre and smiled. It would be so incredible to be Flandre, she thought. She isn't afraid of anything.

“Hey, I know,” said Flandre, with a wicked grin on her face. “Why don't we visit Alice?”

“Really? Why? She's so ...” Wriggle tried to make the fart noises with her hand under her armpit, but instead it made a weak clapping sound. This embarrassed her deeply, but Flandre didn't seem to be paying attention anyway.

“C'mon,” said Flandre, beaming, and started off in the direction of Alice's house. “Let's have some fun.”

Alice was stitching together a doll with loving care. It had been a long day, and this was her way of unwinding. Windchimes gently twinkled in the window, as soothing sandlewood incense wafted through her home. A few candles bathed the room in a warm light. It was good to be able to relax.

“Heya, Alice!” Flandre barked loudly as she threw the door open, startling Alice, the point of her needle pricking her thumb. Flandre and Wriggle both burst into laughter. Alice rolled her eyes.

“Oh. It's you two,” she said flatly, putting down the doll. “And why do I deserve the pleasure of your company today?”

“Ah, ya know,” Flandre said coquettishly, walking casually towards Alice. “We were just in the neighborhood and thought we'd pop by to-”

“I don't have any treats today,” Alice interrupted.

“Oh.” Flandre remarked, crestfallen. “Really? You don't?”

“No. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm very busy right now, so unless you have a doll-related question, I'm going to have to see you two another time.”

Wriggle and Flandre looked at each other. Doll related? What did that even mean?

“Well, um, I have a question,” said Wriggle.

“Yes Wriggle?”

Wriggle stood there, smiling blankly. Alice regarded her, vaguely annoyed. A few seconds passed.

“Sorry,” said Wriggle. “That was a lie.”

Alice sighed. “Right. Well, that was entertaining. Look, I really-”

“I wanna know something,” Flandre piped up. “How do tattoos work?”

Alice looked at her as if she were trying to make up her mind about something. At last, she folded her hands on her workbench, clearing her throat. “Well, Flandre, a tattoo is made by using a very sharp and thin needle. You dip it in ink, and then pierce the skin. This leaves a tiny drop of ink in the skin. If you make a series of tiny drops in a row, you get a line. In this way, you can make designs in the skin. Colored inks are often used as well.”

Flandre nodded. Wriggle looked at her, waiting for the joke, smiling anxiously.

“Do they wash off?” Flandre asked at last.

“No, they do not. But in humans, as the skin relaxes with old age, the lines can become a bit thicker, and blurry.”

“What about youkai?”

“I honestly don't know any youkai who-”

“And vampires?”

Alice paused. “Flandre, are you thinking of getting a tattoo?”

Wriggle gasped, her eyes widening with admiration. Flandre is so cool!

“I dunno,” Flandre shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Maybe. Maybe not. What's it to you?”

At that moment, an idea occurred to Alice. A perfectly wicked idea.

“Well, Flandre, it just so happens I know how to give tattoos. But, if you're still undecided ...”

Flandre and Wriggle turned to each other in wide-eyed excitement.

“You have to give me one!” Flandre beamed.

“Me too!” said Wriggle.

“Really?” Alice smirked “Are you sure? I mean, a tattoo is forever. Now, I know you're not at all someone who'd act on sheer impulse, so I do hope you-”

“I'm sure!” said Flandre.

“Me too!” Wriggle echoed.

Alice folded her arms across her chest. “Very well then. I'll give you both tattoos. On one condition: you can decide what you want a tattoo of, but I get to decide where I put it. Deal?”

“Deal!” Flandre and Wriggle both piped up together.

“Very well then,” Alice said, standing, suppressing the urge to chuckle. “Come with me. Flandre, you're first.”

“Yes!” Flandre cheered, both of them practically shaking with excitement. “This is going to be so amazing!”


At this point in the story, Wriggle stopped, and bowed her head.

“Well? So what happened?” asked Mokou impatiently.

Wriggle looked up at Mokou and Keine with pleading eyes. A smile slowly spread across Keine's face.

“Ooooh. I get it,” Keine nodded. “Our little rebel got her heart broken when Flandre didn't get a tattoo of her.”

“You guys are mean!” Wriggle pouted. “You're not going to tell anyone, are you?”

“Oh, Wriggle. Don't worry," said Mokou. "I'd rather forget I ever saw that ... thing.”

“Same here,” echoed Keine. “That thing's pretty hideous.” Keine considered a moment. “So what did Flandre get?”

“If I tell you have to promise never to tell Flandre I told you, OK? Because Alice did a very bad thing. I hate her.” She gave the ground a little punch for emphasis.

“Sure, I promise,” Mokou smirked. “It couldn't have been worse than that.”

“I promise, too.” Keine added.

“Alright,” Wriggle sighed. “Well, Flandre told Alice she wanted a tattoo of a hand on fire. And Alice said she wanted to put it on her back.”

Mokou and Keine waited for her to continue.

“Well that doesn't sound so bad.” Keine shrugged. “A little corny, maybe, but nothing like that … thing you showed us.”

“Only the thing is,” Wriggle continued, “Alice didn't make what Flandre asked for.”

“Oooh,” Mokou grinned. “Right, Flandre couldn't see it if it's on her back. You could do anything, and by the time you saw the tattoo, it'd be too late. Niiice.”

“Oh no,” Keine's eyes widened. “Well, what did Alice do?”

Wriggle cleared her throat, bowing her head. "She drew a kitten hanging from a tree branch, and wrote Hang In There - It's Almost Friday under it."

"Ouch," snickered Mokou. "Way too cute for Flandre."

"That was probably the point," remarked Keine. "Not too bad."

“I guess,” Wriggle mumbled. “Flandre got back at her and all. Broke in her house in the middle of a dinner party and started trashing the place, scaring the guests out. Don't think it bothered Alice that much. I mean, you can clean up a house, you know? A tattoo, though. That's forever.”

“As you know all too well,” Mokou smirked, patting Wriggle on the head condescendingly. “Well, thanks, Wriggle. That's all we wanted to know. Later on.”

Mokou started walking away. Keine looked at her, then turned to Wriggle. She looked at her piteously for a moment, then crouched down, and whispered in her ear, “I think you're very brave, Wriggle,” Keine smiled at her, and Wriggle blushed, smiling weakly back. She nodded her thank-you. Then Keine stood and caught up with Mokou.

Wriggle lay back against the tree, looking up at the stars, listening to the chirping of the crickets. She smiled contentedly. Keine is so cool, she thought to herself.

(Image source: Pixiv)