(Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 01 Jan 2012 14:25

"It's...this is beautiful, Parsee." Yuuka manages to stutter out a reply as she looks down on the small but obviously painstakingly-carved token. Still shellshocked to the point of stunned silence, completely amazed at the unexpected turn of events - the feared monster of the Garden of the Sun, the unforgivingly merciless Flower Master of the Four Seasons - finds herself blushing like a schoolgirl right after receiving White Day chocolate from a prospective suitor, her cheeks colored slightly with a faint smattering of pink.

The brief sensation of Parsee's fingers brushing upon her own as the bridge princess placed the small bauble onto her palm did not quite help any. Unused to such voluntary contact, the moment of skin brushing against skin was almost electric.

"Y-you have my thanks." She murmurs, turning slightly to look at Parsee, nodding, before looking back at the small chunk of emerald in her hand.

What...what just happened here...? She finds herself wondering.

It then came to pass - with both flower youkai and bridge guardian completely unaware of it - that for the briefest of moments, one of the most powerful entities in Gensokyo was at the utter mercy of a mere, low-born base cave dweller. That for a given amount of heartbeats, beside the Forgotten Bridge, deep inside the Former Hell of Blazing Fires, Mizuhashi Parsee could have killed Kazami Yuuka if she wanted to.

It should have began the moment I started the invocation. What happened? Why...why didn't it come up?

It was with such vulnerability in this confusion that Yuuka did not even feel the supporting hand of the bridge princess' at her back - much less have the wits about her to actually react. Had she been just a bit more...herself, at that point, Mizuhashi Parsee would've been dying in a pool of her own blood, face down, a ragged hole where her arm used to be connected to the rest of her body. Her rapidly-cooling corpse would have been devoured by the same flowers she had commissioned Yuuka to help blossom in the dank darkness of the cavern.

I...It must have recognized me as its better. Its superior. It must have realized how pointless it is to try and challenge Kazami Yuuka. She thinks to herself, her breathing slowing, her heartbeat becoming more regular. The color returning to her face. Yes. That can be the only explanation.

The moment passes, as quickly as it came. And the flower youkai gets back into step, the smile once more on her lips. It's with care that she takes a handkerchief from a skirt pocket and carefully wraps it around the bauble, folding it neatly and then placing it back.

The Flower Master of the Four Seasons has returned, that brief period of vulnerability already past and forgotten.

"I recognize and appreciate the symbolism, Parsee. It must have been hard to do, carving something like that." She offers the bridge guardian a brief, sincere widening of her polite smile. "How did you know that I favored sunflowers above all else? You've told me, after all, that you've never stepped out into the outside world before." She reaches forward, slowly, and carefully adjusts the youkai's ascot, straightening the wrinkled knot. A...rather strange gesture of familiarity, considering they've only just met. And Yuuka had threatened to kill her twice.

"Add to that...have you ever seen one before? Or an entire field of them?"
Yuuka Kazami
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 01 Jan 2012 15:11

Their meeting was growing stranger by the moment. This was not who she had been told to expect, nor was it the same youkai she had spoken to moments ago. Something was... wrong? Perhaps. But then again, under the circumstances, that hardly seemed an apt description. Yuuka was, without a doubt, not herself at the moment; that much was certain. Still, that may be for the best. After all, Parsee would have taken such an assessment of herself as a fine compliment.

First Yuugi, now Yuuka. Once again, the bridgekeeper felt an odd connection of sorts, some small reflection of herself in Kazami's moment of vulnerability. She was quite far from being alone after all; it seemed everyone carried a little piece of weakness within them, no matter how small. Some simply took longer to reveal it than others. It was, in a way, a reassuring revelation to her.

Not for a second did she doubt, in spite of her concern, what needed to be done next. She did what she would wish were done for herself, the only treatment she would find acceptable at such a time. Faced with the green-haired youkai's strange episode, Parsee does nothing, says nothing, as if none of what had come to pass were noteworthy in the slightest. As if this were all perfectly ordinary. It would not do, after all, to call attention to this; they both knew, and that was good enough. Should her latest acquaintance see it fit to give answers at any point, she would do so herself.

As luck would have it, Kazami herself immediately helps to defuse the situation, however unintentionally, with her question.

"Well, to be quite honest, we both have the grapevine to thank for that: I worked with what little I learned about you and, luckily, it turned out to be correct. As for sunflowers..." There was no reason to hold the question against her. There was no malice in it. But then, a knife cut just as well when simply dropped by a clumsy hand. She could not have known. Spite cared little for reason, of course, but for the moment, the bridge princess succeeds in suppressing any annoyance.

"Half right," she answers simply. Something told her that, after what had passed, they could both give formality a wide berth, if only for a brief while. "I have been to the surface, and seen sunflowers, among many other things. That was, of course, when I was human. Since then, I haven't seen the sun or anything under it in..." She shakes her head. The details scarcely mattered, now.

"Centuries, no doubt. I don't care to keep track of the days. I will admit, though, that remembering the shape, let alone the colours of a sunflower took me quite a few hours. Memory is an unreliable thing, after a while." And for that, at least, she was grateful. There was no use for memories of the old world. At least, judging by Yuuka's reaction, she had not made any mistakes in the carving.

For a moment, it seems as if Parsee is about to say something more, but then she stops, and rather abruptly at that. "I was out there on the surface, for a time, and now I am trapped here. A tale of no significance to anyone but myself; I won't trouble you with the why and how of it."
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Parsee Mizuhashi
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 02 Jan 2012 03:17

"I see." The green-haired youkai nods after a moment, a nigh-imperceptible falling of the pleased smile of her face, reverting to the polite curling of her lips that seemed to be the normal expression for her, as far as Yuuka herself was concerned, her hands relinquishing their light grasp. Was it Parsee's imagination, or did the monster of the Garden of the Sun looked a bit contrite at her own inadvertent gaffe just now? And perhaps, just a bit grateful that Parsee behaved the way she did, not calling attention to that nearly-fatal lapse in her judgement, in her attention?

She may never know, for as soon as it dawns on her, it's then that Yuuka moves, stepping past the bridge princess and crouching. Sitting primly on the back of her knees, one hand smoothing her skirt down underneath her, the flower youkai examines the newly-grown blossoms at the side of the road nearest to them with a typical gardener's mien: fingers light and carefully separating buds, leaves and blossoms, quickly and neatly snapping off a small bud and examining the still-unopened blossoms, pulling out a handful of grass and examining their roots, before scattering them with a flourish.

"You'll have to trouble me with it sometime, then." She says, turning slightly and picking a fully-blossomed Star of Persia, the slender stalk yielding almost effortlessly in her grasp. "It'll help pass the time during my weekly visits, the first of which will be exactly seven days from now. I will have to make at least ten of them, before I can pronounce these flowers as fitting to my standards. "

Standing up, she turns back towards Parsee, before gesturing towards the field of budding flowers surrounding the two youkai. Clearly an unnatural sight, in a place where darkness and loneliness reigned, an oppressive force that kept light and life to their barest mininum.

"I am not satisfied with them." Kazami Yuuka murmurs, more to herself than to Parsee.

"Not yet."
Yuuka Kazami
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 02 Jan 2012 05:54

This time, as luck would have it, it was Parsee's turn to be surprised, and even, briefly, at a loss for words. This was not what she had expected, not the disappointment - apparently in herself, no less - on Yuuka's face, nor the question.

For some reason she did not have the slightest hope of understanding, the flower queen almost seemed to hold an interest in this youkai of the earth, a near-complete stranger that, moments ago, she held nothing but contempt for. And yet, now, somehow, she wished to understand this cave-dweller. To learn who it was, exactly, that she was speaking to. 'Did the green-haired youkai care for, of all people, hell's bridgekeeper? Of course not. She held no sympathy, no compassion, and only disdain for those beneath her - the very notion was laughable, but then, what else could this be?

That was, no doubt, a question for another day.

In the end, all she had learned of the strange gardener were literal half-truths. She stood side by side with a terrible, ruthless monster, a madwoman who would kill Parsee where she stood, if the whim came to her. That much was, without a doubt, as she had been told. And yet, there was someone else there, too; carefully hidden away, less cruel but infinitely more fragile. Secreted away, like a treasure concealed but long since lost and forgotten by its owner.

That, too, would wait until another day. Perhaps she would never know more than what that brief glimpse had taught her.

Even then, in spite of everything that had passed between them, this brief moment gave the bridge princess hope, the strange poison she had come to depend on in the past weeks. Pointless? Almost certainly, but it was hard to deny. Then Yuuka's announcement came. Cause for nervousness, perhaps fear, and the strangest sense of relief.

Kazami was dangerous, of that, there was no doubt. Dangerous, cruel, fickle and, frankly, exhausting. The prospect of further visits should have, by all rights, been a terrible one, but Parsee accepted it with open arms. It was, after all, a visitor, no matter how temporary or strange. Another constant, besides the bridge and Yuugi. Another reprieve from the bridge's quiet solitude. Given a choice between the company of a capricious murderer and herself, she would choose the former without a moment's hesitation. It would be trying, yes, and incredibly dangerous, but worth the price.

If she was to see this Yuuka Kazami again, this strange, twisted puzzle that wore a youkai's face, then she would make the best of it.

But then, she could hardly let this show. That would be unacceptable. And for that matter, if the surfacer did not feel beholden to her own strict rules of perfect honesty, there was no reason for Parsee to hold herself to those standards either. The truth was always meant to be kept veiled behind veils of silence and secrets, shown only when all lies had exhausted themselves. It was only right. And so, she elects to meet the announcement with a small nod and nothing more. A good, simple, neutral reaction that betrayed not the slightest hint of emotion.

"As you wish. If you can stomach a second visit to these caves, then you're quite welcome here." And the bridge princess, at least, would look forward to it. That, however, was for no one to know - she scarcely admitted it to herself. The truth had always been a precious commodity: It would be a shame to waste something so rare and treasured.
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Parsee Mizuhashi
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 02 Jan 2012 13:35

"That's settled, then, isn't it?" Yuuka's trademark smile widens just a little bit, her eyes creasing - finding herself oddly and curiously pleased at this sort of development. "Of course, I'm sure it will be quite the task to endure yet another excursion from my Garden to this abandoned dungeon, but one must be prepared for hardship and sacrifice when perfection is pursued."

A slight giggle.

"Besides, I certainly can't let something like this dreary cavern get in the way of helping out a fellow gardener, can I?"

Holding up the small, blade-like blossom that she had personally plucked from its stalk to her lips, she gives it a small kiss - and immediately the small flower all but blooms into a bigger, fuller one, regenerating what it had lost - a full stalk, leaves, buds, and even roots. It was as if the green-haired youkai had merely pulled the entire plant out of the ground than simply having picked it off.

Holding the blossom out to the side, Yuuka murmurs something underneath her breath - and an earth-encrusted, thorny vine tendril snakes up from the thick and lush greenery to carefully entwine itself around the flower's stalk, before sinking back into the ground. Disappearing conveniently, and at the same time rooting the blossom in place, to grow anew.

"Now, as someone taking care of these flowers--" Yuuka steps towards Parsee and takes the parasol from her gently, before using it to point at the three sections of the bridge that she'd just infested with Allium christophii. "--you are required to do three things each day. The first is to check, twice every twenty-four hours, for pests and insects. Destroy each and every one you find, and scatter their remains on the soil, they'll function as nutrients. The second is to water them, daily - always just the blossoms, never the actual foliage around them, as that speeds up rot."

Letting her parasol hang off the crook of her elbow, Yuuka rummages inside a skirt pocket. "Never over-water. Give each blossom enough to drink, but don't flood it. Wipe the excess water off of leaves or petals with a clean cloth. The cleanest you can manage, please, not a dirty rag."

There's a tinkle of metal, and a brief glint of polished brass and gold as the youkai pulls her hand out, her slender fingers curled around what appears to be a rather expensive-looking pocketwatch.

"The third and most important, of course," The Flower Master of the Four Seasons begins as she flips the cover open, revealing an ornately-jeweled clock face - the feverish ticking of the time-keeping mechanism inside seemingly filling the cavern. "...is to talk to the flowers themselves. No need to address them one by one, simply spend a fraction of your time sharing your thoughts with them. They are alive, just like you and me, and they will need your attention and care. Treat them as if they can hear you and understand you - and they easily can." The pocketwatch being shut with a snap, it's then that Yuuka takes Parsee's hand in hers, once more overextending what seems to be comfortable familiarity between them and what isn't - and placing her own personal timekeeping device onto the bridgekeeper's palm.

"You were complaining earlier about not having a clock or anything to keep track of the days with. This should do temporarily, I think. And before you refuse, no, it's a loan. But I am entrusting it to you, all the same, along with these flowers I've graced your home with."

A moment more, before Yuuka takes away her hands, stepping back slightly.

"Do you understand all that I've told you, Parsee? Do you have any questions?"
Yuuka Kazami
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 02 Jan 2012 15:19

Tick.

She hears the watch long before she sees it, as soon as Yuuka brings the box into the open. With it, she can feel every moment, every little second passing by, ever so slowly, each minute heavier than lead. The sensation, lost - and mercifully so - is enough to make Parsee's skin crawl, the reminder of a long-forgotten and terrible fact bringing a slight shiver to her.

Tick.

It was a sound she would have to tolerate for the next ten weeks - every single moment of them. Already, she could hardly bear its presence, bringing every instant into sharp relief. Perhaps time and practice would, at least, soothe that much. There was some hope of growing used to it, if nothing else. But this was not the time for such thoughts; the gift was a significant one, and gratitude was in order, however painful it might be.

Tick.

"Thank you," she begins. "I-" she falters momentarily, fumbling for words, then finally settles on something she can, at least, say with some shred of sincerity. "I'll be sure to take good care of it, and the flowers as well." Mentally, at least, she appreciated the gesture, but emotions were fickle, and far harder to control. Kazami meant well, she was well aware of that much, but at the same time, the green-haired youkai might as well have entrusted her with a bottle of the vilest poison. There was no way Yuuka could have known this, but that hardly helped.

Tick.

Soon, Yuuka pulls her hand away. It was strange, this inexplicable pretense of familiarity, but no stranger than what she had already seen. True, proximity to a youkai of such power and temperament was enough to wreak havoc on her nerves, but that was nothing new. She chooses, once again, to let it pass without comment. In the next instant, her hand closes over the timepiece, muffling its sound.

Ti-

Silence. Blessed silence. And in that moment of quiet, finally, the bridgekeeper realizes what Yuuka had called her. Her first reaction is to, belatedly, shake her head in denial. To be called such a thing by the queen of flowers was a great honour, certainly, and an even greater compliment. Praise of any sort was certainly already alien to her; that is, save for what Yuugi said, but the oni was charitable enough that she often paid no heed to what she was told, thinking it to be nothing more than so much hot air, however benevolent. But this? This was different.

"A... fellow gardener?" She stammers out, somewhat flustered for once. "I wouldn't think to call myself that. Not yet." A moment later, she begins speaking again, slowly, this time, every word measured and thoughtful. "But... maybe in ten weeks' time. Hopefully, I'll have done something to deserve the title by then."

Yuuka's concern was, largely, unfounded. Parsee knew well enough that speaking to the flowers was practically inevitable in any case - one could not be choosy with company in such a place, and she was, in her own way, quite mad. It would come naturally to her. Caring for the flowers, too, would be simplicity itself. After all, it only required time, and what else did she have?

At the flower-queen's final question, she only nods, ever so slightly. "No, no questions; I think I understand well enough. Thank you for your help, Yuuka." Too much? Almost certainly. But then, the other youkai had done away with any sort of formality or reservations some time ago. This was... an eye for an eye, so to speak, not that Parsee objected too much to the treatment.

She looks around the cave, letting out a quiet, slight but still audible sigh at the sight of it. "I suppose you probably can't wait to leave these caves. I won't object if you plan on staying longer, but I certainly shouldn't be keeping you here for any longer." Her conclusion comes with equal parts relief and slight disappointment. "Until next week, then?"
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Parsee Mizuhashi
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Yuuka Kazami » 03 Jan 2012 04:22

"You suppose correctly." Yuuka nods after a moment, patting down her dress and dusting away imaginary lint and dirt from her skirt. "However..." She gives the newly-improved bridge - now surrounded with greenery and budding flowers - and its keeper an expansive, searching look, before smiling again. "I rather think with all that's happened here, I may be amenable to staying much longer than I'd anticipated." Whether the flower youkai was referring to the newly-installed greenery or to Parsee herself - surely a strange notion, if it were the latter - the bridgekeeper would probably never know.

"Still, I do have some other plans for the day." Yuuka continues as she takes her parasol, opening it with a practiced click and push, the waterproof fabric expanding and stretching to its fullest with a muffled whumpf. "Plans that need seeing to. At the very least, I am heartened that one of them turned out correctly." She nods at Parsee.

"Very well. Until next week, then. Remember what you must need to do, and remember what I've entrusted to you. The growth of these flowers in this kind of environment are unnatural, and as such, they have different demands than their above-ground ilk. Do not, under any circumstances, fail any of my instructions." The stifling chill that had emanated from the Flower Master of the Four Seasons, having waned and almost disappeared earlier, now came back, if only to make its presence felt. "I believe I do not have to impress the consequences should I find out that you do. And I will find out."

Another moment, and it's then that the green-haired woman in the startingly-crimson plaid dress sketches a bow towards Parsee - before turning on her heel and making her first steps back into the world above. Back to where the sunlight warmed everything under its gaze. Back to her Garden. To a world that Parsee seemed unable, compelled by some strange force or curse, to visit.

She stops in midstep, as if remembering somehing suddenly, before turning and smiling - sincerely and brightly - at the bridge princess.

"One more thing, Parsee. I made the grass bedding of all three plots thicker and softer than they're supposed to be. I usually prefer it if they're a bit firm and sparse myself, but having them in this way should help keep in the warmth for the flowers' roots. Like a sort of cushion for them, you might say."

It is a strange thing, this bridgekeeper and her bridge. Stranger still is to find something in her that I might have been looking for all this time.

Although, I wonder...am I the strangest one of all, here, in this time and place? To even have the gall of thinking of something like that?


Without waiting for Parsee's reply, Yuuka turns back and continues on her way.
Yuuka Kazami
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Re: (Closed) Flowers Beneath the Earth

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 03 Jan 2012 11:55

Before Parsee can make the slightest reply, Yuuka, her benefactor, is gone. It would be another week before she came again. For whatever reason, the prospect of another visit did not seem to trouble the green-haired youkai in the slightest; she could be growing used to the caves already, or there might have been some other reason. The flowers, most likely. There was little else of worth here, after all.

It would, without a doubt, be the shortest week in recent memory, now that she had something to occupy her time. Something that lived and breathed, unlike the stone she cut into dozens of new, lifeless shapes every day. Something to care for.

A little after Yuuka leaves, she kneels down, whispering ever so quietly. To her long-gone benefactor? To the flowers? That was a question only she could answer.

"Don't worry," she says simply, her voice hushed. "I won't let you down."

The next two hours are spent caring for her new plots, and a good deal more meticulously than could possibly be necessary, at that. Finally, she has a goal to strive towards, and in light of this, failure, or anything save for her best - and, of course, successful - effort is simply unacceptable. Her attempts to tend to the flowers are slow, awkward and ungainly, devoid of grace, knowledge or practice. It had been too long; far too long. And yet, eventually, she finishes her task without, at least, causing any harm.

Tick.

Six in the evening. In another twelve hours, she would inspect the flowers once gain. Tomorrow morning. Morning, evening, today, tomorrow; all terms long-lost and alien to her, words that were little more than simple sounds to her ears.

Until now, that is.

She closes the pocket watch gently, returning it to its place. It was a painful gift, to be sure, however lacking it may have been in malice. And yet, it had its uses: Just as Yuuka had given purpose to each and every day, the watch returned some semblance of meaning to time, for better or worse; a force she had long forgotten. Still, perhaps there was a good side to it as well, now that she was, in some strange way, no longer alone here.

There is a time for thought and contemplation, and after a moment of both, Parsee decides, quite adamantly, that this moment - this rare moment, as close as any had come to perfection in so long - was neither. With a small smile on her face, falls backwards, down on the soft grass, still a good distance clear of the blossoms around her.

Incredible, a voice in front of her remarks dryly. You've survived a day that I thought would kill you - succeeded in your request, at that - and now, before so much as a day passes, you decide to make a fool of yourself. Get up, Parsee. If you were meant to roll about on green grass, you would not be here.

Parsee stares up at the green outline in front of her, chuckling ever so slightly as she leans forward. Before the doppelganger can react, she grabs its hand, pulling it down to the ground beside her, on another patch of soft grass. "Oh, do be quiet. Even you have nothing to complain about today - just enjoy what we have, for once. There's no reason to spoil this."

Meeting the silent, reluctant scowl with a broadening smile, Parsee lays down on a viridian miracle, slowly closing her eyes. And for once, there would be no dreams tonight.
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Parsee Mizuhashi
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