[Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

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[Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Shizuha Aki » 22 Feb 2012 00:29

The entrance to the cave stretched open like an enormous throat into the earth, all rock and stone, stalactites and stalagmites protruding like teeth, and an eerie glow from the luminous moss that grew in patches on the walls. It was, as far as Shizuha's supernatural senses could tell, the only plant life growing there.

She, and the bag of saplings she carried, were going to change that.

As a Christmas present, Yamame had given her an invitation to take a tour of the Underground, for as far as the goddess's courage could carry her. She remembered Reimu and Marisa had traveled all the way to the depths, and fought the nuclear crow Utsuho. She didn't have anywhere near their skill, but she hoped to not be facing anywhere near their opposition.

Now she was here, with the spider herself, here being led through enormous passageways an army could march through twenty abreast, there squeezing through tight openings where it felt like the cave itself was constricting to trap her forever. All the while, Yamame chattered about this or that feature. Shizuha felt this rather welcome, as the caves seemed rather oppressive, and with Yamame's presence, she didn't feel quite so alone.

Eventually, they reached a long, straight path, bisected by a river which was itself surmounted by a bridge. The entire place felt rather uncanny, and if she had come across a sign reading "Surface Worlders Not Welcome", she wouldn't have been surprised. What she was surprised at was, on closer examination, both banks of the river had fairly extensive gardens of flowers. "How'd those get there?" she asked Yamame, before saying, "Well, if flowers can grow here, trees certainly can. This looks high and wide enough to have some trees growing here. What do you think?"

She had no idea the bridge was watched by green eyes...
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Yamame Kurodani » 25 Feb 2012 22:03

Indeed, for all the way down Yamame had regaled Shizuha with many tales of the underground, and its circumstances and inhabitants. The way down had been littered with beautiful flower-like crystals growing in the walls, waterfalls, and the haunting music of the wind in the tunnels. It is an oppressive spectacle in the sheer scale and the darkness of the tunnels, but also one that a person would have to be blind to deny the beauty of. But when they arrive to the bridge and Shizuha speaks, Yamame doubts a moment.

"I dunno. This is Parsee's bridge. 'm not sure she's gonna want some huge trees 'round" Yamame answers, scratching her head. Then she lowers her voice and leans to Shizuha conspiratorially "She's preeeetty damn cranky, normally, see" she whispers, before going back to normal voice. "But all these flowers are pretty new. Been meanin' t'ask her'bout them anyway. Maybe she's takin' up gardenin'. Worth a try"

Now, it would be a lie to say Yamame doesn't have a bit of an ulterior motive here - she's been trying to cheer up Parsee since forever, and if Shizuha really might share an interest with the hashihime and make friends with her... well, that's pretty awesome by the spider's account.

And if Parsee blows up... well, she can cover Shizuha. It's not like it'd be the first time Yamame has got a few lasers to the face trying to extend a hand to Parsee. She's tougher than she looks.

So Yamame gets near the bridge's edge, and just calls out. "Oooooooooi! Parsee, you around?"
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 26 Feb 2012 09:18

Familiarity breeds contempt. Where Yamame saw a beautiful - if, perhaps, somewhat oppressive - landscape, Parsee saw only a dreary prison. The lake further down the river was another matter entirely: She went there by choice, free to return whenever she wished, and so she saw only beauty there. But this? This was only the bridge. Her pride and joy, her life's work. It was a wonder she could still stand the sight of it, all told.

Familiarity also meant some degree of skill, of course. Skill enough to navigate the small cave without being seen: That much was easy enough even in plain sight, around a surface-dweller, but Yamame called for a little more caution. There was no malice in the act, only a simple wish to startle them a little. Yuugi's influence, without a doubt.

The eventual reply comes from directly next to Yamame, followed by the bridgekeeper herself stepping out of the shadows, taking a quick glance at the rather unfamiliar goddess as she does so. Not that she recognized Shizuha as such, of course; appearances hardly revealed everything, and so she assumed the visitor was simply some variety of youkai.

"Of course I am," she answers dryly, though she seems more tired than genuinely irritated. "I'm not exactly known for leaving my place." She looks toward Shizuha again, a little more carefully, this time. She seemed harmless enough, but all the same, there was something deeply unsettling about the out-of-place goddess. An almost palpable aura of death and decay, which the many long-dead leaves she wore did not do a great deal to dispel. No matter. Parsee had, after all, dealt with worse on a weekly basis.

"I would ask you your name, but you should probably stay behind your guide. It would be a shame if the cranky old bridgekeeper got to you, after all." She allows herself a small, sly smile at Yamame's expense. Her hearing was a good deal better than most seemed to assume, though she hardly took offense. The tsuchigumo was quite right, after all - it was sound advice and little else.

"Now then, what did you want?" She asks bluntly, turning towards the more familiar of the two visitors. No one came here without a reason, after all, and she could hardly fault them for that. It was not a place she herself would approach, given the choice, and its guardian was hardly good company. And so it stood to reason that the two had come for something - not simple passage, evidently, if the spider youkai went to the trouble of calling her, but something else. A notion Parsee found equally baffling, considering she had little to give.

"You might as well go on and ask," she adds. "I'm quite harmless, I promise. Besides, I'm sure some of us are in a hurry, at least. Go on, speak up."
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Shizuha Aki » 02 Mar 2012 20:44

Shizuha nodded to Yamame. "If I want to plant trees here, I kind of have to try talking to her." She then stepped forward to Parsee. "I don't need Yamame's protection. I'm just hoping I could get permission to plant trees among your flowers."

Walking to the edge of the garden, she said to the bridge-keeper, "You know, I'm kind of wondering how you got flowers to grow-" As she looked down on them, she saw the subtle power that was keeping them alive, and healthy, in this lightless cave, besides Parsee's maintenance. One she had seen before, and a horrifically powerful one at that.

"-Yuuka-" she choked out, taking a step back.

Her heart pounded in atavistic terror, knowing what would happen if even one of these delicate flowers was disturbed. Part of her wanted to run screaming to the surface. However, there was another part of her mind that admired Yuuka, and wanted to emulate her, becoming her aspect of nature so thoroughly that none would dare stand against her. That was why she was out of her comfort zone, in the middle of the caves; why she'd been working all twelve months of the year; why she'd started stepping out of the shadow of being "Minoriko's less-important sister".

She shook her head, and said, "Okay, this is still doable. I just have to be a lot more careful." Shizuha reached into her capacious divine dress, and pulled out four small saplings, each of a different tree type, all deciduous. "I was hoping to plant some trees here at your bridge, to help you liven this place up."
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 03 Mar 2012 08:52

Ah yes, this little problem again. It was small wonder that Yuuka inspired such fear in others, of course, but quite odd that the newcomer would be able to discern her work so immediately. Curious. If her constant nervousness was anything to go by, this visitor was of no great consequence. Perhaps weaker and more scared, for that matter, than Parsee herself.

Good. That would do nicely.

The bridgekeeper tuts slightly, giving a small, irritable shake of the head before looking back to the goddess - finally, someone who did not, for once, tower over her at all times. "Yes, Yuuka," she answers. Having to put unwanted visitors at ease was not, all in all, a task she was known for enjoying. There was quite enough to deal with already, after all, without surfacers - bringing their enviable ability to find these caves so completely alien - fretting over every little thing.

"The flowers were planted here by her a few months ago. You might as well calm down; she's quite far from here, and certainly won't see you. Personally, I think she's a rather friendly sort on all but her worst days, but I'm not about to try convincing anyone of that." It was relaxing, in an odd sort of way. For once, the visitor was quite powerless, and asking for her help. There was, put simply, nothing to fear.

"Now then, trees, was it?" Parsee asks, as blithely as possible, as if to show that this sort of request was perfectly commonplace to her. "I do hope you understand what you're asking for. You are looking for permission to permanently change my home - which I am bound to protect for my entire life - and, unless you plan on the saplings withering away within a few days, leaving me to care for your work for a similarly long time. And, of course, I will most likely be left to explain myself to Yuuka."

She surveys the bridge for likely spots - purely for show, of course, seeing as she knew her surroundings perfectly already - before looking back to Shizuha with an odd expression: A little calculating, perhaps, but not entirely unkind, at the same time. She eventually gives the goddess a small smile of reassurance, a brief nod of assent.

"Of course, if my answer was a simple 'no', I would have said as much already. I only want you to understand just what you are asking for. I don't plan to ask you for anything in return," she continues, conveniently neglecting to mention that the trees themselves would be enough of a reward. No one needed to know that, not while she could keep the upper hand.

"All the same, I have a few questions for you, if nothing else. Just who are you? And more importantly, why here? Why come to the literal pits of hell to plant trees by a stranger's home? It's not that I object to the plan as such, but I must admit that you have me at something of a loss here."
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Yamame Kurodani » 08 Mar 2012 09:19

Yamame, of course, noticed Parsee coming from a mile away - she was born a hunter, and spatial awareness is important - but she still acts surprised, out of courtesy if nothing else. She turns to Parsee with a grin.

"Yo" the spider says, friendly. "An' well, who knows! Ya were back near the city some days back, after all, with th'Boss, so it seems ya're gettin' out ev'ry now an' then!" The correction does not come with a nitpicker's voice - rather, it sounds like the spider is actually rather happy Parsee finally seems to be taking Yuugi's extended hand.

She then, however, stays silent for a moment, listening to the others' conversation. She chuckles a bit at Parsee's incomprehension and apparent suspicion. "C'mon, Parsee, gal just wants t'expand some of her trees 'round t'prettify things. She's kinda a goddess of trees, y'know? Bringin' trees 'round is kinda what she does. Ain't got t'have any huge motive or anythin'. Tho I gotta say I prefer crystals t'flowers an' trees, myself!" she winks. She then, however, settles down a bit and looks at Shizuha's terrified face. "Now, tho. I ain't got no idea who this Yuuka is" she starts, a bit more serious "but 'm surprised t'hear ya talkin' 'bout "bein' left t'explain yourself" t'someone else for stuff that happens in your bridge" It is indeed quite unusual, and perhaps a sign that Yuuka is not as friendly as Parsee seems to imply. Friends don't need to "explain themselves" to each other. "Y'know, if it'd help y'two, we could always get a message t'her an' ev'rythin'. I had t'go back t'the surface after this tour anyway, an' 'm good at findin' people. But just who th'hell is this Yuuka gal 'nyway?"
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Shizuha Aki » 17 Mar 2012 21:35

Shizuha said, "Anyways, I haven't introduced myself. I am Shizuha Aki, Goddess of Falling Leaves." She curtsied in her leafy dress. "And I'm here because I've never been here before, and have a surfeit of time during the non-autumn part of the year."

She had the feeling that talking about the expansion of her divine portfolio would not get a favorable response. Instead, she went on, "I haven't been down here because there aren't any trees, and I was hoping to rectify that." Looking over the ground, she said, "If you want, I can place them at the edges of the flower beds. They wouldn't interfere with your flowers, since their roots grow deeper than that. And in fact, they'd help your garden, by pulling nutrients from the rock and bringing them into the leaves, which would then fall on and nourish the garden."

When Parsee asked what she would get in return, Shizuha's reply was kind but firm. "You'd be getting the trees, of course. A tree is a gift that lasts a hundred years." That was a figure of speech; most trees lasted longer, especially here where there were no storms to fell them or insects to eat from them. "Maple trees give you sap to turn into syrup, and edible seeds. Cherry trees and peach trees give you fruit, and beautiful sweet-smelling flowers. And oak trees produce lots of acorns, for variety. And when they finally do pass on, they'll give you their wood as a final gift."

To Yamame, she said, "Oh, Yuuka? She a youkai of flowers. Immensely old, powerful... she's mercurial and fearsome. But... for some reason, I can't imagine you acting scared of her." To her knowledge, Yamame had never been scared of anything.
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 20 Mar 2012 14:09

A goddess? Clearly not a major one by any stretch of imagination, but that did nothing to diminish what she was, or to reduce Parsee's surprise. She blinks a few times at the introduction, eyes opened wide, before regaining some measure of composure with a small shake of her head. A goddess. The bridge's visitors seemed to be growing more illustrious by the day, whatever the reason - their nature didn't matter a great deal in the end, of course, only that they were there. Company was everything.

Her shock faded, the bridge princess gives Shizuha a long, scrutinizing look. She had never been too fond of gods and goddesses, not for quite some time now, and holding back the tide of vitriol takes a good deal more effort than it should. Gods were uncaring, deceitful and, at times, cruel creatures, best left well alone, but this one... she seemed different, at least. She was certainly relatively casual, which was a welcome sign after seeing the average deity's insistence on remaining arrogant and aloof.

Yes, she was worth a chance, at least. Parsee would simply have to think of her as... some manner of youkai, rather than a goddess. It would be far easier to accept her as something other than what she was. Shizuha didn't need to know that, of course. She didn't need to know anything.

"I believe you've misunderstood, miss Aki. I would never dream of asking for any sort of compensation, much less from a goddess. No, I only wish to know why you wanted to plant your trees here. I, at least, have no objections. Yuuka is... well, she can be a little moody, sometimes," the bridgekeeper explains with a faint smile. A charitable description if ever there was one.

"But that's most certainly my problem, not yours. By all means, plant the trees if you wish. Choose the locations yourself - I imagine a goddess of nature would have more of a knack for such things than a cave-bound youkai. You have my permission, at any rate. Now, how can I help you?"
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Yamame Kurodani » 21 Mar 2012 22:25

The descriptions of Yuuka do very little to assuage Yamame, who frowns. "Well, 'course 'm not goin' t'be scared. If some flower youkai is goin'round pushin' my friends, fear ain't what'm gonna be feelin', let me tell ya that" she says, with a more serious voice than Shizuha is probably used to hearing from the jovial spider, and cracking her knuckles.

She does not, however, interject in the conversation among trees. Mostly, because it can be seen in her "buh?" face that she's not really getting a lot of it. Yamame could teach you all you want about geology, but her knowledge of botanics is roughly that of a second grader, at best. She has absolutely zero idea how trees work, beyond being made of wood. But hey, the conversation seems to be working, so she'll just kick back and relax a bit until she has another "in".
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Shizuha Aki » 25 Mar 2012 01:41

Shizuha looked away from Parsee. Though the hashihime was being reasonable, there was something in those green eyes that gave her the shivers. To hide her sudden discomfiture, she turned her attention to the rock near the flower garden. Her own eyes glowed a subtle yellow as she looked the ground over.

"Since I'm using magic to get these trees rooted and growing, I can plant them anywhere. Well, anywhere that won't interfere with the garden. My main concern is aesthetics." She finally looked Parsee in the eye again. "I'm just going to be planting them and visiting them every so often to make sure they're growing okay. You're the one who has to live with them."

She pulled a handful of saplings from the bag she carried. They were about a foot tall, with a root bag around one end and vibrant green leaves on the other - perhaps not the condition one would expect something she held to have. Showing no sign of the trepidation she showed, she passed them over to Parsee.

"I've basically got four locations in mind, two on each side of the bridge. I'd like you to get to know them, and then tell me where you want each one." The saplings, small and completely helpless, rested in Parsee's hands like verdant babies - pretty much exactly what they were, to the goddess.
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 27 Mar 2012 00:38

The significance of Shizuha's gesture is, at once, both understood by and a little lost on Parsee. The trust given so readily to her was evident, if baffling; saplings, no doubt, meant at least as much to the goddess as flowers did to another, far more familiar acquaintance. Still, the entire matter of trees was something of a closed book to the bridgekeeper - had it not been for the one Yuugi had found for her some time ago, she would have had a good deal of trouble even remembering what one looked like.

This talk of getting to know the trees, on the other hand, was different. Clearly mad, but the sort of eccentricity she could easily understand. The flowers were no different, even if she had never heard them answering her. Still, it was not the sort of thing she could attempt right here and now, nor was she particularly inclined to.

Instead, she nods, staring at the bundle of saplings intently as if she were doing something other than simply buying time, then walks away, slowly examining each spot by the bridge; yet another pointless gesture. After having given it enough thought - or at least the appearance of enough thought - she decides on a series of perfectly arbitrary spots, then returns to the goddess, pointing to each location in turn while holding a different tree-to-be each time.

"Those should do, I think. With any luck, in a few decades, they'll make a good canopy over the bridge. Is there anything I should know about these particular trees? I'm... not as familiar with them as I used to be, unfortunately."
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Yamame Kurodani » 05 Apr 2012 16:51

(As I mentioned, not really much to say here. Yamame does not particularly understand a thing about trees, and she's happy enough to see Parsee actually talking to people, so she's going to just hover around until she has an "in" on the conversation. You guys can continue talking, don't wait for me here!)
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Shizuha Aki » 14 Apr 2012 19:32

If Shizuha knew that Parsee didn't really quite grasp what to do with the trees, she charitably didn't say anything. It was more likely that she herself didn't quite understand that not everyone was as enthusiastic about trees as she was. Though she was one of the more personable deities in Gensokyo, she did have her blind spots.

As Parsee thought, or pretended to think, Shizuha turned to Yamame. "You know, you never asked, because you're being humble, but do you want some trees for your place as well? I can save you some for on the way out, if you like."

Then Parsee made her decision. "Those are some nice places. Now then, I'll need you two to stand back." She closed her eyes, and unlocked her divine power. A soft yellow glow emanated from her, and a chill wind swept forth, ruffling the hair of the three blondes as a magic circle sprang forth on the ground. She took the cherry tree first, and placed it in the center of the circle. It looked rather sad and pathetic, with its roots spread out on the stone, but it somehow didn't fall over.

"This here is a cherry tree." she said conversationally, as though her voice wasn't resonating with deific might. She stood back and continued, "It'll start blooming soon, within about a month, and then a couple months after that, will produce fruit. It's really quite tasty." In the circle, the tree was undergoing a startling metamorphosis. Its roots writhed, then sank deep, pulverizing any rock in their way. As the tree absorbed nutrients from them, it sprouted upward, with branches growing, filling out with leaves, then sprouting new branches to continue the cycle. When it was finished, it stood about 6 feet tall, and spread out about the same in width.

She walked over to the second spot, with the second sapling, and went on, "The peach tree also blossoms and fruits, but this one is special, from my private stock. It's sweet and tart, unlike normal peaches, and from what I'm able to gather, somehow came to Gensokyo from a far-off land. I figured you would appreciate the subtlety of its taste." Another magic circle appeared, and caused this sapling to undergo literally miraculous growth.

"Now if you'll follow me, we can get the other two planted as well." She started across the bridge, not noticing that her steps rippled with divine power. Probably another one of those personal blind spots.
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Parsee Mizuhashi » 22 Apr 2012 14:01

Well. Overflowing divine power was certainly quite something. Parsee quickly finds herself reevaluating her guess of 'minor, possibly insignificant goddess'. Clearly, Shizuha is a good deal more powerful than appearances - or her demeanor - show. This was, as she soon discovered, rivaled by her boundless enthusiasm for a subject that no one in her company knew anything about or, for that matter, cared about a great deal. Trees were trees, and while their presence was welcome as a reminder of the surface, she had no intention of fussing over the many varieties Shizuha was describing.

"Fruit," she remarks after a moment. "Well, that should make a nice change of pace." She neglects to mention, for the sake of keeping up appearances, that any change from her usual diet of rats, fish and mushrooms would be a welcome change. No one needed to know that, after all. And the flowers... well, she never got around to seeing much of cherry blossoms on the surface. It would make for a nice surprise to show to Yuugi, if nothing else. Of course, the simple fact that she had spoken to a goddess would be quite an impressive boast, if she ever spoke to anyone.

"Right. Thank you. Over to the rest of the trees, then..." A thought strikes her, bringing a brief smile to her face as she actually faces Shizuha, for once. "I realize that you've given me a good deal already, but would you happen to have some straw to spare, by any chance? It's rather hard to find down here and... well,I think I may have some uses for it, if you could possibly conjure any up."
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Re: [Ask First] Shizuha Goes Underground: The Bridge

Postby Yamame Kurodani » 28 Apr 2012 09:59

Yamame, on her end, is grinning ear to ear at seeing both Shizuha being so enthusiastic and Parsee actually being friendly. She does a wavy gesture with her hand on the godess's offer. "Nah, they wouldna really ever fit in my home anyway. Lil' coccoon-cave's all sorts of cozy, but don't 'xactly have a whole lotta ceiling height, y'know". If someone finds it weird that an expert builder like Yamame, who could probably put up a palace in a month, just lives in a small reinforced cave... they are obviously not paying attention to the kind of person Yamame is. "Got somethin' a bit smaller?" the spider winks.

As they proceed, though, Yamame is obviously not put off at all by the display, unlike Parsee. After all, Yamame has met a serious lot of gods, and counts people like the Creator of Makai and the Highest Judge of Paradise as personal friends - she's really not new to divine power showings. Instead she follows Shizuha with her quick step, grinning as ever. "Nice. When this pops stuff, I'll be round t'mooch off a coupla cherries, Parsee, I think" she points out in a joking tone. "An' serious, if y'want string, why din't ya just ask? I always bring some when I go up t'th'surface!"
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