[x] You know other gods, don’t you? How do they do gain faith?
“Our leader decreed that the tengu are forbidden from interacting with the shrine at the moment. It’s nothing personal, I think,” you say, trying to cheer her up. “Um, if you’d like, then I could ask a few gods I know about how they gain faith…”
“Oh, would you do that?” Sanae brightens up, although her face falls soon after, “…but you’re not allowed to help us, are you?”
“It’s okay, since I’m a messenger, I’m allowed to talk to you both,” you say, smiling, “Oh, but I should probably do it alone, though.”
“Thank you so very much,” she returns the smile.
As you begin to turn around to leave, however, you see something wriggling on the ground next to your foot. Crouching down, you grab the long, thin creature by its tail, holding it up to your face. Its skin is white and surprisingly soft, despite its scaled body. It’s barely small enough to fit atop the palm of your hand.
“Is this…” you say, examining the creature, “… a baby snake?”
“Oh,” Sanae stoops down in front of you, looking at the albino snake, “It must be one of Lady Kanako’s familiars. She’s a snake-themed god, you see.”
The little snake doesn’t move around much in your grasp. Instead, its red ruby eyes fixate on you, and its long forked tongue flicks in and out of its mouth at a regular interval. Slowly, it raises itself until its face is eye-level with you.
-__u h__e r__u___d _o _s, _y l__d-
Unwittingly, you drop the snake, and it quickly slithers away as soon as it hits the dirt, wriggling into a nearby thicket of leaves.
“Um… are you okay?”
“Eh?” you look back at Sanae, your hand still raised in the air. Damn, were you spacing out again? You shake your head, clearing your thoughts. You need to stop doing that in front of people so much. You force a smile as you reassure her that you’re alright.
“Then, I’ll be back as soon as I can,” you say, rising from the ground.
“Thank you again,” Sanae says to you, following you up.
“It’s really no problem,” you say with a friendly smile. Giving her a brief wave of goodbye, you turn and step forward a few paces before kicking off the ground and lifting yourself into the air.
“Hello, Miss Kagiyama!” you greet as you begin to land by the edge of the river running through the Great Youkai Forest. Miss Kagiyama’s below, crouched by the riverbank. As you descend, however, you notice a familiar face bobbing above the surface of the river. “Ah, Nitori.”
The two of them greet you.
“You two know each other?” you ask, looking back and forth between them.
“Yeah!” Nitori answers, “I see her around here often when I’m drifting or swimming down the river.”
“By the way, has something happened to the mountain?” Miss Kagiyama asks, taking you by surprise. Does she already know about the new god at the summit of the mountain?
“Ah, yeah, a bit of an incident,” you say, looking back at the tall figure of the mountain behind you. Well, nothing really looks any more different about it than before from down here, but…
“I heard about that,” Nitori pipes up, still bobbing up and down in the water, “An evil god is trying to take over the mountain and is already acting like it belongs to her, right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say she’s…” you begin, though you hesitate in completing the sentence. Certainly, from her words and her ambitiousness, she might seem like a villain, but still…
“The frogs around the giant toad’s pond have been going crazy, too,” she continues, “I don’t know why, but they seem so energetic even though it’s been getting colder. I wonder if that’s because of the evil god, too.”
You notice Miss Kagiyama gazing at the mountain with concern, and decide to inquire about it. “Is something wrong?” you ask.
“No… it’s nothing,” she says, though her eyes remained fixed on Yatsugatake’s figure. Eventually, she spins to face you, “Is there something you wanted to ask?”
“Oh!” you exclaim, remembering the reason why you’re here, “Um, it might seem like a silly question, but how do gods gain faith?”
“Gain… faith?” she utters, as though not quite clearly comprehending the question.
“Gods need faith from humans and youkai to empower themselves, don’t they? I want to know how you gain faith, Miss Kagiyama.”
“I see…” she says in a whisper, absentmindedly bringing a pale hand to her mouth and one of her nails. You patiently wait as she stands there, completely still, for several seconds before crossing her arms and speaking again.
“Faith is belief,” she begins to explain, “As you may know, belief is incredibly important in the continued existence of gods and youkai. It exists in two forms; praise and fear.”
Praise… and fear…?
“Gods who are revered by their subjects receive praise from their followers,” she continues, stepping closer to you, “While gods who are reviled, whom bring disaster and ruin to all. Curse gods, like me, are…” she raises her hand, pressing the tip of her finger into the middle of your chest, “…feared,” she finishes, tracing a spiral with her finger.
“Then, you’re also…”
“That’s right,” she says with a dissonantly bright smile, “I continue to exist because humans fear me. I don’t know how much longer that will be, but I can continue to manifest myself because humans reproach and blame me for their troubles.”
“Don’t look so sad,” she says, not breaking that smile, “It is all that I have ever known since I began my existence as a curse god. I will always be an ally to humans, even if they won’t consider me their friend.”
“K-keep up the good work, then…” you say, unable to think of anything else.
“I will, thank you.”
“Hey,” Nitori speaks up, “Hina.”
“Hm?” Miss Kagiyama steps away from you, crouching down so Nitori won’t have to crane her head up to look at her, “What is it?”
“Does that mean that if a god becomes feared, they can become a curse god?”
“Well,” she says, “There’s a saying that curse gods were originally born of divine virtues.”
Hm… well, so a god can gain faith by becoming feared…? But won’t that lead to conflict? That’s definitely a no-go, then. Guess you’ll just have to ask the gods of the season, instead. You bid farewell to both Miss Kagiyama and Nitori before heading off to the autumnal fields.
“Here you go,” Minoriko hands a skewered sweet potato to you, which you accept graciously.
“So you said you wanted to ask a question, right?” she asks as you bite down on your sweet potato. Nearby, Shizuha’s nibbling on her own share of roast sweet potato, occasionally glancing your way.
“Yeah. I was wondering how the two of you gather faith,” you say.
“Faith, huh…?” Minoriko says, thinking on it for a short moment before swelling with pride, “Of course, by helping humans.”
“You mean with the harvests.”
“Yeah. Humans will worship a god who is able to do something helpful, of course,” she says, grinning. “I’m a really important god in the human village, you know! And Shizuha… well… I guess she gets praise for the beauty of her leaves, too,” she adds as an afterthought. “Not as much as me, though,” she whispers to herself.
“I don’t really care about faith,” Shizuha says in an almost bitter voice, casting a brief death glare at her younger sister, who pretends not to notice, “But as long as humans and youkai appreciate the beauty of autumn’s leaves, I can continue to exist.”
“I see…” you say, scratching the back of your head. So… being appreciated for what you do is a big part of gaining faith, huh? That tidbit of info might come in useful. Maybe. “Well, thank you for your time. And the sweet potato,” you say, standing up.
“Eh? So soon?” Minoriko asks.
“Yes, there’s something important going on back at the mountain.”
“I see…” she says, “Then, you should hurry.”
“I will,” you turn to walk away, waving goodbye.
“Bye, Miki,” Shizuha says, waving back, “Let’s play together sometime.”
“Of course,” you reply with a smile, while Minoriko looks back and forth between the two of you in obvious confusion.
“So I’m thinking, maybe holding a festival would help relations between the shrine and the mountain inhabitants?” you suggest to Sanae, having returned to the mountaintop, “If you do that, then you can show everyone that you don’t mean harm, right?”
“A festival…” she repeats, unsure, “I’m not sure if we can still do that, though. I’m sure Lady Kanako didn’t really mean to sound too aggressive with her message, it’s just that… she’s a bit of a ham when it comes to godly affairs.”
“A what now?”
“Oh, I guess you wouldn’t know what that means… Um… how should I say this…” she trails off, “A bit… overdramatic?”
“Oh.” You… sort of understand what she means. You think. “But if this is all just a misunderstanding, won’t just issuing an apology solve this?”
“I’m not sure she’d be willing to,” she replies doubtfully, frowning, “She’s always been a bit prideful as long as I’ve known her.”
“Huh…” you cross your arms together, pondering on how to make this work out the best way it can. Should you arrange a personal meeting between the god and Lord Tenma? Surely if they spoke face-to-face, they’d reach an understanding together? Well… but you’re just a messenger, so it’s not like you can make a decision for them…
“Maybe I should start by gaining faith from humans instead…” Sanae mutters to herself, looking unconfident.
But the humans living near the base of the mountain are like youkai in many ways as well… Can a festival win them over? There’s a lot of festivals over at the Hakurei shrine, and there’s always a lot of youkai there…
“I wonder how the other shrine maiden does it…” you wonder to yourself.
“…excuse me? The other shrine maiden?” Sanae asks, her eyes puzzled, “Is there another shrine here in Gensokyo?”
[ ] Tell her about the Hakurei shrine.
[ ] Forget the other shrine, keep worrying about this one.