The Flowers Are Ugly
Yumiko found herself at the roots of Tsubaki Samsara, kneeling, and asked it:
“Why has my daughter left me?”
The tree could not respond. He was old, and no longer spoke.
“Will she be okay?”
He did not live as she did. His roots supported this world, and this was all he knew. In every sense, he was dead.
“If I pursue her, what will happen?”
But he was the only friend this woman had ever known.
“Why did this happen? Why can this happen?”
And she found herself crying into his silent bark, seeking answers she of all people should have known herself.
“Please tell me where she has gone. I cannot find her.”
Even she recognized the futility of her actions in time.
Pulling herself together, the mother stood back up upon her holy ground, born from a fallen tortoise. As she looked into the azure sky, the gift of a sacrificed dragon, she smiled. Life had already given her everything. Sorrowful as this moment may be, she would not let chance take away the one thing she cherished most.
Just as she turned her back on the tree to prepare- the woman gasped, witnessing a creature she had not created, one that had been standing right behind her all this time.
“I loved the mushrooms, mommy. Just like you told me to.”
The child’s single eye was innocent and joyous. It looked nothing like her daughter’s. The other side of the monster’s face was covered in fungal growth, and from its head sprouted caps. All down its pudgy arms grew more and more life, and she could soon see that its entire body had become a garden.
“The seven-flower has arrived. You will now meet your end, Sengen.” The voices chanted around the goddess. Yumiko found herself surrounded, walled in on all sides by her own army of Maitake.
“No matter.” She cursed. “I am not afraid of something I molded with my own hands. The question is… what are you?” She prodded at the lord, failing to recognize the child.
The mushrooms shrieked in anger.
“LORD MATSUTAKE… LORD MATSUTAKE…!”
“It’s me, mommy.” The new king spoke, grabbing her wicked and textureless hand with its own cracked, diseased member. “I’ve come to grant one of my oldest wishes. Only, instead of dying myself, I realize now- really, you were the only one who needed to be killed. I wanna get you out of this world, mommy. Forever. Goodbye.”
Yumiko coughed up an unusual red liquid, witnessing her own blood for the first time she could remember as the great biotic spear plunged through her chest, parting her breasts with the force of the arm it was attached to. Her own child, body distorted into a weapon.
“Ungrateful… spoiled, worthless failure…”
She tore the toy out of herself, throwing the useless king aside. In an instant, her body restored itself.
“You have decided to challenge the very seed that grew your entire existence.” Yumiko was floating off of the holy ground, breathing in cherry blossoms. “This makes you a fool. The greatest that has ever lived.”
The king raised a bloody arm, innocent, open eye without any fear.
“Men… dismantle the false queen!”
A garbled warcry let out through the small and false land, countless fungal soldiers crawling their way towards the goddess. Piling up on themselves, the formed siege towers in order to cling to her kimono, tearing at her skin in an attempt to restrain her as the lord readied another attack.
As she breathed in a few more petals, and her beautiful skin became briefly damaged by the creatures, Yumiko finally recognized her child. Unable to hold back the last of her tears, she allowed herself a few honest words.
“I gave you… the past I never had… yet you become this horrid, miserable thing…?! I can’t understand… I don’t understand.”
The child knew not to respond. It had long been taught that there was no reasoning with this one.
Throwing its arm forward, the lord launched it out of its socket. The fungal spear once again penetrated Sengen, forking her head. The two-sided mask forced a look of mania onto the queen, eyes dropping from their sockets and middle lip pressed down into a smile. The Maitake closest to the woman’s twin brains were given a new coat of red just before they met their own demise.
“UNGRATEFUL… SO UNGRATEFUL…!”
The mad witch screamed like an animal as a tempest of flames and lightning extended from her ravaged body, blasting most of her little creations to pieces.
“YOU COULD’VE HAD EVERYTHING!”
Her child’s detracted arm fell from her head. Its wound was already healed by the time she soared towards the disgusting beast assaulting her, face to face with the brat, her counterattack already prepared. She laid her hand upon its throat, carrying it into the sky.
“You were supposed to love me.”
This high up, the lord could see where the sea came to end. There was nothing beyond this realm, just infinite blackness.
“Is this all you planned to give me…? The same life you wanted, mommy…?” The child questioned, confused.
“WHO GAVE YOU PERMISSION TO SPEAK?!” Sengen threw her discarded child down back to the roots of Tsubaki Samsara, breaking most of its ruined body.
The few remaining Maitake clung to their fallen king. As the lord assessed the situation, it found itself legless, and with only half an arm. It did not bleed, instead emitting bits of fungal material like ash. The lord’s subjects tried to calm the broken thing.
“Lord Matsutake… you can… still win, and claim Sengen’s throne…”
There were only three gathered here. A few more Maitake could be spotted in the distance, but they were gone on the inside- mangled, walking corpses stripped of their identity by blunt trauma. As a storm suddenly came across the land, pink bolts of death began to pick them off one by one. Far above them, Yumiko was already wondering what she would do after she erased all her failed creations.
“What do I do…?” The king asked the subjects remaining, and they all agreed.
“You must fight, Lord Matsutake. You must let Sengen feel the terrible indecency she has brought to you, and all of our kind.”
“She heals all wounds in an instant…”
“You must fight anyway. Show her you are not afraid.”
“I’m not. I’m not afraid. But…”
“We will become your body. Please, use our strength, king…”
Those remaining huddled themselves against the lord’s body, becoming its new limbs. As the great conglomerate of their suffering arose, it first targeted its angry gaze towards its mother. Yumiko was now cackling, so willing to inflict pain on these lives to maintain her own fantasy. In short, Matsutake was angered. But it did understand this creature. And it knew how to trick it.
It held out its putrid arms as it gazed up at the evil star that was its mother, casting her wicked shadow over all of the painterly land. And it spoke, in its light and weakened voice:
“Mommy, come down to me. At least look at me when you kill me.”
“You cannot avoid me.” The goddess boomed, lowering down to eliminate the failed pest. “If you wish to die even quicker, so be it.”
“No, mommy.” It raised a rancid arm of thorns. “In this next strike, I’m going to take everything from you. Seeing as how I never mattered to you myself.”
Under the shadow of Tsubaki Samara, the vile woman flicked up her slender arms.
“With one strike? Indeed, I have raised an imbecile. Child, I was only distracted before. Now? We are all alone in this home of ours… this home of mine. You will not sever a single hair.”
“You think I’ll miss you, mommy?”
“Whatever the attack, I’ll dodge it effortlessly.”
“I mean once you die.”
The parasitic heir flung itself forward so hard that its sacrificial legs shattered, careening towards the woman with its deathblow pointed straight forward like an arrowhead.
Yumiko disappeared with a quick spin and flourish of petals. Her grin was wide as she watched her child fail once again…
And strike directly into the heart of Tsubaki Samsara.
Again, yet another thing the childish woman had never considered. Why someone would even attempt to harm the very core of her world- her only friend.
In the one instant she had left inside this world, it sickened her.
But all she could let out as it was pierced, bark flying off in all directions as it fell, was a meager tear. Before she could accept her fate, her own body, in its last moments, submitted to it.
And then, there was green.
The forest felt larger than their entire home did. Overgrown through eons and eons of death and rebirth, societies risen and fallen- the very memory of the inventor’s home, and his white tiger were surely rotting, with Yumiko as the only person in all existence who could possibly have recalled the place, or anything like it, ever existing.
She sat again in her wretched form, not even a hollow tree stump to comfort her unlucky state as she rest against a massive and ancient oak.
Across from her lie the only human in all the land, a little child finally granted true existence.
“What is this place?” It asked its mother, as if nothing had happened at all.
“ı’ɱ ʂƈąཞɛɖ…” The Sankai murmured, dwarfed by her own child.
“What are you scared of? You’re mommy, aren’t you?”
“ɧơῳ ɖơ ყơų… ཞɛƈơɠŋıʑɛ ɱɛ?”
“Huh? Oh… I dunno!” The child giggled. “I miss my mushrooms…”
“ყơų ʄıƖɬɧყ… ʄıƖɬɧყ ɬɧıŋɠ… ყơų ῳąŋɬɛɖ ɬơ ცɛ ą ɱơŋʂɬɛཞ, ყɛɬ ɧɛཞɛ ı ąɱ… ყơų ɖơ ŋơɬ ųŋɖɛཞʂɬąŋɖ ყơųཞ ცƖɛʂʂıŋɠ… ყơų ɖơ ŋơɬ ųŋɖɛཞʂɬąŋɖ ąŋყɬɧıŋɠ…”
The child looked around.
“I understand we’re alone. Just how long were you in there? Just how long… were we in there?”
The Sankai did not respond.
“Oh well. That… doesn’t really matter, does it? You somehow gave me life… I think that’s incredible.”
The Sankai didn’t want to.
“You know? I’m gonna find some mushrooms again, and cover myself in them.”
She didn’t know how.
“Then maybe you and I… can start over. And figure out what.. each other wants. Not just what we do.”
She ended up saying something anyway.
“I’ɱ ʂσɾɾყ I ɳҽʋҽɾ ɱҽƚ ყσυ, ɱყ ƈԋιʅԃ.”
Because after everything, she still wished to be a mother.
“Pʅҽαʂҽ ʅҽƚ ɱҽ ƚɾყ αɠαιɳ.”
In many years, the two found themselves walking side by side on a green path, one neither had ever seen before in their lives.
“This path is our path, Yumiko. I dunno who made it, but it’s ours now. And we can always go back to it. Are you still scared, knowing that?”
“My body’s so small…” She spoke in a voice closely resembling the one she had once used.
“Yeah. Honestly, we might’ve both been happy in that little world of yours.”
“So do you regret it..? What you did..?
“You made it necessary. You wouldn’t listen to me.”
“I'm sure we both are. But… we’re looking at the real world now, right? So there’s nothing behind this… just the truth we recognize.” The two stepped past a row of trees and arrived at a cliffside overlooking a vast view of many more forests to explore. “Maybe we’ll find something that makes this life a little less scary, somewhere out there.”
“Thank you, my child.”
The family smiled.