I woke with a start, cold sweat dripping down my cheeks. I couldn't remember why. Why was I shaking? Well, of course I couldn't remember. Humans were a simple type of creature that rarely remembered their nightmares. The same could be said for more pleasant dreams. There would be nothing to gain from the memory of something that didn't really happen. Nope, nothing at all.
I calmed my breathing. Slowly, I stepped out of my futon. My head still ached a bit from yesterday. I shouldn't have had that last drink with Tewi. Stupid and reckless girl. If I didn't pass out, I might have -
Wait, was I drinking yesterday?
I washed my face in the bathroom. And after fixing my eternally messy hair in front of the mirror (as best as I could, at least), I returned to my room. Of course, the term 'My Room' was nothing more than a formality. The place was completely bare aside from my futon and a small nondescript table on the side. A single window could be seen on the right. There was nothing here that would mark this room as being 'mine'. Or to put in in a better way, there was hardly any sign that this place was even being lived in.
I yawned loudly, not bothering to cover my mouth. After getting dressed, I paused by the door.
Wait. What was I supposed to do this morning?
[ ] Spend some time with Kaguya at her room.
[ ] Assist Dr. Eirin in the laboratory wing.
[ ] Offer to help Reisen with her chores.
I raised the knife up in the air as I considered how I would do it. Cleanly or roughly? Slowly or quickly? If I wasn't careful, I'd probably ruin it. And then, I would have to search for another one. That would be troublesome for me.
Then, I saw it. An opening. Without hesitation, I drove the knife into my prey. Cutting. Slicing. Tearing. Cutting. Slicing. Tearing. Cutting. Slicing. Tearing. Chopping and grinding. Chopping and grinding. In mere seconds, it was over. I took a step back to enjoy my work.
"Ah! That was fast!" said a voice from behind. "You are really good with a knife, aren't you?"
I twirled the knife in my hand a few times before putting it down.
"A little bit," I said. "Unfortunately, this is all I can do. I'm not really a good cook."
"It's fine. I'm about to add those in. Can you carry it over?"
I gave her a nod as I moved the vegetables into a bowl. She gave me a tiny smile as she took it from my hands. Then, she turned back to her work. Her deep red eyes were already focused on cooking.
Reisen Udongein Inaba. Her long light-purple hair swayed gently as she hummed a little tune to herself as she worked. She was dressed in a sharp business suit and skirt. A pair of long rumpled rabbit ears poked out of her hair, the only sign that this person wasn't human.
She turned her head slightly toward my direction.
"You really don't need to go out of your way to help me," she said.
"Don't mind it," I replied. "It's not like I have anything better to do this early in the morning."
"That's exactly it. You should spend your time on more productive activities. I'm sure that you would find something interesting to do with Lady Kaguya or Dr. Eirin."
"Something interesting, eh?"
I stared idly at the rabbit girl's back.
"Well... if it's something interesting," I said. "Then, isn't this fine too?"
I blinked in surprise. I thought I saw Reisen's ears perk up slightly, but when I looked again, she was just cooking and humming to herself as usual.
Several minutes later, we brought out the food and prepared the dining room. It was still early, so we retreated back into the kitchen for a break. We would usually take this time to chat about some inconsequential thing or another. For some reason, I felt safer when I was around this girl compared to the others.
But this morning, she was silent.
"Hey Reisen," I said finally. "Anything on your mind?"
She looked up at me, as if trying to mentally engrave her thoughts into my head. Of course, I didn't magically understand what she was trying to tell me. So I just stared back at her. A few moments passed. She lowered her head again, without another word.
Sighing to myself, I stood up from the stool and turned toward the dining room. Maybe the others are already there. In any case, I could already feel my stomach grumbling and -
"Wait," she whispered.
I turned around. The girl pulled out something from her suit pocket. Then, she lowered her head and practically shoved it at my face.
It was a small black book. Inserted in its leaves was a cute little bookmark with ribbons and tiny rabbit designs. A pocket diary? For some reason, I felt like she had made this especially for me.
I looked at the gift again. Then, I looked at her. The girl was quivering as she held the diary at me. She seemed deathly afraid of rejection. Of course, I had no reason to refuse. After all the things she had done for me, I wouldn't be able to call myself a man if I did something to make her sad. Just imagining her crying face makes me feel horrible inside.
Why was it then? For some reason, I hesitated. I paused. Was this another -
"Ah! D-don't misunderstand! This was just something that I came up with during my free time. I was planning to give it to someone else, but I thought that you might find it useful and -"
I didn't hear the rest of her words. Now this just wasn't fair, Reisen, hiding your blushing face and stuttering some excuse like that. I didn't think that you would play such dirty tricks. Or rather, I didn't think that you were even doing this on purpose. I could only respond in one way, now that the situation had turned into this. Without waiting for her to finish, I quickly grabbed the gift from her hands.
"Thanks Reisen," I said.
I turned away before she looked up. My face - even without a mirror, I still felt myself blushing.
Like hell was I going to let her see that.
"Where's Tewi?" I asked.
At her usual place, her plate was missing.
"She ran off again, probably," answered the one on the left. "Don't mind it. I'd worry more about whoever she is bothering this morning."
Dr. Eirin Yagokoro. The genius pharmacist of the moon stroked at her silver hair with her left hand as she looked up at me. Her face was calm and calculating, as always. She gave me a quick nod before turning to her food.
"May God have mercy on that person's soul," added the one on the right.
Lady Kaguya Houraisan. The princess resident of Eientei. She did not turn to look at them. Instead, she just stared reflectively in front of her. The effect of which gave her the appearance that she was in deep thought.
The princess turned toward Reisen, staring at her coldly.
"Hey Inaba," whispered the princess. "You were supposed to say 'Amen'."
"Forgive me, my Lady. Looks like my apprentice is still quite useless, after all."
"Indeed. I thought that this Inaba would be a little more useful."
I smiled to myself as I watched silently. This breakfast scene hardly changes. While I was tempted to defend Reisen this time, watching her confused and flustered face had already become a guilty pleasure of mine. So, as was my custom, I simply sat at the sidelines and enjoyed the show.
A few minutes into the meal, the room was unexpectedly quiet. It felt as if they were already tired of the usual games. Which was strange. I stole a glance at the others. None of them looked especially worried or stressed.
However, I didn't like this silence. Not one bit.
[ ] Talk to Kaguya.
[ ] Talk to Eirin.
[ ] Talk to Reisen.
[ ] Write-in?
Reisen looked at me curiously. The other two took no notice of it.
"Your cooking," I said. "This dish is quite good. Was this the first time that you tried making this?"
Her ears bobbed up and down as she nodded.
"I tasted this only yesterday," said Reisen. "There is a new restaurant at the Human Village. They were offering a big discount as part of their opening sale, so I.. uhh..."
Her eyes widened as she realized what she had said. The timid rabbit quickly turned toward Eirin. However, the doctor only smiled gently.
"Business has been doing well, hasn't it?" said Eirin. "I don't mind it if you treat yourself once in a while."
Reisen's eyes lit up at her words. Her ears bounced up and down excitedly. Then Eirin nodded her head in my direction.
"In fact, why don't you take him with you today?"
I frowned at her. Suspicious! It wasn't like her to act so kindly, especially towards Reisen. I raised an eyebrow toward the lunarian doctor. As if reading my mind, Eirin glanced at me. Her eyes stared daggers.
"You're thinking of something rude again, aren't you?" she said. "I'm not heartless, you know. I do appreciate how you helped me at the laboratory yesterday, so go ahead and have a break if you like."
Kaguya nodded in agreement.
"Since you don't plan on returning to the Outside, you should learn as much as you can about Gensokyo. I believe that I already introduced you to Keine Kamishirasawa the other day. She should be a suitable guide, despite her poor taste in companions."
The princess gracefully lowered her cup.
"That reminds me," she said. "I don't believe that I thanked you yesterday."
"Yesterday?" I repeated.
She nodded, smiling a little.
"Thanks for having tea with me. It's nice to have company during the afternoon. A pleasant change of pace, if you will."
"Ah, of course," I mumbled. "Any time."
The rest of the conversation went on as usual. Mostly, we talked about things around Eientei and at the Human Village. Before I realized it, I was already accustomed to this everyday life. It was just another ordinary breakfast. But for just a moment, I felt a bit bothered.
Reisen gave me a worried look. Her ears drooped slightly.
"Are you feeling alright?"
I immediately shaked away my troubles and forced a smile for her.
Those thoughts were forgotten as I pondered carefully on a more urgent matter. I glanced out the window and saw that the weather was good. What should I do on a beautiful morning like this?
[ ] Invite Kaguya for a walk around the grounds.
[ ] Help Eirin with her drug development work.
[ ] Go with Reisen to the Human Village.
[ ] Visit the Human Village alone.
"It's the least that I can do," I said. "After all, it's my fault that we are taking the long route."
Reisen and I were planning to walk along a small footpath that cut through the bamboo forest. Since most of the residents of Eientei could fly, this road was rarely used. Unfortunately, I can't fly. As an ordinary human, this didn't bother me for the most part. But it did feel like I was being a bother to others whenever I had to travel. So this morning, I offered to carry the things she needed to take to the Human Village.
I gave Reisen a smile as I examined the luggage. Before me was a large pack filled with medicines and supplies. At first glance, it really did look suspicious. It was of an odd design (lunarian?) that was rarely seen in the Human Village. For some reason, it reminded me of the bags used by military or police organizations in the Outside.
However, most of the contents were actually quite mundane. Cold medicine. Headache drugs. Herbal ointments. Stomach pills. Sterilized bandages. Most of these items looked like ordinary drugs, though Eirin did mention (several times, actually) that the medicine she develops are far more effective. Some of them even work on Youkai and those with unique physical characteristics. In that sense, Eirin really was a genius of medicine. However...
"Fire-breathing Potion," I read aloud.
I looked up and raised an eyebrow at Reisen.
"Ah! We almost ran out of that yesterday," she said cheerfully. "Despite what it sounds like, that one is actually quite safe if you follow the instructions. We have several regular customers who buy that, and it has even become popular among the kids of the Human Village!"
I frowned hard at her. Popular with kids? Don't say it so casually! And stop smiling as if you felt proud of it too! If she wasn't being so honest and happy about this, I would have smacked this girl right about now. But for some reason, I couldn't do it.
I sighed to myself as I lifted the pack. Am I ever going to understand these crazy lunarians?
We walked through the bamboo forest, talking casually about ordinary and unimportant things. I smiled to myself as Reisen described her life on the moon. It was only recently that this girl had opened up to me as a friend. When I first arrived, she was very shy and soft-spoken. She wouldn't speak to me unless I spoke first, and even then she only gave short answers. She wouldn't even sit in the same room alone with me.
When was it? When did we start walking and talking together like this, as if we had always been good friends? For some reason, I couldn't really remember. Perhaps it was the sort of thing that just happened, without either of us realizing it. It was odd, but I didn't really mind.
With those thoughts in mind, I didn't notice it all as we walked. Not until Reisen suddenly stopped.
"It's strange," she whispered. "This is really strange."
She turned around and looked at me. I still didn't understand.
"Aren't you scared? Look around you."
It was only then that I realized. The bamboo stalks had completely disappeared, and the path was nowhere in sight. Even the sky and the clouds that hung over my head just minutes ago had vanished. Everything around me was in complete darkness. But it wasn't only that. The sounds of the forest have gone completely silent. It was like walking into a locked room without any lights.
"Any other person would be afraid or at least confused. You can't see where you are going, and you can't hear anything around you. Yet we've been walking and talking normally for several minutes now."
I paused for a moment. This was certainly strange. How could I not notice it until now? But even then, I didn't really mind. Instead of thinking about it, I just told her the first thing that came to my mind.
"Isn't it enough that I see only you?"
Even through darkness, I could see Reisen blushing. She was at a loss for words. Then, she slowly looked away and started walking again. The surroundings returned to normal. I could hear and see things around me as was usual.
Reisen didn't speak another word to me until we had arrived at the Human Village.
"Feel free to walk around town for a while," said Reisen. "Just be back before lunch so I can take you to that new restaurant."
Before I could say anything, she took the bag from my hands and hurried quickly inside. It's only been a few weeks, but Eientei's new drugstore seemed to be doing quite well. Several customers were already lined up at the counter. I could see a couple of youkai rabbits were taking orders and accepting payments. Tewi explained that this was just the first step of her business expansion plan.
I yawned as I stretched my legs. It's been a while since I've been at the Human Village.
[ ] Head for the school and look for Keine Kamishirasawa.
[ ] Walk around the village until you see something interesting.
[ ] Offer to help around the Eientei drugstore.
[ ] Explore the outskirts of the Human Village.
[ ] Write-in?