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When I think about it, I'm pretty appreciative of how helpful Yuzuki has been today. Ringo was focused on doing her own thing, and I'm not completely sold on it being all that useful. In contrast, Yuzuki was instrumental in finding Chiyo today, as well as hopefully preventing our base's location being discovered by someone who was obviously suspicious of us. Given that her and I are probably the ones that take our work the most seriously, I'm really glad that Yuzuki isn't the one still missing. Not to say that I'm happy that Sumi isn't here.
The trip back to camp takes much less time than it took to get out to the farms. That's not very surprising since we were intentionally slowing ourselves down before in order to search the area. Once we're only returning home, we can just fly without too much concern for letting Yuzuki use her powers.
By the time we get back, the sun has almost set. Just like yesterday, going out after this point is probably not the best idea. Even though we've doubled in numbers since yesterday, that doesn't mean we've doubled in combat effectiveness. I don't think either Yuzuki or Chiyo would be much of an asset against any dangerous youkai that are out at night. Really only Ringo and I have offensively oriented powers. Unless we decide to ignore rules of engagement and use some of our actual hardware, we're probably going to be in a tough spot when it comes to getting things done out here in the wilderness at night.
We land back in camp and go right to the center table like usual. Ringo sets the basket down on the ground to the left of her seat. Ordinarily she would set the food out on the table, but the basket is a bit large, and I guess she doesn't want to obstruct anybody's view. She could have dumped the vegetables out on the table, but then Yuzuki would probably have spent most of the meeting arranging them into her idea of a correct pattern.
Even though the basket is on the ground, Ringo still reaches down and grabs a carrot (stereotypes!) out of it to nibble on while the rest of us sit down. After she finishes her current bite, she gets things started. "Alright, so. Meeting. First thing, nice to have you back Chi. Glad you didn't get eaten or whatever. Let's hear what happened with you while you were out." She says. Our meetings are always informal like this, but I do have to admit that Ringo does a pretty good job at keeping them productive anyway.
Compared to how Yuzuki looked yesterday, Chiyo looks much less apologetic about things. She still kind of tries to excuse herself though. "I only wanted to step out for a bit yesterday. Seiran said we'd probably have somebody come fight us, so I wanted to chill out for a bit before that happened in case I didn't get a chance to for a while." She says evenly.
"But you didn't have to leave camp for that, did you? I'd like to think we're pretty chill here." Ringo says jokingly. Well, she definitely is chilled most of the time at least.
"... Yuzuki and Sumi were both freaking out in different ways. I wanted to be alone for a bit." There's a slight pause between Ringo saying something and Chiyo responding to it. Either her power's acting up again or she's just taking a lot of time to think of a response.
"But Yuzuki followed you anyway." Ringo adds.
"I didn't know where she was going or if she'd be back in time!" Yuzuki cuts in to explain.
Ringo holds up her hand to stop Yuzuki. "It's fine. It's over and done with. There's going to be some kind of punishment later once everybody's back and I can think of what it should actually be, but it's fine for now," She talks Yuzuki down before turning back to Chiyo. "Let's just keep it going. You guys got attacked and split up, we know what happened with Yuzuki, what about you?"
"... I got lost," Chiyo says bluntly after a slight pause. "I didn't want to fly because I realized that our stealth had gotten broken, so I had to walk around for... I don't know how long. I wound up pretty far away apparently, so it was probably a long time."
Ringo nods in understanding. "Sure, you were in combat, so you probably used your power then. After that it pushed back on you and you lost track of time without realizing it while you were still escaping."
"I ended up at the hermit's house. She was surprised and seemed curious about how I got there, but I don't really remember. I explained that I had been attacked and she let me in. I was still there until today when Seiran and Yuzuki came to pick me up. She was pretty nice, aside from all the questioning that came later." Chiyo explains.
"Apparently Kasen is suspicious of us. She asked Yuzuki and I a lot of questions too." I add.
Ringo takes another bite out of her carrot and thinks for a short time. She doesn't seem concerned, just thinking about things. "That's weird, why would she be suspicious? The only sign of us doing anything is the drone, and there isn't really anything linking us to it."
"It wasn't even about the drone," I clarify. "Did you read the paper that that tengu gave us this morning?" Ringo nods, of course she did, she'd want to look for any useful information in it. "It's something to do with that occult ball incident. She seemed to think that we were involved for some reason."
Ringo doesn't respond immediately, thinking a bit more. "She was asking me about it a lot too, but I just played dumb," Chiyo says, breaking the pause in conversation. "What I picked up from her questions is that the incident itself is over, but one of the balls is still acting weird, whatever that means. She seemed suspicious of me because I was a rabbit and seemed to imply that she knows about moon rabbits, so maybe the moon is involved somehow."
"Have you heard about anything like that Ringo? Was anybody else sent down here?" I ask. If anybody had heard anything, it would probably be Ringo. Not only is she the highest ranking member of the unit, meaning she gets our orders from command, but she also pays attention to random rumors that are spread over the comms the most.
Ringo shakes her head. "No, I haven't heard anything, but that doesn't mean the moon isn't involved. They only tell me what they decide I need to know, and I don't know anything about it. Definitely something we'll want to follow up on if we can find a source of info about the incident though. Maybe we were supposed to just be a diversion for something bigger going on down here. They might have avoided telling us so we couldn't give anything away if we got caught."
That's not a pleasant thought, but it could be true. If we were supposed to buy time for command to accomplish something separately, it could mean that they were the ones that shut down the portal to make sure we didn't retreat when our stealth dropped. They might not have been very trusting of us considering how most rabbits aren't that loyal, so maybe they decided to force us into it. I feel my gut twisting as the words 'suicide mission' come to mind. That's definitely a bad thought.
I'm broken out of my thoughts when Ringo puts her hand on my shoulder and gives me a concerned look. Was I worrying too much again? Was it obvious? "Sorry, I was just thinking about possibilities. Let's keep things going. Seiran and Yuzuki, you guys went to the hermit's house, she questioned you about something or other, then what?"
"She let us have Chiyo after we told her that we didn't know anything, but then she sent an eagle out to follow us. She probably wanted to know where we're located. We threw it off the trail by stopping at Hina's shrine though." I notice Yuzuki perk up slightly when I say Hina's name.
Ringo doesn't seem to understand the logic there. "How did that work?"
"Hina's aura makes animals want to avoid her, so it actually worked very well and I'm glad that we went there." Yuzuki explains. "The eagle didn't want to keep track of us while we were there, and we left on foot afterwards, so I'm something like ninety percent sure that we lost it at that point. I haven't seen it since this afternoon in any case."
"After that we came back to camp and I tried to call you on the radio. You should know what happened from there." I conclude. There was a lot more that happened, but I don't think there was much more actual information that Ringo would need.
Ringo finishes her carrot before continuing. "Right, I guess that leads into my part. I went to the farms because I wanted to see if I could learn anything useful from the humans there. I figured I could gauge if we were going to be able to get help from them. It... Didn't go as well as I would have liked honestly. The humans that I talked to weren't running away in terror or anything, but they definitely didn't want to talk to me. Except Minoriko."
Oh I guess she doesn't know about Minoriko. I wouldn't have known without Yuzuki saying something either, so that's fair. "Yuzuki is pretty sure that Minoriko isn't human." I interrupt Ringo.
"She's a harvest goddess actually." Yuzuki adds, getting a surprised look from Ringo. "I asked her about it while we were working."
"Huh..." Ringo says thoughtfully. "Okay, well that explains it I guess. So yeah, humans aren't too crazy about talking to youkai, but they didn't grab the torches and pitchforks to try and chase me off either. I guess that gives us a general idea of how humans feel about youkai here. Aside from the vegetables and that bit of info, I didn't get much out of what I did today."
I almost want to criticize her choice on what to do today, but I end up not saying anything. I'm not even sure what she would have gotten out of it in a best case scenario, but it just feels like Ringo did it because she felt like it more than anything. I feel like it would be better to get ourselves sorted out before we try to go out to talk to more Gensokyo residents than we have to.
"Anyway, that clears things up for today. We still have to find Sumi, and get the drone back. We also still have a few leads on information that we could look into just for general Gensokyo knowledge, so there's still plenty of stuff to get done tomorrow," Ringo says, wrapping things up. "We can figure it out in the morning though, it's dinner time now. Meeting over!" Ringo smacks the table with her palm before standing up. "I'm gonna cook something here, you guys can have some when it's done." She says happily as she picks up the basket of vegetables and walks off.
"In the meantime, could either of you help me get some water to clean up with?" Yuzuki asks Chiyo and I. I'm actually surprised that she managed to stay still this long, her hands and feet are still muddy from working in the field.
"Sure." I answer. I had already wanted to spend some time and talk with Yuzuki anyway. "How did you get so dirty when Chiyo didn't though?"
"Chiyo found some boots that Minoriko let her use, and I slipped while I was working." Yuzuki groaned slightly and looked down at herself, and I noticed Chiyo grin slightly. "This is really not acceptable."
We have a collapsible one person shower, along with a heater and pump that we brought from the moon. It's really handy for cleaning ourselves up, the only downside is that we have to transport the water we use for it from somewhere. The pump cleans it up, so it's okay to just use river water, but we have to go there and manually fill up a couple of big jugs every time we want a shower. The jugs get kind of heavy as well, so if you want a shower that lasts longer than a few minutes, you need more than one person getting water.
Yuzuki and I grab the water jugs out of the equipment tent and head down to the nearest river. We walk, rather than fly, just to try and keep as low of a profile as we can now that the sun has set. This actually gives me a pretty good chance to talk to her. I decide to start off with the most obvious thing in my mind. It's the most unusual thing I've seen from her in a long time. "So, can you explain the thing you have with goddesses?"
Yuzuki looks a little startled, like she hadn't been prepared for the question. "What do you mean?" She says, a little quickly.
"I just thought you were acting differently than usual today when we talked to Hina," I explain. "I already kind of have an idea of what it's about but I wanted to ask."
"You don't believe Chiyo right? It's not a crush!" Yuzuki quickly clarifies.
That's not at all what I was thinking, but saying it like that isn't really convincing. "No, that's not what I meant."
"Good, because I don't... I mean, well, I'm not..." She trails off and sighs. Usually I'm the one freaking out over things, so I'm not actually sure what to say to her. After a moment she continues though, apparently having regained her composure. "Seiran, did you know that one of your legs is slightly longer than the other?" She asks suddenly.
"What?" I'm not ready for the sudden change in topic.
"Just a little bit, nobody else would notice it, and you're so used to it that it's normal for you," Yuzuki continues on, not answering my question. "Did you know that Chiyo's nose is just barely off center? Did you know that Sumi has a scar on the inside of her left ankle? Did you know that one of Ringo's dimples is larger than the other one?"
"What?" I repeat. I don't understand where this is coming from.
Yuzuki sighs again. "It's normal, and I know that, but everybody has stuff about them that isn't perfect. A lot of the time those things are too small to notice for normal people, but the thing is, I notice those things. I notice them all the time. It's normal, even I have things like that, but I still can't stop noticing it. I know it shouldn't bother me, and usually it doesn't, but sometimes..." She sounds a little frustrated for some reason.
"And goddesses..." I start, but Yuzuki cuts me off.
"The goddesses we saw today were perfect. It wasn't normal. I couldn't find anything wrong about them. I was just..." She pauses slightly, searching for words. "I felt amazed and refreshed to see somebody perfect like that. Normal people are normal, and I don't dislike them for it, that wouldn't be fair. I just wasn't ready for how not normal a goddess would be. It's..." She pauses again. "I felt like I wanted to be around them just to keep seeing them be perfect."
I can kinda see what Chiyo was saying now. That actually does kind of sound like something we could call it a crush. An extreme one that's kind of based off of something weird, but still a crush. I don't really want to joke about it though, bringing up this topic seems to have put Yuzuki in a weird mood that I'm not used to.
We get the water without incident and bring it back to camp. After her shower, Yuzuki joins back up with everyone at the table and we have a pretty nice dinner. Aside from the usual rice that we still have a lot of, Ringo fried up eggplants for everybody. It's probably not as filling as the rations, but it still ends up tasting better just because, as Ringo says while making an exaggerated kissy face, "It was cooked with ~love~."
After that, there's a small amount of time killing before bed. I take the opportunity to rinse myself off with the water that Yuzuki didn't use, though there isn't enough to even really call it a shower. I go to bed feeling happy with the progress we made today, but still a bit anxious about what we're going to do.
[ ] Can't sleep
[ ] BANG
[ ] Strength