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Morning comes with the harsh tweeting of birds outside my windows. I rub my eyes, which are clearly reflecting my tired state, and wonder if Mystia chirps like this in the morning. How annoying that would be, to wake up next to..
My face goes red at my own though. "Heh..she's a night bird anyway, so she wouldn't.." I mumble to myself. And of course, as is the case whenever you talk to yourself, someone is listening.
Alice clears her throat from the doorway, making me jump a little. "Good morning. Incredible, you sleep in as much as Marisa. Well, I suppose you aren't quite that drastic."
"Good morning to you too." I'm not sure if she is upset or not. Her tone is annoyed, but she is like that with Marisa all the time as far as I've seen. So maybe it is a bit of an act, like Wriggle?
"Well, if you'd like to return my doll, I'm going to go wake Marisa."
Shanghai jumps to attention and leaps off the bed, running cutely across the floor to her master. Of course, you could tack the adjective "cute" onto anything this doll does and it would be pretty accurate, so I'm not surprised.
After getting fully dressed, I follow Alice over to Marisa's room, only to hear a commotion. Are they arguing about the incident already? I open the door and peek inside, only to get an eyeful of the two girls wrestling angrily, Marisa still in her night clothes, on top of Alice, her bare stomach showing as a loose shirt hangs off of it. Alice is fully clothed, but her hair is rumpled and she is pinned down helplessly over the more rowdy girl's physical strength.
I think I've just witnessed something nice.
A pillow hits me hard in the face. Of course it doesn't hurt, but it takes me by surprise. Perhaps I was too engrossed by the vision before me.
"Pervert!" Alice screams. "Get out get out getoutgetout!"
Marisa starts to snicker and then laugh uncontrollably when I close the door behind me. Alice doesn't sound too pleased so I give them some space and head downstairs to the living room. I don't have long to brood and worry about their moods before Marisa enters, her grin filling the room and wiping away my worries.
"Hey, you about ready to go?" She plops onto the couch next to me.
"Yeah..but before we do.." I start quietly, and she interrupts.
"Don't worry! Alice isn't mad. She just got embarrassed." She moves closer to me and whispers "But isn't she cute when she's pinned down and helpless like that?" and gives a mischievous laugh.
"What are you two idiots talking about?" Alice stomps in, dolls peering into the doorway behind her, watching like worried kids when their parents are fighting.
"Alice, I'm sorry about before. I didn't mean-"
"Its okay." She interrupts, her voice still annoyed. "How could you have known that this girl always tries to fight me in her sleep when I try to wake her?"
Ah, so that's what that was? That explains a lot..I think. There is something still off about that. Its something newlyweds would do, not friends. But what do I know about female friendships anyway?
"I'm not naive enough to even hope that you two are going to return to the village. So I assume you are going to head towards the incident? I can only hope that whatever caused it is already over."
"Ah, about that.." I cut in before Marisa can say anything that leads them to argue. I suppose this is as good a time as any to bring it up. "I..um...found out some more about the incident last night."
"You did?!" both girls chime in at once, one excited, one concerned.
"Yeah..um..well a friend came to visit last night. A youkai friend. She took me out to Mystia's food cart and I heard some rumors there."
Alice's expression is complicated, but Marisa's is simple, and she speaks her mind immediately.
"What'd ya learn?"
"Well, apparently there is something that comes out a night, some kind of beast that scares away lesser youkai. They have to move out of their territory out of fear of the thing."
"My guess is the danmaku we saw was maybe a fight between some youkai moving out of their territory to hunt for food or something." Alice speaks her thoughts aloud, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "This could be more dangerous than I thought. The human village will likely see more youkai attacks until the beast lets the youkai move back into their natural hunting grounds."
"So we gotta stop it, then!" Marisa pounds her fist into her palm with a determined smile.
"I'd say we leave this to Reimu, but that isn't going to work, is it?"
Marisa shakes her head, causing Alice to sigh.
"Alright. Fine. I'll go with you, then. If you are going to drag an injured boy into a dangerous situation, I'd better be there to babysit you at least."
Marisa and I stand at the same time. "Alright then, lets g-"
"Not so fast. I'm not done with you. Why was an injured boy hanging out with youkai in the middle of the night when he was supposed to be in my care? What if something had happened to you?"
"Its okay. I knew the youkai well and I took Shang-" Oops.
"You took one of my dolls with you?! Without my consent?"
She is more than annoyed now, and takes a step closer to me, but a tug at her dress stops her in her tracks. Shanghai looks up at her with innocent eyes, as if saying "Its okay. Its not his fault."
"...I see. So you went with him of your own accord." Alice sighs, venting her anger.
"So Shanghai can move on her own?"
"Normally my dolls cannot. But lately something seems to have gotten into her. I don't even need strings or commands anymore. She's been walking on her own and doing her own thing since a day before you arrived."
"Huh..another, smaller incident. We'll figure that out next!" Marisa seems pleased. Her appetite for adventure and her curiosity seem endless.
"Well...shall we?" I offer, and Alice nods. She puts on her boots, and Marisa gears up impatiently as well. Shanghai walks over to me and gives a little smile.
"Thanks little one." I pat her head gently.
For better or worse, our adventure starts here, on foot. We aren't far from where we saw the fighting, so we'll run into something within the day if we discover anything at all. As we journey, Marisa and Alice share pleasantries and I bring up the rear, thinking about Keine and my father yet again.
It was irresponsible to leave...but I'm glad I did. Maybe I'm not as exciting as Marisa, but I think a bit of adventuring will do me some good.
The ground shakes. I can't help but feel that it wasn't an earthquake, though, as it seems to be more like thunder, a wave of force extending from a dramatic event. I nearly fall over.
"I think I found our culprit's hideout." Alice points to a cave nearby. Well, it isn't in the side of a mountain of anything. It seems far more like a sinkhole gone wrong.
"Great. Another cave adventure." Marisa sighs.
"You brought Patchouli during that incident, right?" Alice spits the name out with malice, causing Marisa to get a little flustered.
The ground rumbles again, but those two don't seem to notice. In fact, it doesn't seem to be shaking so much as..
I see them turn in horror as I tumble down into darkness. Its the last thing I see before the world goes too dark. My last thought before I fall unconscious is "Not again.."