Okay, so waking up's not the weird part. You do it all the time, actually. Waking up is your bread and butter, by which what you're trying to say is that you wake up, and then you eat some bread and butter before you jet out the door so you don't get later than the late you already are. A long time ago you were all—cereal! Toast! OJ! All part of this balanced breakfast—but you always ended up bustin' into where you were supposed to be just in the nick of time even when you got up early to bother with toast prep, so you nixed it. It's not like you need something in your stomach anyway, in the mornings. It's all preference. Like shampoo.
So waking up's not the weird part.
Waking up in a forest, though? When you're something like ninety-nine percent sure you didn't go to sleep there? Totally weird. Good thing you've got a system.
First things first—gotta check for immediate complications. You feel around for stitches you don't remember getting and come up empty, which means you probably still have your kidneys. Or was it your liver? Either way, they're all three probably still in you, unless someone's figured out how to do stealth surgery, which is a legit concern but not one you can do anything about right now. Your heart's still beating, so you haven't been turned into a zombie or a vampire or a zombie vampire or anything like that—probably, again. Your vision's keen, and when you say “Testing testing,” it's as clear as it oughta be which takes care of hearing and vocals all at once.
Your head feels fine, which means nobody clocked you when you weren't looking—though that would've meant one mystery down. You run through the vitals anyway. You remember where you grew up and where you went to school. You know your mom's name and your dad's name and the names of a whole lotta other people related to you. And of course you know—
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[x] Christie Christoferson
Christie Christoferson! It's Christie Christoferson. Yeah, that's it. Whew, you got mega-worried for a second. This whole forest-waking-up thing musta addled you more than you thought, if you went so far off somewhere that you forgot your own name.
It's your name. If you forget that, something's hecked up but sure.
So that's taken care of. You're up to snuff, or at least as much as you can figure without X-rays and a second opinion. Now the only thing bothering you—alright, the biggest thing bothering you—is the situation you've got on your plate now. The whole in-the-forest deal. Not that you mind still having your fingers attached, but just checking the status of your digits doesn't solve that problem, does it?
No, it doesn't.
Alright, time for a Super In-Depth Christie Christoferson Review. You're in a forest. You don't know what forest, or even how you got here—no footprints, no drag marks, no tire tracks, nada. Maybe you can work your way forwards by remembering what happened before—but naw, that's no good either. Not that you can't remember it, because you totally can. It's just that what you remember is catching a coupla zed on the couch, which aside from being super-mysterious is also super-galling because maybe if you'd gotten that coke like you'd planned to you wouldn't be in this mess. They say all that stuff about acids and rat poison and caffeine dependency but the truth is that coke saves lives.
Or at least pants.
From grass stains.
You stand up, and you're super-mega-glad you're wearing jeans. And not fashion jeans, but jean jeans. Nobody expects clean clean from jean jeans.
“Let's get this show on the road,” you sort of mumble-mutter, and there's not actually a road but you but you do what you can do, which is walk.
Okay, you're not stupid, right? You don't know forests, but you've been in a dentist's office once or twice and they've always got these little pocket-sized magazines lying around with articles like “I Should Be Dead” or “How Am I Alive” or “Seriously, I Was Yay Close To Biting It” with the narrator eager to chime in on what stupid thing John-Slash-Jane Q. Victim's done this week. Oh, there's a shark on your leg? You're supposed to ruffle the gills! Everyone knows that!
There's forests, too, in those stories. Actually, a lot more forests than sharks. And the number one thing they always laugh about in the stories about forests is that Mister-Missus No-Brains didn't stay effing put.
Yeah, so, you know that. You're not a moron. But the thing is—that whole thumb about stayin' put only works out if people know where you are. Because then they'll actually be searching for you, and if you're on the move chances are you and the bloodhounds are gonna keep missing each other by inches like in that music video where every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
And you fell asleep on your couch, so that's not the issue here.
So here you are, walking, most likely walking in circles 'cause the moss grows on all sides of the trees and the moss was never gonna help anyway, and the leaves are too leavesy so you can't follow the sun, and if you die here from dehydration or starvation or animal attack like in those dentist stories you are going to be kind of royally pissed.
Also, something's followin' you.
You glance on over to the right, being all sneaky in not moving your face when you do that. Yeah, there it is, past that bunchload of trees—whatever “it” is. It's round, and dark, and black and sphery, and floating above the ground about the diameter of a good TV set.
You stop. The TV ball stops.
You walk again, and the TV ball follows.
You don't know what that is, but floating black sphere thingies getting' involved never turned out a good development for anyone, past the black sphere thingies themselves, maybe. You're sure of this. Like, ninety-seven percent sure. Floating white sphere thingies, or light-colored sphere thingies even? That's a coin flip. But black sphere thingies are bad news through and through, no cuts about it.
So what're you gonna do about this one?
[ ] Time to make like The Running Man and do the running, man. [ ] When a problem comes along, you must be totally violent. [ ] “Me Christie, you sphere?” [ ]
No, but seriously—when floating black sphere thingies get involved, things get pear-shaped. It's a fact. You check it out on the 'pedia and it'll say “floating black sphere thingies and situational pear-shapedness causation” and there'll be something like a bajillion little numbers in brackets after that. It's a fact. It's an independently verified fact.
And this floating black sphere thingy is following you, which means it's already involved, which means things are gonna get pear-shaped no matter what you do.
And you're not gonna be the one who hecked it up.
It's like in that starship show. Every time those alien dudes showed up, you knew they were up to no good, and the good guys knew they were up to no good, and the alien dudes knew everyone else knew they were up to no good, but everyone still had to treat 'em right because that's what the good guys do. Goodwill and good faith and all that stuff. So you're gonna try to shake hands with this floating black sphere thingy, even though there's no hands to shake, and it's going to try to steal your soul or possess you because that's what floating black sphere thingies do, and when that happens you're going to punch it in the surface area.
But not a moment before that.
Because that's what good guys do. And you're as good as the best of 'em, maybe.
The TV ball stops when you make a veer towards it, like it didn't expect that. You tromp through the leafy bits and put about another TV set between the two of you, but that's all. “How ya doin'?”
The TV ball says nothing. Just bobs there. You get a sense of “I'm confused” out of that—or maybe you're just anthropomorphizing a floating black ball. One or the other, probably.
“Check it,” you say. “There I was, not here, right? Only now I am here, and that's totally not according to plan. You know where I can find a map? Or a telephone?”
“Telephone with a map in it? I'm not picky.”
The floating black sphere thingy stops making like a cork and actually pauses, in midair. Like it's still confused, only it's set on doin' something about that confusion. And then it says:
“I don't know what you're saying at all.”
Only it says that in Japanese.
Because that's the language floating black sphere thingies speak, apparently. Japanese. Not that you can't Japanese—you can Japanese just fine, which might be why whoever hauled ya into this forest hauled you, especially, maybe—but Japanese? Really? It's like—you'da been more ready to go with it if you'd gotten some ununderstandable other-planet dialect, or something. But you got Japanese. And not just Japanese, but Japanese in a little girl's voice.
The good news out of all this is that this means you're either real close to home, or really far away. Or actually that could be bad news too. Huh.
Right. Okay. You can switch it up. “Sorry,” you say, in the same language the floating black sphere thingy spake. “Look, I'm lost, dig? So I'm wonderin' if you've got a map tucked all up in your globe, 'cause that'd be a big help.”
And the floating black sphere thingy just hangs there. Hangs there and hangs there and you're startin' to think you bluescreened it—uh, blackscreened—when it says:
“I still don't know what you're saying at all. You say things weird.”
“Excuse me?” You stick your chin at this Avogadro project wannabe. “You got a lotta business talkin' about 'say things weird' when you don't even have a mouth to you.” For serious.
The floating black sphere thingy goes back to bobbing, though it's faster now. Like it's got a cocktail shaker inside its insides. “That's rude. I do have a mouth. See?”
“All I see is the end of a game of eight-ball, you—spherical spheral sphery spheric spheriform sphere!”
The thing stops in the air again. For a sec you think you've pissed it off.
And then it says, “Sorry. I forgot again.”
And the black bits fade away, leaving right there, floatin' in front of your eyes like the weirdest set of flyin' flies you've ever seen—a little girl with blond hair.
A little girl with blond hair.
Little girl. Blond hair.
“See, I have a mouth,” says the floating blond-haired little girl. She squints, all wobble-like. “Um, can I make it dark again? The light hurts my eyes.”
“Yuss,” you mumble.
“Oh, good,” says the floating blond-haired little girl, and she turns into a floating black sphere thingy again.
Yeah. So. You might be on the line to a neat little freakout someplace in the not-too-distant future. FYI to yourself.
[ ] Need a map. [ ] Need a phone. [ ] Need a roof above your head. [ ]
[x] Need all of the above, but two out of three ain't bad. Or any one even. You're not too picky about which.
No reason not to ask about all of them. Not expecting much from any of these options though.
Phone is probably the dummy option, I don't expect Rumia will be carrying one. Map might get us directions even if we don't get an actual map. Shelter might end up with us bunking with Rumia for the night, if she doesn't try to eat us.
[X] Need all of the above, but two out of three ain't bad. Or any one even. You're not too picky about which.
But hey—if devoing into a gibbering wreck is gonna be a given, you oughta get yourself to a soft place soon. You pull yourself together even while all the bits of you are kinda makin' like Sphere Girl here and floatin' off.
“Okay okay,” you say. “Okay okay okay okay. So you got a mouth. Sorry 'bout that. I'm in a mean kinda jam and I guess I'm takin' it out on you. You think you can help a dude?”
“Bro. Fellow. Guy. Me.” You thump your rib cage so to give the point. “I need to get a map or a phone, pronto. You know a place sportin' those kinda goods?”
The floating black sphere thingy who is also a girl tilts a bit, maybe, or maybe it's not tilting at all. Maybe it's just an impression of tilting, like those walls with the black and white that look like they're trapezoids instead of rectangles so your eyes keep following them down to where they've gotta be stopping except of course they aren't, because whoever they put in charge of interior design was a dick. It's like that now, only with a sphere instead of straight lines, and you keep tryin' to eyeball where it is that the black stops being and starts being not being at all, and you can't.
“Marisa has a map,” the floating black sphere thingy says, and you guess it doesn't care it's got problems with its outline. “I see it through her window, sometimes. She writes on it.”
“Great. Fantastic. So let's jet, dig? You lead the way.”
The floating black sphere thingy doesn't lead the way. The floating black sphere thingy doesn't start to look like it might be leadin' the way anytime soon.
“I don't like Marisa,” the floating black sphere thingy says. “I get blasted and it hurts.”
And you don't totally get what kind of activity “get blasted” has involved with it, but the verb's kinda descriptive on its own, right? This Marisa dude sounds like a real grade A dogbolt. Or grade Z. Whichever it is that means more dogboltness. Dogboltness. Dogboltedness?
“So the map dude's a no go,” you say. “Yeah, alright. Whaddya got in the way of phones?”
The floating black sphere thingy pauses, and again you get that tilty feeling. Then: “Oh!” it says. “I know! Rinnosuke has phones!”
Rinnosuke—that's a Japanese name. “Yeah?”
“Yeah!” Sphere Girl agrees. “I heard him talking about phones, once. I was hiding so he couldn't see me. You can't see me either, right?”
You can add one plus one easy peasy without goin' through the rigamarole of a coupla dead Brit mathmen. “So the black bubble deal's to hide you from pryin' eyes,” you say. “Sounds like a neat trick.”
“It's because I'm the Youkai of Twilight.”
“Uh-huh. So, you mind leadin' me on to this Rinnosuke dude?”
“Sure!” says Sphere Girl. And she pulls a U-turn and clocks herself with the broad side of a tree.
So it turns out Sphere Girl can see out of her eight-ball about as well as you can see in, which is a twisty little way of sayin' she can't. She ends up lowerin' the opacity, but the end result's still kinda neat. It's like she's made of anti-lantern, or something.
She's still floatin', of course, which is still all kindsa freaky—like, sorry, just gonna ignore gravity for a sec here—but you're heading in the right direction so you guess you can stand it for now.
“For now” only lasts till you get to this one building, though, 'cause one look at that thing and you know you've got problems. When Sphere Girl said she'd lead you to some Rinnosuke dude, you expected you'd be outta the woods, not still in it. And this place? It's a Japanese kind of house with a sign in Japanese right over the door, and all kindsa junk heaped out out front, and it's still in the woods, and if there'd been a place this zany-lookin' set up in a forest near you you know you'd've heard of it before. Which means—
Okay, hold on. If you're gonna go nuts, better wait till you get a roof over your head. You do some tappin' on the front door. The door doesn't look Japanese, at least. It looks cottagey. Like something from one of those fairy tale storybooks—Little Red Riding Hood, and stuff like that. Some girl in the woods gets quote unquote help from some hinky style of character, and when she finally ends up someplace she thinks is alright the wolf eats her.
You wonder how hard you can kick a wolf in sneakers. Your mom always griped at you for trackin' dirt into the house—well, who's gripin' now? Sleepin' with shoes on saves lives.
Then Door Number One opens up and it's no car, but it's no wolf, either—just some sleepy-eyed dude with a pair of specs and hair that's snow white, which is a totally different story to begin with. “Welcome,” he mumbles, wipin' as to get the eye boogers outta his face. “Can I help you?”
“Man, let me tell you, you're what they call a sight for sore eyes.” Though thinkin' about it, this dude's probably had more sore eyes than you with the whateversightedness. “Alright lettin' me use your phone? I've gotta do some serious callage.”
And speaking of cars, the dude must still be zonked, the way his eyes keep driftin' all over the place. “Phone?” he mutters.
“Yeah, phone. Dig it—I woke up in a forest, which was some kind of surprise to me, right? So now I'm lookin' for a phone so I can get out of the forest, and this Twilight dude tells me you've got one in stock. So whaddya say, Mac?”
“Twilight? You—you woke up in the forest?”
“Yeah, I woke up in the forest—what'm I, Narcissus? Sheesh—”
And then the dude grabs you by the arm and yanks you into the place, slamming the door behind him.
“The shizz?” you yelp. “Leggo the goods, or I'll make your outsides insides!”
“You aren't aware of the danger you're in—”
“You aren't aware of the danger you'll be in, if you don't desist with the mitts!” You manage to throw the guy's fingers off your shirt and make some distance, quick. “What's your problem, huh?”
The dude looks pissed off that you're pissed off, and that's making you pissed off more. “You're an Outsider, aren't you?” he says. “That's why you didn't understand that girl's nature.”
“Nature? What, you mean—blond? Small? Floaty? The whole black sphere thing?”
“So you saw her fly and utilize her ability, and you didn't find that strange?”
[ ] Fine, let's talk about Sphere Girl. [ ] We're talkin' 'bout phones, right? [ ] Hey, what's with this place? [ ]
Seems like this Ronnie Bookay fellow ain't gonna help us unless we let him exposit some more. Let's put our lengendary listenin' skills to the test! ...Wait, were you saying something Glasses? Sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sound of my internal monologue.
[x] Fine, let's talk about Sphere Girl. -[x] Of course she's weird. Bein' weird don't mean she don't deserve respect and politeness. --[x] Which I used to confuse the fuck out of her, because who the hell asks floaty sphere girls for directions, anyway? ---[x] You're just jealous of my brilliance.
Well, you did, but it's not like you're gonna share that with Grabby McGrabhands here. “Only thing I find strange is the fact you're stuck on nature-nurture-public-freakouts when all I want is a phone call.” You toss a look back at the door, but you don't have X-ray vision. Or something off for X-ray vision to bounce, which is probably also important. “Okay, sure, she's blond, and that's weird, but only 'cause she spake Japanese first so it came outta the opposite direction, you know?”
“In other words, you didn't expect somebody who spoke Japanese to have blond hair.”
“Whoa, Mac, you're real good at repeating what I just said. You practice for that?”
“The unusual hair color is understandable, however, given that youkai's abilities.” And the dude—this Rinnosuke dude—keeps talkin'. “If a rich man is suddenly reduced to pennilessness, his condition will seem harsher that it would have had he been destitute his entire life. Similarly, darkness becomes all the more intense when contrasted against light.”
“Wait, wait,” you say, puttin' your hand in the air in the universal 'wait, wait' gesture. You know it's universal 'cause the dude wait-waits. “Alright, listen, Mac—you lost me. And I don't mean took-the-wrong-turn-followin'-in-the-hedge-maze lost, 'cause that doesn't start to explain the proper lostness I've gotten into here. I mean, unless we're talkin' Kubrick, only that means I'm the alcoholic dad who dies and goes cuckoo. And not even in that order.”
“Yes, there are certainly aspects of that situation that need to be explained.”
“Yeah, you see, right? 'Cause I'm talkin' about blond, and you're talkin' about darkness! Help me out, Mac.”
The Rinnosuke dude sighs, givin' off a Look. You dunno what that Look means, but if there's a kind of look that needs a capital letter to it, this is the one that's it. “Are you familiar with the concept of 'youkai'?” he says.
Funny thing is, you're all set to dispense with the no-way-bucko when something twigs. “Those're those Japanese spooky story monsters, right? Alotta trolls and long necks and that one dude with the eye in his butt. My mom used to tell me about the one dude with the eye in his butt—hey, hold on a tick.” This dude's not sayin' what he's sayin' he's sayin', is he? “You're callin' that girl...”
The dude nods.
“But that's nuts. She's a girl. Or girllike. I mean, she was flyin'. And I guess she had that whole sphere thingy goin' 'round with her—holy shift, she's a youkai?”
The dude nods again.
You still don't have X-ray vision. “Man,” you say. “Man, that's cheatin'. She didn't have horns or a long neck or anything like that. How's a dude supposta tell a youkai's a youkai if it hasn't got horns or a long neck? I mean, I guess she could have an eye in her butt...”
“She does not have an eye in her butt.”
“Yeah, you can say that, but how can you tell? Maybe she's got the whole outfit coverin' up the eyebutt.”
“She does not have an eye in her butt.” Rinnosuke starts makin' with the Look again. “That youkai has the ability to manipulate darkness, and this ability is the source of the mass of darkness surrounding her. That is why I mentioned darkness, and why it makes sense for her to have blond hair.”
“Huh, so that sphere she's got with her—that's darkness?” Man, no wonder you couldn't get a grip on it—it wasn't really a thing you could grip. More like a zone.
But zones are also cool.
“Okay, maybe I'm going cuckoo after all, but I've decided I'm gonna believe ya,” you say. “Still doesn't excuse the whole yanky bit. Can I let in whasserface now?”
“You know, whasserface—the youkai.” Seriously, when're you gettin' X-ray vision? You were born on the wrong planet. “You kind of kept her out while you were lettin' me in. Pullin' me in, actually. Can I let her in or what?”
The dude doesn't say stuff for a while. The dude just keeps on Lookin', and then he thumbs at the bit between his eyebrows. He's got kinda fine eyebrows. “What do you understand about the relationship between human beings and youkai?” he asks.
“What do you know,” Rinnosuke says, “about the way human beings and youkai treat each other?”
You consider the question. “I don't think the one dude with the eye in his butt did a lot more to the other dude than just show him he had the eye in his butt.”
“Other than that one.”
“Oh. Uh, beats me. I mean, I know oni've got the—”
You do some horn-throwin' off your forehead.
“—and I know someone's got the long neck somewhere, but besides that all I can mostly remember is just the one dude—well, you know, right?”
“Yes,” says Rinnosuke. And then he says, “It is in the basest nature of a youkai to attack human beings.”
“And by 'attack', what you're sayin' is...”
“Kill and devour, in Rumia's case.”
You hitch a thumb back where your X-ray vision wasn't. “Rumia?” you say, and when the dude affirms, “She was up for eatin' me? I mean, yeah, I know I said I was gonna believe ya, but—seriously? 'Cause for someone up for eatin' me, she did a whole lot of not eatin' me.”
“When a youkai discovers a lone human in the Forest of Magic, the outcome is swiftly decided, more often than not. I can't imagine why Rumia deviated from her usual behavior...”
“It's because she didn't run away.”
And the voice comes over from a direction that doesn't have a door to it, and you check out the familiar kind of sphere bobbin' up and at ya from the next room.
“People run from me when I see them,” Rumia says, “so I chase them down and eat them. But she didn't run from me, so I couldn't chase her.”
The dude you've been chattin' with looks mega-stressed. “How did you get in?” he asks.
“The window was open.”
Rinnosuke makes a sound like swearin' is something beneath him, only just sorta kinda technically beneath him, and starts stompin' off in a probably windowy direction. He's nearly outta where you're at when he stops, turns, and points.
“No eating the customers,” he says.
Rumia looks at you. “Are you buying something?”
“No eating anybody in this shop.”
And then he's out.
You stand there in the room where Rinnosuke's left you, Rumia doin' her own standin' right next to ya. Now that your danger of bein' strong-armed's gone down—probably—you've got the time for lookin', and this place has definitely got alotta stuff to do that at. There're shelves, and the shelves have stuff on it, but the stuff that's on the shelves doesn't seem to have any kind of system goin' on with it. There's a crowbar over there, but it's right next to a beaten-up toaster, and that's next to a funky-lookin' candelabrum—not to mention all the stuff set up out on the floor where shelf's run out. It's like the dude—Rinnosuke—heard he had company comin' over all of a sudden and had to scramble.
You totally sympathize.
Still, with the stuff on the walls, and the stuff on the floors, the whole place has got a kind of “trash heap” appearance more than—what'd the dude say? “Shop”. And you'd do some bettin' that the room over is just as bad, judgin' by the sounds comin' over—like Rinnosuke's climbin' over the Kangchenjunga of junk. Kangchenjunka? Man, it's not like “junga” means a whole bunch in Tibetan, anyway.
Though the mutterin' sounds Tibetan. But that's probably 'cause you're hearin' it through the junk. And the walls. “Rinnosuke's a high-strung kind of dude,” you observe.
Finally, the dude returns, and the dust in his hair makes you suspect you weren't that off 'bout the Himalaya. You're wonderin' what kind of freaky windows he's got here when he says, “I've brought you a phone.”
Now that's what you're talkin' about it! “Well, c'mon, Mac, whaddya waitin' for?” you say. “Dispense the goods, already!”
And the goods are dispensed.
And the goods, it turns out, are a cracked plastic brick with a knobby antenna and a scratched up screen that probably hasn't lit up since the eighties.
Day whatever and you're startin' to go stir-crazy.
Rinnosuke—Rinnosuke Morichika, 'cause that's his name—is pretty cool in some ways and not so cool in others. Once you carefully explained the unusability of what he was offerin' ya—
“I ask for a phone and you give me a relic from the Precambrian, you spec-eyed sucksack—”
—and it got ultra-clear to the party in need that this place was lackin' in any conveniences—
“—landline, even—you know, plug in one end, dial from the other? This ringin' any Graham Bells?”
—he was enough of a real dude dude to sit down and lay out the whole welcome-to-Gensokyo-oh-by-the-way-there-are-ghoulies-and-ghosties-and-long-leggedy-beasties-here-don't-get-chomped spiel.
You took it pretty well.
“What the fridge is wrong with this place?”
So now you're in Oz, and Dorothy at least got some kinda transition to let her know it was adventure time (even if the dude in charge couldn't tell between tornadoes and cyclones). You? You took a nap, and now you're stuck in a shack with a shopkeeper who's so good at keepin' shop he hasn't given any away since ya got here and a little monster who wouldn't mind crackin' open your cap to fix herself some brain food.
Wait, wait. Better make sure that. “Yo, Rumia.”
Rumia looks up from ponderin' some ribbon-tied box. “Hm?”
“You still wanna eat me?”
Rinnosuke, sittin' over at his desk, slips with the burned-out light bulb he's been investigatin' for the last ten minutes. It bounces off the tail end and he makes a crazy awesome lunge before a problem can happen across the shop floor. Then he does a glare stare at you, like it's your fault he's butterfingers.
Rumia doesn't even notice. “Mm-hmm,” she nods.
“Cool,” you say. Well, not cool. But honest. And that's sorta cool. In that honorable-anti-hero sorta way.
Point is, where you're sittin'? Not so comfy, at the mo.
The savin' grace here is how you're gettin' out. Dorothy had to wade through a whole lotta dumb before they let her back to Kansas—a hundred percent more witch murder and flyin' monkeys than anyone needs, ever—but it looks like escapin' Gensokyo's more like catchin' the right bus. Only this is the weird side of town and they've only got one stop. And when ya went to check out the schedule it just had “whenever we feel like it” scrawled out across the whole thing. Probably also in all caps.
And Rinnosuke jaws and Rumia floats and what you've got outta anything anyone's said is that you're gonna need someone to hold your hand if you wanna get to the bus stop on account of all the here-be-lions in between there and here, and with Rinnosuke he's not offerin' 'cause he's some kinda shut-in, and with Rumia you're not acceptin' because seven steps from the door and she'll see what you're made of.
Dorothy went through a whole host of bullfist, but you guess ya wouldn't mind a coupla Silver Shoes right about now yourself.
Okay, okay, what you're sayin' aside, Rinnosuke's not all bad. You've definitely got ish with the lack of finger-liftin' in gettin' you to point B, but the dude's lettin' you stay at the shop till something pops up, and that's the sorta generosity you've gotta appreciate. Seriously! You don't even hafta do anything for the guy in return. Maybe the dude's a saint behind those antisocial tendencies. They have Japanese saints, right? At least twenty outta twenty-six.
Or maybe the dude just wants company. Doesn't matter—as long as he lays out the sheets and makes with the eats, it's all good.
Well, 'cept for the stir-craziness. That's not so good. “Yo, Mac,” you call out. “You do get visitors here, right?”
“The answer is still the same.” Rinnosuke doesn't even look up this time, and ya can't tell if he's lyin' or what. Other than you and Rumia, this place has been dead.
And then the door flies open and some lady in witch duds comes bustin' in like it's to the sound of uproarin' applause.
“I bet ya missed me, right? 'Cause I haven't been around in a while.” The witch—'cause of course she's a witch—bustles around like she owns the place, parkin' her broom in the corner—'cause of course she's got a broom—and makin' herself comfy in one of the shop seats. In one hand she's holdin' some kinda little vial high up, like she's tense something's gonna jostle it.
More important than that, she doesn't seem to even notice you while she's talkin'. And that's just bruisin'.
“Anyway, I found something nice yesterday and wanted to show you. You could've found it yourself, if you left your shop more often.”
Rinnosuke's got on the pokerest of poker faces. Somehow you're thinkin' this is normal for him. “It has been quieter than usual lately.”
“I know, right?” the witch says. She shows off that vial to Rinnosuke, like—ta-da. “Look at this. You know what this is?”
“It's a vial,” says Rumia.
And maybe the witch really didn't notice you, 'cause she nearly jumps right outta her boots. It's Butterfingers 2: Electric Boogaloo, and you're definitely glad that vial's got a cap to it, 'cause it's gettin' fumbled all over the place.
And then she's pointin' something mystic-lookin' at the both of you and your sixth sense is makin' with the sirens and flashy lights and you're less glad.
[ ] Time to rock her, and not in the good way. [ ] Whoa! Okay, gotta diplomatize. [ ] It's lookin' like a staredown. [ ]
“Hey, looks like ya got yourself an infestation while I was gone!” the witch says. “Want me to take care of it?”
Rumia's duckin' behind you. Rinnosuke's lookin' from you and Rumia to the witch and back again and you've got the feeling he's gonna be no help. Which means it's your load.
So ya beat down that itch you've got under your skin even while that mystic-lookin' something's startin' to glow, and ya tilt your head back and stick out your chin, and whatcha say is this:
“Witchin' headwear, dude.”
And you've gotta have Lady Luck grinnin' over your shoulder, 'cause the light show's suddenly canceled and the witch goes, “Huh?”
“Headwear, dude, headwear.” You do the isosceles over your head. “I dig it. I totally do. I mean, you've got some serious witch legitness goin' on over there. Can I see?”
“Huh?” the witch says again. And then she says, “You want to look at my hat?” She's reachin' up to it as she talks, which is cool, 'cause that's includin' with the hand that's got the mystic thing in it.
“Yeah, dude, your hat! That's like the witchiest hat I've spied, and I get an eyeful every October, y'know? C'mon, I wanna look. Please?”
Even with her footing half defooted, this witch person still somehow manages to look like she's preenin' or something. Or half preenin'. She's preenin' with the half that's not on her foot. Or maybe the half that's not on her foot's just not on her foot and the other half that's on her foot is still on her foot but just preenin' now. “Well, okay,” she says, as ya get closer in a totally unsuspicious casual way. “It is a pretty good hat.”
“It's not a good hat, it's an awesome hat. It's paragonin' hattiness. No, don't take it off, dude—there's no point checkin' out a hat without a head under it. Whoa, what's this made of, felt?”
“Felt? Naw, it's wool. You can feel it, right? Made it myself—”
And that's when ya yank the brim straight down her face and kick out her ankle while she's busy squawkin' 'bout it. “Jet, Rumia, the window!”
“Okay,” says Rumia, and you've never seen someone hightail it lookin' so relaxed, but seriously, she does it.
You figure her for way gone by the time the witch even starts startin' to pick up herself. “You—what was that?” she yelps, and you've gotta wonder if ya went too far safeguardin' someone who wanted to eat your legs. You look at Rinnosuke, hopin' for some sign of the mood or something, but he's just frozen stiff at his desk like he just found out someone filled the room with tiny razor-sharp needles, so he's still no help.
You're just gonna keep on speedin' four bells toward that wall, then. “It's a distraction,” you say at the witch, and ya grin your grinniest grin.
“A distraction, huh?” Marisa's good at grinnin', too, 'specially once she's got that mystic something pointed the right way again. Or the wrong way, prolly. “Got any more?”
“Not so much,” you admit. You put up your dukes—
“No fighting in the shop.”
You put down your dukes, but not before the witch puts down her mystic something. Too bad. Though maybe there's a part of you that's actually kinda grateful Rinnosuke shut it down before you got to the actual fighty bits. You don't know what that something that witch's got is, but your head's got a bright idea about standin' on one side of it and not the other.
The witch just looks straight up bummed out at the bout gettin' called off, though. Like she really did wanna show you the light. She settles back to her seat and sighs, and then just sorta half-glare stares at you from somewhere off her eyemiddles. “So who are you, huh?” she says.
Witch. “Chris Christoferson,” ya say. “But don't call me C.C., or we're gonna have words. You?”
“Kirisame Marisa. Just an ordinary magician.”
Marisa? Oh, man, Rumia was right. This dude's totally a dogbolt.
“I didn't expect to see someone else at the shop, though,” Kirisame Marisa says. Marisa Kirisame. One of those. “There's not a lot of humans with the guys to go this far into the forest. Did ya really need to buy something?”
“Christoferson is a guest from the Outside World,” says Rinnosuke. You guess he's guessin' it's safe to speak up now that no one's gettin' blasted. “Actually, Marisa, you might be able to help her. It seems she managed to pass through the Barrier somehow, and now she's eager to return home. Would you take her to the shrine? I'd go myself, but...”
“But you don't want to, right? Man, Rinnosuke, you're real heartless. What were you going to do if Reimu or I never stopped by?”
“Impossible. The two of you are always bothering me.”
“Yeah, that's true, isn't it. Okay, sure, I'll take her over—”
And you're kinda lost between the banter but the you're-goin'-home gist is clear enough—
“—but first there's something I want to show you, remember? I found this box out in the forest, and it had a lot of neat stuff in it—” Marisa starts suddenly lookin' worried. “Uh-oh.”
“'Uh-oh'?” And now Rinnosuke's lookin' worried too. Is this one of those demolitions-expert-haulin'-full-speed things?
“That vial—I dropped it, when I got kicked—”
Marisa's outta her seat and searchin' with a whole lotta intent before you can figure if that's jerkiness or not. Like serious, hands-and-knees intent. Peerin' under the furniture and everything. Rinnosuke even cranes his head up and over to help out, if ya can call that “helpin'”.
You're definitely not helpin', though. No way you're providin' the assist when the dude you're supposta be assistin' was pushin' some mystic something screamin' danger atcha just seconds ago. In fact, you're gonna do the opposite of helpin', which is puttin' your seat on a seat and sittin'. In the same place she was sittin', even, for max irony.
So you sit.
And when you sit there's this little sorta clink or clunk on the back of your sneakers, and that figures, right? Even when you don't wanna find the thing, you find the thing.
[ ] Alert witch to vialness. [ ] What vial? [ ] Yoink! [ ]
It's not worth the trouble. Who knows what that vial might do if left alone too long. It would be terrible if had fumes that turned people into frogs or something. Then we'd have to worry about our legs being eaten by frenchmen!
Looks like you're stuck playin' the better man. Woman. Dude. “Yo, Marisa,” you say.
Marisa's eyeball-deep into the ground floor of one of Rinnosuke's junk towers, and all you can think is that you're waitin' for a tragedy. You're talkin' 601 Lexington here. “Yeah?” she says, sort of not-therely, like she's not really listenin'.
“Is this the thing?”
Now she's listenin'. And prancin' 'cross the place to snatch the thing from where your fingers've got it. You can see her all ultra-relieved when she sees it's still got the cap on. Actually, you're kinda surprised, too. That rubber's got a death grip.
“Yeah,” she says. “Yeah! This is it. See, this is what I wanted to show you. You know what this is?” And she's shovin' the thing at Rinnosuke's face again.
Rinnosuke's not so eager on that. “It's a vial,” he says.
“It's not just a vial. I told ya I found a box in the forest, right?” Shove. “I couldn't understand the words but there were pictures, so that's good enough. This is gonna be a homunculus!”
And it's one of those silences.
You don't like those silences. “Homunculus,” you say. “Like a little dude?”
Now it's you gettin' a tube at the face. “Exactly!” Marisa says. “I couldn't understand the instructions, but like I said, there were pictures. Molds, too, like if ya wanted your homunculus a certain shape, but I didn't like any of them so I worked it out myself with some stuff I had lying around. So when I pour this out it should just turn into a little guy on its own—great, right?”
A month ago you'da bet on nuts but then it turned out magic was a thing. Still, something's real hinky 'bout this, like how the stuff in the vial looks more like the bottom of a cherry slushie than anything to make a dude from.
“Yeah,” you say anyways. “Cool.”
Marisa grins. Guess she thinks you're with her, alchemywise.
And then she pops the cap and pours the whole mess on the floor.
Rinnosuke makes a whole host of sounds. “Marisa!”
“Don't worry, don't worry. If there's a mess, I'll just have my homunculus clean it up.”
“Your homunculus is the mess.”
“I said don't worry! Any second now this stuff is going to become a homunculus. You'll see.” Marisa leans over, lookin' over her sludge, and waits.
“How long's it supposta take?” you ask.
Marisa shrugs. “Don't know. Could be a while.”
“There. Was that movin'?”
“Naw, I was breathing on it.”
Rinnosuke sighs. “I'm going to get a cloth,” he says, and makes for the next room.
Marisa looks over to where he's goin', then back at the sludge.
“There's still time.”
“Sure,” you say. And 'cause you're nice, or maybe 'cause you're mean, you're all: “I think it's gettin' bigger.”
“Hey.” Marisa's mug goes TV-glare bright. “Hey, yeah! It is getting bigger! This is way better than any shikigami!”
Shikiwhat now? You don't get to ask. You're aimin' to ask, but then the red mess surges like the world's smallest tsunami sloppin' at Marisa's kicks and her steppin' back makes ya think of steppin' back too. 'Cause it is gettin' bigger, this stuff Marisa spilled. Like it was waitin' on your cue or something. It's gettin' bigger and it's movin'.
Magic, man. Magic.
Wait—does alchemy count as magic?
“So, how big's this thing gonna get?” you ask.
“How big's it gonna get—before it turns into a dude?”
By the time Rinnosuke gets back with the stuff the thing is still not a dude. It is also makin' with the exponents, whichever exponents it is that mean waist-high and takin' up the entire other side of the room from where you and Marisa are campin' out. Rinnosuke takes a good hard look at Marisa's Adam, then at the two of you hidin' behind his desk, then makes a face so despairin' ya just feel kinda bad.
“Oh, hey, Rinnosuke.” Marisa's still smilin'. Not as bright, though. “I think I might've got the stoichiometry wrong, just a little. Nothing to worry about, right?”
“You're gonna need a bigger rag,” you say.
Rinnosuke looks at his cloth, like he's gotta make sure. Yeah, but seriously, that scrap he's got could maybe cover up one of the zits that keep on burblin' and poppin' over the thing's not-skin. Not-skin, 'cause it's red sludge through and through, and it smells foul.
“Marisa,” Rinnosuke says, like he's drivin' a plane and the wheel just broke off in his hands, “Please remove your homunculus from the shop. It's making a mess.”
“It's not making a mess. I mean, yeah, it's big, but it's not really messy.”
There's a sound kinda like a slime monster upendin' a shelf. It's a long sound, startin' out with crash-smash-shatter and diminuendoin' down to clink.
Ya take a quick look-see. “Your toaster's toast—Marisa, do something!”
“Okay, so it's a little messy,” Marisa mutters, fumblin' 'round her pockets.
Doesn't take a whole lotta brain cells to guess what she's fishin' for.
[ ] Go for it, Marisa! Blast the sucker! [ ] It's your creation, Marisa! Command it! [ ] Screw it all, Christie! Time to jet! [ ]
[x] It's your creation, Marisa! Command it! Many years of RPG experience has taught me that direct application of magical energy to a slime will either not do anything or, worse, feed it and make it grow faster.
Marisa stops fumblin', but only 'cause she's busy lookin' atcha like you grew an extra set of ears, which is prolly a nice trick now that ya think about it. “Yeah,” she says. “Ya got any better ideas?”
“I dunno. It's your slime thing, right? I mean, you made it. Maybe it'll listen to you.” Actually you're not sure that counts as a better idea, but it's too late for takebacks, 'cause Marisa's considerin' it.
And then she stands up. Outta cover.
“Hey! Listen to me! You, slimy thing—listen!”
She's nuts, you're thinkin'. But then it turns out the world's nuts, too, 'cause the slime monster stops burblin' and listens. It even raises a pseudopodiumy thing outta itself, like a gopher stickin' its head out a hole.
Marisa glances at you, lookin' way pleased, then gets back to shoutin'.
“My name is Marisa Kirisame—and I am your creator!” And she's hammin' it up here, like she's readin' off the Decalogue or something. “It is through my effort that you exist. It is through my will that you live! So now, I command you—cease troubling this shop, and its inhabitants! Know your rightful place, as a servant before its master—”
And that's when the pseudopodiumy thing zooms forth, yoinks Marisa's hat, and unzooms back over there again.
“My hat!” says Marisa.
“Nice speech,” you say.
“It took my hat!”
“I think ya flubbed at that 'servant' part, though.”
“It took my hat!”
“It took my toaster,” Rinnosuke says.
“No one wants to be a servant. It's degradin'.”
“That's it!” And Marisa's pointin' that mystic something again, which means it's back to plan A. “I should've done this first, anyway—Love Sign—”
A second pseudopodiumy thing zooms forth outta the slime and whacks Marisa across the hand like it caught her tryin' to sneak a pre-dinner chocolate chip.
The mystic something goes skitterin' down the shop floor.
“Huh,” says Marisa.
And a third pseudopodiumy thing does some twistin' 'round Marisa's wrist—still stuck out in that I'm-gonna-blast-ya motion—and yanks.
Marisa disappears yelpin' over the side of the desk.
That gets Rinnosuke into action. The dude vaults over the desk, shoutin' Marisa's name, and somehow manages to grab on the arm the slime monster hasn't got without gettin' got himself. It stops Marisa from goin' farther, but not a lot more than that, and there's still a whole buncha things whippin' about the place. Looks like it's up to you to play tiebreaker.
Though you're kinda drawin' a blank on how to do anything here. Fightin' slime monsters isn't in your resume. “Hey, Mac—got a fire extinguisher?”
“Fire extinguisher! Y'know, CO2—” Something red and twistin' takes a go at Rinnosuke's leg, and ya decide to cancel the chem lesson. “Okay, what about flamethrowers? Got any flamethrowers?”
“Okay, no flamethrowers—”
“The Mini-Hakkero! Get the Mini-Hakkero!” That's Marisa, havin' a bad time learnin' 'bout taffy and the makin' of. She's dispensin' instructions, and they sound mega-important, but you don't get 'em at all.
“What's a Mini-Hakkero?”
“The thing I dropped!”
And that makes alotta sense, actually, 'cause how're gonna fight magic 'cept with magic?
The mystic something—Mini-Hakkero, she calls it, like you know regular hakkero—is just lyin' there past the desk. You grab it, thinkin' you're gonna get a whip snap 'cross the wrist like the first time anyone tried this, but it looks like all the monster parts are too busy tryin' to get Marisa totally et to figure you out. Rinnosuke's lost a shoe. You dunno how that happened.
But who cares, right? You got that Mini-Hakkero snatched, which means it's your turn to be on the right side of this magic stuff. “Yo, Big Red!” you shout, standin' outta cover yourself.
The action stops. You've got all eyes in the room on ya, plus the eyes the slime monster hasn't got.
You grin, and brace for awesome.
And all of a sudden it occurs to ya that there's no button on this Mini-Hakkero thing. Or trigger. Or anything else obvs screamin' fiddle-with-this-to-make-with-the-blastin'-already.
Also, that slime monster? Still slimin'.
Ya duck, which actually works out for ya 'cause ya don't actually have a hat. Beyond ya, there's a splortch.
“Marisa!” you shout, “Where's the on button?”
“I wanna make it boom! How do I make it boom?”
Marisa's givin' ya her own cover of the Look, which is impressive considerin' she's gettin' straight up Armstronged. “You've got to say a spell,” she says.
No dice. The next splortch not takin' your head off doesn't take it by a little less. You make yourself real small on your side of the desk, eyin' those stuck pseudopodiumy things. “Marisa—”
“Ya can't just use any words!” says Marisa's voice. “They have to mean something!”
“'Walla Walla' means something!”
“It has to mean something to you! Try Latin!”
“Latin! Everything sounds powerful in Latin!”
So just soundin' powerful makes a diff? This magic stuff. “Fuego!”
“That's not Latin!”
“I never learned Latin! Nobody learns Latin anymore! It's a dead language—” Behind you, there's a sound like someone peelin' their lips off a water bottle, or maybe something getting unstuck off a wall. You squeeze your eyes.
“Omnibus!” you shout. “Pax Romana! Ipso facto! Caveat emptor!”
There's a light, way too bright, way too cold. It smells like oil and old wood, or maybe that's something else smellin' like oil and old wood—you dunno, 'cause all ya do know is the light, shinin' through your eyelids, even. Shinin' through your head. Fillin' ya with some kinda mood like bein' at the top of the heap and knowin' it.
And then that fades off into wait-a-tick-what-the-hertz-just-happened, 'cause seriously, wait a tick, what the hertz just happened, and relatin' to that—how're you not slimed yet?
You open your eyes.
“Ugh,” Marisa mutters. She's on the floor, sittin' with her limbs out from everything, like how a zombie would sit if zombies sat, or were zombies. You're totally not blamin' her, though, seein' as she's been redded. Like, redded completely. Like someone found a river of red and made her a cherry Achilles, only with the state of her kicks you're thinkin' they got her feet alright.
And Rinnosuke's not a lot better. He's standin', at least, but he's just as redded as Marisa is. More redded, actually, 'cause he's got more outsides to red. Dude looks like he wanted to get into telepompin' and forgot he had a thing of gummy bears in with him.
'Cause the slime monster? The slime monster's everywhere, now, and now not so much the monster bit.
Rinnosuke tries wipin' his specs, only he's just wipin' off slime with more slime and that's just double slime. He ends up takin' 'em off and makes like maybe he's wishin' he hadn't. “My shop,” he moans.
'Cause that's redded too. “Say, Mac,” says you, “did I do this?”
And it's a totally cromulent question even though you're standin' in the middle of the only not-slime that's in the place because seriously, you dunno how that's supposta happen, but Rinnosuke gives ya the glare stare anyways and that's totally not cool.
“Okay, I know what I did wrong,” says Marisa, makin' a whole lotta squelchin' as she picks up herself. She flings a thing of stuff off her hand and it glorps into another thing of stuff that's there already. “I must've put in too much of that horse stuff.”
“Horse stuff?” you say.
“Horse stuff,” says Marisa. “I wanted my homunculus to get strong, so I figured I'd add more of it. I was supposed to add that stuff to start with...” She does some trailin' off, smilin' weird, like she's almost kinda proud of what happened. Funny thing is, ya think ya get it. It's like—science, right?
Rinnosuke's not so smiley, though. He's stumblin' 'round with the gunk finally off his specs lookin' like he knew Edvard Munch. It's a seriously reasonable kinda pain. That fan heater wasn't gonna rise again, but now with all the slime in its guts it's definitely not gonna rise again. Bummer.
“Yeah,” says Marisa, still not sensin' the despair at all. “I'll get it next time. Where's my hat?”
“Toaster's wearin' it,” you say.
The hat's as redded as Marisa is, but she grabs it and puts it on anyways, still smilin' with all that stuff slimin' down. Rinnosuke hugs up the toaster the sec it's unhatted, lookin' down at it like the weirdest version of Pietà ever.
“And my Mini-Hakkero?” says Marisa.
Right, right—that mystic something. You dispense that real careful.
Magic's crazy. You're decidin' that right now. A gun's got all those movin' bits to it, so it feels almost kinda right the idea of havin' it go boom. This thing? It's just a thing. Like you'd put on top of a buncha real important papers or something. And it made this whole place look a lot like a jelly donut's insides.
It's cool. It's totally cool. But ya dunno if ya like it.
“You did pretty good,” Marisa says to you, shovin' the thing back in her duds. “I thought you were a regular Outsider—you're not a magician or something, are ya?”
What, for serious? “No way, dude. I didn't even know magic was a thing before I took the wrong kinda zed. Why?”
“Well, it wasn't real strong, and it definitely wasn't elegant, but what ya did—I didn't expect that out of someone using magic for the first time. Man, you made a mess.”
“And who's going to clean it up?”
Rinnosuke's got that toaster underarm. He's also not weepin' anymore, which you can see fine from the way he's got his face aimed at the two of you. He's also also askin' something important. Like, super-important. Ultra-important. You look at Marisa.
Marisa looks at you.
Then Marisa goes, “Uh,” and jets.
“Sorry, Rinnosuke, real important stuff to do.” Marisa snatches up her broom, which is still there somehow. Red and slimed, but still there. “Don't worry, this stuff's not dangerous or anything. I mean, I'm pretty sure you can eat it.”
“Then it belongs on a plate, not on my walls!”
“Sure, or a bowl,” Marisa says, smilin' and noddin' like that can't be wrong, and then she's outta there while Rinnosuke's tryin' to find his tongue. You do some watchin' as the dude gets to the end of Kübler-Ross, settin' his dead toaster down and to the side. And then he takes out that cloth, from back earlier.
Slimed, of course.
“Yeah, that's not gonna work,” you say. Rinnosuke kinda jolts a little, like he didn't think you were gonna be there, which is weird 'cause where else are ya gonna be? “Ya got a mop or something? Broom?”
“In the other room, but I don't want to track—” The dude stops talkin', and then he starts talkin' again. “You don't have to clean this up,” he says, sorta slow. “This isn't your responsibility.”
You snort. “It's totally my responsibility. I'm the dude that blew it up, right? That means not pitchin' in would be a mega-douche thing to do. What about buckets? Ya got buckets?”
Rinnosuke doesn't say he's got buckets, but he doesn't say he hasn't got buckets, either. He just stands there, that cloth balled up in his hand, starin'. Starin' at you, to be specific. It's a real funny kinda look he's got, too—like maybe ya grew a second head in the last five seconds or something.
You don't think ya actually grew a second head in the last five seconds, but there's alotta stuff here you didn't think was stuff. You're gonna hafta double-check later.
Right now, though, Rinnosuke's still makin' with the funny eyes, and it's startin' to alarm. “Yo—Mac. You all good in there?” you ask.
Rinnosuke snaps out of it. He's still starin', but his eyes stop goin' through you. “'In there'?”
“In your head, y'know?” You tap yours, illustratin'. “You don't look like you're gonna fall down, but if you're gonna fall down, there's chairs here. I can getcha a chair, if you're gonna fall down. You fall down and there's no chair, you could bust yourself landin'.”
'Cause everyone thinks that chairs are just for sittin' on, but you know what's what. Cases like this, chairs save lives.
But Rinnosuke's shakin' no. “My head is fine,” he says. And then he says, “Weren't you going to go with Marisa?”
And that's a real thought opener, right? 'The thing about Rinnosuke's pad is'. Even in your own noggin, it sounds like you're makin' to gripe. Truth is, though, it's a pretty nice place the dude's got set up here. Yeah, it's kinda airy, but that prolly comes in handy when summertime rolls 'round. And no beds, but you're pretty sure you're supposta sleep on the floor in the first place, 'cause Japan. And okay, maybe there's not a lot in the way of livin' space—
Well, actually, it's that last one that's causin' trouble at the mo, and it isn't even 'cause of the slime (you and Rinnosuke cleaned the last of that stuff days ago, so you're done worryin' 'bout puttin' your hand on the wall and gettin' it back all red). Thing is—small spaces means build-up. Means accumulation. Of what?
Dust. Junk. Moods.
And that's why you're standin' here, you givin' Rinnosuke the glare stare for once, and if the dude doesn't stop fidgetin' and mutterin' anytime soon you're gonna start considerin' windpipe sproinginess.
“Alright, check it out, Mac—we're both adults here, dig? At least, I figured we were till you went five kindsa nuts at a reasonable suggestion.”
“Look, I'm not sayin' it's not awkward. 'Cause—it is. It's totally awkward. Like enjoy-the-movie-you-too awkward, even. But there's awkward, and then there's bitin' the bullet, and this is a bitin'-the-bullet sitch we've got here. See?
“It's not like there haven't been choices, either. I mean, ya coulda stepped out anytime and gotten something. Anything, even. Okay, not anything, 'cause I've got standards, but I woulda been appreciatin' the circumstances, y'know? But you were all—'No good, I'm a shut-in.' And I'm fine with that. No, seriously, I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with is stickin' with the same duds—literally stickin', here—and feelin' 'em gettin' grodier and grodier every day against my skin. Ya got that? Say 'yes' if ya got that.”
And he's gotta be a fan of electric light orchestras 'cause he's not sayin' anything.
Time for the big guns.
“Don't get me wrong, Mac,” you say, “you're lettin' me hang at your pad till this mess gets hammered out, and I'm real thankful for that. But if ya don't lend me your robe right now, I'm gonna be doin' my laundry nude, so if I was you I'd be givin' the option some serious consideration—”
Rinnosuke makes a sound like ya really did go for his neck and tromps outta the place quick. He gives ya his robe in between, though, so you're chalkin' that in under “win”. Plus, he's already left, so ya don't hafta worry about makin' the change—the duds come off, the robe goes on, and the washtub gets full.
Well, fuller, now.
'Cause water and clothes.
'Course, now the problem's that you've got no idea what step two is in this whole business. You put the duds in the water, sure, and later you're supposta take 'em out again, but between here and there you're kinda drawin' a blank. Fact is, you've never had to hand wash stuff before. You've had machines. You've always had machines. For you, cleanin' your duds has always been a matter of haulin' 'em in, addin' detergent, spinnin' a dial, and waitin' for the buzz 'cause the buzz means it's dryer time and you don't want your stuff sittin' 'round wet.
[ ] Call out to Rinnosuke. [ ] You can work this out. [ ] Find Rinnosuke direct. [ ]
Okay, no problem. Well, some problem, but not as much problem as it could be. Yeah, it's here-be-lions again, but this time the lions are a lot more metaphorical so you're a lot less likely to get chomped, and anything with less chompin' is cool by you. Dudes were undirtyin' duds ages before wash cycles were a thing, right? You oughta be able to work this out.
Though you've gotta admit—ya 'spect there's more to this laundry thing than just givin' the duds a bath. You lift your shirt outta the tub, givin' it a good eyeful. Yeah, it's wet—natch—and there's suds on it, but ya kinda don't think that's all you've gotta do to pass for clean, even 'round here.
Maybe you've gotta do the spinnin' and rockin' yourself? You hope not.
Or maybe you've just gotta let the duds sit for a while. That was a thing, right? You're sure that was a thing that happened—like ninety-five percent sure. Ya put the duds in the wash and for a while that rockin' would stop and the stuff would just sit. Sit and soak.
You can do soak.
Ya put the shirt back in the place and do the thing. Or the not-thing. 'Cause what you're doin' is lettin' soak happen and maybe you've hecked it up already but ya don't think you've actually gotta do stuff for that to work. 'Cause soak.
Course, there's a problem with soak and the problem is this—you dunno how long soak's supposta go on. The machines know, back home, but you don't. Which means you're gonna be sittin' here, starin' at this tub, hopin' ya can figure out soon how you're supposta eyeball the diff between soak and unsoak.
You're not lookin' forward to that. Ya shoulda asked Rinnosuke for a deck of cards. Anything to distract ya.
And then a little girl falls in through the window.
Yeah. That just happened. That totally just happened. “Yo,” you say, 'cept cautiously, 'cause any dude who thinks a window's a cromulent entry point prolly has something real hinky goin' on in their head, “you alright?”
The little girl jumps to her feet. She's decked in blue, got wings—'cause of course she's got wings—and looks straight up PO'd. “Course I'm alright!” she snaps, brushin' off her dress. “Ya think a measly fall like that's gonna hurt me?”
“It could. Sometimes dudes fall on their ankles funny, and the next thing ya know? Amputation.” Ya take another look-see at those wings. Well, you're callin' 'em wings, but that's just 'cause they're attached to the kid's back. If you're gonna be honest, they don't look like wings at all. They look like...
They look like spiky crystally back things, that's what they look like.
“What'd you land on, again?” ya say.
The girl scowls. “Not my ankles,” she says. “And even if I'd landed on my ankles it wouldn't've hurt me. I'm too strong to get hurt by just falling!” She underlines that last part with a hand-on-hips pose that kinda totally fails to defeat the impression that even bad vibes would send her topplin' like a stone Lenin.
Then again, ya thought the same of Blondie, didncha? And this one's got wings. Not-wings. Spiky crystally back things. “So what're you, anyways?” you ask. “Another kinda youkai?”
Whoa. Double dose of POage. “I'm not a youkai! I'm a fairy.”
“What's the diff?”
“Fairies are stronger. I'm stronger.”
And you've got no clue 'bout the trueness of that. “Okay, so what's up with the window routine?” ya ask. “Ya followin' someone's hairstyle? 'Cause I hate to be the bad news bearer, but I'm kinda the anti-Rapunzel here. Though that means you're not gettin' your eyes gouged, so, y'know, hooray to that, right?”
“What's a Rapunzel?”
“I'm not Rapunzel.”
“Well, I'm not lookin' for Rapunzel. I'm lookin' for...” The kid up screws her face. “I forget her name, but she's a bully. She sent my friend packin', just 'cause she could.”
“Huh. Sounds like a real douche, this dude.” Or a dogbolt.
“Yeah!” says the kid. “Whatever that means. But humans are always like that—thinkin' they can do anything just 'cause they're bigger.” She lifts her chin like some kinda fairy Nemesis. “Well, it doesn't matter how big they are, 'cause I'm stronger!”
[ ] Follow the fairy. [ ] Cheer her on. [ ] Can't do much without pants. [ ]
And that's a 'tude you can get down with. “Dude!” ya say. “Respect knuckles.”
Blue Fairy doesn't respect knuckles. Blue Fairy checks out your fist like it's still slimed from the cleanin'—nose-wrinkles and everything. “What?”
“Respect knuckles,” ya say. “See—put your fist like this.”
Blue Fairy puts her fist like that. Ya respect knuckles it.
“Boom! Respect knuckles.”
Only all that does is get Blue Fairy checkin' out her own fist now, like she's got thoughts—serious thoughts—'bout passive contamination. “I don't get it,” she says.
“Y'know, respect knuckles!” ya say—and then a creepin' horror starts doin' the creepy bit up your spine. “Wait, wait a tick—respect knuckles are a thing here, right? Are respect knuckles not a thing here?”
Blue Fairy shakes her head no.
“Aw, man. Yeah, course this place doesn't have 'em. They don't have dryers—why would they have respect knuckles? Aw, man.” You shake your head, too, but it's a disbeliefy shake, not a no shake. “You're missin' out, Blue Fairy.”
And whaddya get outta your heartfelt sympathy? You get a snort. “Sounds dumb,” Blue Fairy says. “How're knuckles supposta be respectful, anyways? Ya use 'em for punchin'. And keepin' your fingers attached.”
“Okay, yo. First of all, check yourself. Second of all—gimme your fist again.”
Blue Fairy gives ya her fist again. Ya respect knuckles it.
“Boom! Get it?” ya say, while she's lookin' atcha like she's wonderin' if she's still got her wallet. “I did that. And me doin' that, that means respect. It means what ya said before, I dig it. I'm down with it. Viva la revolución—see?
“Not really,” says Blue Fairy. “But I think you're sayin'—that you respect me?”
“Yeah, now ya got it! Respect knuckles!”
This time Blue Fairy actually does her part. She's kinda flighty 'bout the whole thing, but she knuckles your knuckles with her knuckles, and that's what counts.
“Boom?” she tries out.
“Boom,” ya agree.
And Blue Fairy actually kinda sorta carefully smiles. Neat.
“So,” ya say, “what's the plan with this bully biz? Ambush? Frontal assault?”
Whoa. Wrong thing to say, 'cause the kid debrightens again awful quick. She makes another not-so-happy noise. “If it was just attackin' left, I'd be done already. 'Cept I dunno who she is. That's why I'm here,” she says.
And then she looks ya up and down. It's not alotta up-and-downage, 'cause you're sittin', but it's still up-and-downage.
“Hey,” she says, “ya said ya respect me, right?”
“Uh, yeah, sure?”
“So if I ask ya to help me out, you'll do that, right? 'Cause ya respect me.”
Ha ha, she's kiddin', right? There's a way big diff between respectin' what a dude's up to and bein' their apostle. 'Sides, ya don't have the time to play Kimball to this kid's Brown, not when you've gotta sit here and make sure your duds are soakin' right. 'Cause that's something that requires supervision, soakin'. Can't be done on its own.
Gotta keep on eye on it.
For whatever long it takes.
Without the benefit of heckin' solitaire to save ya.
“Sure.” ya say, crackin' your knees on the way up. “Why not? Lead on, Macduff.”
Blue Fairy frowns. “My name's not Macduff. It's Cirno.”
“Yeah, well, it's not 'lead on', either. So what's the first stop?”
“Um...oh, right! I toldja I dunno who the bully is, right?”
She did that. She did do that. She did do the thing she's sayin' she did. “Uh-huh,” ya say.
“Well, I dunno who the bully is—but I do know that the shopkeeper knows! That's why I'm here. I've gotta interrogate him, and then I'll be all set!”
It's pretty clear that Cirno's going to play the bad cop, and since we're sorta friendly with Rinnosuke, we should play the good cop. I'm awfully tempted by that bro cop option though.
Am I the only one who thinks that Cirno might have run into Rumia, misinterpreted what happened and is here for us? It's possible she's after Marisa instead, but I've had a bad feeling ever since Cirno first appeared.
Ya nod. “Sounds like a plan—gonna hafta work 'round the home advantage, though.” And ya dunno if home advantage's a thing here when there's one home so ya blast on quick. “Hey, check this out, 'kay? There's this trick...”
Rinnosuke's reaction to seein' Cirno stridin' in isn't so reactiony, even though you'd 'spect it to be seein' as the kid made it in without usin' the front door somehow. The dude just takes it in, peerin' over whatever tome he's sniffin', and ya see something settle over between his eyes and his hairline, but that's it. It's an oh-it's-you lowercase look, if you've gotta guess, which kinda makes ya wonder if she-came-in-through-the-laundry-room-window isn't just a matter of course here.
So the amazin' appearin' Cirno—nothing to say 'bout that, in short. Which is cool, 'cause it's Cirno's turn for talkin'.
“Alright. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
Rinnosuke, maybe sensin' the serious seriousness of this situation, slowly down puts his book. He's lookin' at the kid like he was lookin' at you a while back, which is to say like she's got a second head now. Only she's not got a second head now, at least not a second head ya can see, so it's prolly not that and prolly more that Cirno's gone suddenly all growly.
That's you. You told 'er to do the growliness. Actually, ya told 'er to do snarliness, but snarliness takes serious prep time so growliness' the best she's gotta go with under the circumstances. Still pretty ace growliness, though. Now Rinnosuke oughta be alarmed and/or apprehensive.
“What?” says Rinnosuke.
“Hard way it is!” says Cirno, and yanks Rinnosuke's neckline 'cross the desk at her, takin' Rinnosuke with it. Guess she really is that strong. “Where is she?”
“Where is who?” Rinnosuke sqauwks.
Cirno rolls her eyes so hard she's gotta be seein' the insides of her skull. “Don't play games with me,” she says. “Where is she?”
“Where is who?”
“Say 'where is who' again. I dare ya, say 'where is who' again, I'll show ya what happens. Where is she?”
“I don't know who you mean!”
Cirno makes another yank at Rinnosuke's duds hard, sendin' the dude and his knick-knacks spawlin' 'cross his knick-knacks and the floor, respectively. It also causes a whole lotta more squawkin', which sounds like maybe your cue to come jettin' in there and pull 'er off.
So ya do.
“Whaddya doin'? Ya can't manhandle a dude! It's not cromulent.” Ya finally separate the two of 'em, which is kinda tough considerin' you're not tryin' very hard.
“Lemme at 'im! He knows something! I can make 'im talk!”
“He can't talk if he's missin' teeth, dude. I'll handle this.” Ya turn to Rinnosuke, who's straightenin' his robe. It's another kind of the one he gave ya, right down to the hem stitchin', and sittin' and standin' 'cross each other the two of you look like a coupla fods back from a bad trip 'bout to have a serious talk 'bout where this relationship is goin'. “Look, sorry 'bout my partner,” ya say. “She's under alotta pressure lately—you know how it goes, right?”
Rinnosuke doesn't know how it goes. “Partner?” he says, not-focusin' on your face and instead-focusin' on Cirno huffin' mad behind ya. Ya knock on his desk to ground 'im before he starts driftin' off into the aurorae.
“Eyes on me, Mac. We're actually not talkin' 'bout my partner right now, we're talkin' 'bout you. And you're a busy dude, right?” That's rhetorical, to keep 'im on his toes. Even if he's sittin'. “Sure, you're a busy dude, I'm a busy dude, and I know ya don't like me puttin' the spotlight on ya any more than I like bein' the dude doin' it. So let me tell ya what—you straighten up and fly right, and we'll be outta your mug like yesterday's coffee. All you hafta do here is lay it out for us—dig? Now, where is she?”
This time Rinnosuke's dividin' the focus between you and Cirno, which is a step. Then he says, “What's a spotlight?”
“Okay, one, the spotlight's metaphorical, and two, that's totally the wrong answer here.” Ya plant your hands on the desk. “Try again, Mac.”
“I already said that I don't know who 'she' is. What are the you doing? No, a better question—since when did Cirno become your partner?”
“Alright, that's it! Move over.” Cirno stomps up to bat, rollin' up her sleeves, which kinda looks more silly than it oughta considerin' the dress already has short sleeves to it. “Ya tried to play nice, and I letcha play nice, but now this guy's just abusin' it. It's my turn.”
“What? Hey, c'mon, dude. Ya can't just—hey, hey, maybe he doesn't know. That's possible, right? Loadsa things're possible.”
“Are ya kiddin' me? Of course he knows!”
“I know, I know, I know he knows, and you know he knows, but maybe he doesn't know he knows.”
“That's stupid. How can a guy not know he knows something?”
“Maybe the dude only thinks he doesn't know.” Back to Rinnosuke. “Ya do think ya dunno, right?”
“I know that I don't know, so would one of you please tell me what it is that I don't know?” And Rinnosuke gets all up to his feet shoutin', even, before sittin' back down again lookin' kinda embarrassed at his own self. You're just laymannin' it here, but you've got the hunch Rinnosuke's not a real shouty-type person, at least not past snappin' in indignance and cryin' in alarm.
Ya hold up your hands to do some placatin'. “Calm down, Mac. Ya wanna let it all out, you can do it later. Right now, these are the things we can all do without, dig? Now let's all be cool and make with the two-way expositin'. Cirno?”
Cirno does another huff for luck. “Fine,” she says. “A while back, Rumia was stayin' here. I dunno why, there's nothing here but a whole lotta junk lying around.”
“This is not junk!” Hey, there's the indignance. “These are all valuable artifacts that have fallen through the Barrier from the Outside World—”
“Like I said, junk. None of that stuff's important.” Cirno waves it away. “What's important is that Rumia was stayin' here for some reason till she got bullied off, and that's who I'm tryin' to find now—the bullier. So now that ya know whatcha know, where is she?”
Whoa, so Rumia's the friend Cirno's been doin' the avengey thing over? That's some Kevin Bacon shift right there. Last ya saw that kid, you were yellin' at her to jet!
Which makes this whole sitch with Cirno kinda hinky, now that you're thinkin' 'bout it. 'Cause—you'd think you'da caught it, if Rumia'd been here and then someone'd yelled at 'er to jet.
That sound ya hear is a coupla dead Brit mathmen laughin' atcha behind your back.
[ ] Dazzle 'er with lies. [ ] Dazzle 'er with guile. [ ] Dazzle 'er with honesty. [ ]
Okay, so, twist—turns out the big bad dude Cirno's huntin' down is you. That woulda been nice to know before ya started diggin' yourself in deeper under ya. As it is, you're lovely little blue flowers up to your neck at the mo, and you're gonna have to haul out the smarts real quick if ya wanna get yourself out without Cirno gettin' wise.
“It was me.”
Or ya could just drop some real talk because seriously, you have seen a sitcom before, ever.
“It was me,” ya say again. “I was the dude who told Rumia to mojamatize. But I had a totally good reason for it, I swear.”
Ya raise a hand in the swearin' position, but Cirno's not takin' alotta stock in it. Not that she's mad. She doesn't look mad. She looks like the way you'd think she'd look if ya led 'er to the kitchen on her birthday blindfolded but instead of givin' 'er a cake ya went crazy on 'er with soap in a sock.
Only without the blindfold.
And then she narrows her eyes real tight and she still doesn't look mad, 'cept this time it's 'cause she forgot 'bout mad and skipped straight to to havin' fury.
“So—you were playin' with me from the start?” she says, as fist-clenchy and teeth-grindy as you'd 'spect. She thinks ya Judas'd her, after all. “And then ya even turned into my partner, just so ya could cover up what you're doin'!”
“I'm not doin' anything!” ya say. “Okay, I'm doin' loadsa things, like breathin' and digestin' and brainpower, but there's prolly a whole buncha stuff ya think I'm doin' that I'm not, is what I'm sayin'.”
“Like I'm gonna believe you!” Whoa, and that's a proper junior glare stare right there. “You're the one messin' stuff up for fairies and youkai, and bullyin' them and botherin' them—what kinda good reason's for stuff like that?”
“A very good question,” murmurs Rinnosuke, holdin' up his chin by his hand by his elbow by his desk.
“All quiet in the peanut gallery, Mac!” ya snap. “And anyways, I'm tellin' ya—I had a good reason.”
Cirno crosses her arms. “So?”
“So, you're sayin' ya had a 'good reason'. So what is it?”
Hey, if she's willin' to listen, ya might just get outta this with your splanch intact. “Ya familiar with some Marisa dogbolt? Witch duds, bad attitude, admittedly funky hattery?”
“Yeah?” says Cirno. She's followin' ya so far, it looks like. Prolly.
“It was her. She was 'round, bein' all dogbolty in her dogboltiness. I'm the hero of this flick, dig?”
Cirno doesn't dig. Cirno doesn't dig so much she's straight up anti-diggin' which is maybe fillin' in holes but also maybe makin' like a continental collision, even.
“Okay, so, cliff notes,” ya say. Expound. “Marisa comes slidin' through the door like some kinda hipster doofus totin' a magical nuke, which she starts wavin' under our noses like smellin' salts got its own arms race, 'cause dogbolt. I did the distractin' and told Rumia to twenty-three before said dogbolt could go Ark of the Covenant on both our mugs. Now can ya stop starin' at me like I shivved your dog?”
“I don't have a dog,” Cirno says. “And—I don't understand anything ya just said, either. You're just talking' crazy now and tryin' to confuse me!”
“You're the crazy dude—everything I'm sayin' is perfectly cromulent!”
“What's a cromulent?”
“It means it's kosher.”
“What's a kosher?”
Ya make an all frustratey sound. Ya can't help it. “Help me out there, Rinnosuke. You get what I'm sayin', right?”
Rinnosuke's still handlin' his chin. “Not particularly, no,” he says.
“What?” Yo—but—we talk all the time! We have conversations! We converse! How're we conversin' if ya don't get what I'm sayin'?”
“I usually piece the broader meaning from what context you supply,” Rinnosuke says. “Sometimes I simply nod. You've never noticed.”
“Okay, douche. Also, Benedict.” No help from that quarter. “Cliff cliff notes—Marisa was here, Marisa was vile, I told Rumia to run away 'cause I didn't want 'er to get blasted. Got it?”
Cirno stares. Not a glare stare, this time, but there's a whole lotta stare packed into that one stare that it kinda sorta is anyways. You're talkin' peak stare efficiency, here. Ideal Stariness. “So you're sayin' ya helped Rumia?” she says.
“Yeah. Like I said, I told 'er to jet. Not my fault she went transpacific.”
“Okay,” says Cirno, “fine.”
And that just sorta hangs there.
“'Fine'?” ya say.
“Fine,” Cirno says. “Ya don't sound like you're lyin'. Maybe.”
“Maybe. 'Cause Rumia didn't say anything 'bout Marisa, but she didn't say ya attacked 'er, either. So maybe you're tellin' the truth, or maybe you're not. Either way—”
And the kid points ya up.
“I'm watchin' ya now, got it? The next time ya mess up, and ya go back to bullyin' any more fairies or youkai or anyone else, I'll be there. And I'm not gonna be so nice the second time!”
“Then ya oughta find a real comfy place to sit, 'cause the only dudes I bully are the dudes who deserve it!”
“Yeah, well, maybe I will!” And with that bit of Parthia she's outta there, leavin' you and Rinnosuke in the dust.
“Man,” ya mumble. Ya lean against Rinnosuke's desk, crossin' your arms, like that sorta I'm-totally-at-ease-with-the-sitch pose is gonna put ya totally at ease with the sitch. “That coulda gone better, right?”
Rinnosuke doesn't “right”. He does lookin', regardin', even, but no “right”.
“But for serious,” ya say, “maybe I'm overthinkin' it, but I feel like there was a point somewhere where that whole deal I had goin' there went wrong and couldn't go right again. Like—I got Rubicon'd. Ya dig?”
Rinnosuke doesn't dig, either. Rinnosuke's too busy regardin' to dig. Rinnosuke says, in horrory kinda voice, “You're not wearing any pants.”
“Uh, yeah? Not a new development, Mac—the pantslessness.”
“Why aren't you wearing any pants?”
“I don't have any pants.”
“You have pants. I've seen you wearing pants!”
“I'm soakin' those pants. Those pants are soaked. I'm not wearin' soaked pants!”
“Well, put on something!”
“I don't have a something! If I had a something I'd be wearin' a something instead of wearin' no pants, ya head-huffin' pompatus—”
And that's how ya end up wearin' Rinnosuke's pants.
Day whatever plus whatever whatever's been since the last whatever and you're still hanginaroundin' Rinnosuke's pad.
Right, that stuff ya thought something like a week ago, that stuff 'bout gripin'? That stuff 'bout feelin' bad 'bout thinkin' certain kindsa stuff 'cause it sounded like gripin' and that wasn't the kinda image ya wanted to build up, even in your own noggin? Forget it. You're gripin' now, straight up, and you're not feelin' bad about that one tick. It's been days since Cirno dropped in literally. It's been even longer since Marisa dropped in, and Rumia, and the fact Rumia's the one ya miss the most even though she's been real honest 'bout wantin' to make for your marrow speaks pipes on how sick ya are of starin' at these walls.
Not that Rumia's that bad, but still—kinda can't ignore that pseudocannibalism.
“Hey, Mac,” ya say, half talkin' through the table you've got your face in.
“I'm busy,” Rinnosuke says.
“Don't preempt a dude,” ya say. “Hey, Mac.”
“I'm busy,” Rinnosuke says.
“Just take me to the shrine already, Mac,” ya say, “or wherever I can peace outta this nation. Dontcha want me out of your hair? I'm eatin' all your rice.”
You are not eatin' all Rinnosuke's rice. You're prolly makin' a dent in the rice he's got, but “all” is hyperbolin' it up.
Not that it makes a diff to Rinnosuke. “I'm busy,” he says again, and he's startin' to look mega-annoyed so ya let 'im have his busyness. He is hands-deep in some kinda you-dunno-what-it-is, so it's not like he's lyin'.
What is that, anyways?
“What is that, anyways?” ya say.
Rinnosuke actually even looks up, now that you're askin' 'bout his work. Some kinda professional pride? “A clock,” he says. “The design is a bit different than anything I've seen before, though.”
And he turns up the thing for you to have a look-see.
He's totally not lyin' 'bout the unusualness, either. First glance ya couldn't even tell it was a clock—all ya saw was a buncha gears, and something like a frame—but no, those are totally hands and a face, like for time-tellin'. “Huh. Is it supposta be all opened up like that?” ya ask. 'Cause if it were runnin', and you were feelin' stupid, you could stick a finger through the front and screw something up good.
“I thought the same thing, when I found it,” Rinnosuke says. “But it seems to have been built this way on purpose—without anything to cover up the inner workings.”
“Ya mean ya just found it? What, was it lyin' 'round in the woods waitin' for you to pick it up?”
“It's not uncommon for objects from the Outside World to end up in Gensokyo if they've been forgotten. That's actually where I get most of my merchandise.”
Yeah, thinkin' 'bout it, alotta this stuff here's got a modern bent. Like the mini TV or that dehumidifier Rinnosuke had to toss 'cause he couldn't degunk it. “So I stick something in the attic too long and you get it? Kinda not fair,” ya mutter, peerin' up outta sittin' to have a better see at what Rinnosuke's got. “Is that wood all the way through?”
Rinnosuke almost sorta kinda smiles. “The shafts are metal, and so is the pendulum in the back, but all the gears are wooden. Whoever built this must have worked meticulously.”
And then his almost sorta kinda smile drops. “Unfortunately, it's broken.”
“The clock is?”
“Yes—there's a mechanism at the top—”
And Rinnosuke says a whole lotta stuff about gears and bits that aren't gears but what it adds up to is this: Stuff's broke, yo. And Rinnosuke's not the dude to fix it. Which is kind of a bummer. For him. Not so much for you, 'cause it's not your clock, even by the finders-keepers regulations Rinnosuke's got laid down, but you can totally sympathize with the subjective bummerness of the sitch, for serious.
“Right, so take it to the clock repair dude,” ya say, once Rinnosuke's done yakkin' his face off. “There are clock repair dudes 'round this place, right?”
“Not 'clock repair dudes', exactly, but I should be able to get a replacement part made at the village.”
“Hey, problem solved! And while we're there, maybe you can get someone to get me to the shrine, huh?” You're glad ya got your duds clean—showin' up back home in someone else's robe woulda charmed some weird questions outta the ether. “Whaddya waitin' for, Mac? Let's jet!”
Rinnosuke doesn't jet. Rinnosuke stands in the same place lookin' at the clock and real troubled, which is like the diametric opposite of jettin'. You're sensin' some kinda ish, here.
“Alright, what's the hold-up?”
“Honestly, I don't feel comfortable taking this clock to the village. It's a long walk both ways, and though the woodworkers at the village are skilled...”
“You're bein' picky 'bout who gets to operate now?” Ya wanna roll your eyes, 'specially when the dude keeps on standin' there doin' nothing instead of even denyin' it. “So is there actually anyone who measures up to your double pompatus standards, or are we just gonna shove this thing on the shelf next to the rest of the busted knick-knacks?”
“I already called ya a pompatus once.”
Rinnosuke's got the look of dude tryin' to pin down his own shadow. “Anyway,” he says, “there is someone else who might be able to fix something this complex, but...”
He trails off again, and you're startin' to lose your cool. “But what? Is the dude fulla potassium benzoate? Stop waltzin' 'round the ish and give it to me straight, Mac!”
“She lives in the forest. And she's less likely to show you to the shrine than I am.”
Ya toss your hands in the air. “Nuts!”
[ ] Have fun with your clock, Mac. [ ] Let's go for a hike. [ ]
That's funny, because when I was reading THIS SHRINE and Youkai Mountain LA most people seemed pretty happy with it and a recent /th/ story had people overwhelmingly vote for the name "Barack Obama" to the writer's dismay. I'm not even bringing up half the examples. Maybe you shouldn't generalise so much. Or presume to speak for other people.
Rinnosuke nods, 'cept it's more of a yeah-I-'spected-that nod than a sympathizin'-with-the-nutsness nod—and then he just sorta stops there, like there's something he's considerin', all of a sudden. Something heavier than the clock. “I don't usually do this,” he says, all way careful, “but can I trust you to look after the shop while I'm gone?”
“Oh, no. If ya think you're leavin' me here, Mac, you've got another think comin'. I stay in this pad any longer and I'm gonna go bonkers.” Ya pause, just for a mo. “Don't say it.”
“I didn't say anything.”
“But you were thinkin' it, werentcha? Don't lie to me; I'm thinkpol all up in your gray matter. Where're my shoes?”
“Your shoes are by the door. Where they've always been.”
“Oh, hey, they are! Thanks, Mac. Now let's get a move on before I wear out my feet just standin', dig?”
It's just your second time strollin' through the place, but somehow the forest seems a lot less tulgey than from time number one. Which makes sense—ya know how ya got here, more or less, and if things start gettin' hinky there's a dude next to ya with a map in his noggin and a handle on the way back. Circumstances, in other words. Since time number one, your chances of dyin' from dehydration have dropped to about nil.
On the other hand, your chances of dyin' to some boogeymeister lurkin' in the shadows have stayed 'bout the same. Hey, that's actually a thought ya didn't wanna have at all! Neat!
Ya lean at Rinnosuke a little. “Mac, just so ya know...”
Rinnosuke makes a curious kinda hmming sound.
“Anything with sharp teeth shows up, I'm shovin' ya in that general direction. Fair warnin'.”
Rinnosuke makes another sound, 'cept this one's less curious and more like he's tryin' to work up a bein'-indignant. “How honest,” he says instead.
“Yeah, I try.” And 'cause you feel just a little kinda bad 'bout lettin' out so easy how inclined ya are at trippin' the dude in case of sharp teeth, “Ya wanna lemme at that clock? Looks hefty.”
“It's fine, thank you.”
And that's when ya realize you're one of the dudes this dude doesn't want applyin' their mitts to his super-special timepiece. No big surprise—ya weren't aimin' to worm your way into his heart or anything like that—but it's kinda still a pisser. Well, if the dude wants to schlep some overwooden ex-ticker all the way to wherever you're goin', you're not gonna stop 'im.
“So, who's the clock repair dude we're seein', anyways?” ya ask, changin' the subject. “Can't 'zactly see the crowd beatin' a path to their door if they live in a place like this.”
“She isn't a 'clock repair dude' at all, so she doesn't actually need any customers,” Rinnosuke says. “In fact, there's a good chance she might not be willing to help. And even if she is, the price might be too high again...”
There's a story attached, and ya don't know if it's something worth listenin' to or if Rinnosuke's just scroogin' it up, but either way it doesn't matter 'cause all of a sudden you're there, “there” bein' where this clock repair dude who isn't a clock repair dude operates, maybe, and you're actually kinda surprised even after all the monsters and magic not 'cause of any more monsters or magic but 'cause you're there, which is here, and the place where you're here at is western.
Which is weird.
'Cause you're in Japan, right? Even if you're in some weird enclavey place that doesn't really care who got the last election, you're still in the middle of Japan, so if there's someone livin' all up on their own in the woods, you'd 'spect them to be livin' in a Japanese-style place, right? 'Cept this dude—whoever this dude is—they're not. What you're looking at right now is straight up occidental. Like, it's not a schloss or anything, just a dinky little cottage thing in the woods, but the door's got hinges, and somehow? That's refreshin'.
Refreshin' to you, anyways. Rinnosuke just knocks on the thing. Guess he's seen all kindsa doors. And then the door opens, and on the other side's a blond dude in a blue dress who just needs a tick lookin' at Rinnosuke for her mug to go ultra-flat. “Rinnosuke,” she says, like she didn't wanna have had to say that.
“Margatroid,” says Rinnosuke, like ditto.
Margatroid—or at least you're assumin' that's her name, 'cause that's what Rinnosuke called her—holds that glare stare she's got lined up another tick before breakin' this whatever-it-is-these-two've-got-goin'-on-here. “I wasn't expecting you at all,” she says, and you dunno how she's doin' smug and uninterested at the same time but it's a real neat trick. “You must be facing a great difficulty if you've troubled yourself to vacate your little shop and travel all the way here.”
“You weren't exactly my first choice,” Rinnosuke says.
“Perhaps—but you're here, all the same.” That fake-not-interested thing goes your way. “And you've brought...” The dude drifts off, like maybe she just figured out just now she doesn't actually know ya.
So ya help 'er out. “I'm Chris,” ya say. “From the Outside World. Rinnosuke's lendin' me space till I get re-exported.”
Margatroid just sorta takes that in for another another tick. “I see,” she says, and you're thinkin' maybe ya whanged 'er off her stride a little, but she gets back to walkin' real quick, holdin' open more the door. “You might as well come in,” she says, and seein' as other than that the only choice's makin' do with the woods ya squeeze in yourself pronto.
And hey, the insides're as western-lookin' as the outsides! For serious—it's like someone took the idea of little-homey-European-cottageness and epitomed it in the middle of Japan. You've got the fancy curtains, the rock fireplace, the bookshelf packed to the brim, the rug with those little dangly ropey things stickin' out from the sides—
“Whoa,” ya can't not say. “Hey, check it out!”
Rinnosuke's right there. “What is it?”
“The tablecloth, Mac—it's macrame!”
“I see.” Rinnosuke says. “Margatroid, I need a favor.”
“What? You don't even know why I need your help!”
“I expect it concerns that timepiece you're carrying—or did you bring it purely for the exercise? Two books.”
“I've given you enough books already.”
“You've paid me in literature, for services rendered. I consider the price generous, besides—there must be a reason you've come to me, rather than visit the village. You know the path, after all—”
And that's where ya tune out, 'cause between listenin' to those two dudes hagglin' and gettin' a close-up on the macrame, you're macrame all the way. You're not even like a macrame fan or anything—you didn't have macrame anything at your pad, and your folks didn't have the stuff at theirs.
But it's a not-Japanish thing. Another back-homey thing, like the door hinges. And that means you're kinda stupid psyched.
Also apparently totally homesick. Like ultra-seriously super-mega-homesick, and all of it hits ya like it's a sucker punch and you're on the wrong end of it. Ya miss the macrame ya don't have, and the door hinges ya do have, and refrigerators and electric fans and chain coffee shops and keytars and junk mail zines and bags of potato chips ya can't open and ya start thinkin' you're gonna hafta take a coupla scissors to 'em but then ya actually do open 'em at the last sec and it feels kinda like a victory but also ya feel kinda ashamed 'cause ya actually considered it...
And there's something lurkin' over your shoulder, just sorta there in your peripheral.
And then ya turn real casual, 'cause you weren't doin' anything wrong. “I'm just lookin' at the macrame. No rules 'bout macrame-lookin', right?” ya say, totally not feelin' defensive at all.
The floatin' little dude floatin' in front of your face doesn't say anything. Also there's a floatin' little dude floatin' in front of your face. Like, just the size of your face, in front of your face, floatin'. Doesn't say anything. Just sorta tilts her head. Like she's judgin' ya, unjustifiably.
“I wasn't even macrame-touchin',” ya say.
The floatin' little dude still doesn't say anything. The floatin' little dude isn't even a dude at all, prolly—the not-dude's face is too shiny and she's got it straight sorta fixed atcha, all starey' and not blinkin'.
Yo, if this is what you're gettin' in floatin' little dudes from now on? Ya kinda want Rumia back. Yeah, there was the whole deal with wantin' to chomp your spleen, but she was still a lot less with the creepola.
Last ya saw, anyways.
Ya look 'round the not-dude, 'cause ya don't wanna look at it. Yeah, Rinnosuke and Margatroid're still there, hackin' and snipin' and bein' otherwise real belligerent at each other. Rinnosuke's put the clock down at least, which is good, 'cause the last thing ya want is a shaggy dog story with the thing in N-plex pieces 'cross the floor. Doesn't look like the two of 'em're gonna start agreein' on anything anytime soon, though.
[ ] Time to check out the pad. [ ] Time to break up the stalemate. [ ] Time to speak on the not-dude. [ ]
What I said: "[...] 'Mima Belnades' sounds like the concept to the weirdest Touhou/Castlevania crossover ever."
What I didn't say: "If you had named the protagonist "Mima Belnades" I would have made you a vampire hunter reincarnation of the evil spirit who used to hang around the Hakurei Shrine."
You can see how there's a subtle but important difference between the two sentences maybe.
Also if you actually had been enough of a dope to try to name the protagonist after a preexisting character, real or imaginary, I would have laughed and smacked your vote right down. Right down. Right down to the floor. Down. Down to the floor. Down. Thousand glittering shiny smashy broken pieces. Floor. Down.
>>28333 I think you replied to the wrong person, but how autonomous Shanghai is varies from story to story. Sometimes she's completely her own existence and can think for herself, others she's just another doll controlled by Alice.
Also saying Alice is being tsundere for a person she literally just met and has barely spoken to is grasping at straws. She would need a reason to like us for that to be a possibility. If Alice is controlling her than she's likely just trying to keep an eye on us so we don't cause trouble. If not then we might make a cute new friend, which we have woefully few of.
“Surely you have better curiosities to guard than the volumes you can't even read—”
Or sound like it. Yeah, you're gonna get back to that later. Maybe. Meanwhile—back to that floatin' little not-dude, who you're still not gonna look at direct, 'cause seriously. “So who're you?” ya say.
The floatin' little not-dude still still doesn't say anything, but this time at least it does a little nod-tilt sideways, which means it's acknowledgin' your question, which is a step up from the dead-fish stare that was comin' your way half a mo back. But hey, maybe that's the best it can do, nod-tiltin'. Maybe it straight up can't talk. Ya can't just assume it's keepin' silence 'cause it's some sort of mini-mega-douche, can ya?
No, hold on, can ya? Seriously, you've gotta think 'bout this for a tick. You could prolly call Rinnosuke a douche, seein' as he's refusin' to virgil ya outta here outta sheer laziness, but he is lettin' ya hang at his place while ya wait so you'll call it even stevens and stick 'im back at Limbo (and plus sloth and acedia aren't the same deal anyways, so ya dunno if he'd even get a circle). Rumia wants to suck the keest outta your bones, and that's aspirin' to douchiness if nothing else, but she's also been real nice 'bout it which is kinda weird but good enough for puttin' 'er down as neutral, somehow. Marisa's a dogbolt, ya think, but ya barely met 'er. Cirno maybe hates your guts, but that's 'cause she thinks you're the douche. So yeah—Rinnosuke says this place has monsters up the wazoo, but the dudes you've met so far have been actually kinda okay.
So this could be okay too. “Ya live here?” ya say to the not-dude. “Nice place.”
The not-dude nods again, 'cept actually nodways this time, and adds a little old-timey curtsy on top of it. Still still still doesn't say anything. Yeah, that's gonna get old fast. Like, tried-out-the-wrong-grail fast.
“Those are valuable books. They contain information about the Outside World—”
As opposed to these dudes, who're gettin' old Dorian Gray fast. “Hey,” ya say to the not-dude, “mind if I check out the room over?”
Another nod-tilt. This one's sorta infused with an air of inquisitiveness, or maybe you're just watchin' a floatin' little not-dude angle its head over and the only dude 'round here infusin' anything with any meaning is you. 'Cause that's a thing, right? Rorschach. Holtzman. Projection.
“I'm not gonna rearrange the furniture or anything,” ya promise the floatin' little not-dude. “It's just—yo—”
And ya stick your chin over at Squabbly and Squabblier, who don't even notice—
“Would you wanna be stuck in the same room as this mess?”
The floatin' little not-dude stops nod-tiltin' its head. Still still still still doesn't say anything, but if it were gonna say anything you'd imagine it sayin', “Oh.” And then it makes for the next room.
“That's what I thought,” ya mutter, and ya get in that direction as fast as ya can before ya wanna bolt.
“Not alotta room,” ya say, and that's you bein' nice 'bout it. You thought it was hinky, this floatin' little not-dude guidin' ya into a closet, but then ya looked into the closet and it was actually the smallest kitchen you'd ever seen. Meanwhile, the floatin' little not-dude looks kinda incensed, which is a neat trick for something that doesn't have a operational face. It's swoopin' 'round the closet-kitchen, missin' the dishes and cups and little fancy spoons just barely.
“There's plenty of room!” it seems to be sayin' and maybe you'd agree with it if ya didn't come up to your own knee either.
Well, seein' as you're in a kitchen, even if it is a kitchen outta Gulliver's Travels, ya might as well get something kitchenian outta it. “Hey, if it's not alotta trouble—ya got any coffee in here?”
The not-dude makes a big show lookin' both ways arms akimbo before shakin' its head. “We haven't any, I'm afraid,” it looks like it's sayin'. “Perhaps a cup of tea?”
And you're actually set to sub one caffeine tap with another when ya get that creepin' feeling again, the same kind ya got when Cirno didn't know respect knuckles from rock-paper-scissors. “Hey—wait a tick. Coffee's a thing here, right?” ya say. “Like, I'm talkin' a thing thing. Like, the sorta thing ya see on the shelf of the Gensokyo everydude. Right?”
The not-dude's still stickin' its elbows out, but now it looks kinda irater. Like it's sayin' something like, “It seems I've failed to meet your bibitory standards. Might food serve as recompense? I could prepare a Yorkshire Christmas Pie.”
“Hey, maybe if ya didn't want some Outside World dude askin' you for Outside World drinks, ya shouldnta led 'er to your Inside World kitchen!”
“I apologize; I apparently didn't anticipate I'd have some artless rook galumphing forth to criticize the state of my shelves.”
“Yeah? Well, I'm sorry, too! I dunno why I 'spected ya to produce coffee when ya prolly can't produce hair, ya anthropomorphism fall-shorter!”
“And what tool have you used to cut yours? No, but let me guess—a pair of pruning shears?”
“You—heck, I wouldn't trust ya for a thing of coke! It'd come outta ya all flat—”
“What are you doing?”
Ya about-face real quick. Margatroid's standin' in the doorway with Rinnosuke peerin' in overhead and ya don't even care it's her pad 'cause this hoverin' shade-maker's behind ya's been heapin' out the sass and you're not done till ya pay it back with interest. “Do ya mind?” ya snarl. “We're talkin' gastronomy.”
“What, ya think I can't talk gastronomy?”
“With my doll.”
“Yeah, well.” Ya look back at the not-dude.
The not-dude—doll—floats there. All very not-talky. Like it was from the first place.
“Yeah, I've got nothing.”
“Is that so?” Margatroid's smile is all ersatz, 'cept for the very real damage it's prolly doin' to her molars. “I think it would be best if the two of you left,” she says.
Rinnosuke starts. “But we haven't made an agreement yet—”
“One book. I will repair your clock for one book if you leave now and take her with you.”
Rinnosuke jets so quick he's got one foot outta the place when ya hear the “Deal.” Ya make to follow, but you're held up half through the doorway. Literally.
“That's my shoulder,” ya tell Margatroid. “I need that. It connects the back bone to the neck bone—”
“Put down the plate.”
Ya look at your hands.
Whaddya know—you've got a plate! Got it by a four-fingered grip 'cross the back that coulda made the gold-medal windup for the discus throw, in fact. “Whoops. Yo, how'd that get there?”
“I assure you I haven't a notion.”
“Yeah, but, y'know, ignorin' the you-bein'-facetious—” Ya drop the plate off on the nearest counter and maybe also accidentally some of your dignity 'cause suddenly Margatroid's marchin' ya through the place by the clavicle. “Ow—hey—yo, but seriously, I don't even remember thinkin' 'bout chuckin' that, so if ya just leggo for a tick I can make it out on my whoa—”
The front door shuts behind ya with definite shuttance.
“Guess not, huh?” ya mutter. “Hoity-toity toit.”
Rinnosuke just huffs a sigh, like he 'spected this outcome all along or something. Then he starts walkin', and ya bring up the rear, 'cause maybe ya didn't spend so much time in that place but later's still later and the forest's still a forest, and if there's just one of ya that knows the directions to the next available roof you're gonna make like ducklings. At least the dude doesn't hafta lug the clock back. “So what's the deal, Mac?” ya ask.
“Deal?” says Rinnosuke.
“Y'know, with the clock. Did she say what was wrong, or did she just have ya hand it over and tell ya how many business days to come back in?”
“Ah,” says Rinnosuke. “Well—she did say, actually. Apparently it was the escapement.”
“So like, the ticker's ticker. Yeah, that'd do a clock in. And you've gotta pay her in books?”
“Just one, this time. She stops by the shop every now and then, just to see if I have any new books on mechanics, and the such. She must have seen a couple that she wanted for herself—I recently found a few books on automata, so it was probably those.”
Your first thought is that it all jibes. Mechanics and automata—sure, that fits someone who does clocks, right? But then ya get thought number two. “Hey, so, that little floatin' not-dude—was that one of those?” ya ask, sorta excited-like. Not we're-goin'-to-the-roller-coaster-park excited, but more like wait-a-tick-wait-a-tick-check-out-this-thought excited. “I knew it wasn't a dude, but I didn't think it wasn't a dude dude.”
“Y'know, Mac, the little floatin' not-dude! Little—floatin'—man, I was talkin' to it in that closet-kitchen Margatroid's got set up. Was that an automaton? I thought it had legit sapience, seriously.” And if didn't, there's some dudes in the artificial intelligence community dyin' to meet this clock repair dude and they don't even know it.
But Rinnosuke shuts that down real quick. “Not really,” he says. “That was just a doll. Margatroid can direct them, even from relatively far away—that's how she got her title.”
“Yes. They call her the Seven-Colored Puppeteer.”
Ya think 'bout that. Just for a bit.
“So she could hear everything I was sayin'?”
Ya think 'bout that a little bit more.
“Why seven colors?”
“In the title?”
“Yeah, sure in the title. Why seven colors?”
“Because her grimoire shines in the seven imperfect colors—the same as a rainbow.”
“Okay, first of all, I'm gonna have some real bad news to tell ya later.” Roy G. Biv? Newton was a dope. “Second—it's kinda weird she's all 'bout dolls and puppets and her nickname's 'bout colors, is what I'm sayin'. Like, how good is she with puppets? Could she control a whole bunchload at once? Like, whole fleets of 'em?”
Rinnosuke looks straight up disturbed by whatever picture ya just set off up there. “I can't say I've ever seen her control that many dolls at once,” he says, real careful, like he might make it happen just thinkin' 'bout it, “but I can't say that's impossible, either.”
“Right, so, they oughta call 'er something to do with puppets. Like—the Thousand-Armed Puppeteer.”
Rinnosuke makes some weird sorta hummin' noise, like he's standin' on the precipice of not-sayin'-the-thing and gazin' down upon the dark waters of sayin'-the-thing-after-all and there's some imp of the perverse proddin' 'im with its little pitchfork. “It's been done.” he says.
“Seriously? Well, bummer for Margatroid, I guess.”
Rinnosuke nods. And then he says, “I have to thank you.”
“Huh?” ya say, “Yeah, sure, no problemo. Why?”
And here's where Rinnosuke actually kinda surprises ya, 'cause the smile he pulls out isn't evil, but it's approachin' it. Like one of those optical illusions where ya hafta look at the painting just right if ya wanna see the skull.
“If Margatroid hadn't been so eager for us to leave,” he says, “I think she would've ended up taking both books instead of just one.”
Ya do your own huff. “Ya don't hafta thank me. It's Margatroid who was puppeteerin' that not-dude into bein' a snot. My yellin' was the righteous kind. How was I supposta know—yo, is coffee really that rare 'round here?”
“Not rare, exactly. But it is considered a luxury item.”
“Yeah, see, that's the sorta thing I was afraid of. I mean, I can drink tea fine, right? But I'm gonna miss catchin' a quick java at the coffee shop till I get back. For serious, Mac, back home there's a place every block.”
Rinnosuke's eyebrows go up, like he's been startled, but not in a bad way. Like maybe someone threw 'im a surprise birthday party when he forgot it was his own birthday. “Really?” he says. “I'd like to see that.”
“Ha! Once I'm done hangin' at your pad, you can hang at mine.”
Course, you're kiddin'. The two of ya have got that Whassitcalled Barrier between ya. Odds are, once you're outta here, you and this dude are never gonna meet again.
And just like that, you're outta things to say, the both of ya. Straight up Lincoln o'clock. It's not a bad silence, though—just a silencey silence. And you can silence just fine. You're not gonna bust if ya don't have an outlet or anything. What are ya, a basement boiler?
“Hey, Mac, you're not just a low-key Christian, are ya?”
Rinnosuke looks up atcha—or up and over, seein' as he's sittin' at his desk dealin' with the the latest pile of tchotchkes and you're sittin' on the floor tryin' to build a chess game off a shogi board. Ya dunno what a shogi board is, even. The only reason ya know it's a shogi board is 'cause ya found the board, and then ya took it over to Rinnosuke and asked 'im what it was and he said, “It's a shogi board.”
“What?” says Rinnosuke.
“I said—ya think she took ya for a ride?” You've got the pieces taken care of already, at least. That's what gotcha this idea—findin' all those dice moldin' away on the shelf. The white dice'll be the white pieces, and the not-white dice won't. “I mean—I'm not sayin' ya got put on toast, Mac. I'm not into woodworkin', so maybe it's the norm, a week or something. That's why I'm askin' you. Ya think she took ya for a ride?”
“You're asking if Margatroid stole the clock?”
“No. She wants that book too much.”
“Yeah, okay. Sure.” Right off the bat, once he got it. Ya start layin' out one-pip pawns, and tellin' yourself to remember to forget that extra rank and file you've got. “Guess she can't 'zactly get the piece by mail order,” ya say. “Something that precise, you've gotta take it easy.”
“That, and she might experience time differently—because she's a youkai.”
Hold it. “Say what?”
“Well, according to youkai and certain long-lived humans, time actually seems to pass by faster the older one grows—”
“No no no no no—lay off the special relativity for a tick. What I'm sayin' is—Margatroid's a youkai?”
Rinnosuke goes mum, just blinkin' atcha for a bit. And then he actually looks abashed, even if it's still in that muted Rinnosukey sorta way. “I forgot you didn't know,” he mutters. “Yes, Margatroid's a youkai—it's one of the reasons she can live in the Forest of Magic so comfortably.”
“Huh. So should I be worried when she stops in? She's not gonna try to eat my face off, is she?”
“Not all youkai are interested in eating humans,” says Rinnosuke. Ya get the impression he's not all for bein' the primer for human-youkai relations in this place. “As far as I know, Margatroid spends most of her time studying magic by herself. Actually, she's a magician, so she doesn't even need to eat.”
“Not eatin'? Now that's messed up.” You're flounderin' on where to put the six-pip queens. They're supposta match their squares, but that maybe only works on boards that're colored in in the first place. “Ya can't trust a dude that doesn't eat, Mac—they're all messed up one way or the other, believe me.”
“So you'd prefer them eating you instead?”
“I'm not sayin' I wanna get stuffed in a pie—I'm just sayin' ya can't trust a dude just 'cause they're not gonna eat ya, and ya definitely can't trust 'em if they don't eat at all. Ya forget to eat, ya forget to live, metaphorically.”
The knight gets two pips 'cause it's an obnoxious sneaky bitin' springer. Ya put it next to the four-pip rook.
“Maybe that's why you're so grouchy all the time,” ya tell 'im.
Rinnosuke looks kinda disturbed atcha at your super-accurate analysis you've got there. “Grouchy?” he says, “I'm not grouchy.”
“You're totally grouchy. You're grouchin' at me right now. It's 'cause ya need more variation in your cuisine. I prescribe zucchini and tomatoes and mozzarella, and we'll work your way up to a full-blown lasagna. Whaddya say, Mac? Lasagna saves lives.”
Rinnosuke doesn't say anything at first—just sorta wrinkles up his face a bit like he really, really wants to give ya the Look but he's havin' trouble justifyin' the expenditures to the metaphorical big cheese in charge of his headspace and everything followin' it. Then he says, “I'm guessing those are foods?”
“Course those're foods! How long've you been shuttin' yourself up in here that ya never crossed paths with lasagna—”
And then something real belatedly helpful up in your own braincase decides that's the time to pipe up with a quiet, all polite-kinda-seemin' “yo”.
“Oh,” ya say. “Right. Sorta forgot about that whole livin'-in-a-magic-bubble-'cause-the-relatively-secular-attitudes-of-the-Outside-World-would-stick-a-broom-handle-through-the-spokes-of-the-faith-based -operation-you've-got-goin'-on-here deal you've got goin' on here. My bad.” And it's double the bummer, 'cause yeah, it isn't 'zactly breakin' news, reality yankin' ya down like a lion 'bout to make something real productive outta the lingeriest hartebeest (you're stuck in an anachronism with a shopkeep who's so lazy he's the reason you're stuck in an anachronism; that's a thing), but it's not like you were shootin' for the Golden Fleece here either and ya never wanted to be king anyways. Foods'ren't supposta be hard to find, is the point, and even if some foods're pricier than others at least you're supposta know that gettin' 'em is a thing of possibility. Like, as long as you've got the cash to match.
Or unless it's something really out there. Like something that'd make the dudes at the douane put your name on a list. You're not gonna get despondent 'cause the grocery store doesn't stock casu marzu or whatever—ya get that. Plus you're pretty sure your mom's mom's sister's husband's brother knows a dude.
Super In-Depth Christie Christoferson Review—ya can't get home, and that sucks. But ya also can't get lasagna, and that sucks even more somehow. Even though that's the smaller problem.
Maybe 'cause that's the smaller problem.
Ya knock a one-pip pawn a coupla spots up from where it's hangin' with its five-pip king. Your move, Black. Whaddya gonna do now?
“So, what exactly is lasagna?” Rinnosuke says.
Black's gonna call a timeout, that's what Black's gonna do now. While ya take a look at Rinnosuke, who's actually put down the knick-knack of the day, which means whatever's he's talkin' 'bout now might maybe be important. “It won't do ya any good knowin', Mac,” ya tell 'im. “Even disregardin' the part 'bout the water buffalo, I'm pretty sure you're lackin' the ingredients.”
“Probably,” Rinnosuke agrees, “but—lasagna, is that something people from the Outside World eat often?”
“Well...I dunno 'bout 'often', but most of the dudes where I'm from know 'bout it. Ya stop the dude on the street and ask 'em if they've heard of lasagna before, you're gonna get the answer 'yes', is what I'm sayin'. But it's not 'zactly like I've got a coupla fingers up against the pulse of the global culinary zeitgeist, either—I know this is gonna sound nuts, but I've got limits too, Mac, ya dig?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Rinnosuke does some scroungin' 'round while he's talkin', somehow findin' some paper in the junk he's got heaped up to his arms. Ya guess there's a system, even if it looks like just a buncha stuff stacked on top of a buncha other stuff when you're lookin' at it. Then he sticks his hand through another heap and pulls out a—
“Yo, is that a ballpoint?”
The sides of Rinnosuke's face sorta up for a sec before they catch themselves. “It's an interesting invention,” he says. “With the transparency of the body, you can see how much ink you have left.”
You're not the one who needs to take Outside World 101 here, but it's not like ya feel like harshin' his mellow. “Ya gonna write down everything I say now, Mac? If you're gonna be my Boswell, make sure ya put down how how awesome I am proper. 'Her chin had the prominence and squareness markin' 'er for a real determined dude.'”
“Ya don't like my chin?”
“I'm just writing down information about the Outside World, when I can find it.” Rinnosuke, totally junkin' your reasonable suggestions. The dude's qualmless. “The books I have are helpful, but they usually assume I know more than I actually do, which can make interpreting them difficult. I thought it'd be better to get my information from a primary source instead.”
[ ] Just straight up dispense, re: lasagna. [ ] See if ya can't squeeze some biographin' into the deal. [ ] Dude, you're not a personal encyclopedia. [ ]
“So you're askin' me? Yo, I'm flattered—for serious—but chef de cuisine I ain't. I just chow down on the stuff.”
“Still, you're the best source I have,” Rinnosuke says. His ballpoint hovers. “So—lasagna?”
“Fine, lasagna.” And that's the sound of ya acquiescin', 'cause yeah, you're not this dude's personal 'pedia, maybe, but he is lettin' ya hang here, and if all you've gotta do to pay your stay is let 'im in on a coupla whaddya-knows from the Outside then you're down with that, ya guess. “Man, I dunno where to start.”
“Take your time.”
“It's not not takin' my time that's the ish here.” Ya rub kinda in the territory of your hairline with the hard part of your palm, like that's gonna help—get the oxygen to your brain faster, or something. “Right,” ya say, “so, check it out—there's lasagna, right? And that's the stuff ya eat. But the stuff that's the main ingredient of lasagna, the pasta, that's also lasagna. Wait, do ya even know what pasta is?”
“Explain it to me like I don't,” says Rinnosuke.
“Uh, gimme a sec here.” Man, this is all kindsa outta your pay grade. Didntcha just say ya just chow down on the stuff? “Okay, so the main deal with pasta is—ya take wheat, and then ya all mash it into flour, right? And then ya take the flour, and ya put water in it, maybe, and that turns it to dough. Then ya put the dough in some kinda shape, and that's pasta, basically, 'cept now you've gotta cook it. Am I leavin' ya behind here?”
Rinnosuke's not even lookin' atcha anymore 'cause he's that busy notetakin'. “I know the process,” he says, and you're real glad for that 'cause ya didn't wanna hafta 'splain it further, not when ya see the dude's usin' bullet points. You're not in the field half-versed, even, but you're pretty sure that when a dude bothers with bullet points it's an indicator of serious business, notetakingwise.
And ya don't like that at all. Like, at all at all. The whole bein'-thereness of the bullet points is makin' ya aware of other things that are also there, like the possibility of ya gettin' something wrong and then that wrongness gettin' inscribed and filed away by Rinnosuke for forever.
So, yeah. No pressure, right?
“So here's the thing,” ya say. “Lasagna—I mean, the pasta lasagna? It's kinda different than what dudes think of when dudes think of pasta. 'Cause when dudes think of pasta—I mean, where I'm from, when dudes think of pasta—the image is like, long noodly stuff, like ramen, sorta. Or else bite-sized stuff in the shape of little tubes or bow ties and stuff like that. And lasagna's like—sheets. Actually that's kinda the thesis statement here, okay? 'Lasagna's sheets.'”
“Sheets,” Rinnosuke mutters, and—
Yo, is he smilin'?
Ya do a double-take, but the sight doesn't change—the dude's smilin'. And not just an implication of a smile, like you've been gettin' on and off since ya started sleepin' over, but the real deal, with open lips and everything. His teeth are pretty white, for a dude who isn't gettin' his fluoride, and it's crazy stupid but ya catch yourself thinking of the moon. Like maybe ya stepped out to catch it bein' new only ya marked your calendar wrong and there's this crescent thing instead, waxin' its way up to a dichotomy. That whole unexpectedness vibe—that's what you've got, all of a sudden.
'Cause now, lookin' at Rinnosuke curled all tense over his desk, scribblin' at hand-crampin' speeds, his eyes flickin' between you and his notes, the corners of his mouth reachin' tentatively up his cheeks—
The thing is, all of a sudden, he looks kinda—
He looks kinda—
He looks kinda—
He looks kinda like that one Aphex Twin album, is the thing, and that's creepy. Ya had enough of that kinda smilin' when Rinnosuke was crowin' 'bout accidentally pullin' one over Margatroid. Ya don't need stage two of the stuff. Dude keeps this up and his face is gonna collapse into a creeper singularity.
“So, that's lasagna?” Rinnosuke says.
At least it goes away when he's talkin'. Prolly 'cause his face muscles move more. “That's lasagna the pasta,” ya say. “Lasagna the dish is more than just lasagna the pasta. I mean, it's got lasagna the pasta, but it's got other stuff, too, stacked in between, like meat sauce and white sauce and cheese. The meat sauce's just sauce made outta meat, but ya wanna chop the stuff up and cook it veggies. But, y'know, not alotta veggies. It's a meat-based thing, is what I'm sayin', so whatcha wanna have at the end is a buncha meat with a hint of veggie taste to it.”
“That sounds delicious,” Rumia says.
“I know, right?” ya say, as Rinnosuke's ballpoint makes a skid mark off the page. “Then there's the white sauce—”
Rinnosuke shoves one of his desk piles sideways like he's just spied the teach makin' the rounds and he's been workin' on something extracurricular. “What are you doing here?” he hisses.
Rumia tilts her head. “I'm not doing anything,” she says.
“No—how did you get in?”
“Was the window open?” ya ask.
“The window was open,” Rumia says.
Rinnosuke does a real good strangulation approximation and headdesks right into his knick-knack heap.
“So, what's up?” ya say, puttin' white sauce on the back burner. Metaphorically. If it's white sauce it's prolly been on the burner already. “Ya make it out the window? There was this crazy stupid mess with a homunculus that wasn't a homunculus and I never got to follow up on ya.” Partly 'cause ya didn't know where to look, and partly 'cause ya didn't feel too much like wanderin' outta the no-eatin'-humans zone designated by these buncha walls, but you're not gonna tell 'er that.
“I made it out,” says Rumia. She adds, after a mo: “I didn't get blasted.”
“Groovy.” Ya move on, quick, before anyone busts in 'bout “sayin' things weird” again. “Speakin' of dudes blastin' dudes and dudes not blastin' dudes, though, your friend Cirno showed up. 'Cept, she seemed to think I was the dude makin' to blast you.”
Rumia tilts her head the other way. Ya get an impression like she's thinkin' real hard 'bout word-mincin' and you've got nothing to back it up here but it feels like someone oughta find that sad, somewhere.
“Cirno gets very excited sometimes,” Rumia says, finally.
“Ya don't say.”
“I do say.”
“Yeah, I guess ya do. So—What's Up, The Return Of? Ya just droppin' in to chat, or what? 'Cause that's cool too, though it woulda been nice if you'd done it a lot sooner.” Like when you were gettin' the third degree, maybe.
Rumia tilts her head back to its original tiltage. “Um,” she says, and then, weirdly careful, way more in control than she oughta be with all that bobbin' and floatin' since the first time ya saw 'er, she lifts her arms straight out to the sides and closes her eyes.
“Cumque ultor sanguinis eum fuerit persecutus, non tradent in manus ejus: quia ignorans percussit proximum ejus, nec ante biduum triduumve ejus probatur inimicus.”
She says that—all that—all nice and even, like she read it out of a book or something. Like she read it again and again till she could read it with her eyes closed. And then once she's done readin' it out to ya, she puts her arms back down and opens her eyes and looks at the ya both like she wants a treat out of it.
Course, you've got no clue what she just said.
“That wasn't just real old-timey Japanese or something, was it?” ya ask, lookin' over at Rinnosuke for a tick. Judgin' by the way he's lookin' at you, though, he's prolly in the same ship.
Rumia actually looks disappointed. “It's Latin,” she says.
And ya shoulda 'spected that, maybe, but it's still enough to set ya to boilin'. “Latin's a dead language,” ya say, tryin' not to grind it out. “If ya wanna say something and get got, you've gotta stick with the vernacular.”
“Okay,” says Rumia, and she sticks her arms out again, like she's tryin' to turn herself into that Renaissance sketch. Or an airplane.
“I need you to protect me because I don't want to be blasted,” she says.
[ ] Aw, heck no. McCabe the dude. [ ] You're Switzerland on this. [ ] Time to break in the frith-stool. [ ]
The first urge that goes up and down your spine is cooperation. You've got the idea all of a sudden of shootin' this girl a thumbs-up, sittin' her down a room over, and maybe findin' a thing of cookies for her to munch on while ya weather the storm for her—that kinda deal, with you playin' the awesome protagonist protector to her little kid MacGuffin. And then the saner parts prevail, 'cause ya remember—this is the girl who wanted to eat your face off. Still wants, actually. And you're thinkin' that's a pattern of behavior that's got some kinda relevance to the matter at hand, maybe.
“I'm gonna ask this straight up. Didja do something to earn a blasting?”
“No,” says Rumia.
Ya look at Rinnosuke. Rinnosuke looks at you. Ya look back at Rumia.
“And when ya say 'no',” ya ask, real careful-like, “do ya mean 'no' meaning 'yes'?”
“'No',” says Rumia.
Ya look at Rinnosuke again. Rinnosuke looks at you again. Ya look at Rumia again. Rumia looks at something that's over your ear, like the general direction someone wantin' to rearrange her face with magic explosions would bust in from, hypothetically, and maybe you've just gone screwy real fast but ya feel like if ya tilted your head back and squinted you'd catch something just sorta distantly related to abashment seepin' into the look she's got on at the mo.
Which is enough, ya think. “Man, you're possibly lyin' to the dude you're also askin' for help from,” ya say to Rumia, focusin' the disappointment vibes like you're every parental unit ever. “That's not just hinky, that's douchetastic.”
“Stop saying words that don't mean anything in Japanese,” Rinnosuke grumps.
Ya look at Rinnosuke again again and then roll your eyes. “'Real shady', and 'ultra-characteristic of a douche'—that better? Point is—Rumia. Dude. Dude.”
“Dude?” Rumia says.
“Dude,” ya confirm.
Rumia frowns, and shifts shiftily. “It's an overreaction,” she says. And then, 'cause apparently ya rolled lucky sevens on this playing-mom thing, “I only bit him a little.”
Now you're gettin' somewhere. “'A little'? How 'a little' is 'a little'?”
Rumia shows ya.
“That's not 'a little',” ya say. “Also please don't open your mouth that much at me again; holy schist.”
“Is this the first time you've seen a youkai's teeth?” Rinnosuke says.
“Do I look like I've got a D.D.S.? I've seen flatter fangs in a Rottweiler!” And if Rinnosuke thinks ya missed that I-told-ya-so tone of voice he had goin' on just there, he's got another think comin'. You're just lettin' it slide for now 'cause you've got priorities. “Okay, so—Rumia—do ya just need to hang till this whole thing blows over, or is someone actively gunnin' for ya? 'Cause I don't really have a plan for someone pullin' a Big Bad Wolf on this house of sticks.”
Rumia looks up at you, runnin' her thumb over the right of her maxilla like it's never occurred to her that she's the one with the funky ivories.
“I still don't know what you're saying,” she says. “You—”
“I say things weird. Yeah, yeah.” That's your shtick, apparently, as far as this girl's got it. “Okay, lemme try again—are ya bein' chased, at the mo? Is someone on your tail something like right now?”
“Yes,” Rumia says.
“And so basically,” ya continue, tryin' real hard to ignore your heartbeat goin' up your gullet, “if ya don't get hid right now, the odds of ya gettin' blasted start lookin' more and more likely?”
“Yes,” Rumia says. She takes the hand out her mouth and smiles right atcha.
It's a real trustin' smile.
And here's where ya realize ya didn't have a choice in what you were gonna do, straight from the get-go.
Rinnosuke's got his cheek in his hand and the look of a dude seein' something real painful happen in slow-mo for the nth time that day. “Yes?” he says.
“What's your feelings on redecoration? 'Cause I'm thinkin' we shove a coupla sticks of furniture in front of the door, maybe, and—”
“I don't think so.”
“Yo, for serious? It's a little kid's life here!”
“She's a youkai. She won't die, even if she is killed. And I doubt whoever's chasing her would be held off very long by the doorway being blocked off.”
“Okay, okay, fine.” C'mon, Christie, you can do this. “What about—what about one of those little cards? Ya got those? Y'know, with the “will return” and the clock sayin' what time you'll “will return” at? I'm thinkin' we stick one of those in the front window and hope for Passover—and you don't have those kinda cards here, do ya.”
Rinnosuke shakes his head. “She'd come in anyway,” he says, “and probably help herself to my tea.”
“Nuts,” ya say. And then ya actually process that, and ya squint.
“Y'know,” ya say, “the way ya said that just now—it kinda sounds like ya know the who comin' to do the blastin'.”
Rinnosuke fails to get cowed by your totally threatful squinty-face. “I can't say I know who's coming,” he says, “but I have my suspicions.”
“Well, maybe have your suspicions at a really good hidin' space, Mac—while you're havin' your suspicions.”
Rinnosuke doesn't even blink, lookin' atcha. Then he does blink, looks at Rumia (still wearin' that everything's-gonna-be-hunky-dory smile), looks at you again, and sighs.
“If I were you, I'd try the next room,” he says.
“Wanna be more specific?” ya say.
“If I were you, I'd try the next room right now.”
And he's lookin' out the window, ya notice.
And maybe ya don't have the view that he does, not from this angle, but mathmen.
“Shrikes!” Ya pick up Rumia underarm, like she's the world's bitingest football. “Remember, Mac, quislingism is verboten!”
“What is what?”
“Don't snitch!” ya tell 'im, and then you're gone.
Okay, maybe it's over the top, “gone”, 'specially seein' as you're just one room over. Still, ya might as well be a state away, considerin' how much thinkin' ya give to Rinnosuke and his Rinnosukin' once you're past the doorway. Right now, ya don't have time for that, is the thing. All your thoughts are focused on one goal, and that's gettin' Rumia tucked away before someone opens up in her a new breathin' tube. It's a real noble effort, in your opinion.
Problem is, this room you're in now? Not exactly prime hide-and-go-seek property. Thing is, it's got too much stuff. Bookshelves—more of 'em—line the walls down the side, proudly displayin' their contents, which is basically counter what you're lookin' for at the mo. There's a coupla wall-shelves, too, but they're even less help, what with their knick-knacks that Rumia's way too big to hide behind unless ya figure out how to shrink things real small real quick, which ya prolly won't. Then there's the floor...
“What are you doing?” says Rumia.
Ya look up from toe level, where you've got your cheek to the wood. “No dice—trapdoorless,” ya say. But what were ya 'spectin', a serdab?
And now ya hear murmurin'.
You're gonna sock Rinnosuke for dead-endin' ya, once this is done. Assumin' you're not just atoms. Yo, Christie, think! What else is there? There's a coupla chairs in the corner, but those're no good, obvs. A table, a window—
Hold on a tick!
The table goes with the chairs, which makes all the sense—ya oughta have a sittin'-down place, in a room fulla books—but the real low light outta that tiny window up there nearly had ya missin' something ultra-important right in front your eyes. It's the shape. Beneath that tacky gingham thing Rinnosuke prolly picked up like he picked up that clock, the whole deal's a slice too cuboidy to fit the norm. And when ya yank the cloth away, ya find you're right.
Suddenly, you're real cool with Rinnosuke bein' the laziest bum in all of Japan. 'Cause what you've got here isn't a table at all. At some point, before ya got here, Rinnosuke took an old, open crate, stuck it on its side, threw on a bad tablecloth, and called it a day.
And that open face, there, and the space inside—that's big enough to fit a kid youkai, and then some.
Course, even if ya shove Rumia in there and drape the tablecloth back on, it's not exactly a stroke of genius. One breeze the wrong way in, and whoops—that's all she wrote. Maybe you'd've more luck directin' Rumia at the window itself.
That tiny window. That real small window. Rumia can contort through that in time, right?
[ ] No way you're temptin' fate—in the box, pronto. [ ] Ducks oughta fly, not sit—Rumia, the window! [ ]
[x] No way you're temptin' fate—in the box, pronto. [x] ...But open the window after she's in, and claim that that's how she escaped if you're questioned [X] Pretend like ya' readin'. If she's more bothered with you, she ain't likely to start snoopin'. If you play it right.
If we're gonna pretend like we're not involved, we should try to do something that doesn't make us look suspicious.
[x] No way you're temptin' fatein the box, pronto. [x] ...But open the window after she's in, and claim that that's how she escaped if you're questioned [X] Pretend like ya' readin'. If she's more bothered with you, she ain't likely to start snoopin'. If you play it right.
>>28440 I don't think the "If she's more bothered with you" line means we're going to antagonize Rumia's bounty hunter, just that we'll distract her enough to make her think there's no reason to search the room.
As trigger happy as Gensokyans are, as long as we don't act like we're gonna be a problem we shouldn't get blasted.
[x] No way you're temptin' fatein the box, pronto. [x] ...But open the window after she's in, and claim that that's how she escaped if you're questioned [X] Pretend like ya' readin'. If she's more bothered with you, she ain't likely to start snoopin'. If you play it right.
[x] No way you're temptin' fate—in the box, pronto.
Yeah, forget it. It prolly is big enough, is the thing, but the whole idea has the phrase “temptin' fate” written all over it in fat permanent marker. The last thing ya want is whoever's huntin' Rumia to come in and see their quarry playin' Winnie-the-Pooh. “The box, Rumia, pronto!” ya hiss, tossin' the gingham back on top over.
“The box?” says Rumia.
And you've got no time to wait for her to get it, not with the footsteps at the edge of hearin' doin' a crescendo. “In!” ya say, and ya shove.
'Cept ya shove too hard.
And ya know ya shove to hard, and here's how ya know: Rumia goes in the box. And that's accordin' to plan, actually, Rumia in the box, 'cause ya actually had a plan here and this isn't just the worst improv session ever. Rumia bein' in the box? Item one on the list, checked off. Check. Double check. Check-a-fiffin'-roony.
You tumblin' in after her? Not so much.
'Cause ya had a plan here, seriously. You were gonna get Rumia in the box (check). And then—and this is the real clever part, the part ya felt all kindsa triumphant for comin' up with, even if ya did steal it from a popcorn flick—and then you were gonna open the window. Not for the sake of gettin' out yourself, of course (you weren't sure that thing was gonna let Rumia through; it sure wasn't gonna let you), but because if you're chasin' someone into a room, and the room lookin' somehow someoneless, and the window's open, where do ya think they've gone?
Through the window.
Through the window.
And if was clever; it was totally clever, and the chaser was gonna stare and swear and stomp outta there, defeated, and the chasee was gonna get outta the box and thank ya for savin' 'er, and even Rinnosuke was gonna be impressed, except none of that is happenin' now, and none of that is gonna happen, 'cause the window's still shut and you are in the box with Rumia.
And those footsteps?
The footsteps aren't so much crescendoing now as much as they are straight up in the same room as you.
Ya twist your neck, checkin' your tablecloth curtain. Or boxcloth, maybe. Whatever ya wanna call it, the it fell back to drapin' over the openin' after ya, so at least ya can't be seen, stuck in this hidey-hole. Or at least ya can't be seen well, barrin' a change in light or a bad breeze, which is a thought you've already covered but that's way more important now that you're doin' the hidin'. You've got your back against the inside wall, your head bent over, your knees tucked up, and all of that could be okay maybe if you were right side up but the universe is laughin' at ya at the mo, so of course you're not.
Oh, and Rumia's there too, sittin' right in front of ya, between you and the way-too-fluttery thing of gingham that anyone has to just swipe at for a little if they wanna uncover the prize inside. She looks a lot more comfy than you, seein' as she's small. And she seems like she's figured out the whole clammin'-up deal that your whole hidin' plan kinda hinged on so that's good, too, at least, maybe.
All you've gotta do here is shut up, and wait up, and maybe also not sneeze. Easy, right?
The footsteps stop.
“Where is she?”
The dude that says that says that calm—casual, even. Like she's lookin' for a single book or knick-knack 'cross all the ones adornin' this pad.
It's not Marisa.
“Where is who?” ya hear Rinnosuke respond.
“Your guest,” the dude says.
It's not Margatroid, either, but ya didn't think it'd be Margatroid as much as ya thought it'd be Marisa. Marisa'd make sense. Rumia didn't wanna be blasted. Who does blastin'? Marisa does blastin'.
But it's not Marisa.
“There's nobody here,” says Rinnosuke.
“Yes, I can tell there's nobody here,” says the mystery dude. “That doesn't tell me where your guest is, though.”
“She's probably outside, then.”
“She isn't outside. I would have seen her while I was flying in.”
Something real outrageous just got said just now, but Rinnosuke takes it like it's no big thing. “Well, she might be farther away from the shop,” he says.
“So you let her wander into the Forest of Magic alone? That's irresponsible, even for you.”
“It's not as if I'm in control of her. She comes and goes as she likes. It reminds me of someone else who's fond of doing something very similar.”
Ms. Mystery Dude makes a real mysterious hummin' sound, and on that note, yo—Rinnosuke's gettin' the nth degree here, but what was he supposta do, pin Rumia down till this dude arrived? With that expectation hangin' over your head you'da let Rumia out the window on principle. Which maybe is like what ya shoulda done, instead of the box.
Rumia's movin' her back real slight, like dudes do when they're nice and easy with their breathin'. Either the gravity of the sitch hasn't hit yet or she's got a whole lotta confidence in the plan you've already hecked up.
“Besides,” Rinnosuke adds, when Ms. Mystery Dude doesn't make to say anymore, “you've had more experience with Outsiders, so you should know what they're like. With youkai so uncommon in the Outside World, they don't understand how dangerous Gensokyo can be.”
Hold up, why's he talkin' 'bout Outsiders? Rumia's an Outsider? Rumia's not an Outsider. Didja miss something here?
Ms. Mystery Dude makes that hummin' sound again. “Too bad,” she says, “I wanted to see the person Marisa let use her Mini-Hakkero.”
“I don't think it's so much that Marisa let her use her Mini-Hakkero as it is that there wasn't any other choice.”
“She used it on her first try, though—so Marisa said. I thought that was interesting, but now it looks like she already got cocky and left.”
The aitch? Ya thought that “guest” talk was all euphemism, but she wasn't euphemizin' at all. She wasn't talkin' 'bout Rumia; she was talkin' 'bout you. They were both talkin' 'bout you.
Why the aitch're they both talkin' 'bout you?
'Cause like, yeah, sure, you're awesome, but here ya haven't up built yet your rep. It's way too early for your sheer awesome to be super-apparent through just plain hearsay. So why the aitch's this dude—who ya don't even know; that's the point—talkin' 'bout you?
And then ya stop wonderin' so loud why anyone's talkin' 'bout anything 'cause Ms. Mystery Dude starts footsteppin' again, and her footsteps go next to the box, and her footsteps go in front of the box, and then ya don't hafta count footsteps anymore 'cause she's throwin' shadows on your curtain.
There's a sound like someone either scrapin' a chair over or puttin' teeth through a coffee grinder. Your heartbeat decides the gullet's becomin' a real stagnant environ and relocates itself into your skull. And then there'sa coupla thumps from above like someone puttin' their elbows on a box that is also the only thing separatin' ya from a guillotinin' and your heartbeat straight up stops.
“Have you told her yet?” goes Ms. Mystery Dude's voice.
There's a lot of quiet, followin' that question. Like a infinite plane of quiet, goin' out everywhere forever. Ya hold your breath.
“No,” Rinnosuke says.
“I see. So you don't want her to know.”
Hey, no, wait. Doesn't want ya knowin' what?
“I don't mind her finding out,” says Rinnosuke, and what? “It's not a secret.”
“But you haven't told her yet, right? And you probably don't want her to know, either.”
“Which doesn't make it a secret.” Which doesn't make what a secret? “If she asks, I'll tell her the truth.”
“Except she isn't going to ask.”
And Rinnosuke suddenly doesn't say anything, and this is suddenly totally seriously messed up, maybe.
“You know what Outsiders are like,” says Ms. Mystery Dude, and her voice is megalo-deliberate. Tracin'-the-letters-in-elementary-school deliberate. “With youkai that uncommon in the Outside World, they don't understand how dangerous Gensokyo is. She's not going to ask because she's not going to think of asking.”
Another track of silence, this one goin' on for miles and miles and miles.
You can hear forever.
“Well, it doesn't look like she's here, though,” says Ms. Mystery Dude says, whiplashin' back to casual. “I guess I'll have to come by another time, if she doesn't wander off any farther.”
Rinnosuke makes a vaguish accedey kinda noise that mighta sounded like words in an alternate dimension without the dispiritude.
“Oh, and one more thing,” Ms. Mystery Dude says.
And that's when a leg bursts into your boxspace in a sweepin' knee-jerk that misses you by an inch, misses Rumia by less, and thunks up into the inside underside with enough oomph to send the whole deal rockin' even with the both of ya weighin' it down.
“Since she's your guest, that makes her your responsibility, right? So make sure she doesn't get mixed up with any dangerous youkai.”
The leg goes away with that same kinda chock-fulla-meanin' deliberateness, the boxcloth flutterin' back down ahead of it. Ya hear the sound of a chair scrapin' in a direction that's a lot more agreeable. The footsteps go away till they aren't footsteps anymore.
You're kinda not able to appreciate any of that, at the mo. Forget heartbeats; forget breathin'—you're dead. Or at least close enough, considerin' all the years that went off with that foot. Ya got made, first thing, prolly, and the only reason ya weren't blasted into individual corpuscles was 'cause your executioner got capricious.
You'd get to shakin', 'cept your brain's not up to even that.
“She's gone,” says Rinnosuke. He doesn't shout it all out, but in this buncha quiet there's alotta room for his voice to stretch its legs. Rumia gets a handle on the deal between the two of you first—like she even lost the handle; ya don't even know—and makes in a real Rumia fashion, practically just floatin' out the box.
Ya wait a tick, in case Ms. Mystery's plannin' on doublin' back and slammin' through the wall like she's got juice mix to sell, and when nobody starts screamin' ya follow after, the boxdrape drapin' over ya. See? Ya did die, maybe. All ya see's your own stupid gingham shroud.
Or Rinnosuke, all ya see's Rinnosuke, lookin' down atcha like he didn't know what he was thinkin' he was gonna see, but this wasn't it. “You were both in there?” he says.
You're suddenly real peeved. “You're the one who just called out to us, Mac—don't lose it 'cause we actually showed up.”
You've just been through a real crazy experience and you're unloadin' on the dude that helped ya. You'll prolly feel bad about this later.
Rinnosuke rubs his face, like he's tryin' to massage open his pores to get the words out. Or maybe he's just still reelin'. “No. I mean,” he says, “why were the two of you in the box?”
“Where else would we be?”
“I was expecting you to guide Rumia through the window!”
What, seriously? “I didn't think she'd fit through.”
“She'd fit. When people aren't walking into my shop without being invited, they're flying in. That's probably the same window Rumia entered by in the first place.”
Ya look at Rumia.
“It is,” Rumia says, real cheerful.
“Yeah, well, I didn't wanna risk it. Sucks to your honey.”
“There's a book like that. Guess ya don't have that one.”
“No—as you can see, most of the literature I collect is focused on imparting knowledge. Textbooks, instruction manuals—”
Ya know all this, is the thing. This place is basically wall to wall books, and you've been stuck here a lot longer than ya oughta've been already. Figurin' you'd pick something off the shelves to deal chronocide with didn't take alotta deep thought.
Problem is—like he said—like he's still sayin', not catchin' on that ya zoned out years ago—it's all textbooks and instruction manuals, and most of 'em outta date hilarious. Even the stuff on computer is Lovelace old, and—
Wait. Why're ya thinkin' 'bout books?
“Yo, Mac,” ya say.
Rinnosuke's lit lesson trips over the front of itself, landin' face first into the silence. The dude who was speakin' it stares at ya from somewhere in the middle of a diphthong. “Yes?” he says, once he's got his wordage back.
“I've just had this mega-crazy train of thought, so deal with me for a tick, okay? Check it.” Ya hold out your hand like you're twistin' the idea. “Ya didn't think I was gonna be in that box.”
“No,” says Rinnosuke. He follows that up real quick: “I expected you wouldn't need to hide, once you helped Rumia escape.”
“Yeah, yeah, plans and mice and men. But—yo, I dunno, but maybe ya didn't think about it? Like maybe ya came in and ya saw just, y'know, no me and no Rumia, and ya figured we both made it out or something. And so maybe 'cause ya thought that, maybe ya said alotta stuff ya wouldn'ta said if you'd known were we boxed up actually.”
Rinnosuke doesn't say anything.
“And, y'know, I'm just sayin', but—that dude you were talkin' to, she actually knew we were in the box. Like maybe she had some crazy intuition, or something, or maybe it's just 'cause I don't really do sneakiness. I dunno. But she said alotta stuff, too. 'Cept, she said it knowin'.”
Rinnosuke doesn't say anything some more.
Ya look at him. He's just standin' there, starin' atcha like he has been, 'cept that's not right 'cause somewhere along you talkin' he went off in all the ways. His mouth is apart just a crack, like he's tryin' to get air on his tongue without bein' real obvious about it. His head is tilted back just the minutest of degrees, like he suspects he's gonna start bleedin' from his faceholes but isn't real sure yet.
And his eyes—well, that's why it's not right, right? 'Cause there's something a millimeter off in his focus. He's not starin' at ya. He's starin' through ya.
[ ] Ask Rinnosuke 'bout the thing. [ ] Don't ask Rinnosuke 'bout the thing [ ]
>>28461 I don't know about you, but I'm rather curious as to what this thing is, and Reimu(?) made it sound like it was rather important to me, which makes it a tad bit more important than being all cuddly and nice to Rinnosuke.
“So what I'm gettin' at is this, Mac,” ya say, before ya can decide not to say it. “What is it that I don't know?”
For a tick, ya think maybe Rinnosuke hasn't heard ya—like maybe he's so far into his head he's gone deaf, or something. But then his eyes slide back to front and he's lookin' straight atcha again, and ya know he's heard. Still doesn't say anything, but ya know. Does he think you're gonna drop the subject entire if he keeps his yap shut?
You're not gonna drop the subject entire if he keeps his yap shut. You're not even gonna drop your lookin'. At the sec, you're totally just fine usin' your eyebeams to pin Rinnosuke down like some psychokinetic lepidopterist Zaroff. “Dead air, Mac,” ya say, and ya don't even care if he gets it.
But maybe he does get it, is the thing, 'cause the words barely have time to hang before Rinnosuke suddenly loses the starin' contest. His eyes dip—and then gather somewhere up over your right ear before findin' your face again, and by the time the round trip's done there's this real weird colorless look that's faded out over the remainder of his mug. He opens his mouth and ya aren't sure he isn't gonna upchuck or conk out standin' or pull a Hendrix and go for broke.
“I'm half youkai,” Rinnosuke says instead, and that's a real relief. You weren't lookin' forward to rollin' 'im on his side—
“Sorry, Mac, couldja run by me that one more time? Wanna do some makin' sure here,” ya say.
Rinnosuke's whole countenance does the whole dippin' thing this time, before it catches itself and goes back to solid. “I'm half youkai,” he says again.
“Ya mean like Rumia?” ya ask, and look over. Rumia, meanwhile, is lookin' over at the both of you, which makes total sense seein' as you two dudes are makin' the most noise. She's still smilin' like a dope, but even her smile's gone droopy at the edges.
Lotsa faces collapsin' today.
Rinnosuke, though, looks affronted, now, and maybe in a little pain. Like someone punched 'im in the throat and he's feelin' like he didn't deserve it. “I'm half youkai,” he says for a third time, stressin' on the fractiony part, “and I'm—”
He quits talkin' for a sec. Shuts his lips and takes a deep breath up through his nose.
“I don't harm humans,” he says, a whole lot calmer. “That is—I'm not in the habit of chasing down human beings, like other youkai, but I understand if you feel uncomfortable, just the same. I'll ask you to bear my company for now, until I can find someone to take you to the Hakurei Shrine. It should be fine if we spend time in different rooms. The shop is small, but it shouldn't be that difficult—”
“Yeah, gonna hafta break up your speech right there, Mac.” Ya lift up a hand, doin' just that. “See, 'cause, I've gotta ask ya—what the holy oak are ya talkin' 'bout, even?”
Rinnosuke, dislodged from his grand address, looks at ya like you're the one who needs a lie-down here. “Don't you understand what I've said?” he says, even more affrontedy. “I'm—”
“Yeah, yeah, you're part youkai. Got it.” And now that all this is all clear, maybe the both of ya can get all up on with the plans for Rumia-guardin' or something?
Or guess not. “Got it,” ya say, in a way ya hope's puttin' it in bold and underlinin' and a slideshow-size font. “Look—don't take this for bein' narcissistic, but when that dude ya had over started baitin' us into this secret stuff, I thought this was gonna be about me. Like maybe someone out there was linin' me up for a human sacrifice, or gunnin' for me 'cause of some Outsider especiality. I thought this was gonna be about me. 'Cept then it wasn't, so...”
“Then,” Rinnosuke says, his voice doin' some breaky wavy coloratura thing, “me being part youkai...”
Ya shrug again. “Well, I mean,” ya point out, “it's like, yeah, sure, but—whatever, y'know, right?”
Rinnosuke considers this. His mouth twitches open. “You,” he says.
Ya shrug a third time, in case the first two didn't take.
No,” says Rinnosuke. He switches tracks. “I,” he says.
Uh, maybe a fourth time? Shouldja do a fourth time here?
Ya do a fourth time, just-in-casin' for the just-in-case.
Rinnosuke watches it, his eyes bouncin' off the top of your right shoulder.
And then he turns around and walks real steady out the room.
“Uh,” ya call out, leanin' into doorview, “yo, Mac. You okay?”
Rinnosuke doesn't answer. Rinnosuke's standin' over his desk, hands flat planted, his back goin' up and down farther in both directions than Rumia's did.
“Rinnosuke?” ya try out.
The back stops doin' the up-and-down thing, just for a sec, before resumin'. “Yes?” Rinnosuke says.
“I'm askin' 'cause ya don't look okay. Or sound it. You're not emanatin' okayness, is what I'm sayin'.”
“I forgot you weren't from Gensokyo,” Rinnosuke says. “That's all.”
“What, for serious?” ya say. “But I've got the kicks and everything. And the jeans. And the distinct not-from-Gensokyo mindset.”
“So how'dja manage that, all of a sudden?”
Rinnosuke's head falls, and then stops fallin', reachin' real quick the limit of fallage the neck it's stuck to is cool with. “I can't imagine,” he says.
And ya watch 'im like that, him playin' statue 'cept for his breathin', waitin' for 'im to straighten up and get back to the whole Rumia biz.
'Cept he doesn't.
So ya guess you'll have to kick-start his butt. “Yo, Mac—”
And ya do stop, 'cause—maybe it's the voice or the stance gettin' to ya, but just those coupla buncha syllables feel weird straightforward. “Rinnosuke?” ya offer up.
Rinnosuke shakes his head. Ya see it from the back, and it's a lot better than more dippin'. “I'm sorry,” he says, “but—could you please stop talking, just for a little while?”
“Yeah,” ya say. “Sure, Mac.”
And ya shuffle outta doorview, too, just in case, which is a new just-in-case, totally off from the old ones.
“Man,” ya say, mutterin' it out for no one particular, “what's got him bummed out?”
Rumia's voice sends ya makin' like a springbok, nearly, which is double weird 'specially seein' as one, she's right there—not hidin' or anything—and two, you were just considerin' 'er a sec ago. Multiple times, even. “What?” ya say, beatin' your heart rate down.
“It's you,” says Rumia.
And she smiles ya up, and ya know she's not gonna 'splain any more than that if you're not gonna ask, first.
“What's me?” ya ask, first. “Ya mean, it's me—I'm here? 'Cause I figured ya noticed that sooner. I mean, we were in the same box and everything, right?”
“Are being bummed out and being sad the same?”
Whoa. Some sudden swerviness there. “Uh, sorta?” ya say. “Maybe? Bummed-outness is a real subtle thing. Or outbummedness. Or whatever ya wanna call it. I guess if ya wanna fit 'bein' sad' under that umbrella, no one's gonna stop ya. Why?”
“You made him bummed out.”
Yo, wait. 'Scuse?
“Wanna spell that one out for the audience?” ya say to Rumia, real careful. “Not that I'm tossin' it it out straight out, but a dude's gotta proportion their belief to the evidence. If you're gonna start shootin' off some serious j'accuses every which way—”
“You made him give you his secret.”
“What, ya mean that him-bein'-part-youkai biz? Well, yeah. I mean, there was a secret, so I had to snuff it out. No big, right?” No big. “I thought it was gonna be something real world-rockin', but it didn't have anything to do with me at all. Lotta dramatic buildup for squat.”
“You threw it away,” says Rumia.
“Threw what away now?”
“You made him give you his secret,” says Rumia, cheery smile set real square on her mug, “and then you threw it away.”
“Hey, no, wait up.” Ya palms-out your hands in the universal gesture of 'stop! In the name of sanity'. “I didn't throw it out. That's like the opposite of what I did. If I'd thown it out I woulda just forgotten it, striaght off, and I know the info's still up there in my brainspace. I didn't throw it out. I filed it away. There's a diff.”
Rumia says nothing and smiles.
“Look, for serious. I'm not the bad guy here,” ya say.
Rumia says more nothing and more-smiles.
“Am I the bad guy here?”
“You helped me to not get blasted,” Rumia says.
“Right! Right.” Ya nod. “So I'm not the bad guy here.”
Rumia goes back to nothing-sayin'.
“In fact,” ya venture, “seein' as I contributed a bunchload in the whole keepin'-a-dude-from-gettin'-blasted experience that just went down, I'd say I'm the opposite of the bad guy here. I'm the good guy here. Right?”
“You helped me to not get blasted,” Rumia says.
“So I'm the good guy here.”
“You helped me to not get blasted,” Rumia says.
“So I'm the good guy.”
“Non recipit stultus verba prudentiæ, nisi ea dixeris quæ versantur in corde ejus.”
Ya stare down at Rumia, waitin' for the subtitles.
Ya don't get any.
“It's Latin,” says Rumia, and the smilin' she's doin' keeps on keepin' on.
>>28476 Eh, I have to agree with those that disagree with the translation you found. The phrase, as far as I can tell and find, means more like: "You can't tell a fool anything, unless they want to hear it because it's what they already believe." So unless you're reinforcing their (probably mistaken) opinion, they won't listen to whatever you have to say.
>>28476 This looks like a mistranslation from Hebrew into Latin, on the part of the Vulgate. It may, alternatively, be a technically valid but very unpopular reading of the original text. I have just enough acquaintance with Hebrew to know that I can't be sure.
It doesn't really matter; Rumia spoke Latin, not Hebrew, and I do know Latin. Those words above do not match any translation on the page you linked, save for the Douay-Rheims Bible -- which >>28469 quoted, and which (sayeth Wikipedia) is a translation from the Vulgate.
The way it works in the flicks is this: Dude A gets a real heavy thing off their chest, Dude B receives the real heavy thing Dude A's gotten off their chest, and then suddenly Dude A and Dude B are gunnin' down terrorists or defusin' bombs or openin' a joint checking account with serious new efficacy. The world's saved, the girl's got, and the credits roll.
'Cept it turns out this is actually real life you're doin' so instead of bustin' out with the power of friendship Rinnosuke makes dinner and the three of ya eat in awkward silence.
Your next big hope is maybe the problem's just gonna shove off overnight, but no luck there, either. Ya wake up the morning after to find out the awkwardness hasn't that much evaporated as congealed. Rinnosuke does breakfast, yeah, but he does it lookin' like he's tryin' to decide how close to put the bowl to ya, and meanwhile there's this thing of guilt and irritation suckin' at your ankles tryin' to pull ya through the floor. Which is ridic, of course, 'cause what've you got to be guilty 'bout? Nothing, that's what. Nada. Squat. So ya oughta just be irritated through and through, but instead you're guilty and irritated and irritated you're guilty and guilty you're irritated and irritated you're guilty you're irritated and guilty you're irritated you're guilty and you could deal with this, maybe, if it didn't go forever both ways.
Plus there's Rumia, who's floatin' too high for the muck to latch onto, and that's irritation all on its own. If she's gonna hanginaround while the rest of you are so down, the least she could do is affect downage. Meet ya halfway, or something.
And that's when ya realize you're gripin' 'cause Rumia's not as bummed out as you, and you've gotta be upfront here—that's messed. Yeah, nuts to lettin' this thing linger. You're beatin' it down right now before ya actually do end up playin' Discobolus with the tableware, and nuts to subtlety too 'cause you're goin' jugular first here. Ya put down your chopsticks, catch Rinnosuke straight in the eyes, and with a tone suggestin' nonsense better disperse ya say—
“Couldja pass the soy sauce?”
Rinnosuke passes the soy sauce. Ya turn your rice into a marsh and pretend he's not lasin' his own eyebeams through the top of your crown. And then ya realize that saucin' up rice to the third circle and back makes a whole lotta trouble when it comes to chopstickin' up, and then ya start wishin' you were anywhere else but here, like maybe home.
And then, 'cause what's goin' on now isn't stressin' ya out just with what's goin' on through your head, something makes a mean thump on the outside of the shopfront.
There's a sec right there where everyone looks at everyone else, and ya know what everyone's thinkin' 'cause you're thinkin' it too: “Yo, I didn't invite anyone.”
“'Spectin' company?” ya ask anyways. It's one of those rhetorical things.
Rinnosuke looks like he doesn't know if he oughta get up or get down. “Customers,” he says, “but they don't usually knock.”
“So maybe it's a dude that's not a customer?”
“Those don't knock at all.”
The all of ya wait a tick additional, like whoever's out there's gonna punctuate Rinnosuke's totally dramatic revelation with another thing of knockage just to cement it in how weird this deal is. Or how weird this deal is to him, anyways, seein' as to you it's just someone knockin' on the door which as far as you fig doesn't deserve this level of outfreakedness at all. But no—you've got it already, right? That real life doesn't work like the movies, with all the dramatic timin' and pauses and cut-tos. The pad's as quiet as a real quiet tomb, inside and out. Even Rumia's stopped fillin' her piehole here, just to listen.
[ ] Alright, looks like you're the one that's gotta take the hit. [ ] It's not your door. You're not openin' it when it's not your door. [ ] If there's trouble, send the one of ya that's got teeth, maybe. [ ]
[X] Alright, looks like you're the one that's gotta take the hit.
Ya can't stand it.
Rinnosuke eyes ya funny while ya stand up. “What are you doing?” he says, like it isn't totally obvious.
“What's it look like I'm doin'?” ya say back. “I'm takin' the hit. That's what the drama's all about, right?”
“Sure—I get blasted in the face, and you dudes know you've gotta make it out the window. I'm so self-sacrificin' it's awesome.”
Rumia gazes at ya with some sorta serious admiration. “If you get blasted, can I eat you?” she says.
“I won't be able to fit through the window,” says Rinnosuke. “It's too small.”
“No. And...I dunno. Hide in a box, maybe? Worked for me.” And ya cover the coupla steps to the door in this way-too-small pad, take the door handle, twist, and open.
“Wow,” ya say. “We wasted a perfectly good buildup.”
“Who's there?” says Rinnosuke.
“Nobody's there,” ya say. “And I don't mean Odysseus. I think we just got ding-dong ditched. Can ya get ding-dong ditched if there's no ding-dongage?”
If Rinnosuke's got opinions on ding-dongage necessity he keeps 'em for himself, even after he joins ya at the doorway. He looks up, shadin' his eyes, and ya suddenly remember dudes can fly here, maybe, which is something ya keep not rememberin' even though ya know Rumia's got the whole levitation deal in her repertoire. Ya look up in the sky, too, to match, but if there was a dude flyin' off after freakin' Rinnosuke out with the lack of inburstin', they're long gone.
No, they're long gone, definitely. Ya thought ya saw something for a tick—some sorta dark speck, or something—but ya blinked and it wasn't there anymore and it prolly wasn't there to start with, anyways. Or maybe it was just a bird, doin' bird things and not really carin' that anyone broke up your breakfast. Or maybe it was the dude that did the knockage, 'cept whaddya gonna do, fly up after 'em? Yeah, sure. First Odysseus, now Daedalus.
“'C'mon, close it up already,” ya say to Rinnosuke. “You're lettin' in bugs. I dunno 'bout you, but I'm mostly averse to anything with six legs plus gettin' into my bedsheets.”
“They're my bedsheets,” Rinnosuke mutters, soundin' like he's only half there to say it.
“Then you can sleep in 'em, once the creepy crawlies get in—” And ya realize, there, that “half” mighta been generosity, 'cause Rinnosuke's stoopin' over his stoop, messin' with something at stoop level. You'd check it out, but there's too much him in the way. “Yo—what's up?”
Rinnosuke gets back up to standin' straight, lettin' ya see what he's got in his hand. It looks like—
“The newspaper,” Rinnosuke 'splains.
“Ya get delivery? Out here in the middle of trees and more trees?”
“It's not as difficult to reach places that would normally be out-of-the-way when you can fly.”
Point. “So that thump at the door...”
“Better than replacing another window.”
“Dude's got bad aim?”
“'Aim' implies they meant to hit something in particular.” Rinnosuke unrolls the thing, and ya catch the big blarin' Japanese near the top while he goes all mumbly flippin' through perusin'. “I'm lucky if I don't have to search through the grass in front of the shop. Then again...”
He goes all quiet.
And then Rinnosuke all of a sudden scowls, steps backwards, and shuts the door right in front of the both of ya in a way that's just short of straight up slammin'.
Huh. “Bad news?”
His whole mouth does some sorta twitch. “Maybe you should read it for yourself,” he says, and hands the paper atcha, makin' back for breakfast the sec ya take it.
Double huh. Maybe this place got a bad review? Ya don't remember anyone actually bein' in to do any reviewin', but ya have been nappin' a lot.
'Cause, yo, what else're ya gonna do?
So ya do some perusin' of your own.
Your first impression of the newspaper is—well, it's a newspaper. Like the ones ya got back home before everyone figured out they could just get the same stuff from the net, funnies included. It's not the same all the way, obvs—it's in Japanese instead of English, and the title's on the right instead of blazin' 'cross the top—but it's samey enough that ya get that same sorta sudden wham in your gut from the homesick surgin' up again, like it did when ya saw Margatroid's pad's insides.
Ya beat it down, or try to. “Yo, what's this say?” ya call out.
There's a pause before Rinnosuke comes callin' back from where he's at. “What does what say?”
“The title of the newspaper?”
No, your title—Baron Christoferson, that's you. “Sure, the title of the newspaper,” ya say.
“The 'Bunbunmaru Newspaper'.”
“Thanks.” Ya think about tellin' 'im ya already had that “newspaper” bit—like, really consider it—but what the hey. The dude dropped ya the pronunciation without bein' all passive-agressively douchetastic about it. You'll let it slide for now. You're awesome like that.
With all the Japanese jam-packed on one page, it takes a sec for your brain to take in all the little shapes and fig them for actual wordage, but ya manage. The front page's just one big story, something about a festival or celebration or festive celebration that happened some point before Rinnosuke saw the paper on his stoop and picked it up. Ya consider workin' out how far before “some point before” actually was, but it's a lost cause and ya know it—whatever calendar this place uses is funky to an extent beyond understandin', and even if it wasn't, you've been cooped up here so long ya don't even know what day's now.
Okay, serious bummerage sneakin' up on ya here. Beat it down, Christie, beat it down.
Ya read the article back to front, but ya can't find anything that 'splains Rinnosuke gettin' his dandruff up. It's basically just a summin'-up of the whole festival deal, mentionin' how Dude C showed up with Dude D 'cause of Reason Z and how that's got Significance N. Ya still can't read the names—you're not askin' for romaji here, for serious; even just some ruby text'd be sweet—but there's a pic of a coupla women smilin' unsteady for the birdie, decked out in some duds that look weirdly western. One of them's got grapes in her cap, and the other's got leaves in her hair. Ya think maybe there's a theme goin' on, or something, but who cares?
Whatever you're lookin' for here, this isn't it.
So yeah. Maybe Rinnosuke's just pissed he missed it—that's your best guess, here. And then ya turn the paper over, and there's your mug plastered 'cross the back page.
Ya consider that.
Rinnosuke, way done with breakfast, stares atcha over the flat of his desk. He says zip. Just stares, like somehow you're the one who shoulda 'spected this.
Rumia, on the other hand, is still sittin' to eat, her cheeks stuffed like some new brand of hamster. She's got a bowl extra than what she had before, and your side of the table's short.
Ya fig a connection, but that's totally least concern right now.
“No, but check it,” ya say, and read the back of the thing you've got: “'Something Something Mysterious Woman'.”
Or half read, anyways.
“It's 'Kourindou',” says Rinnosuke. “'Mysterious Woman at Kourindou'.”
There's the “kou”, and there's the “dou”—okay, you'll take his word for it. “'Mysterious Woman at Kourindou',” ya full read. “What's a Kourindou?”
“This is Kourindou. Kourindou is the name of this shop. You didn't know that?”
“I've been calling it 'this shop' in my head. Stop sidetrackin' me and listen.”
“I've already seen the article—”
Hissin' makes Rinnosuke give ya proper audial space. Ya pause to make sure he isn't gonna jump ya with an interjection, and then get to it.
“'Over the past weeks, there have been sightings of a mysterious woman at Kourindou, the secondhand store at the forest's entrance. Though Kourindou occasionally receives visitors, this woman is unusual in that she appears to be an actual resident of the shop, rather than a normal customer.'”
Ya break there. “That's me,” ya point out. “This thing's on me. Why's there an article on me?”
“Probably,” says Rinnosuke, “there was space to be filled.”
“But why'd they fill it with me?” ya ask again. And seein' as Rinnosuke's got more zip in that category, ya go on readin'.
“'Furthermore, the woman appears to have a reclusive nature, and has not been seen outside the shop.' Reclusive? I'm not reclusive. I mean, yeah, I've been spendin' alotta time at your pad, with the not-goin'-outsideness, but that's not 'cause I'm reclusive, or whatever. It's 'cause I don't wanna get my face chewed off. That's reasonable, right?”
“As reasonable as not wanting to have to watch over someone all the way from here to the village if I don't need to.”
“That's not reasonable at all. And anyways, that's not the point—look, forget listenin', look!” And ya wave the page at 'im.
Rinnosuke regards your wavin' with a whole lotta incomprehension.
“All this stuff 'bout 'mysterious' this and 'reclusive' that and 'unusual' the other is iffy enough,” ya 'splain, “but whatever dude put this in print got this pic to go with it—is the thing. I mean, yeah, sure, it's not a bad pic...”
And it's totally not a bad pic, 'specially considerin' it looks like whoever took it took it through the window. You're the main attraction, lyin' on the floor holdin' a book above your face, like ya really thought you were gonna get through a tome on statistics in relation to behavioral sciences, but Rinnosuke's in the shot, too, walkin' by—ya don't remember what for, prolly to fetch another knickknack to mess with—and at the edge is Rumia pretendin' to be an airplane even though you're pretty sure she doesn't know what an airplane is. Somehow, the whole deal's got a real homey feel to it with the all three of ya set up like that—like you're the weirdest familial unit ever instead of just you, your host, and a dude who sometimes eats people.
But that's not the point.
“Someone took a pic of me, is what I'm sayin',” ya gripe, “and like this. I mean, if I'd been outside it woulda been a whole lot less egregious—y'know, 'cause I woulda been outside—but whoever took this took this playin' some kinda skeevy reverse Peepin' Tom, and that's just douche. I mean—right?”
Rinnosuke opens his mouth like he's gonna talk, but it takes a mo before the talkin' actually happens. “I wasn't thinking about privacy,” he admits.
“Well, ya should! Doesn't it freak ya out, knowin' some paparazzo-slash-paparazza might be watchin' us now?”
“You should hide yourself,” says Rumia from over there. She's tiltin' her bowl. Too bad it's fulla empty. “If you hide yourself, nobody can see you.”
“Yeah, maybe. Problem is, pullin' shadows over isn't on my resume.” Plus ya fig the big mass of dark would be a real giveaway, but ya don't feel like dumpin' on Rumia when she's tryin' to help.
Rumia frowns, then smiles. “Then you should be close to me,” she says. “I can make you dark, too.”
“Uh, yeah, well—kinda too late for that. I'm published already.” Ya get over at the window and cover the angles, but ya don't see anyone lurkin' out there, camera or no camera.
Which doesn't mean anyone's not actually there, of course.
“Hey, hold on a tick.” Something occurs to ya all of a sudden, and ya look at Rinnosuke. “If ya weren't thinkin' 'bout the whole somebody's-watchin'-me deal, what were ya thinkin' that got ya all scowly?”
“Yeah, sure. I mean, your face—you were goin' real scowly right before ya handed me the thing. What, ya didn't notice?”
“I was not—scowly.”
“You were totally scowly. You were crazy scowly. C'mon, Rumia, back me up here.”
“I didn't see him scowly because I was eating food,” Rumia says.
“Then he's gonna hafta take my word for it! Listen—you were scowly. You were ultra-scowly, even. And I dunno if you've got some sorta secret reason for scowliness, but—do ya wanna dispense, at least?”
Rinnosuke gives ya this look, like he's thinkin' he oughta be pissed but he doesn't know where to, and then his mouth goes in a straight line, and then he goes, “Did you read the last paragraph?”
“Skimmed it,” ya admit. “Lemme see—” It's a big paragraph, and ya don't feel a lot like recitin' the whole thing, but ya think ya can find the part that's offendin'. “'An Outsider spending so much time with a youkai and a part-human part-youkai is unusual. On the other hand, there have been cases where youkai from the Outside World have come to Gensokyo. If this mysterious woman is a youkai Outsider, this would explain her amicable relationship with other youkai.' Hey, so this dude thinks I'm a youkai? Is that it?”
Rinnosuke looks like he's startin' to droop into scowliness again so ya know ya chose right. “It doesn't state it alright as much as suggest it—and anyway, it doesn't actually matter if whoever wrote that article actually believes it. The suggestion is enough.”
“So they're suggestin' I'm feelin' fine hangin' at your pad 'cause I'm a youkai, and that's the problem?” Ya grin. “It's kinda neat you're this concerned about them gettin' me wrong, but they can call me the youkaiest youkai who ever youkaied, if they wanna. No skin off my back.”
“It's not you I'm concerned about, it's me! Or rather—”
And then there's a knock at the door.
Only instead of the thumpin' knock ya might get from something newspapery gettin' tossed against the door, this one's more of an actual tappin'-slash-rappin'.
“Rinnosuke?” goes a woman's voice ya haven't heard before. “Are you in?”
“It's the sort of closing paragraph that would make somebody want to check in on me,” Rinnosuke groans.
[ ] If it's him this dude's for, he better answer it. [ ] If it's you this dude's here 'cause of, you better answer it. [ ] Maybe send Rumia to answer it. That makes sense, right? [ ]
[X] If it's you this dude's here 'cause of, you better answer it.
Ya look real real careful at the door, like maybe you're worried those hinges are gettin' loose. “Friend of yours?” ya ask.
“Yes,” says Rinnosuke.
“And when ya say 'friend', do ya mean actually a friend, or are we talkin' one of those friends ya pretend not to see when ya catch 'em walkin' atcha at the supermarket?”
Rinnosuke gets a real look. Like, maybe not angry, but maybe angeresque. “A friend,” he says, real sure to make sure you're real sure too.
And maybe you can get a hint. “Gotcha,” ya say, and then ya say to the door, “Comin'!”
There's a tap, like someone went for a full-fledged knock and aborted at the last sec. Ya make to the door and swing it wide open, revealin' on the other side—
Or at least that's the plan, 'cause when ya turn to do some serious door-answerin' Rinnosuke grabs ya by the shoulder and spins ya right 'round. “What are you doing?” he hisses.
“What's it look like I'm doin'?” ya snap right back. “I'm gettin' the door. That's what dudes do when knockin' happens, right?”
“It's because of you that she's here—because she's worried for me.”
“So that sorta makes it some weird version of my responsibility or something.” Ya swipe at Rinnosuke's hand—still on your shoulder—and he flings it off quick weird like ya burned it by touchin' it on your end. Yo, what's up with that? He's grabbed ya before, right? “Consider this me takin' the hit this time for reals,” ya say.
“There's no reason—you don't need to 'take the hit'; I already know who it is on the other side of that door—”
“Too late, takin' the hit,” ya say. “If I get blasted, tell my mom I was awesome.” And ya make to the door and swing it wide open, revealin' on the other side—
A dude ya don't know in a nice-lookin' dress and some headgear that redefines the term “funky”.
Ya weren't really 'spectin' anything in particular, but ya really weren't really 'spectin' that. “Yo,” ya say.
Funky Headgear sorta goggles, but only for a mo. And then she gets tetchy. “Where's Rinnosuke?” she goes at ya.
“He's over there,” ya say, “breakfastin'. I'm his official door-answerer.”
“You are not my official door-answerer,” Rinnosuke says from farther in.
“Yeah, I'm not,” ya agree. “Ya wanna come in? You're lettin' out all the air.”
Funky Headgear walks in, all real tense about it. Ya close the door and ya feel her eyebeams doin' some heated stuff to your first thoracic vertebra. Or maybe that's sunburn. You can get sunburned from bein' cooped up in the same buncha rooms for ya dunno how long anymore, right?
Right. And the fact the sunburn goes away as soon as Funky Headgear gets to seein' Rinnosuke is a real weird coinkydink. “Rinnosuke!” she goes at 'im. “How are you?”
Rinnosuke stops clearin' up the table of bowls and chopsticks and stuff just long enough to peer over in Funky Headgear's direction. He smiles. It's faint, but it's there. “I'm fine,” he says. “And you?”
“I'm fine as well. Um...”
And for a sec they both stop, the both of 'em, like they're tryin' to remember how the next verse goes. Rinnosuke just stands there, with that real pleasant thing stuck to his face, but Funky Headgear's doin' some jerky microswivels where her head meets her neck, scannin' the scenery—
“I didn't interrupt your meal, did I?” she goes with, finally.
She totally did. Ya told 'er she totally did.
“No, I was just finishing up,” Rinnosuke says, lyin'. “If you wait a little, I can make you some tea...”
“Tea would be nice.”
Rinnosuke nods, still smilin', and shoves off while Funky Headgear makes herself cozy at the table, her knees tuckin' under the tablecloth. And then the tick—the tick—the pinpoint tick he gets outta sight—
Funky Headgear starts eyeing up you. And those aren't real friendly eyes.
“So,” she says, “who are you?”
“I'm Christie Christoferson.”
Somehow, ya figure that's not what she wanted you to say, and by “somehow”, ya mean “by the way her eyes get way more not-friendly”. “And who is Christie Christoferson?” she asks.
“Christie Christoferson's me.” And 'cause prolly the symmetric property's not bein' too helpful here: “I'm the dude hangin' at Rinnosuke's. Ya mighta seen me in the paper, maybe.”
“I did. In fact, that's why I'm here.”
Huh. Ya guess this is day one outta nine of your ephemeral wonderness. Better milk it while you've got it. “So, what—ya come all the way over just to check out my visage? 'Cause I'm actually totally down with that.”
“Not precisely.” says Funky Headgear. And then she does something that's actually sort of weird, which is take off the funky headgear, settin' it real careful on the table where she's at before gettin' those eyebeams back on target. It's a neat effect, on the dude and the headgear both. Just a tick ago, it was like Funky Headgear was drownin' in dignity, like she was goin' through the motions of a graduation ceremony from another dimension or something.
Now, though, with Funky and Headgear separated, Funky looks more like Funky and Headgear looks more like Headgear. Ya couldn't 'splain it right if ya tried. Funky—'cause she can't be “Funky Headgear” without the headgear, obvs—still looks all dignified, but now it's like she's handin' out the diplomas instead of receivin'. And the headgear...
Okay, the headgear still looks like whatever it was it looked like before it got doffed, like a little fancy house or a spaceship or something. But it looks more like that now. For serious.
“Please, sit,” Funky says, and you've got the hunch it's less requestful than it sounds. When ya comply, ya do it on the opposite side of the table. And kinda scooted back. With Funky watchin' ya settle in, lookin' ya up and down without even tiltin' her head.
“What are your intentions?” Funky says, after you're all sat.
Whoa, okay, yeah, she didn't like that answer, either. Those eyes're gonna end up searin' streaks in the wall. Through your skull. “Your intentions,” Funky says again. “What are you doing here?”
“Uh...sleepin'? Eatin'? Just hangin', basically?” This feels like a trick question. “Is this a trick question?”
“It is not.”
“Oh. Sleepin', then. Eatin'. Just hangin', basically. Am I supposta be doin' something here?”
Apparently ya are.
Which makes Rinnosuke's reentry with the tea and eats really ace timin'.
Funky's eyes dim quick from pyre-lightin' to pleasant pleasantness as Rinnosuke makes with the dispensin'. “Here,” he says, and then he turns over to you. “I didn't get you anything,” he admits.
“Yeah, tea's not really my deal.” Still not your deal, which actually Rinnosuke oughta know by now, considerin' how long you've been here. Or you're pretty sure he does know, actually. Double actually.
There's something real off about this whole thing that's happenin' right now and it's makin' ya twitch.
“Oh,” says Rinnosuke, lookin' between the two of ya like he's just noticed you and Funky are sharin' the same roof. “Keine, this is Christie Christoferson. She's staying at the shop for the time being.”
Keine—ya guess that's her name—looks at ya over her tea like a dude with a hammer looks at a nail. “Nice to meet you,” she says, grindin' the words out her vocal cords.
“And Christoferson—this is Kamishirasawa Keine. She's a good friend of mine.”
Keine does a thing that's half scoffin', half laughin'. “In other words, I'm the only one who visits for a reason past purchasing something from you.”
“I'll have you know that plenty of people come by and don't buy anything.”
“Fine, then—I'm the only one who visits for your sake.” And Keine bland-half-smiles up at Rinnosuke who bland-half-smiles down at Keine and this is some kinda heartfelt thing goin' on here so of course this is when something occurs to ya and so ya ruin it.
“Yo, hold on—hold on a tick. 'Kamishirasawa Keine'?” ya say.
Keine looks at ya. Rinnosuke looks at ya. Their smiles drop like rocks. “Yes?” Keine says.
“Did someone tell me your name—” You're askin' the wrong dude. “Rinnosuke, did ya tell me her name before? 'Cause I feel like someone mentioned her name.”
“It was in the newspaper,” says Rinnosuke.
“It was in the newspaper?” Ya don't remember her bein' in the paper, but—double hold on, where'd ya put the paper, even?
“It's under your arm,” says Rinnosuke.
Oh, huh. Ya musta tucked that away when ya made to answer the door. Ya uncrumple it and skim, seekin'—
Wait, here it is, maybe. Something about how there's a buncha dudes from the Outside who've actually gone all, “Yeah, I wanna stay here,” but most of 'em are in the human village, which is where you'da gone a long time ago if Rinnosuke wasn't such a victim of inertia. The paper goes on sayin' that not alotta these dudes from the Outside are buddy-buddy with youkai—and here's the important bit—with the exception of Lastname Firstname, village schoolteacher and were-hakutaku.
“Is this it?” ya ask, turnin' the paper for all to see and tappin' your finger against whatcha think is it. “Kanji's not 'zactly my strong suit.”
“That's it,” Rinnosuke mutters, peerin' closer.
“Hey, sweet! It's 'cause I saw that 'sawa' bit, so—”
“I'm sorry,” Keine interrupts. “'Strong suit'?”
Oh. Right. Ya keep doin' that. And you're not gonna stop doin' that. Mostly 'cause ya can't stop doin' that, but if ya could stop doin' that, ya still wouldn't, 'cause that'd mean you'd given in to bein' stuck in this place forever. “I mean I'm not so good with kanji,” ya 'splain. “I'm from California, which isn't in Japan, but then one day I slept funny and hey presto! Archipelago.”
“I see,” says Keine, lookin' like she's not sure if she sees or not. “Are there many youkai in California, then?”
Ya shrug. “Beats me,” ya say, and you'ven't got a clue why this dude'd think you'd know—
Or maybe ya do, actually, maybe. “I'm not a youkai,” ya say. “I read that much, and they got that part wrong. I mean, they didn't 'zactly go, like, 'dude's a youkai', but—I'm not a youkai.”
Keine blinks at ya. Like, really blinks—if this was a cartoon, you'd hear it happenin'. “Oh,” she says.
And then a lot more irritated, eyebrows scrunchin': “Oh.”
And then she's balancin' her whole brow in the heel of her hand, lookin' like she's tryin' to be a good sport about eatin' something sour. “I should have known,” she groans. “That tengu—she's never been hesitant to embellish the truth when it suits her.”
“It's somehow charming, though,” Rinnosuke says. “As long as the article isn't about you, I mean.”
“Because it's so inaccurate.”
“We can agree on that much, at least.” Keine refocuses back to you. “So you fell asleep, and woke up in Gensokyo?” she asks.
“Yeah, that's right—real shockin', 'specially for me. I woulda spent a whole lotta time coughin' out my soul walkin' in circles if Rumia hadn't shown me over to the shop. Rinnosuke's been real decent, though. Been feedin' me rice and everything.”
“And look how you've repaid me,” Rinnosuke says, under his breath.
“Yo, I've been straight up acceptable in my guestness,” ya protest. “Not like I've been hoggin' the hot water or rockin' out past midnight, right?”
Keine peers over at Rinnosuke. “Rumia led her here?”
“It was a surprise to me, too,” Rinnosuke says. “Apparently she didn't eat her because she didn't run away.”
“And an Outsider wouldn't run away,” says Keine. “Where's Rumia now? The article in the newspaper said she was staying here, but...”
“Well...” Rinnosuke trails off, lookin' around a bit. Then he looks at you.
Then Keine looks at you.
“What?” ya say.
“She did lead you,” Keine says.
“And she was here a moment ago,” Rinnosuke mutters.
“I dunno, I was answerin' the door. Whaddya think I am, her keeper?” Ya snort, and kick out your legs under the table.
And the company goes real still.
“What was that?” Keine says.
“I sneezed,” ya say. “Gesundheit.”
“No, hold on, I sneezed. You say 'gesundheit'.”
“What?” Keine looks over at Rinnosuke.
Rinnosuke puts his hand over his face and makes a big deal outta draggin' it downwards. “It's fine, Keine.”
Whoa. Rinnosuke voice went kinda harsh for a sec there. Even Keine looks sorta aback.
And then her face kinda settles into something real concerned. “Are you sure?”
“Trust me,” Rinnosuke says. “I've lived this long. I must be doing something right.”
Keine sighs and puts her tea down, workin' herself to her feet, grabbin' her headgear on the way. “Fine,” she says. “But remember—if you need help—if you need anyone to talk to—”
“I know where I can find you.”
“You always have, haven't you?” Keine smiles. It's a weird smile. All the smiles've been weird. “And remember to eat well.”
“I'm serious. You never ate enough, even when you weren't living alone.”
Keine's smile goes more horizontal, less smile. She looks around for a sec more, like maybe there's something else she's forgotten—but if there is, she gives up on rememberin'. And after inclinin' her head, she turns and makes out the door, closin' it behind her.
So, that happened.
“Is she gone?” says the table.
Rinnosuke looks like he's gonna do the hand thing again, but gets his appendage under control. “Yes,” he says, “she's gone.”
Rumia pokes her head out from under the head of the table, tablecloth drapin' around her neck, lookin' like some sorta freaky prepubescent table turtle. “Oh,” she says, and exacts herself, brushin' off her dress dust as she gets back to standin'. And then hoverin'.
Seriously, you're not gonna get used to that anytime soon.
“She blasts me sometimes, so I hid,” Rumia 'splains, prolly thinkin' you're askin' a whole different set of questions with your eyeballs, which you're not.
“That might have something to do with your habit of eating human beings,” says Rinnosuke.
“Attacking humans is a youkai's job, so it's okay,” says Rumia. She looks over her impromptu hidey-structure, and frowns. “Somebody took the food.”
“Breakfast is over.”
“I'm still hungry.”
“Breakfast is over.”
“I'm still hungry.” But maybe Rinnosuke stressin' the “over” bit's gotten to her, 'cause she spreads her arms and floats over to where ya know the window is. “I'm going to eat something,” she informs no one in particular, and then she's gone too.
Rinnosuke sighs. Lotsa sighin' happenin' lately. “'Someone', more likely,” he says, and starts straightenin' the tablecloth parts Rumia pulled outta place.
Yeah, the pseudocannibalism prolly is a given. “So, who was that?” ya ask.
“Who was who?”
“'Who was who?' Who do ya think? That Keine dude—who was she?”
Rinnosuke stops straightenin'. Just for a tick, though. “I told you,” he tells ya. “She's a friend.”
And that's the funny part, right? 'Cause ya don't think he's lyin'. But...
“She comes by every now and then, just to check on me—to make sure I'm eating enough, or that I haven't overworked myself.” Rinnosuke gets the last corner in the corner it's supposta be in, and steps back to admire his handiwork. “She's a good friend,” he says.
“Are ya eatin' enough? Ya do kinda skimp on anything that's not rice.”
“It's enough for me. If I told her I was skipping lunch, she'd probably show up the next day with an entire fresh fish.”
“Oh, man, my mom did that once. She called up askin' how I was doin', livin' on my own, and I told her I missed her salmon. And the next day? Entire salmon. She wouldn't let me cook it, either. Totally embarrassin', 'cept it kinda made me happy, y'know?”
The corner of Rinnosuke mouth jerks, like maybe it's tryin' to quirk up but something's holdin' it down. “I know,” he says, and heads off to the same side of the pad he took all the breakfast stuff. Prolly to do the dishes. And everything else that's not the dishes.
“Wait.” Ya follow. “We're skippin' lunch? Since when?”
“You didn't notice?”
“I noticed the two-meals-a-day thing, but I figured we were skippin' breakfast. We're skippin' lunch?”
“We've been eating a late breakfast, and then dinner.”
“Seriously? Man, I've been sleepin' in too long.”
“Yes, you have.” Rinnosuke gathers up the whole buncha breakfastware, sticks it in the sink, and heads through another door. Wait, isn't this outside?
“It's your fault, though,” ya point out. “I used to have a proper sleepin' schedule. With alarms and everything. And then I got stuck here, where there's no point in wakin' up at one time specific. I prolly got fired ages ago, back home.”
“Ah,” says Rinnosuke. Oh, there's a well. So that's the trick. “Then why didn't you go with Keine?”
Huh? “Why would I go with Keine?”
Rinnosuke stops what he's doin' just to stare at ya. “Because she's the schoolteacher at the human village?” he says. “You read that newspaper article. It said so, near the end.”
Yeah, huh. It did say that, didn't it? It totally said that. That thing he just said. It said that, and ya read that, and ya read that sayin' that. It's not like ya missed it, or anything. It said that, and ya read that, and ya read that sayin' that, and ya remember that sayin' that, straight out. Straight out.
It said that.
Ya take that in, with all your grace and poise and dignity.
File 141805220875.png - (301.06KB, 792x1231, those books you just keep meaning to get to.png)
If you're talking about the cosmetic bits, it all comes down mainly to rules—making them up, revising them, and keeping the ones that work. Stuff like "g-dropping is a thing", "unstressed 'you' becomes 'ya'", "object third-person pronouns get their fronts chopped off, unless they don't", and suchlike.
This is a disappointing answer. Let me make up for it. This next post is something I actually had to type up for myself so I knew what Christie and Rinnosuke and Keine were reading when they were reading what they were reading.
File 141805232048.jpg - (1.07MB, 1747x1362, Extra! Extra! No literally an extra get it.jpg)
Over the past weeks, there have been sightings of a mysterious woman at Kourindou, the secondhand store at the entrance to the Forest of Magic. Though Kourindou occasionally receives visitors, this woman is unusual in that she appears to be an actual resident of the shop, rather than a normal customer.
Furthermore, the woman appears to have a reclusive nature, and has not been seen outside the shop. Thus, any detailed information about this woman, her identity, or her connection to the shop's owner, Morichika Rinnosuke (half-human, half-youkai), can only come from visitors to the location.
According to Kirisame Marisa (human), another resident of the Forest of Magic who encountered the woman while visiting the shop:
“Kourin says she's an Outsider, but she managed to create some pretty nice-sized magic. Not as good as mine, of course, but she wasn't bad for a first-time user.”
However, a local ice fairy, Cirno (fairy), had this to say:
“I don't think she's a good person. She was bullying my friend. I decided I was going to beat her up, but then she said a whole lot of stuff I didn't understand, so she's probably a liar, too.”
Cirno identified the friend she mentioned as the the Youkai of Twilight, Rumia (youkai). However, when I went to Kourindou myself to investigate, I found that Rumia was also living at Kourindou with Rinnosuke and the mysterious woman.
Though there are a number of Outsiders who have decided to stay in Gensokyo after crossing the Great Hakurei Barrier, most of them live in the human village. Additionally, very few of them have any notable relationships with youkai with the exception of the village schoolteacher, Kamishirasawa Keine (were-hakutaku). An Outsider spending so much time with a youkai and a part-human part-youkai is unusual. On the other hand, there have been cases where youkai from the Outside World have come to Gensokyo. If this mysterious woman is a youkai Outsider, this would explain her amicable relationship with other youkai.
>>28549 I guess they could also be seen as romantic implications, but I couldn't shake it out of my head that she was basically acting as his mother coming by to make sure he was taking care of himself properly.
>And 'cause prolly the symmetric property's not bein' too helpful here:
I love this. I never expect it, but it's still totally natural.
>>28548 >>28550 That's what I read, too. I mean, I'm not going to rule out poorly-channeled romantic impulses as being her underlying motive, but if that's the way she's acting -- well, ya can't really call a dude oblivious just 'cause he doesn't have X-ray vision.
You bein' here, you've had alotta time to do some serious thinkin'. There's not much else to do here, is the thing, besides eat, sleep, and read—and most of the time those are outta the question for methods of time-killin'. Ya eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're sleepy, sure, but then you're full or you're awake, and you're not gonna overstuff yourself or put yourself into a coma just to get an extra hour behind ya.
Though that's startin' to sound real temptin', when ya consider it. Which worries ya.
As for readin'—you've got nothing against readin', for serious, but Rinnosuke's library hasn't changed since last ya checked it, which is a real straightforwards way of sayin' that Rinnosuke's library is still the sorta library a dude like Rinnosuke would have. By now you've gone through the entire shopload, prolly, rejectin' volume after volume mostly on the basis of sheer stuffiness. Though ya can't be sure you've judged it all. Not like ya had a system, browsin'.
So yeah—nothing to do and too much time to do it in, which means that most of your time in Rinnosuke's cozy little fort you've been sittin' in your corner and thinkin' deep thoughts. Introspectin', even. And it's done you a whole world of good, 'cause with all this lookin' into yourself you've come to a serious conclusion.
You're too nice. Case in point:
“It's a CD player.”
Rinnosuke stares into the void like he's been visited by some great betrayal. And by “the void”, ya mean “the inside of the CD player”. I know what its name is,” he mutters, also to the inside of the CD player.
“Yeah, sure—names have meaning, though,” ya shoot back. “It's a CD player—it plays CDs. No CD, no playin'. Dig?”
“So, what you're saying is that without a CD, I won't be able to use this device to its full potential.”
“Ya won't be able to use it at all, more like. And that's the least of whatcha want—see the little hole here?”
Rinnosuke says he does.
“Headphones. Or earphones. If this was one of the big types, it'd just do the tunes out a speaker, but it's not, so it won't. Didn't.”
“A CD, and—headphones, or earphones.” Rinnosuke touches the little spinny bit in the center of the deal real ginger, turnin' it 'round a few times. The CD player doesn't play music when he does that, 'cause it's not a music box. “Anything else?” he asks.
“You're gonna need a coupla right-size batteries. Or else nothing'll happen even when ya do get it all together.”
Rinnosuke hmms, carefully shuttin' the top. “There was a response when I pressed this button here, though,” he says. “Does this mean anything?” And he clicks the big friendly play button, promptin' the thing's display to fill in with wordage. “You see, here—I understand those are characters, of some sort—”
“'NO DISC'.” English there. “Yeah, that just means there's no disc on the inside. Uh, 'disc'—'compact disc'. That's what 'CD' stands for. Ya got a CD?”
“The name sounds familiar...”
Ya watch Rinnosuke wrack his brains, starin' off into the distance, though of course seein' as you're both indoors and standin' over a desk “distance” only goes as far as the next wall. Still, it's a real interestin' look. Or maybe it's “interested” that's what it is—interested and captivated and intrigued and determined and a whole host of other adjectives ya can't think up at the mo. It's the look you've seen slidin' into Rinnosuke's mug every time a particular Outside doodad finds its way into his hands and he gets to thinkin' he's on the track to unraveling a particular Outside doodad mystery.
And then he closes his eyes and bows his head and does a frustrated breath through his teeth and whoops, there goes the coolness. “Remember something?” ya ask.
“I've been giving them away,” says Rinnosuke. Groans Rinnosuke. “A small group of fairies that comes by, every now and then—they're not offensive, so I let them take a few items occasionally. Only unimportant ones, and the ones more difficult to sell—”
“Oh, uh—well, just 'cause they're CDs, doesn't mean they've got tunes on 'em, y'know? There's CDs for games and computer stuff, too, and prolly ya wouldn't get music off of those, even if ya did have all the parts. Maybe these fairy dudes've been takin' just programs for helpin' ya get your taxes together or something!”
Rinnosuke lets ya know what he thinks of your optimism re: fairies and their unexpected desire for tax preparation software. He lets ya know with his face.
See? This is whatcha get for bein' nice. A glare stare turned to burnin'.
“Well, check out the bright side,” ya say. “These days? CDs're droppin' outta sight like whoa. That means they oughta start fallin' into your lap any minute now, right?”
“That's...not wrong. If they become forgotten, they should start making their way to Gensokyo with greater frequency.”
“Right, what I said. Everybody's downloadin' these days—a coupla years, you'll have so many CDs you'll be usin' 'em to reshingle!”
“Reshingle? Why would I reshingle?”
And you're 'bout to 'splain the joke, 'cept that's when some knockin' comes real forthright from the front-door direction, leadin' both of ya to abort and stare doorwise.
Yo, déjà vu.
“Keine again?” you ask.
Rinnosuke frowns. “I wouldn't know.”
And again with the knockin'.
“Ya want me to get it, or are we pretendin' we're on vacation?”
“You might as well—they'll most likely only come back later.”
“Yeah, I get it.” Ya cross the room and put your hand at the doorknob. “Still standin' by what I said last time, though. I get blasted in the blitzkrieg, and ya better tell my mom I was super-rad—”
And that's when ya find out that whoever's at the door doesn't care so much about the “wait till the dude inside lets ya in” punctilio 'cause the whole deal swings open and whacks ya right in the face.
[ ] Stand up! [ ] Sit down! [ ] Fight, fight, fight! [ ]
It's a real deal, gettin' whacked in the face. Some dudes out there might object to that sorta appraisal, callin' it hasty, maybe, or something, but when it comes to the real-dealness of face-whackin', you figure you're pretty confident judgin'. You've got alotta experience in the subject south of the belt you're not wearin' right now, both as whacker and whackee, and nine times outta ten you're throwin' it in with Paul: It's a lot better givin' than receivin'.
But yo—sometimes ya receive anyways, whether ya like it or not, and what's a dude gotta do in a sitch like that? Total quandary. Lucky for you, years of face-whackin' have left ya with a list.
Step one: Don't fall down.
This is the first step, and a totally important one. Endin' up on the whackee side of the whacker-whackee relationship is bad on its own, but endin' up floored to boot has the potential to put ya in a state of continued whackeedness, facewise or other. It's double lucky for you that whoever applied the door only got a glancin' blow in. A glancin' blow to the face, yeah, but glancin' is glancin', and though ya wobble—
Rinnosuke does a cry of alarm. Ya know what you're doin', ya wanna tell 'im.
Anyways, ya don't fall down, which brings ya to step two: Figure out what the fig.
“It's me! Pure and Honest—ah.”
There. That's not Rinnosuke at all. Which means that outta all the stars going supernova 'cross your corneas at the mo, that's the cynosure ya oughta be focusin' on. Though Polaris never whacked ya in the face before.
Like, by wowin' ya with the grandeur of the night sky seemin' to go on forever or something.
Ya wobble in the direction of the voice that wasn't Rinnosuke's, and when your eyes clear up again there's a dude there, standin' off the maw of the open door, gazin' at ya intent with a look somewhere between excited and embarrassed. She's got a notebook tucked in the pit of a fancy-lookin' button-up toppin' a fancier-lookin' skirt (ruffles, for serious), and that's all topped off itself by some red headwear suggestin' some variant of very tiny Shriners made it in Japan.
It's weirdly western, which is a thing here, you're startin' to think. Though maybe not so much the fez that's not a fez. Ya don't know anything 'bout the fez that's not a fez. That could be Japanese all the way and ya wouldn't have a clue.
The dude recovers quick (prolly 'cause she hasn't been face-whacked): “It's you!” she says, excitement winnin' out.
“Really? I hadn't noticed,” ya snark, massagin' your schnozz. Maschnozzin'. “Who're you?”
“Ah, I didn't introduce myself, did I?” The dude pats proudly her rib cage, lookin'—and actin'—like a national monument. “Shameimaru Aya, at the public's service! You've heard of me, of course.”
Have ya heard of her? Ya do some brain-wrackin' of your own, but if this dude's some kinda local bigwig, she's one nobody bothered fillin' ya in on. You could really use some sorta Gensokyo Who's Who here. “Yeah, sorry, dude, drawin' a blank here. Maybe I got the memory knocked outta me. Like when someone put a door in my skull.”
Shameimaru-Aya-at-the-public's-service dips into embarrassed again. “Very sorry about that,” she says, doin' that awkward laugh thing embarrassed dudes do. “I didn't think there'd be someone on the other side of the door when I opened it. Who would have expected something like that?”
“I would,” ya say. Ya point at Rinnosuke, who's somehow goin' through the motions of tryin' to sneak outta the room without actually movin' an inch. “He would. Anyone would. 'Specially anyone who knocked.”
“Yes, but this is Kourindou, right?” And without waitin' for you to yes the obvious: “If it's Kourindou, it's reasonable to expect that nobody's going to answer the door, so it's no matter if you knock or don't knock.”
In the corner of your eye Rinnosuke tenses, just for a tick, and then untenses and starts massagin' his own mug-front with a hand, dislodgin' his specs up to his brow. “This explains too much,” he mutters.
“So why bother knockin', even?” ya ask, before Rinnosuke can start rubbin' marks in his skull.
“For the sake of politeness.”
“And which part of politeness is the whackin'-me-in-the-face part?”
“Well...how would you like six month's subscription as an apology?” And Aya juggles that little notebook of hers outta her armpit, openin' it up to a page that's blank and producin' either by magic or sleight of hand the sorta shiny-lookin' fountain pen you'd 'spect to get for retirin'. The nib's poised. The dude's eyes are undisguisedly eager. “A full year, if you agree to an interview.”
You'd admire the chutzpah, if ya weren't on this end of it. “Interview for what?” ya ask.
Aya's face does that weird juxtaposition thing again, only this time the expressions doin' the warrin' are disappointment with a dollop of offense and the level of relish you'd catch from a dude who just spotted the syzygy for the one bon mot they've been saving since the Eocene. “This is why I was surprised you hadn't heard of me before!” she says, way too bright to be natural. “When you think of interviews, you think of newspapers—”
“TV,” ya interject.
“The 'Gensokyo Chronicle',” Rinnosuke says.
“—and when you think of newspapers, the first thing you think of has to be the Bunbunmaru Newspaper, reporting the most wonderful news with the fastest speed in Gensokyo! So, if you don't mind answering a few questions...”
“Hold up a tick, Nellie Bly.” Actually, that's prolly real insultin' to Nellie Bly, but that's not the point at the mo. “Rinnosuke—'Bunbunmaru Newspaper'—that's—”
Rinnosuke nods without havin' to listen to the rest of your totally obvious question. “It's the same newspaper.”
“Yeah,” ya say. And back to Aya. “So what, was that you slammin' the rag against the door a coupla days ago, or what?”
“The Bunbunmaru Newspaper delivers to even the remotest reaches of Gensokyo.”
“Whether anyone wants it or not,” Rinnosuke adds. And then he goes, “Anyway, that article you wrote gave us some trouble.”
“Then the responsible thing to do would be to clear up the issue, wouldn't it?” And that fountain pen's just tappin' against the page of that notebook, itchin' pretty to let loose with a whole debacle of hinky wordage. “Readers might start to speculate on their own, if you don't. And a mysterious Outsider living at Kourindou with a couple of youkai makes for some interesting material.”
Yeah, okay, this has “bad idea” stamped all over it. Sealed, even. Like with one of those fancy rings they shove into wax, with the armigery intaglioed and everything. 'Cept instead of the proper ordinaries it's just got “bad idea” carved backwards across the escutcheon. Prolly also in all caps.
[ ] Accept. Oughta nip those rumors in the bud before they blossom. [ ] Refuse. This is one thousand percent too hinky for consideration. [ ]
[x] Accept. Demand that she give us a list of questions she'll be asking beforehand and time to think them over before the interview starts. Demand that she not mention our silence or anything at all about any questions we choose not to answer in the article. Demand her hat as collateral towards her following these demands.
[x] Accept. Demand that she give us a list of questions she'll be asking beforehand and time to think them over before the interview starts. Demand that she not mention our silence or anything at all about any questions we choose not to answer in the article. Demand her hat as collateral towards her following these demands.
[x] Accept. Demand that she give us a list of questions she'll be asking beforehand and time to think them over before the interview starts. Demand that she not mention our silence or anything at all about any questions we choose not to answer in the article. Demand her hat as collateral towards her following these demands. [x] Also inquire about getting our own fez that's not a fez, complete with puff balls, even if we don't intend to actually wear it.
Let's be as difficult about this as we can without being outright obstinate. An interview with Aya is like a wish from a Genie. You gotta handle it very precisely or it could blowup in your face. Also I want a tengu hat.
[X] Accept. Oughta nip those rumors in the bud before they blossom. -[X] Be as boring as possible. Channel your inner Rinnosuke. Also request that the first time she refers to you as an 'outsider' in the article, it be preceded by a single word; 'human'. That's it, no big apology for implying implications, no suspiciously specific denials, no nothing. Just one little word.
It's like you guys don't know how to make reporters go look for something more interesting to make things up about.
>>28585 The thing about making things up is that you're making things up. It doesn't matter how interesting or uninteresting the thing that you're making things up about is. If she's going to make things up anyway, then chances are she's going to make more things up if we're completely boring in order to bridge the gap. For Christie, just acting normal is probably enough to prevent this, and if people are going scorn her for who she actually is, fuck 'em.
I've been having fun writing this story myself, and I think there's something important there—writing can be torture at times, a real slog, and that's normal, but there's also the question of how much not-fun is too much not-fun, right?
At least, I think that's a question, but I'm not good at articulating what I mean, so maybe I just wasted a post with babble. Sorry about that.
I've run out of things to say here, actually. Give me a sec. What can I tell you?
I had a plan for Komachi to appear, but getting there would have required Christie to act thoughtless and selfish to an out-of-character extent, so I tossed it. Maybe I'll be able to rework it later, but maybe not.
All of these images are images previously saved on my computer. I had good reasons for saving all of them. I remember that much, even if I can't remember the reasons themselves.
I was really disproportionately happy about being able to use the word “syzygy”. I wasn't planning on using it at all, but I knew the word, and it fit into the idea I was trying to get across. I can't remember where I learned the word, but I still know it today mainly because of the book “Hidden Talents” by David Lubar. If you search the title and author with Google Images, my copy of the book has the cover with the boy peeking over the wall. I don't know who illustrated that cover, but I really like their style.
Sometimes I feel a stinging sensation in my left leg and I have to look up the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. If my mind didn't wander off so easily, I would be a hypochondriac. It also makes me remember that one line from OFF. If you haven't played OFF, you should play it, but there's a line near the end just before the last major boss that's mistranslated. Still, it's a very good game, and it's not like the dialogue makes things exceptionally clearer correctly translated. As long as you know, it's fine.
I've never been stung by a bee, but I've been stung by a wasp. It stung me multiple times, rat-a-tat, up my leg. I only saw two of the sting marks at first so I thought I had been bitten by a snake and called an ambulance. When I found out that it had been a wasp, I was relieved that I was apparently not allergic to wasp venom, but then the man in the ambulance told me that it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, he said, people will be stung the first time and suffer no major ill effects, but then the allergic reaction will kick in the second time they're stung.
Hm, I still feel a bit unsure. Maybe a few more images, just in case?
When I put things in the narration like “mom's mom's sister's husband's brother”, I'm actually talking about a specific character I previously made up and not just stringing words together. I promise that this is true.
One time I bought a CD from a store that sold used CDs, but when I got home and opened the case, the CD inside wasn't the one that was supposed to be there. The top side of the CD was completely black, without artwork or album or artist's name. I saw this, and I was deeply afraid.
The image at post >>28204 is a badly drawn parody of Gheorghe Tattarescu's “Nemesis, zeiţa răzbunarii”. I drew it myself. I got a fair bit into it before I remembered I couldn't draw. In Greek mythology, Nemesis was a goddess who meted out divine justice. Christie knows this, when I remember she knows this.
The image at post >>28097 is from the music video to Semisonic's “Closing Time”. I like that song unironically and there's nothing you can do about it. Well, I suppose you could do something about it, but I feel like the effort would be disproportionate.
I feel like I shouldn't have called them “respect knuckles”. I don't know why I called them “respect knuckles”. I should have just gone with “fistbump”. The title of the image that went with that post is even “fistbump.png”.
I've been trying to find people to play tabletop games with via irc, but most of the people I can find who are playing irc tabletop games at all are playing in really depressing settings. I want to have fun. I don't want to wander a dead world, or be faced constantly with the specter of my own mortality.
I want to be able to believe that everything will turn out just fine.
Anyway, that should be enough posts. I'll see you in the next thread.
There's no deeper meaning to this being Patchouli. I just searched for images of a Touhou character pointing in an upward direction. I couldn't make my search that specific, though, so I went with "Touhou" and "pointing" and from there sorted through the results myself.