- (101.44KB, 523x725, useless.png)
[X] It’s all in the past, now. Clean slate the deal—make with the greets.
Only problem is—like ya said—ya don’t have alotta figurin’ time. Which is why the most ya manage to do is stand up and get yourself leaned against the wall instead of huddled when Marisa comes into your view, and also the other way ‘round.
The latter’s a lot more significant, in this case.
It’d be sorta comic, if ya didn’t have any stakes in it. The second Marisa sees ya, she stops—but the ‘spression on her mug doesn’t change. Like she ‘spected you’d be here, but didn’t ‘spect you’d be here specifically, in this spot, so obviously eavesdroppin’. Is it obvious you were eavesdroppin’? It feels obvious you were eavesdroppin’.
But maybe that’s just ‘cause you were the one doin’ it. Quick, casual mode engage!
Perfect. Not a hitch in the breath. Ya even managed to incorporate a lazy, uninterested half-wave in there, like this isn’t possibly the moment before intense violence breaks out.
Marisa doesn’t wave back. She crosses her arms instead, which is the opposite of wavin’ back, if anything, and fixes you with a real steely gaze. “Ah, you’re still here, aren’t ya,” she mutters.
Not exactly the most harmonious of responses, but also not the sound of the front of your face gettin’ flattened, so you’ll take it. “Yeah, I’ve been hangin’—primarily as Rinnosuke’s sweet tunes facilitator. What about you? Whaddya been up to lately?”
“Ahh, been working on a few potions. There’s some kind of side effect that keeps popping up, but I don’t know what’s causing it exactly, and it’s hard to narrow it down when you’re the only one you’ve got to test them on.”
“I’ve also been working out a unified theory of magic. I mean, there’s bits and pieces already, so you’d think it’d be easy, but I can’t figure out how to fit them together. Plus they’re just real ugly, so they’ve gotta be flawed in the first place, right?”
You have no idea what she’s talkin’ ‘bout. “Uh-huh.”
“Also I’m running low on a bunch of herbs and roots, so I’ve got to take care of that, but it’s harder to find what I’m looking for when it’s this close to winter.”
“Because I used a lot of the herbs and roots I had already.”
“To make a poultice.”
“For my broken nose.”
That steeliness ya noted? Now thatcha consider it, it hasn’t lessened, even through all that peaceable speech Marisa’s been merrily spoutin’. If anything, it’s gotten steelier. Like, considerably. It’s considerable. It can be considered.
You consider it.
And that’s what finally breaks Marisa outta her veneer of alrightness. Not that she flies into a rage or anything—but she notably stops smilin’, and cocks her chin, and peers down at you down the slope of her nose like she’s lookin’ at something that deserves to be real small. “That’s all you’re going to say?” she says. “Ya punch me, and then when you’ve got to face up to it, all I get is, ‘Uh-huh’?”
Do ya feel some serious uncomfiness here? Yeah. Yeah, ya do. But also you’re not gonna stray from droppin’ some truth bombs when the sitch demands it. “No offense, dude,” ya say, “but ya kinda deserved it.”
Marisa’s already narrow eyes narrow narrower. “That’s a pretty outrageous thing to say when you’re face-to-face with a witch. Shouldn’t ya apologize instead?”
“Well, I mean, we’ve all got alotta stuff to say ‘sorry’ ‘bout, right?” But ya raise your hands anyways. Not like you’re surrenderin’, but more towards the universal gesture for “don’t worry; no monkey biz here.” “Tell ya what—I did punch ya in the face, though, right?” Pause. “Right?”
Marisa twigs onto that you’re actually waitin’ on an answer, here, if real sullenly. “Right,” she says,
“Well, you were gonna mince a horse leg into real bits. And then ya blasted Rumia. I’m not sayin’ that justifies any face-punchin’—” That’s a lie, you’re totally sayin’ that, but ya say it anyways, quick, before Marisa can get up any protestations, “—but, y’know, you did some stuff, I did some stuff, yeah? Let’s just brush it off and call it even-stevens.”
Oh, right, right, that’s way too Germanic for this settin’. Especially considerin’ the rhymin’ thing. “Quits. We’re quits.”
And you were totally sure that was the right vocab, too, but apparently this isn’t workin’ today. Time to call in for support: “Rinnosuke, help!”
“She means to say that she’d like to consider the two of you to be in equal standing.” Rinnosuke arrives, roundin’ the corner himself like the angel of translation he is. Or, y’know, youkai of translation. Half-youkai?
Well, whatever kinda translator he is, he arrives, and thankfully, and also deliverin’ translation, which makes it altogether too bad that Marisa doesn’t seem to receive it too good, if the squinchy eyes indicate any. “Putting the both of us on equal standing is saying too much, isn’t it?” She starts smilin’ again, ‘cept this one doesn’t even pretend to reach that aforementioned squinchin’. “I mean, unless this person’s learned a lot more in the way of magic since I saw her last.”
“I might have gotten that wrong—excuse me—I mean that—She means that she’d, ah, like to return to a blank page. Let all resentments be erased.”
“‘Specially violent resentments,” ya interject.
Rinnosuke huffs. “Especially any resentments that may lead to my shop taking on any more damage than either of you have already dealt,” he says.
“So basically,” says Marisa (and that smile’s gone a bit squinchy, too), “ya want me to pretend like she never punched me in the face.”
Rinnosuke looks ya. And maybe it’s not a one-to-one translation, but it’s close enough, so ya nod back. “Yes,” he ‘spresses.
“Even though she punched me in the face.”
Jeez, she’s really fixed on the whole facepunch thing, isn’t she? There’s no helpin’ it—you’re gonna hafta address it somehow if ya want to move forwards into a glorious future together already or whatever. “‘Kay, how’s this?” ya dip. “If ya promise you’re gonna drop any beef you’ve got against me, Rumia, or the horse’s leg...”
“‘Beef’ also means ‘resentment,’ Rinnosuke says. “Or ‘grudge.’ ‘Malice’?”
“Yeah, basically.” And back to Marisa: “Ya drop all of those, and I’ll let ya punch me in the face. But only as hard as I punched you.” Which is a ridic concession, of course, but if it’ll set clear the air, ya know you’re awesome enough to take one for the team—
And Marisa punches you in the face.
Okay, so, in retrospect, you’re not actually sure why ya ‘spected she’d take a minute of careful consideration or something before haulin’ off and—well, facepunchin’. Which is what she did. Facepunch, ya mean, not consider. ‘Cause ya ‘splicitly gave ‘er permission to punch ya.
In the face.
Are ya awesome? Yeah, you’re awesome. But there are times—rare times, but there times—when despite all that awesome? You can also kinda be a dope.
“That felt good,” says Marisa’s voice, comin’ a buncha feet straight away from your nose, which is also in an astoundin’ coincidence the same buncha feet straight up from the floor. “I can’t remember the last time I actually hit somebody for real.”
“Really,” says a Rinnosuke, somewhere.
“I mean physically. There’s rules, ya know.”
“Right.” There’s a sound of existence shiftin’, and then the Rinnosuke—your Rinnosuke, for sure—hovers into view. He looks caught somewhere between worried and ‘zasperated, and also upside-down. “Are you alright?”
Ya can’t help grinnin’, despite yourself. “Aw, Mac—ya really care!”
“If you consider fulfilling my basic role as a host ‘caring,’ then yes.” Rinnosuke’s head moves ‘round till it’s right-side-up again. And then there’s a familiar hand, reachin’ down for you.
You take it. It’s warm, and firm, and hefts ya up with a strength that’s hidden in those loose sleeves Rinnosuke’s always been danglin’. Ya only take your hand back once you’re standin’—and once the sudden pain outta you movin’ through space under the circumstances you’re under suddenly manifests itself. Like, ya didn’t yank your hand back on purpose, is what you’re sayin’. Your face hurt, is all. ‘Cause Marisa punched it.
“Are you alright?”
“It’s fine, Mac, she missed the schnozz.” And got your cheekbone instead, but better the hard part than the soft part, right? And you’ve gotta give due props: “Nice whallop, by the way—” (said in Marisa’s direction, natch) “ya went from not-punchin’ to punchin’ fast.”
Marisa looks sorta weirdly disappointed. Like a birthday dude who’s not allowed to let on they don’t like the gift they got. “Let me do it again. I don’t think I hit ya hard enough.”
“Ya want another go?”
“Ya said I could hit you as hard as you hit me, didn’t ya?”
“Well, ya can’t hit me in full now; ya already hit me. If you’re gonna hit me twice, ya gotta make sure you’re only makin’ up the difference, or else you owe me a punch.”
“Sure, stand still—I’ll be real careful.”
And there’s something ‘bout that delivery that suggests maybe she’s not gonna be as careful as she says she’s gonna, but however careful her careful is, ya never find out, ‘cause before it can properly careful itself into carefulness (or uncarefulness, whichever case it mighta been), Rinnosuke is there, jammin’ himself between the two of you hands first with a stutterin’ wordless exclamation heraldin’ it. “No fighting in the shop,” he says with feelin’, once he’s got Japanese again.
Marisa’s mouth twists. “Come on, Kourin, don’t tell me you’re taking her side.”
“I’m not taking anybody’s side. I just don’t want any fighting in the shop. If you’re going to fight, I’d rather you do so outside.”
“Oh, huh. Alright, then.” And her grin flows back onto her mug like it’s a dress she’s steppin’ into. “You heard Kourin,” Marisa says to you. “Ya want to step outside and get this incident finished?”
Yeah, see this? This is your suspicions becomin’ less “suspicions” and more “deffo this dude’s lookin’ to get additional facepunches in.” “Ya already got your owed facepunchin’,” ya say. “Like, if you punch me in the face again, all you’re gonna be doin’ is accruin’ facepunch debt, and then I’ll hafta punch you in the face.” Which, y’know, not thatcha mind, but ya already did that.
“Yeah? What about that ‘making up the difference’ stuff? You’re the one who said I could punch you again.”
“It’s not that much of a difference. Like, you can nudge me, is what the difference is. Any more than that and I get to make up that difference your way—dig?”
“‘Dig’ means ‘understand,’” Rinnosuke supplies helpfully, from where he’s still doin’ his best job as a K-rail.
“Fine,” says Marisa. “How hard do I get to nudge?”
“As much as it’d take if ya added it to the punch ya punched me with to equal the punch I punched you with. It’s basic math, dude.”
“That’s not ‘basic math.’ That’s classical mechanics, at least.” Still, Marisa goes all concentrated. Then, real careful, real deliberate, she reaches ‘round Rinnosuke’s chest—
That’s past Rinnosuke’s chest, obvs. She’s not huggin’ ‘im—
And sorta baps ya on the shoulder. Not hard enough to hurt, but a solid enough to jostle.
And then she takes her hand back, lookin’ curiously sore at the free go she just got to cash in.
“So, honor satisfied?”
“Yeah, sure,” says Marisa, clearly meanin’ the answer “no.” But she puts her fist away. “What’d ya do with it, anyway?”
“My horse’s leg,” says Marisa flatly. “Remember? Ya punched me in the face, and then ya took off with it. Except—I couldn’t figure out why. At first I thought maybe ya wanted to keep me from making a proper homunculus—make one for yourself, first—but now that I’m here I don’t see a sign of a homunculus or anything. Actually, now I’ve got to wonder if ya even know how to make a homunculus yourself in the first place.”
“Full disclosure,” ya say, “I totally don’t.”
“Right, right.” And then Marisa’s features seem to go all sharp, high-contrast, all at once. Which—no, of course they don’t, not really. ‘Cept, also, the fact that they sorta seem to do.
“So,” she says, “what’d ya take the horse’s leg for, huh?”
Ya don’t really have a window into the mind of Marisa, here, but ya bet in Marisaworld that question got accompanied by some beaucoup dramatic musical sting. Unfortunately for the viewers at home, though, it’s actually a pretty easy question, so there’s no need to stammer or get overcome by apprehension or anything else TV people do when they get hit by the big demeanor-shatterin’ one-liner. “Well, ya did sorta indicate you were gonna make with the slice-‘n’-dice. I had to do something.”
“Why? I mean, it’s a youkai. It would’ve gotten better eventually, probably.”
And that’s—yo. “Whaddya mean ‘they woulda gotten better eventually, probably’?”
“It’s a youkai. They do that sort of thing. I mean, ya can’t kill a youkai as easy as that. You could probably keep cutting off bits forever and end up with the same youkai ya started with, if ya did it right.”
And that’s—yo! “Don’t cut bits off dudes,” ya say, and are ya startin’ to lose your cool here? Yeah.
But it totally deserves it.
Which, in a seriously uncool turnaround, is a concept that now fails to land on Marisa’s side in any way, judgin’ by the ‘spression she’s wearin’. “What’s with the reaction?” she asks. “Ya didn’t have a problem with me taking the youkai before.”
“Yeah, and that’s totally on me,” says you. “I was a real douchemeister, even if wasn’t on purpose. So I’m tryin’ not to be. Dig?”
Marisa hums. “I don’t really ‘dig’ at all. And plus, ya still haven’t answered my question, y’know.”
“I already said, right? What’d ya do with the horse’s leg?”
“Oh, yeah, right.” She did ask that, admittedly. Your bad. That said: “Uh, sorry, but if I’ve gotta be honest, I’m kinda not down with sayin’.”
“No offense, but I’m something like ninety-nine percent sure that if I letcha know where the horse’s leg is at, you’ll hunt ‘em down straight out.” Ya pause. “Or actually, nix that ‘no offense.’ Totally offense. I’m not real concerned about your offense right now.”
“Well, wherever ya put it, ya can’t keep it cooped up in here forever. Sooner or later you’re going to have to let it out, and if I caught it once, I can catch it again.”
Wait. She thinks you’ve got the dude hidden in a closet somewhere. You can definitely use this to your advantage. “I dunno, dude. It’s a crazy big forest. Who knows where the dude can be, right?”
And ya smile, full teeth.
It’s a smile Marisa returns. “Yeah, you can talk big, but you’re just an Outsider. Probably ya haven’t ever stepped out of this shack without clinging onto Kourin’s wrist.
Rinnosuke pauses in his vague refereein’. “‘Shack’?”
“But I live here. I know this forest, through and through.”
“Like I said—I dunno, dude. I bet Outsider dudes like me’ve got funny ways of thinkin’ ya mightn’t even consider.”
Marisa pshaws with full pshaw power. “The only funny things I ever saw Outsiders do is keep checkin’ their little...fiddly things.” Marisa mimes, pokin’ at an imaginary something-or-other in her other hand.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“This isn’t a shack. I’ve worked hard to establish this shop—”
“Well, joke’s on you, dude. I left my cellphone at home!” How’s that for—wait. “Actually, actually sayin’ that aloud actually bums me out a little.”
“That’s what ya get out of an Outsider.”
Rinnosuke says the name like a dude wavin’ a whip. It’s all-of-a-sudden enough that you and Marisa halt it with the belligerence full brakes and by reflex look at the dude that cut himself in.
And said dude—that dude—looks—
He hasn’t been suckin’ on a lemon, but—
“We handed the horse’s leg over to the Myouren Temple,” says Rinnosuke, plain and simple.
Ya give a great jerkin’ flap of the shoulders accompanied by a silent gurnin’ of the jaw, the universal gesture for “Why would you say that?” ‘cause seriously, why would he say that? There’s a reason you were dancin’ ‘round that reveal here. But oddly enough, when ya look at Marisa, ‘spectin’ the worst, she doesn’t look triumphant at all. In fact, she looks basically the opposite—with a slump to her back and a mug displayin’ full sullenness.
“Huh,” she mutters.
“Is this the end of it?” Rinnosuke says.
“Yeah, yeah,” says Marisa. And then, like she wasn’t inchin’ into a shoutin’ match a sec ago, she turns, walks herself to the nearest empty wall, and leans.
It’d look a lot cooler if she wasn’t definitely avoidin’ eye contact with everybody.
Rinnosuke sighs, tiltin’ his neck backwards, like a weight’s been lifted, then he goes walkin’, too—partin’ from Marisa more than they’re already parted, into the shop back.
Ya follow. And let nobody say you’re missin’ self-control, ‘cause ya wait a full sixty seconds (enough for Rinnosuke to settle at his desk and start studyin’ the mystic something real close in earnest) before lettin’ loose with:
Rinnosuke looks up. “Yes?” he says.
“I can’t believe ya just told that dude where the horse’s leg went! Ya know she’s gonna hunt it down and get all ’sperimental! Wasn’t that what you were against?”
Rinnosuke looks down again, back to the mystic something. He gropes for another, less mystic something at the edge of his desk—some tool ya don’t get a good look at before the dude’s got one end in hand and the other end in the mystic something mystic something. There’s a quiet click, and the mystic something’s something’s something juts out, just a little.
“The horse’s leg is safe,” Rinnosuke says. “Marisa won’t harm it.”
“Yeah? And how do ya know that?”
Rinnosuke twists his whatever. There’s another click, and another side of the mystic something opens up, pushin’ out. Then he sighs, and takes his hands away from the whole work.
The unidentifiable tool sticks out from the mystic something like a pin out a cushion.
“I told her, after all,” Rinnosuke says. “The horse’s leg is in the care of the Myouren Temple.” And then, seein’ thatcha don’t get it still: “Marisa knows better than to commit any serious offenses against Hijiri or the rest of the Myouren Temple. That sort of incident wouldn’t be able to be smoothed over so easily. And if there’s one thing important in Gensokyo, it’s the establishment and maintenance of the state of things as they are.”
Yeah, no lie, ya still don’t get that, not really. And Rinnosuke sees that, too. Ya see ‘im purse his lips, and look up at the ceilin’, like maybe up there’s the words he’s gotta use if he wants to properly bridge the gap.
“Do you understand what I mean when I say ‘the state of things as they are’?” he says.
“Like—the stuff that’s the usual, right?” ya say. “The stuff that’s the norm. The status quo.”
Yeah, you dunno how to say “status quo” in Japanese. “I think it means the same as you’re sayin’?” ya say.
“Well, let’s say that it does, and move on.” Rinnosuke turns his eyes back to the ceilin’ again, and ya stand there, feelin’ awkward, while he collects the verbage a second time. “It isn’t correct to say Gensokyo hasn’t changed,” he says, finally.
“Okay,” ya say. Ya don’t really know where he’s goin’ with this.
“At the same time—” Rinnosuke cuts himself off, makin’ a face, and starts again. “Some time ago, an incident occurred wherein divine spirits began appearing across Gensokyo in large numbers. I’m aware you might not understand what a divine spirit is—in this case, it isn’t necessarily important. What is important was that it was an incident, and investigated as such.”
Ya nod, to indicate you’re followin’ along. ‘Cept for where he knows you’re not, obvs.
“At the end of the incident, a certain—Buddhist saint? Taoist saint? Regardless, some sort of saint had been resurrected within the Myouren Temple, and the divine spirits had gathered to witness the event—”
Rinnosuke pauses. He purses his lips again. And then, with a sudden ferociousness, the dude grabs the mystic something in one hand and the tool in another and jerk-twist-clicks.
Another unidentifiable component shifts.
“I’m telling this wrong,” Rinnosuke mutters. The bones in the back of his hand flex the skin over ‘em, like they’re considerin’ breakin’ out, maybe, but they’re not entirely sure.
You approach, and real careful ‘bout it, what with the object of his workage. But ya do approach—up, till you’re standin’ close ‘cross from Rinnosuke, on the other side of his desk, lookin’ down at the crown of his head as his head looks down at his hands (and what’s in ‘em). “So, start again, Mac,” ya say. “You’ren’t bein’ tested.”
Rinnosuke sighs again, though this one’s a long hiss of breath. Like machinery lettin’ off steam. “What you need to understand is that the resurrected saint is considered a religious authority, of sorts,” he says. “In addition, the place of her resurrection was within the property of another, opposing religious authority.”
“Byakuren, right? ‘Cause Myouren Temple.”
“Hijiri Byakuren, yes. In addition, roughly two years before this incident occurred, there was a different incident, after which Myouren Temple was established, and Hijiri Byakuren began advocating in favor of peace between youkai and humans. Today, both of these authorities have gained not insignificant followings.”
“So,” says Rinnosuke, “considering the establishment of multiple opposing religious movements in so short a span of time, you can surely imagine the state of the human village today.”
Yeah, ya totally can. “I’m guessin’ ‘hectic’?”
“Actually, it’s very peaceful.”
Or maybe it turns out ya totally can’t. “Huh,” ya say.
“Almost immediately after each incident, Gensokyo returned to its usual state of affairs,” Rinnosuke says. “Of course, there were presences that hadn’t been there before—new movements, new people and youkai, a new building, in the case of the Myouren Temple—but, even so—”
You’re waitin’ for the rest of the sentence a good, heavy handful of seconds before ya realize it’s not comin’. It’s just the sound of Rinnosuke breathin’, and you breathin’, and the steady tickin’ and clickin’ as Rinnosuke does something to that mystic something’s innards you’ren’t qualified to guess at. You’ll all set to raise your own voice—like, to ask Rinnosuke whether he lost track of the speech, tryin’ to do two things at once—when Rinnosuke gives one final turn of the whatever he’s turnin’ and then gently, carefully, sets the mystic something down on the desk in front of ‘im.
He looks up at you again, which is a relief, somehow.
“Do you understand what I’m trying to get at, exactly?” he asks, and whether ya do or not is moot, actually, ‘cause he barely gives a moment before he gives the answer himself: “Gensokyo changes—but even as Gensokyo has changed, it hasn’t changed at all—not really.”
[ ] Ya don’t get it.
[ ] Ya get it, and that’s weird.
[ ] Ya get it, but isn’t that a good thing?