Two days late again. Sorry. >>14786
While most modern culture references can be explained away as something he's learned from an outsider, I do reserve the right to veto anything too far out there. Note that I'm less likely to veto references to awesome things; I probably would have allowed even rickrolling after some consternation, had it won, but after >>14795,
I nearly wrote in the bit from "The Demolished Man" even though nobody actually voted for it.
[X] Try thinking out loud. It makes no difference one way or the other so actually vocalizing your thoughts might help straighten them out. (If it ends up complicating things, just give up on it.)
[X] Ask about her pets. She mentioned speaking to those who can't speak back?
On the other hand, it's been one thing after another ever since you entered the city; maybe taking a little time to get things straight in your head isn't such a bad idea. Still, you can't help but feel a little uneasy thinking what could turn out to be private thoughts around someone who can read your mind. Forget thinking something rude; you have a hard enough time keeping yourself from saying
...But you manage at that, don't you? "Miss Komeiji? Do you mind if I think out loud for a bit?" you ask.
"Not at all," she replies. "And you may call me Satori, if you please. I dislike excessive formality."
Satori? Not exactly what you expected from a queen, but not at all disagreeable. "You can call me Taizou, then."
As she stops to open a door ahead of you, Satori looks back at you and smiles. "I'll do that, Taizou."
Your heart takes a funny beat as she says your name. All of the youkai you've met so far have had some distinguishing trait, a physical feature that sets them apart from humans, but Satori doesn't have anything... except a sort of ethereal, indescribable beauty impossible for any human to achieve, as though she was a porcelain doll, sculpted instead of born.
...and the third eye, you remind yourself, shuddering slightly as the body part in question moves itself to stare at you over its host's left shoulder. Just what is that thing, anyway? Does it have something to do with her ability to...
...read minds. You've been thinking all this around someone who knows what you're thinking.
...Shit. You shoot a look at Satori to see her reaction, but she's walking slightly ahead of you, leading the way through the palace, and your instinct tells you that you'd probably rather not see her reaction in the first place, anyway. For the second time in about as many minutes, you suppress the urge to apologize for something you didn't actually say. Taking a deep breath, you decide to enact your plan of talking out loud before you think yourself into another faux pas. But even saying that, you don't really know what to think about first. "Where to start?" you ask yourself aloud anyway, trying to get yourself started.
"You may find it useful to begin with the most pressing matter first," Satori says evenly from ahead of you; if she's angry about your thoughts, it doesn't show in her voice. "Ah, not to interrupt..." she continues, voice trailing off.
"Don't worry about it. I need all the help I can get," you say dryly. "But the most pressing matter... I guess that would be getting back home." Even as you say it, you feel like amending it. "Something about that feels... strange, though."
"Strange in what way?" Satori prompts.
"I... don't really know." You mean it; thinking about the village, it's not as though you aren't leaving anything behind. "My family and friends are all back there, so it's not like I don't want to go back or anything. Just... not so soon, I guess. It feels like..." You pause for a moment, then remember that she'll hear it even if you don't say it and continue. "...there's something for me to do here. Some purpose." Listening to yourself, you can't help but laugh a little. "But now I'm just getting wrapped up in silly daydreams."
"I don't think they're silly," Satori says, a little louder than before, turning to face you. "True, you may not be destined for anything, but that feeling came from your own mind. Even if has no basis in reality, it means something to you."
"So it's my subconscious's way of telling me to stay?" You nearly laugh again; it feels like you should be on a psychologist's couch for this conversation.
"Your subconscious?" She looks at you for a moment before breaking into laughter herself; a gentle, refined sound, more like you reminded her of a good joke than you're being laughed at. "That's one way of looking at it, I suppose. Perhaps my sister could shed some more light on the matter."
Satori's laughter fades away, and she smiles wanly. "My ability only works on thoughts actively being considered, but she can access one's subconscious, the things that cannot be actively considered, and see those thoughts." A pause, and a brief sigh, so quiet you could barely hear it. "Among other things."
With that, she takes off walking again, and you follow after her. "At any rate, we should save the question of your future plans to discuss with Miss Hoshiguma."
That's probably true, you think, and change the topic to a lighter subject. "You said something about pets earlier, right? I think I met--"
You stop your sentence midway as Satori abruptly sighs and brings a hand to her head. "Orin. Did she do anything... untoward?"
"N-not really," you say, caught off guard by the directness of the question. You consider bringing up your brief detour through the kitchen, but decide against it; you feel a little bad for her, with even her master assuming the worst about her actions. "Why would she?"
"Don't be mistaken. Orin is very dear to me," Satori says, answering your thoughts rather than your words. "She does, however, have a reputation for... antagonizing guests at the palace, and I fear it is quite well-deserved." Contrary to her words, she cracks a smile, almost small enough to be invisible. "I'm sure you've already heard some of the particulars from Miss Hoshiguma."
"Actually, I haven't." Now that you think about it, though, Yuugi seemed like she was holding something back when she told you about Orin earlier. "What's this all about, anyway?"
Her smile grows slightly bigger, and she brings a hand up to cover her mouth. "I wouldn't deign to-- Ah." She abruptly stops both speaking and walking, and you nearly run into her. "It seems you can ask her yourself in just a few moments, if you desire," she says, pointing towards a door on the far side fo teh room you've just entered.
Sure enough, Yuugi emerges from behind it within a few seconds. "Ah, ya found her!" she calls when she notices you, and crosses the room in a few quick strides.
As she gets there, Satori smiles and thrusts out a hand, a gesture that doesn't seems to suit her small frame. "Miss Hoshiguma."
Yuugi smiles back and grasps the hand in a firm handshake. "Lady Komeiji."
...'Lady'? You don't know what you were expecting, but that wasn't it. You watch, slightly stunned, as the two separate.
"Welcome again to the Palace of the Earth Spirits," Satori says. "Shall we find somewhere to sit and discuss matters?"
"Sure thing," Yuugi says, and another few minutes of following Satori through her maze of a house leads you to a small room with a small table and a few chairs, where the three of you take a seat.
"Now then, without further ado." Satori's demeanor seems different now, more imposing, somehow. "Please, go ahead."
You glance at Yuugi, and she looks back at you, raising an eyebrow. Does she want you to talk first?
[ ] Yuugi's the one who wanted to meet with Satori; let her talk.
[ ] It's your story; you may as well tell it yourself.