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“You don't have to be so upstanding,” I whispered quietly, stroking the side of her head. I felt oddly nostalgic, not only because the lines between my dream and reality were blurring. Reimu relaxed, almost purring with approval as I continued to speak, “I am fine seeing you be less than perfect. Too much perfection is boring so it's okay for you to let your mask down with me if you like.”
“Why should I trust a bad boy?” she cooed, as if already knowing what my answer would be.
“Because the truth is, it's fine to be bad every once in a while,” I told her, “and if you were a perfect girl you wouldn't be here with me. And we wouldn't be able to go ahead and do this,” I said as I craned my neck down to kiss her.
Looking like she expected the move, Reimu closed her eyes and met my lips with hers. It was a short peck, almost like our lips were accidentally brushing up against each other. “Mm,” she opened her eyes as she pulled away. She laughed and shook her head, “that felt nothing like what I thought it would. I must be unlucky to have my first kiss taste like my own tears.”
“We can always try again some other day, when you're feeling like being bad again,” I smiled, “I'll be around when you need me.”
“I supposed that in the end, I was successful in seducing you,” she joked, resting her head on my shoulder again. “Women are terrible creatures, don't you think? A little pout, a smile and tears - it's enough to break any man.”
“Hmm, maybe you've been a bad girl all along,” I said with a chuckle. “Not that I mind.”
“Don't think that you'll get away with avoiding work in the council just because you kissed me,” she said with a laugh, “I'm trusting you to keep things separate.” More tears streamed from her eyes. She noticed that I was staring with worry and added, “sorry, I didn't mean to cry again. It's embarrassing but it's a relief to be told that I don't have to be this or that. If it wasn't for this, today would have been a much rougher day.”
“Whenever you feel like the day is too rough, you can come to me,” I said, stroking her hair. It hadn't dawned on me how strange it was that we were alone like that. It was more than her home, it was a shrine, and she was dressed up like a shrine maiden. It certainly wasn't a common occurrence in our day and age.
We sat silently together for some time. I shifted backwards and Reimu chose to rest her head on my lap. She stared up at the ceiling quietly, occasionally smiling at me whenever our eyes met. The bottle of shochu sat undisturbed and the only noise was of our soft breathing. It seemed like an eternity before she spoke again and, though quiet, her voice showed that she had her emotions under control, “Arc, I imagine you saw the man who left here earlier?”
“What if I told you I'm going to marry him some day?”
I swallowed hard. I hadn't expected something like that to be the case. “Do you want to marry him?” I asked.
“No, not really,” she said, “today was the first time we met face-to-face.”
“Then why would you marry him?” I asked, even though I already suspected the answer. The silence of the shrine said all that needed saying.
Reimu explained steadily, keeping emotion out of her voice, “I come from an old family and for many generations we have been in charge of this shrine. It even bears our name. Or we bear its name, that part is up for debate. It needs a head priest and attending shrine maidens. I'm an only child.”
“Surely someone else can take over or-”
“No,” she cut me off, “both my grandparents and parents are gone. The distant cousins I have are more interested in selling off the land than they are keeping the shrine. As a way of pressuring me, they have been arranging marriage interviews for some time now. The man you saw is the latest, and probably best candidate, according to them. A developer of some sort. Owns half the city, so I'm told. Newly rich family, so his interest is marrying into a prestigious household.”
“That's not right,” I told her, “you shouldn't have to be pressured like that.”
“It is what it is. I'll only have to really make up my mind when we graduate. Until then, I'm free, more or less.”
“Reimu...” I reached out to stroke her hair again.
“Don't pity me, please,” she said with a forlorn smile, “you'll just make me cry again.” Adding with a small, self-conscious laugh, she said, “and I don't think my heart is ready to seduce you again yet so I can feel better. I'm still new at being bad and selfish.”
“You...” I wasn't able to finish the thought. Her mixture of strength and fragility left me unable to find the right thing to say.
“It's okay,” Reimu forced a smile and sat up, “we've been alone together for quite some time now. I think those other two must be worried. Let's go talk to them.”
Alice and Marisa were where I left them, sitting near a large donation box. Marisa noticed us first and perked up with a huge smile. “Took you long enough!” she complained playfully, “we've wasted most of the afternoon already.”
“Sorry guys, it was my fault,” Reimu said with a smile of her own, “Do you want me to go fix us all some tea?”
“Nah, it's alright,” Marisa said, “your smile is refreshment enough.”
“You've been hanging out with with Arc too much,” Reimu couldn't help but let out a hearty chuckle, “that sounds like something he'd say!”
“Or something in one of his games,” Alice said with a disapproving shake of her head.
Marisa shrugged off the criticism, and flashed a secretive wink at me. It was only when we went inside to talk and Alice was busy talking to Reimu about the council, that she finally confirmed my suspicions. “good job there. I'm impressed with how you handled that.”
“You were eavesdropping?” I asked quietly, so as to not let the other two know what we were talking about.
“Alice was,” she said, “I just joined her. Don't worry, we didn't stay around long. We just saw the bit where you were cuddling together. I think she really needed that. It wouldn't have been the same if it was us girls.”
“Hm, I'm not so sure about that. You're good at comforting one another, usually with ice cream and bad movies.”
“That's an unfortunate stereotype,” she murmured, “and I don't subscribe to that school of thought.” Marisa prodded me in the ribs, changing the subject, “so, tell me, just how intense did things get in there? Compared to when I saw her, Reimu looks like she was reborn. So something interesting must have happened.”
“Something tells me that you saw more than what you admitted to,” I said.
“Why? Did something naughty happen? Like with that red-haired girl a few months ago? I helped you kiss her, remember? I just want to have a good idea of where things stand.”
 Some things are just too embarrassing to talk about.
 Marisa's honesty should be rewarded with honesty.
And now, this is more of a light transitional choice to help with pacing. With fun consequences all the same.