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Your mind races. You want Shizuha to succeed, but not at the cost of another. Every youkai you’ve injured or killed has been in self-defense, but this snow woman was relatively harmless before you brought Shizuha here. If you were by yourself, it probably wouldn’t have come to this. You could’ve spoken with Okami and quietly found the snow woman a new place of residence. Everything’s messier now that gods are involved. Both groups are victims, but fundamentally opposed to one another. Normally a showy clash like this in the public eye would be a good thing, but if this youkai is too weak, she’s bound to go crazy like the bug did.
You regard the crowd. If the snow woman lost control, there could easily be casualties. Mori and Hina are with you and can help protect them, but all it takes is one surprise to ruin the day. Humans are fragile like that. Unfortunately, an audience is necessary, or else you would drive them away.
The fight continues while you think. The snow woman keeps her distance from Shizuha while slinging round, white bullets, but she can’t seem to muster too many at a time. Shizuha, unsurprisingly, has adopted an aggressive approach and chases the snow woman around, dodging between the scarce waves of bullets and eventually pursuing her into the air. Everyone’s attention turns skyward as Shizuha bursts ahead and closes the distance. The autumn goddess clenches her hands together, arcs backward, and then slams her fists down into the snow woman, knocking the youkai back towards the ground. The snow woman manages to catch herself, but Shizuha already has her next move ready.
“Falling Blast!” she calls out like an action hero. Fitting too, because the attack itself is just like something you’d see on a Saturday morning cartoon. Shizuha raises her hands and glows for a split second before aiming down at the snow woman and releasing a gigantic mass of glowing, red energy that shrinks as it flies toward her. By the time it’s close enough to hit her, the size is small enough to easily dodge — but what the snow woman doesn’t see are the trails of glowing leaves left behind in the attack’s wake. She scrambles to get out of the way, but one catches her in the shoulder. The snow woman screams out, then uses a burst of white mist to clear the field. She stands there, breathing heavily, and holding her shoulder with her other arm. A goddess’s leaf danmaku must not be very pleasant for a youkai to touch.
The crowd cheers, to your surprise. You thought they would still be confused, or at least cautious, but now they’re starting to yell support for Shizuha. Is it natural for humans to spectate these sorts of battles, after all? Even you are watching attentively, despite your concern. This spectacle is certainly different than the life-or-death struggles you’ve been a part of before.
Shizuha continues to perform her new attack, and each time the snow woman struggles to avoid the falling leaves after the initial blast. But, that isn’t all Shizuha has. After a few more attempts, her whole body tenses up and shines with a pale red light as she releases not one, but three huge blasts of energy at once. Gasps erupt in the crowd, and the lights of Shizuha’s attack reflects in their eyes. Even Mister Imaizumi has calmed down and watches Shizuha with something that could possibly be respect.
The snow woman takes a second to find an out — a second too long. By the time her feet move, you can see that she’s already trapped. One leaf hits her, then she falls and desperately covers her head and neck as more leaves bombard her.
You’ve never been hit by danmaku before, since most youkai would rather overpower a human with brute force than waste time with danmaku. By all accounts, it’s more of a spiritual pain — the weakness of any youkai, or goddess. Getting hit means they’re losing — that their opponent’s powers are stronger than they are. Ideally, this would result in the loser forfeiting and leaving.
Shizuha’s feet hit the ground with a heavy thud, before she advances slowly on the recovering snow woman — who trips and falls backward. “Looks like second fiddle’s enough to take care of the likes of you,” Shizuha calls out to her. “Or am I bein’ too cocky, since I’m winnin’ this little fight so much? It’s hard to give ya any kinda respect when you’re scrapin’ yourself off the dirt like that.”
You watch Shizuha approach the snow woman — the red figure standing over the panicked monster. The sight of it takes you back in time, and the two scenes warp and twist around each other in your mind.
“Isn’t it all the same?” the red-haired butcher says, advancing toward the snow woman with her knife. “These youkai writhe and squirm just like humans do, clinging to their existences. I can’t discriminate. It’s why I exist.”
Then her head turns toward you, with a pure smile. “Now watch. Never forget this moment, or else it really will have all been pointless. Remember that this happened because of me, and how much I love you.”
You feel a sharp tug on your wrist, and look down to see Mori holding your hand — keeping it away from your gun. Your eyes meet. Everything snaps back into place.
She lets your hand go, relieved but still concerned. “Are you alright? Maybe you should—”
You rub your hands, and wipe the sweat off on your pants. “I’m fine,” you assure her. “Well, I’m about to be, at any rate.”
Then, you leave her and run out toward Shizuha. “Hey! Don’t you think that’s enough?”
Shizuha stops and turns to face you, bewildered. “Whadd’ya mean, enough? If she’s gonna keep tryin’ to fight, then I gotta keep respondin’ in kind!”
“No,” you respond. “It’s the tengu’s fault she’s here in the first place. What would exterminating her really solve? She’s a victim, too.”
Shizuha frowns as she tries to process this. “Well, yeah, but she’s a youkai. That’s why I gotta fight her.”
While you struggle to placate Shizuha’s one-track mind, one voice rings out clearly over the confused crowd. “What are you doing, you youkai-loving bastard?!” Mister Imaizumi shouts, brandishing his spear. “Let the goddess finish this, or I’ll do it myself!”
With Shizuha halted, now you have to address the increasingly-impatient crowd. “Shizuha Aki fought well. You’ve all witnessed the power that goddesses still have here in Gensokyo. But don’t you all see who the true enemy is here? It’s the tengu!”
You can already see people starting to walk away. You probably aren’t the first decrier of the tengu’s society they’ve heard. It doesn’t matter. The best you could hope for is that they remember Shizuha Aki’s actions, but even that might be a little much for the uncaring masses. There are still some who remain, though they may just be curious to see if Mister Imaizumi gets mad enough to try stabbing you with his spear.
“That’s all a bunch of bullshit!” Mister Imaizumi declares. “I don’t give a damn about some long-nosed bastards at the top of a mountain! I just want this youkai punished, and if this so-called goddess can’t do it, then I—”
“Dad!” Okami shouts. You didn’t notice until now, but she must have eventually followed you off of the roof. Her face is red, and her voice is gushing with the indignant wrath of a teenage girl. “That’s enough! You don’t know anything!”
Of course, Mister Imaizumi can match her daughter’s temper with his own. “You say I don’t know anything? My own brat of a daughter?! How dare you! If I’m so ignorant, then what do you know?”
Okami fidgets, still indignant, but also struggling not to betray her sister’s plans. “I know I, uh, you have no idea where the youkai… came from, and—”
“It was Kagerou,” you announce. “She brought the snow woman here to take shelter in your freezer after the tengu forced her off of the mountain.”
Unlike Okami, you don’t really have any reason to protect Kagerou’s secret. Mister Imaizumi gasps, Missus Imaizumi sighs, and Okami looks hurt. You continue, before they can bombard you with questions. “I’m sure that Kagerou thought it would be better for her to stay here instead of being on the loose, trying to break into random people’s homes. As to why she didn’t discuss this with all of you, it’s likely because she knows that you, Mister Imaizumi, still hold resentment against youkai, and possibly your daughter herself.”
“Of course I hate youkai!” he confirms immediately. However, he hesitates before continuing more quietly. “I could never hate my daughter though.” The mood passes quickly though, as he turns to you with his usual demeanor. “So, I’m sure it was you who put Kagerou up to all this, huh? Just like last time!”
You give Okami a reassuring smile, and she returns it. This is the part where you could selflessly take the blame, so the parents keep trusting at least one of their daughters. Okami would probably keep meeting Kagerou, and everyone would live happily ever after.
“No, Okami is the one who’s been speaking with Kagerou,” you inform them. “She was the one who actually let the youkai in. I had absolutely nothing to do with this.”
Unfortunately for Okami, children need to be punished, because none of this would have happened if she didn’t mindlessly go along with Kagerou’s plan. Even if it’s what you wanted to do in the end, you still hate the fact that you were used. So yes, you will take some petty joy in watching the consequences of her actions play out.
“What the heck?!” she cries. “I thought you understood!”
“I do understand,” you explain. “Your parents were the ones who hired me, not you or Kagerou. I have a duty to inform them exactly what happened, and that is: Kagerou approached you not long ago, asked you to unlock the shed door one night, and instead of consulting anyone about the matter, you did it. And now I’m here, cleaning up the mess.”
“Sh—she said it would work out fine, and it did!” Okami says. “Nobody’s hurt, right? Not even that youkai!”
Thankfully, there’s no room for you to be doubted since Okami’s just admitted it herself. Her father looks stunned. “Okami, I thought you were more honorable than this. Obviously you need more discipline. Go to your room and wait for me and your mother there.”
“My room? Dad, I’m not a kid! You can’t just—”
“You are a child,” her father cuts in sternly. “My child. I failed Kagerou, but I will not fail you. Go.”
Silenced by her father’s heavy words, Okami must instead direct her frustration at you. “My sister was right about you, and I hate it!”
Then she storms off, making it a point to slam the door behind her when she goes inside. It couldn’t have been more stereotypical if she tried.
“Don’t think I like you or anything just because you decided to help us this time,” Mister Imaizumi tells you. “In fact, I don’t want to see you again. If anyone’s gonna fix the problems in my family, it’s going to be me and my wife. You’ve done enough.”
You smile, genuinely. “I agree with you for once.”
Mister Imaizumi nods deeply at you, something almost approaching a bow, then follows his daughter.
Missus Imaizumi, on the other hand, is not so shy, and bows openly. “My husband may not be able to do it, but I will. Thank you, PI. Please, take this.”
She puts some money into your hand. You don’t even count it. “I can’t accept this,” you tell them. “We never even agreed on a price.”
She grins. “Then that’ll just have to be your price, won’t it? You know it won’t do to argue with me.”
You grimace, but then you get an idea.
While all this drama has been going on, Shizuha has been talking with a couple people from the crowd earlier. It seems she’s made an impression, though maybe not as large of one as you were hoping for originally.
You call Shizuha over, and then give the money back to Missus Imaizumi. “That money should go to Shizuha,” you explain. “She’s the one who did most of the work. You have all the proof now that she’s a goddess, right? That payment could be an offering.”
Shizuha’s eyes sparkle. “An offering? Really?”
Missus Imaizumi smiles. “That’s a good idea. Let’s see, how should this go?”
After thinking for a moment, Missus Imaizumi gets on her knees and places the money at Shizuha’s feet. Then she claps her hands together for a quick prayer. “Thank you, Lady Shizuha. Please continue to protect my family with your blessings.”
Shizuha’s face turns tomato-red. “Y, yeah, of course! I’ll do all I can for you folks. Thank you! Or, uh, you’re welcome — graciously! Um.”
Missus Imaizumi laughs, and stands back up. “You know, before she passed, my mother-in-law told me about a harvest festival that was around when she was a child, celebrating the autumn goddesses of Gensokyo. You must have been there.”
Shizuha’s embarrassment becomes a heartfelt smile. “I was, with my sister. And we’re going to start having harvest festivals again. Even if humans aren’t celebrating us anymore, they should still celebrate the season.”
Missus Imaizumi nods. “That’s very noble of the two of you, in these times. Please let me know when you’re planning on having a festival. A lot of us grew up on stories of our parents and grandparents attending festivals and ceremonies dedicated to the gods. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would be willing to experience that.”
Shizuha nods. “Um, yeah! That would be great!”
Before they can go on any longer, you step in. “Shizuha, what are you going to do now?”
She thinks for a moment. “I might go back to the farm and help my sister.” Then she sighs at you. “I should be mad at ya for gettin’ in my way, but the idea of exterminatin’ that snow woman does leave a bad taste in my mouth. I reckon I was gettin’ a little carried away, after all. So, I’ll let you off the hook this time.”
“I’m glad there’s no hard feelings,” you tell her. “ If you or Minoriko need help with anything before the festival, then let Mori and I know. I’m sure she would be happy to help, at least.”
Shizuha laughs and grins. “Alrighty then, I’ll do just that. Catch ya around, PI.”
Missus Imaizumi also bids you farewell with a smile. “So long, PI. I know what my husband said, but don’t be afraid to say hi.”
You chuckle before turning to leave. “I’ll try.”
Then, she turns back to Shizuha. “You said you had a farm? I haven’t been to a farm in ages. I thought the kappa owned most of the farmland nowadays?”
“They do,” Shizuha answers, “but this is somethin’ small my sister and I are doin’ just for the festival…”
Content that Shizuha will be fine, you slink away. The crowd has pretty much dispersed. There’s been no sign of tengu, that you can tell. If they aren’t here by now, then they probably won’t be. Such a short, contained fight in this part of the city probably isn’t worth any screentime.
No sign of the snow woman, or Hina and Mori. That is, until Mori peeks out at you from behind the Imaizumi’s shed. “Over here,” she calls to you, in a hushed manner.
You wander that way and are surprised to see the injured snow woman sitting against the back of the shed, with a pleasant-as-always Hina looming over her.
“She wanted to run after you interrupted, but I thought we should stop her so you could talk with her,” Mori explains. “Hina caught her pretty quick while you guys were distracted.”
The snow woman glances up at you, then away. “Just my luck. That goddess was tough, but these two friends of yours are way stronger. I can’t tell if you want to help me, or if I’m in even deeper trouble.”
You place your hand on Hina’s shoulder. “You did a good job, Hina. I can take it from here.”
Hina steps away with a warm smile. “Like always, I am honored to make myself useful.”
It’s a little embarrassing to rely on Hina so much, but she’s so strong and helpful that it’s become a necessity when dealing with these youkai.
But now, you don’t think this one has any fight left in her. You offer the snow woman your hand. “I meant what I said back there. I want to help you, if you’re willing to cooperate.”
She looks at your hand warily. “A human, offering his hand to me? It’s been so long. I suppose I don’t have much of a choice, do I?”
Her pale hand reaches for yours and grab it, and immediately you’re startled by how cool — and soft — her hand is. You gently pull her up, off the ground. Her hand lingers on yours for a moment before she lets go. “Very well,” she continues, “what’s your plan?”
You start thinking, but then you’re reminded of the bug youkai. All this time, you were content with saying “bug youkai” and “snow woman.” Maybe it’s time to change that.
“First,” you say, “do you have a name?”
She blinks a few times, and then smiles. “It’s Letty. Letty Whiterock.”
Lucky’s “underground” bar is empty — just the way you like it. Even though it feels like it’s been a long time since you were here last, not one thing has changed: the bar, the stools, the booze, and the smell of old wood. It’s almost a nostalgic feeling — like no matter what happens, you can always come here to drink it away. Even though you came here on business, you’ll have to have a drink as well. Maybe a few.
“Good evening to you, Lucky!” you call toward the giant behind the bar counter. You’re barging in with a party of four and no reservation, but that won’t surprise him any. He’s always knows when to expect you, after all.
Or at least, that’s what you thought. He reacts normally enough to you, Mori, and Hina — that is, not much — but when his dull eyes pass over Letty Whiterock, you see them widen with surprise for the very first time. “He didn’t kill you?” he utters in pure disbelief.
You and Letty exchange confused looks, before you reply. “No, I didn’t. Are you alright?”
However, Lucky quickly collects himself. “Don’t worry about it. Double vision. Haven’t been getting much sleep lately.”
You’ve never heard Lucky use the term “double vision” before, or use lack of sleep as an excuse for anything. Nevertheless, pressing him about it would be fruitless. When he clams up, it would take the strength of another oni to pry him open. Not to mention, you’d rather not impose on one of the few people who can come close to being called a friend. “If you aren’t feeling well,” you tell him, “then we can come back another night.”
But he’s already getting out drinks and putting them on the counter. “I told you to forget it. Sit down and drink, all of you.”
Mori perks up. “Even me?”
“Even you, goddess.”
You take a seat on one of the center stools. Mori and Hina sit on either side of you — the former with a newfound energy. Letty sits next to Hina, a little hesitantly.
Lucky takes the initiative and sets out mugs and smaller glasses in front of everyone. Looks like he’s expecting some heavy drinking — and far be it from you to disappoint an oni. But while he does that, you have to address something. “You knew about Mori?”
“I know you were about to tell me,” he answers, not looking up from his work. “I’m not surprised.”
There’s the Lucky you know.
“So, an oni running a bar, huh?” Letty speaks up. “I never thought I’d see something like this, even in today’s Gensokyo.”
“Nor would I expect such a beautiful snow woman appearing before me a couple months shy of winter,” Lucky responds dryly, without missing a beat.
You double-take. Did he just hit on her?
Letty turns a shade of pink. “There were circumstances,” she answers, moving the conversation along.
“Tengu,” Lucky says, looking over his collection of spirits. “I know. They drove you out, you tried fiding a new shelter, eventually a werewolf got involved, and finally this guy. He ended up saving you, even though he’s part of the reason why you were in that kind of situation in the first place.”
Letty looks at him, completely at a loss for words as she tries to comprehend what’s going on.
Meanwhile, Lucky opens the freezer. A wave of chill creeps out, and you can spot the distinct blue dress and ice wings of the fairy inside. “Ice,” is his simple, yet heavy command.
“I’m workin’ on it!” she cries. “It’s not like I knew they were coming. I’m no protagonist like you are!”
“Prognosticator,” he corrects her.
You hear the clinking of ice as Lucky receives a mug filled with ice cubes. He immediately shuts the door, and then drops a few cubes in Letty’s glass. After pouring some whiskey over them, he sets it down in front of her. “Whiskey on the rocks, by your request.”
It’s amusing to watch the gears in Letty’s hard turn as Lucky indulges himself a little bit. If everything that happened today weren’t enough for her, now Letty’s meeting Lucky for the first time. You remember how things almost turned violent when you first met the oni, because you were convinced he was some kind of spy. Let’s just say that if Lucky had been anything like the oni you heard about in stories, you wouldn’t be anything but a stain on the wood today.
Finally, Letty speaks, even though it’s obvious she doesn’t believe what she’s about to say. “You’re psychic? A psychic oni?”
Lucky shakes his head. “Not really. Just a few seconds of foresight. Enough to know what people are going to tell me right before they actually do. Enough to see a punch coming and react. Pretty much useless besides that though.”
“Hence his attitude,” you add. “Nothing can faze him. Or uh, almost nothing. Did you really hit on her earlier?”
Lucky tilts his head and thinks. “No, I don’t want to hurt her.” He pauses before continuing. “This is another one of those expressions your kind uses. Hold on.” He reaches for the small notepad he makes notes in about above-ground culture. “Go on.”
“To hit on someone,” you explain, “means to charm them in an attempt to pursue a relationship, usually one of a physical nature.”
Lucky finishes scribbling but doesn’t set the notepad back down yet. “Got it. Though, I’m wondering what I said that would make you think such a thing.”
“I believe it was when you referred to her as beautiful,” Hina speaks up. “I understand the confusion well, Master. Simple facts are considered to have some sort of hidden implication.”
Letty’s blush flares up again. “W, why is me being beautiful a simple fact now? I don’t appreciate being made fun of, I’ll have you know.”
She isn’t really your type, but you can appreciate what she has: a mature aura, a pretty face, and last but not least — a nice pair of breasts. You’re a little bit more concerned about something else, though.
“Hold on,” you cut in, directing your words toward Hina. “Why is Lucky your master, now? I didn’t even know you two knew each other.”
“I arm-wrestle with him occasionally,” she explains as if it were a normal thing. “One of my aspirations is to defeat him one day.”
“Steady progress, Hina,” Lucky remarks.
Hina nods enthusiastically. “Yes, Master!”
You’ll have to leave that conversation for later, because things are already going off the rails. “Before we start drinking,” you say to Lucky, “I wanted to ask you something.”
Lucky stops and stares at you. “I don’t mind.”
You aren’t sure how much he’s seen. “You mean you don’t mind me asking, or—”
“I don’t mind her staying here,” Lucky clarifies. “I was planning on getting a bigger freezer, anyway.”
Letty nearly chokes on her whiskey — which is almost half-gone, already. “Just like that?”
Lucky nods. “The fairy might bother you, but I’ll let her know not to cause any problems.”
Then he walks over to the freezer and opens it. “You’re going to have a roommate,” he informs her. “If you don’t treat her with respect then I’ll tear your head off.”
The fairy — Cirno, you think it was — actually pokes her head out of the freezer to see just what the hell is going on. “A rommmate? What do y—”
“Cirno?” Letty says, eyeing the ice fairy with disbelief. “Is that really you?”
She must not have noticed Cirno before because she was so confused. The freezer fairy floats out of the freezer — without her leash, you notice — and looks at Letty closely. “Um, yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m still Cirno, the strongest fairy. Who are you?”
Letty stares at Cirno a moment, and then reaches out and grabs her, pulling her into a tight embrace. “Oh, I never thought I would be so happy to see you! I thought you vanished a long time ago!”
Cirno squirms around in Letty’s grasp. “No, I’m — ugh — still here, so uh, let go, old lady!”
You notice that Letty squeezes Cirno even tighter and begins stroking her blue head like a cat’s — whose struggles are in vain. “Like I was saying,” Letty continues, “I think I’ll be just fine if Cirno’s here.”
Like you thought, Cirno and Letty would be quite compatible with each other. If Letty relies on Cirno’s cold body, she should be comfortable enough staying here until winter. “Don’t think it’ll be for free though,” you remind her. “Lucky, you can probably find something for her to do, right?”
“I’ll train her to be a bartender,” he answers. “That way she can cover for me while I’m out.”
“I sleep a lot,” she says, “but I wouldn’t mind that, as long as you don’t take my little ice pack with you.”
Not that Lucky would miss much business if he left for a while, but whatever. As long as Letty can make herself useful somehow, it’s all the same to you.
“Just don’t put a leash on this one,” Mori remarks, “unless you both are into that kind of thing.”
Letty’s distracted by a fussing Cirno, but Lucky cocks an eyebrow at her. “Into what kind of thing?” he responds cluelessly.
Before he can reach for the notepad, you stop him. “Don’t even bother. It was a bad joke.”
Mori clicks her tongue. “You’re just jealous I said it first.”
The oni shrugs. “Whatever you say.”
You drink fast and hard to try and keep up with your non-human companions, and as a result the rest of the night goes by in a blur. Lucky and Hina give a display of arm wrestling. Letty talks about why she loves whiskey: the contrast between the cold drink and the warm feeling. About Mori, you don’t notice much; she’s actually been pretty quiet recently. Whenever your eyes meet, though, she smiles like nothing’s wrong, and cracks some lame joke.
Eventually, the ceiling feels like it’s going to fall on top of you, and you stumble outside for some air. Your apartment isn’t far away, so you try walking. By the time you start, you forget why, and mindlessly keep following your tunnel vision wherever it takes you.
It leads you into a wall.
“Dammit,” you mutter. “Fuckin’ walls. This whole damn city’s a bunch of walls, or something.”
You lose track of whatever insightful bullshit you were about to spout and try to stand up.
Then you fall back down.
Everything’s black for a bit. You feel your consciousness fading away, but at the last moment, someone’s voice pulls you back.
 It’s Hina, who couldn’t be happier to see you, for some reason.
 It’s Mori, who seems just as drunk as you are — and a little peeved.
 Hatate? What are you doing outside?
 Who else but your loving wife?