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BIG ONE! FOUR choices.
[X] There was someone in the Human Village with a vast knowledge of history. She might know something about the shawl, particularly how it might’ve ended up between worlds at Muenzuka.
“Let’s go to the Human Village,” he said, speaking to Suika as he handed over most of his funds to the treasure hunter.
Said hunter took the money, but asked him, “Are you stupid?” rather flatly.
“Oohh, the Human Village! I can put on a disguise!” shouted Suika with excitement, drawing in her fists.
“We’re going to see the fabled Child of Miare at the house of Hieda,” he explained. “She might know a thing or two about the Shawl. Her ancestor wrote the Kojiki, after all, and said ancestor’s reincarnations have been recording and remembering mythological history between their lives ever since... or so I’ve read in one of Master’s books.”
“Hmmm... Hieda, huh,” Suika mumbled, thinking about the name. He noticed she seemed confused, and that as she thought longer her confusion seemed to be building, a nervous smile on her face and her eyebrows low and twitching. “M-Miareee...? Ko... Kojiki...?”
He and Nazrin looked at her, with some bafflement and inexpression respectively. If Ibuki Suika did not know these names... Then, given she and her kind had abandoned the human world, this oni’s existence had to predate Japanese written history. It was something a little difficult to grasp.
“Well then, first meetings all around,” he declared with a smile. Nazrin now looked deflated.
“You’re a magician, she’s an oni, and that—” the mouse pointed, “—is a cursed cloth of primeval fire, and you want to march into the Human Village.”
“I’m a human, so it’s fine. Considering the fashions I’ve seen around Gensokyo, I won’t be too unusual a sight, even there. We’ll take care with the cloth, of course.”
“And your oni?” Nazrin questioned.
“Like I said—I’ll be wearing a disguise!” Suika swore, thumping her chest with her fist, fingers-to-sternum. She was plainly eager to show off.
“I assure you in all faith that the oni will not disguise herself well,” said Nazrin, now given up and counting her money. Quickly done, she looked giddy herself and sneered at him like a child. He was disarmed. “Thanks for the business,” she told him, “let’s work together again, alright?”
It was a shock of magnetism. He and Suika swooned: a little exaggerated, a little theatric, with their hands ending over their chests.
“My heart!” lamented Gen.
“Too beautiful!” bemoaned Suika.
Nazrin blew through her teeth sharply, lowering her eyelids in anger. “I’m going to cut my hair,” she told them, “just to shut you two up.”
“Don’t!” Suika begged at once in earnest concern. Meanwhile Gen looked deeply disappointed, and a little hurt.
“Get out of here before I tell every youkai in the area where you come from, Gen,” snapped Nazrin.
“Alright, alright,” the outsider backed off, his hands now up in surrender. “Thanks again,” he told her, “your nuisances shall now disappear.”
“I may come back here again later jus’ ta have a look atcha,” Suika revealed, and Nazrin was quite displeased with the idea.
“Shoo!” the mouse hissed.
“That’s not something a mouse should say,” Suika grumbled, but before Nazrin could begin tossing danmaku their way, Suika leapt away snickering, grabbing and tugging Gen backward by his clothes. As they departed he waved goodbye to Nazrin, who let her rods fall to rest on her shoulder while she put her cheek in her palm, her mood torn between crankiness and appreciation.
About a pair of hours later, Gen stood at an appreciable distance from the Human Village, enough that its walls and gate were clear to him, but from its vantage he was sure his form was indistinct. Nevertheless, he knew Nazrin was right: especially as he remembered how quickly Kazami Yuuka had identified his study and occupation the year before. He had gone back to the mansion after he and Suika had made their way through the Forest of Magic in order to change his clothes to something less distinct. This had not been very possible, however.
Essentially, all Gen had done was remove his characteristic colorful scarf and velvet coat, as well as his gloves, and was now carrying on his belt a suitcase once more for materials, cards, and a few books. He certainly looked old-fashioned in his dress shirt, trousers, and vest, but not old-fashioned for Japan. Unfortunately, Sakuya and his Mistress had no yukata to spare. “Western fashion only” for the House of the Devil. He worried a little about his hat as well... but had ultimately decided to keep it, despite the risk. He imagined once he entered the Human Village like this, the rumor of a second human living at Scarlet Devil Mansion would spread further. He sighed, but was satisfied with that. He felt like this little bump in difficulty wouldn’t be too bad for him now.
At present, he was waiting. Suika said she would meet him at the gate on the fourteenth hour, and he’d borrowed Sakuya’s pocket watch in order to figure out when exactly that was. Miss Suika was sure to have a good sense of the time of day, but he wasn’t a (by definition) prehistoric being with over a millennium of time to get a consistent internal clock. He checked Sakuya’s treasured possession.
“... About now,” he muttered, and he began to approach the town.
The Human Village was something he’d only seen so far from a distance and from above. This was the human population of Gensokyo, as far as he knew. As his Master had told him early on, Gensokyo was a land of youkai, not of humans. The humans were there to maintain the youkais’ existence... not as food, but through their fear and belief. Despite the rather restricted life of the average human villager, allegedly this simply did not bother most of them. In the time since Gensokyo had become a forgotten land, its human people had become used to the way of things, not rebelling, not dissatisfied, only content. Perhaps they all, too, understood the appeal of fantasy as he did—though it was supposedly a heavy rule that none of them stray too far from the ordinary that they might become out of it entirely. A human villager becoming a youkai of any kind was a grave sin, and learning magic – even learning flight – would lead to suspicion at best.
So, as ordinary villagers grown very comfortable with youkai (at least within their own walls), the humans of Gensokyo had expanded their home to the size of a rather small city. It sat adjacent to the unvisited shrine and the Forest of the Lost, and was also not very far from the forest in which Marisa and Alice lived. He looked at its tall and wide defensive measures and whistled that he could not see where they ended to the right or left. Scarlet Devil Mansion’s gates were not even near so grand, though he thought their color was nicer.
The gate he walked to was very formal and very Japanese architecturally. It had an angled and two-stage roof, and a simple door to be entered, nested within a pair of large doors presumable for large vehicles and such. He put his hand to the pulling handle of the smaller portal, and brought it open.
[ ♫: http://listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=hrtI_HxUHfU ]
[次元の風 - UNION2 (Sound Refil)]
Within a hollowed chamber – the distant and dark ceiling lined with parallel and thick wooden beams, ridged and paper lanterns illuminating staircases and ladders aside going above and into the walls – echoed the muffled sounds of busy human life. However... it was distinctly different from the sort with which Gen was familiar. Across the way was another door within one of two large other doors, and beside him was a simple counter, behind which sat what else but a human. It was a lazy-looking man in pale gray, simple, and summer Eastern garb. “Lazy” as his feet were up on the counter, and he was reading a magazine which featured a woman with distinctly voluminous hair. On it was a headline: “A New STARS in Sky!? The Surprising Rise of Nakashima Mika!” ... He might have heard the name.
“U-Ummm...” Gen tried to address the... probable guard.
He glanced at Gen very briefly. “Two? The door’s open, you know? Don’t cause trouble, please,” said the man, and he went back to reading.
“‘Two’...?” Gen mumbled, and finally felt that someone was beside and below him. He looked down.
“Eh...? ‘Trouble’...? How would a pair of humans cause trouble in the Human Village?” asked Ibuki Suika in a very smart tone. The guard gave Suika a dull glance, and she opened her arms as if to say “Well? Look.” He looked, and huffed dismissively at what he saw. Gen, however, was almost floored by her appearance.
Suika of the Ibuki had indeed worn a disguise. She had on an open black robe and stark, loose and white clothing beneath that, with hakama split and monochrome in color as well for her legs. She was wearing geta, the Shawl of Kagutsuchi over her shoulders, and was making absolutely no effort to hide her ancient, domineering, and very far-reaching horns.
Gen said nothing. He could say nothing.
“Looks like it’s working well,” spoke the drunk, hand on her chin and visage proud. He grimaced looking at her. Even the decorations she adorned her horns with were still present... As she had told him: oni were not compelled to lie; she was sure of herself. He didn’t even have the heart to play her straight man.
“Well let’s head in then,” he said, having eventually found his voice, and not using it to remark on Suika’s choices. He went to the far door with an expression indicating pain at the back of his eyes, and Suika stomped alongside him in what he imagined was her idea of the typical human’s arrogant stride. Pushing it open, he was arrested by sensations.
The first was the scent of foods: stands and restaurants deliberately fanning out their dishes to entice passersby, some kitchens behind glass to show cooks in preparation of yakisoba, sushi, and other quick and enticing dishes. He tasted this all, too, and felt himself growing hungry. Next was the sound of crowds and musicians, now full in the air past the door, full of hollering, bartering, chords and cries of joy and children’s simplistic anguish over falling things and selfish wants. Finally the sight was so much different from what he’d started becoming accustomed to. This was definitely a place full of life, unlike the Road of Liminality which put life beside death, and sold itself on that queer divide as appeal. To him, this was so unusually... normal to see. He had to hold there at the gate a while, just taking the bright scene of gaggles, wanderers, sellers, youkai, families, entertainers and all in what seemed to be the drawing and entrance hub of the Human Village.
Captivated and a little dazed, he jolted to two unexpected sounds. One was a squeaking, rumbling, and groaning noise, and the other was jangling accompanied by light scraping—he shot his gaze down to the person poking out from behind him with her head before his stomach, who was holding her own belly and grumbling.
“Mmn... I gotta eat somethin’...” Suika moaned, and he saw that attached to shackles around her wrists, and locked to a small obi at her waist... were some of her chains.
The chains too...!? ... Ha...!
The final thought was vocalized, and he openly, purely laughed as he began to walk earnestly into the village. Suika complained.
“Don’t laugh, boy... I haven’t had time to get a bite ‘a somethin’... Gah...” she followed behind him, eyeballing the place at her hip where her gourd would ordinarily be. “... Givin’ you a time limit, Gen: get me outta here before I wind up sober...”
Gen was laughing with his mouth shut and his hand to his face, unable to look at her. Just how vast was this girl’s pride? She couldn’t give up on her horns nor could she give up on her chains. One glance at her made it so simple to see she was an oni, but also so clear... It was clear as day her love of that truth. The image of her “disguised” appearance came to his mind again, and he laughed more strongly, almost doubling over for a moment. Suika followed, still thinking she was being teased for her stomach.
 Get Suika something to eat/drink later.
 Refrain. Save.
Eventually this tickling thought subsided and he was beside her again, walking through the village and taking in all he could see and hear. The Human Village was like a historic recreation... but with some odd touches. There was clear western influence from older days within some of the architecture, and especially within some of the things on display. Old radios as decoration (or surprisingly actually in use—this raised many questions), grandfather clocks, gramophones... all put beside simple, old, Eastern dress (commonly) and designs. It was a... relaxing aesthetic. Though the plaza and main street were very much bustling with foot traffic (and a few rickshaws, even), this was not the density of modern Japan he knew—not even close, and that was a weight off the mind. There weren’t... crowds that certifiably resembled body-comprised rivers, and he could actually move around quite easily. No building went higher than three stories (and three seemed to be an incredible rarity) and the layout of the place was surprisingly orderly as he went deeper within. The Human Village was laid out as a competent grid, something he found if not rare... certainly poorly implemented in the Outside World, where residences were packed together to maximize space, and placed out of the way on winding, confounding, tiny, and disturbingly thin roads, while business districts... mostly made sense most of the time... and still had noticeably small and not-wide roads. Exception to any of this was rare. These streets were wonderfully open to the contrary, and under the summer sky he felt very happy and light in heart to walk them.
They proceeded past bars, grocers, homes, and what seemed to be a school in the directions he had written down... the directions to the Hieda Estate somewhere within the Village. As they went, he kept an eye on those who kept their eyes on Suika. As he had quickly affirmed from what he had read... indeed the Human Village did not mind youkai, insofar as they were seen within the village itself. They were not a majority, but typical nonhumans could easily be spotted walking about in a distinct minority, and fairies were obviously hiding here and there just out of sight. But, he eyed the people eyeing Suika... because Suika was an abnormal, even for this diverse place. She was mostly concerned with having her fill of the sights and sounds of the village at this point, her mouth an oval agape, and so was not giving any attention to those giving her attention. Quite a few were, though: worriedly eyeing the impressive parts of herself, which showed her age easily, and thus had them frightened in knowing how powerful this being (... whatever sort it was) must have been. Those who noticed the youkai’s chains would often whisper to those beside them, as if confirming something. What else...? If there was anything telling about her, her absurd “branches” aside, it would be the symbol of “the unchained”: the shackles that told she could be tied to nothing but her own self. Unthinkably strong and brazenly free... What else could this youkai be but an oni?
... He was worried she was going to start a scene just by being here, eventually. Maybe Reimu would show up...
“Hey,” the woman of the hour spoke up, and he looked down to her, “how’re you gonna get an audience with this... Miare? Are you gonna pay or something?”
“A toll just to see somebody... That’s a scary thought,” he replied. Suika shrugged.
“I dunno, I jus’... I just remembered, ahh, the girl... who yer after.”
Gen squinted at his companion and began frowning rather deeply. “... Hey,” he said, “you seem... more drunk.”
He now noticed Suika’s face was rather flushed. “My gourd’s named for me...” she started to explain, “It’ll give... give away who I am, so I left it at, uhh... I left it somewhere, and drank a whole lot of it.”
“... That may be a problem,” he admitted with a frown. Though Suika was an impressively clear-headed drunk... she seemed to be always thoroughly drunk, and he had not thought that she could grow intoxicated beyond that.
“I’m fine! More than fine! Heeere,” she drawled, and then dragged him down by his sleeve. In short order he was being princess carried by her, one of her arms under his thighs, and the other supporting his back, while his suitcase dangled below him and before her knees. They were at the center and top of a red-rail bridge passing over a small and sparkling canal, and so were very prominent. Rather than be embarrassed by this, Gen mostly could not parse the information of her action, and only looked at his... “prince” a little strangely. Suika returned his gaze with a sleepy one, and then started walking in the direction he had been headed. “Y’see? I can even carry ya fine,” she told him, not thinking at all how her display of strength might look to anyone else.
But, that was true: she carried him very comfortably despite their difference in size. In fact, he decided he didn’t mind this. He would let himself be carried and with the time this granted think of what to ask Hieda no Akyuu when they finally met. He crossed his arms, put his thumb and forefinger before his lips, and while squinting began some consideration. Suika, who quite apparently did know what girl he was after, moved in the proper direction toward the Hieda Estate without any of his help at all. She had covered and watched the entirety of Gensokyo for nearly a month; it might be stranger that she wouldn’t notice the important child.
So he ignored the villagers and youkai staring at and muttering about the tall and foreign(?) man being carried by the short and venerable youkai. He ignored them, and thought about a point his ferry had brought up... and about how he was very nearly out of money.
Generally, money was no necessity for Gen: he could gather most any ingredients for free, his room and board along with his meals were provided so long as he kept working as he’d sworn he would, and simply, finally... he had virtually no desire to buy or spend money on anything. But... funds had so far already proven invaluable for him in his Master’s assignment. He had a feeling settling this matter – that of this cursed shawl of an old god – could take a definite and long amount of time. So, the question was whether to find work and so cash to smooth transactions that could probably come about later on, or to be frugal and deal in favors if deals were to be made at all.
 he decided he’d find some work.
 he decided he’d keep his pockets empty.
After all, really, that would likely be for the best.
“Here we are,” announced Suika. They were now before another large wall and a gate. This was much fancier, shorter, and more elegant than that which surrounded the village, with black-shingled tops above the walls, and a genuine barring entrance such as the one back at his home which allowed one to see the opening stone and pond gardens and sprawling, single-story Asian buildings of the Hieda mansion. A young lady with black cropped hair and servant’s garb peaked from behind the bars to see the source of the drunken voice she had just heard. He heard a soft “oh my” from her behind a raised hand, and she spoke to them with polite speech.
“Excuse me, are you here to see the young mistress?” she asked.
“Yeah! Show us the spirit immortal!” demanded Suika in a fiery voice. He was still being carried in her arms, still holding a thoughtful pose, and looked at the Japanese maid as if nothing was strange about their appearance.
“I would like to see the Ninth Generation Child of Miare, Lady Hieda no Akyuu, about an artifact I discovered that comes from the time of the first gods of Japan, yet wound up within Gensokyo at some point.”
He indicated to the cloth around his prince’s shoulder’s, the oni smiling down at it as he did so. He told the servant, “I believe that this is the wrapping Kagutsuchi was delivered into and died within.”
“He’s telling the truth,” Suika looked at and told the maid. She shrunk a little behind the wall at the address, looking away nervously. He listened to her mumbling.
“Mistress Akyuu is... but, if it’s an oni... hmm... I should...” she spoke to herself for a little while like so. Eventually she looked up at them and told the pair, “I-I will go to see the young mistress!” She bowed, swiveled, and hurried inside.
After a few seconds of waiting, Suika gave an, “Ah.”
He looked to meet her eyes, and she looked to meet his. Then, she smirked coolly, squinting one of her eyes a bit and giving her princess a handsome glance. “I remembered where I saw this move now,” she said, referring to the way she now carried him. “Hey, is your heart beating?” she queried, nearing his face.
“Pretty as you are, this is all too silly so no: it isn’t,” he said, smirking in return and folding his arms now.
“P-Pretty...? N-No; I’m cool, not pretty,” she insisted, blinking down and shying away now. But, he saw her peeking toward him with a single eye, and her smile hadn’t left: it had only gotten to squirming.
... He took the opportunity.
“Honestly, I love the way you look,” he said bluntly, “when I saw you a few nights ago for the first time, I was pretty set on wanting to take you down, but you looked so amazing I even forgot that for a while.
“Ho... Hoohhh...?” she replied, still peeking.
“How do I put it...” he thought on this seriously, his own eyes closed, “you look like you know with total confidence who you are, and that completeness and bearing catch me in as short as a moment... It’s incredible, I think.”
“U-Um, I, uh, I didn’t think of you at all be... fore...” said Suika, and he looked at her as she continued to confess, “But I thought you looked... like a blue spark suddenly leaping out. glowing in the dark and heating everything when we had our competition...”
She gripped at his leg and back, and spoke honestly, her brows knit.
“I... keep wanting to see that... I-It...” she swallowed, “It was pretty... It made my heart race, and I got really happy.”
She gave him an anguishing look, drawing out the words in her heart to say, “Hey... I want you to know... you gave me hope again, ‘kay?”
She dropped him.
“Pff!” he blew out air very suddenly, having landed awkwardly on his carrying case. He now propped himself on his elbow and readied words, but before he was able to ask for an explanation he heard a child’s voice behind him.
“Hello there... I suppose you must be the rumored oni... and you, the second human at the Devil’s Mansion. I am Hieda no Akyuu. Welcome.”
He looked over his shoulder. Through the settling dust clouds he saw a girl in expensive traditional clothing, colorful and autumn-like in its shades. She had perfectly straight and shoulder-length lavender hair, similar to his Master, and in her hair, on the left side, was a large and prominent white flower pin, decorated with red string. The child looked down on him with purple eyes, and offered a polite and pleasant expression. He crawled onto his feet and started to pat away the dirt from the side and back of his clothes. As he rose, he saw that the gate had been opened, and the little girl was awaiting them.
“Thank you very much for seeing us!” he exclaimed as soon as he realized this, bowing to a right angle. “We arrived without notice and must be a bother! Please excuse us!”
“Come on, pick your head up,” the child insisted. He did, and saw that she was gazing behind him to his companion, who was pinching at her left forefinger and pouting badly, the look in her eyes faraway.
“I gotta calm down...” she told herself quietly, putting her face in her hands and sighing. She seemed to think no one else could hear her, and so spoke to herself again, “I look totally ridiculous...”
“Um, Miss Oni?” the Hieda asked, and Suika remembered where she was.
“Awah! Ahm! O-Oni, huh!? N-No oni here!” Being “exposed” flustered her immensely. But, after waving her hands about in refutation a little while, she approached a theory and asked in a severe tone, “... That... Is that your power, Akyuu of the Hieda!?”
Akyuu of the Hieda looked at Suika’s horns, then at her chains, and finally at her face. She smiled again and told her, “Yes, that’s right.”
The oni breathed out in relief. She looked up into his face with a weak simper, telling him, “That’s somethin’, huh...? Well, let’s go.”
She walked past him to enter the grounds. He stayed behind and let his eyes fall on her back.
Gen was not a fool.
Ibuki Suika and the rest of the oni race had left this world because of humanity. If he had to guess, humans’ propensity for craftiness, trickery, and generally victory by any means had to have soured their relationship with the honorable and truth-esteeming oni. Although he personally knew oni as mythological kidnappers and raiders just as much as he knew them drunken fun-lovers, he also knew that regardless they valued straight and honest relations above anything else.
At the very least, he could tell that Ibuki Suika certainly did.
He’d given her hope? He was one of the most underhanded people that he knew. For a long while now, he felt he had to be.
Itou Gen stepped onto the expensive and gorgeous property of the Hieda, following Suika who was now following the young Lady Akyuu. He understood: he had very much to think about.