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File 153687834442.png - (1.95MB, 1514x941, Setsubun.png) [iqdb]
66845 No. 66845
A theme fitting for the tale ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tXMk-vk7ns
[Tada Rin Toshite - Starry Sky Logic (Kishida Kyoudan & The Akeboshi Rockets)]

Lyrics: http://www.faceorama.com/bluelight/kishidakyoudan/tadarintoshite.html

A story of magic.

Music Collection: https://mega.nz/#F!1BdBzIKZ!bhLzijfM3iyphpueDOKf0g

THREAD 1 >>65260
THREAD 2 >>65548
THREAD 3 >>65922
THREAD 4 >>66462
Expand all images
>> No. 66848
PS Look up what Setsubun (節分) means.


Current vote >>66836

to get a strange girl's attention


[] ... really open the floor by talking about myself. She might be used to Outsiders, but I’m far from an ordinary one.

[] ... talk about the forest instead. Maybe I can trick her into talking about something else?

[] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?


Current tally is 4 (Name), 2 (Self)
>>66837 Ask for a name.
>>66838 Ask for a name.
>>66839 changed to >>66843 Talk about self.
>>66840 Ask for a name.
>>66841 Ask for a name.
>>66842 Talk about self.
>> No. 66849
File 153687934214.jpg - (20.20KB, 251x251, clip+(2018-09-14+at+12_53_01).jpg) [iqdb]
66849
(X) ... really open the floor by talking about myself. She might be used to Outsiders, but I’m far from an ordinary one.
>> No. 66850
>>66845
Can't forget

Histories of Yatsugatake, a Suika backstory short: >>>/shorts/2180
disappointed in myself for not getting this in the OP
>> No. 66851
[x] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?
>> No. 66852
[x] ... really open the floor by talking about myself. She might be used to Outsiders, but I’m far from an ordinary one.

Women love it when you endlessly talk about yourself.
>> No. 66853
> ... Monster rabbits are no joke... and I don’t even have any grenades...

I know I'm late, but this almost cost me my sides.

[x] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?

Gen's totally cute enough to play the adorkable card. Boy can't into socialization.
>> No. 66854
[X] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?

We must know the name of our ridiculously awesome savior who acts like they just walk straight out of an action film.
>> No. 66855
Wasn't Mokou expected to be cagey because she had no reason to expect us to see her again? Let's show otherwise.

[x] ... really open the floor by talking about myself. She might be used to Outsiders, but I’m far from an ordinary one.
>> No. 66856
[x] ... really open the floor by talking about myself. She might be used to Outsiders, but I’m far from an ordinary one.
>> No. 66861
[x] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?

Outsider talk seems a tad too risky.
>> No. 66862
[X] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?

Seems more a normal thing to ask or tell about honestly.
>> No. 66863
>>66861
...Risky? Really?

We're talking about one of the people least likely to kill a human we're likely to encounter in this story, outside of those based in the human village. And for most outsiders, the best course of action when in Gensokyo is to leave it. We're still here because this is an intriguing land of fantasy - someone motivated to save lives would not be ill advised to avoid letting someone make a deeper connection to that.

Hence, why Mokou just responded with a bold-faced lie when we probed. Even if I'm wrong about the why, she's not going to open up in response to normal conversation. If an option doesn't change her impression of who we are, her bullshitting isn't going to go anywhere.
>> No. 66864
She won't bother telling us about herself because she thinks we're leaving.

[x] ... really open the floor by talking about myself. She might be used to Outsiders, but I’m far from an ordinary one.
>> No. 66865
File 153709750325.png - (828.32KB, 768x1024, Mokou.png) [iqdb]
66865
[X] ... ask her name; I mean, that seems like a normal step one, right?


He balled his fist before his mouth and cleared his throat. “Well,” he began, “may I ask for this yakitori stand owner’s name?”

The girl didn’t even seem to consider what he said. In fact, with how she proceeded he felt that she may not have listened to him at all. Eventually he did hear a small sound from her, a little “hm” of simple resignation. She turned her head as if to let the next word simply drop out of her mouth and off her shoulder. Without much of any concern in her voice, she told him, “Mokou.”

An unusual name, but more importantly he was surprised to hear only one. Thus far he couldn’t think of any people, youkai or otherwise, who had only one name aside from...

He stopped moving.

“One name...” he said to the ground, and almost to himself. He looked up at Mokou, put his eyes on the back of her head, and asked her in all seriousness: “Are you some kind of fairy?”

Mokou finally stopped. She took a few seconds to answer, “Fairy...?” once more talking only barely over her back. “Not all fairies have only one name. For instance, I hear there’s a trio of them in the Forest of Magic that each have family and given names.” He expected her to leave it at that, as she said nothing for several more seconds. Eventually, though, she turned around to face him from her side. Her thin eyebrows were twisted in light confusion, and her lips were parted as if a question was just on her mind. Then, she asked it. “Aren’t you from... well, Japan? A Japan without anything... strange? Are you a human villager who just happened to get Outsiders’ clothes?”

“I’m not a human villager,” he answered, smirking with a little hesitance. He’d had... a KIND of breakthrough.

Mokou smirked and asked him, “Not human, then, but a villager?”

“Youkai villager? I hope that’s not the case in any case.”

“There is one... a half-youkai villager,” said Mokou tilting her head. She began steadily, but not quickly, bouncing her heel, and after looking him over quite a while said, “You’re from around here. And... you’re definitely human. Where?”

“What’s up with that? I have to answer your questions seriously, but you’ll just ignore mine?” he said, just somewhat cheekily.

Mokou shrugged with one shoulder and both eyes closed, turned her back to him, and said, “Fine, just thought it was curious, but that’s fair enough.”

[ ♫: http://listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=ZUGelxx62Ao ]
[エクステンドアッシュ ~蓬莱人 - 東方ふゅーじょん Spreading Full Colors (UI-70)]

Wait wait wait wait wait...” he said in a small panic, hand held up. She looked at him again, pushing out her lips a bit in a bit of a sassy manner. Letting his fingers curl to his palm, he began to lower his hand and said, “Fine. I’m from Scarlet Devil Mansion.”

“How about that...” she spoke, looking fairly impressed, though coolly so. She thumbed her chin, still looking him over. “Keine said they don’t dress like... ‘new’ Outsiders, though. Like, they look pretty classic. Not like you.” She showed her teeth in a smile. “Interesting!”

Gen was taken aback by her expression, which was plainly and simply... very nice to look at. It felt nice, seeing her smile. It wasn’t moving his heart as Suika’s pleasant grins had done to him early in the day; it was just a rather good thing to see. Her nose was scrunched just slightly, he only saw a glimpse of her spotless teeth, and she looked... really, completely, fully glad. He felt soothed.

What a refreshing smile... he noted within. I can hardly believe someone threatening murder could have one like that only minutes after she was raging.

“So...” he said, “will you tell me your name now?”

Her smiled vanished, replaced with confusion again. He was a little disappointed. With an eyebrow raised, she told him, “I already told you? I’m Mokou.”

Just Mokou? That’s your only name?” he pressed, leaning forward. Her reply was steadfast, and she lifted a palm toward the sky in a gesture of open honesty as she gave it.

“A name is a name,” she said. “It’s the name my father gave me.”

How are you called?” he followed. Mokou laughed again, and he was briefly happy to see her happy.

“Whoa, that’s a formal way of putting it,” she said.

Gen decided he would give and take. In a short, firm move, he spread his hand over his chest to present himself, and said, “I am called Itou Gen. And you?”

“Itou...” she confirmed, and he was surprised to see her surprised. She looked like she was thinking that name was impossible to possess, and as if to follow on that asked him, “Is that with the ‘I’ from ‘Izu’?”

“Yes, but not the ‘tou’ for ‘east’,” he replied almost practiced, nearly rolling his eyes. It may have actually been a little practiced at this point for him.

“Then what’s the ‘tou’ from nowadays?” she asked.

“Nowadays”...? “It’s ‘wisteria’, the flower.”

His name was excessively common in Japan, and there was a theory... really more of a kind of belief without proof that his family (and any other family of ‘Itou’ men and women) descended from a clan called ‘Itou’ (of the East). This alone was dubious, what was more dubious was the ancient clan’s claim of nobility. The unverified assertion was that the Itou (of the East) were descended from Fujiwara no Korekimi, the Fujiwara being an exceptionally noteworthy historical Japanese clan. The idea was that one Itou branch used the kanji for “wisteria” instead of “east” at some point, which became the norm in present day and was recognized as a sign that they were tied to the Fujiwara, whose name began with the “wisteria”.

The Itou had certainly been influential at any rate, but he always thought it was rather silly to tie modern Itou to historical ones, let alone to compare them to the great Fujiwara. Thus he would scoff whenever the idea was brought up. There weren’t many surnames in the Land of the East as common as “Itou”.

“I am Fujiwara no Mokou,” said Mokou, smiling lightly, “We’re blood.”

“Fujiwara... ‘no’?” He repeated, it now being his turn to think of something as impossible. It had been nearly a millennium since there was a Fujiwara (that he knew of, at least) who referred to themselves in that ancient way. It was only ever just the format of Fujiwara Name now, like any other family.

“Something odd about that?” she asked, looking very warm to see him.

“Wait... what are you? You’re not a youkai?” he interrogated, not sure he was understanding anything.

“I’m a human, man,” she informed him.

“Is the Fujiwara clan still powerful in Gensokyo?”

“The Fujiiwara clan doesn’t exist in Gensokyo, it’s just me,” she said.

“Then... how old are you?” he asked,

“That’s rude,” she said with a frown. True, it wasn’t a polite question, but...

“I guess I’ve been around for a little while,” she said, looking off to the side and thinking. “I never thought I’d see family again, to be honest.”

He began to worry a little, seeing her lost in thought. He told her, “I don’t think you should assume we’re family. ‘Itou’ is the sixth most common familial name in Japan. We aren’t special.”

“‘Special’...” she repeated. She looked up at him. “I don’t know about you being special, but we’re definitely cousins... There was some stir and a Fujiwara and a Kudou... that’s one of the families we made, that time from the Nanke in the south... ended up making something nobody wanted. It wasn’t recorded because no one wanted it recorded, but I was surprised when, while war was tearing the country apart, that bastard clan the child had forged managed to rise to prominence. And here I am just... hm.”

He seemed to have figured something out. Scrutinizing the earth, he grew more and more certain. He turned his scrutiny on the Fujiwara. “You’re immortal... but a human?”

Mokou did not answer.

“That shouldn’t really be possible,” he said, “even immortality through Taoism doesn’t keep you ‘human’.”

“You might not be special,” said Mokou, turning to walk again, “but I am.”

He watched her go and suddenly gasped. That was it. The cool exterior, the casual mannerisms, the awesome power, and the flame motif: she was like a Guilty Gear character!

“Keep up, native boy,” said the admirable immortal, leaning forward and looking at him almost upside down. As she straightened up she continued with, “and keep talking, I want to hear what you have to say.”

He breathed in, and then out in a sigh. He supposed he wouldn’t get much else from this girl. “Alright,” he relented, following after that, “I suppose I’ll... bore you with the details of me.”

“It’s not boring,” she said with a sincere and kind glance back at him.

He blinked, thought, and then started watching his feet as he walked.

“Then, I suppose I’ll start with where I’m from...” he said, and he did just that.

~~

“I did my usual ‘walking around aimlessly’ thing and I wound up in Gensokyo on the night the Scarlet Mist got resolved. I don’t know how.”

“Mhm...”

“The first days were harrowing... I was almost killed a bunch, even though I got picked up by the guard at Scarlet Devil Mansion. There was a ghost, two vampires, and that youkai at the gate and I thought all of them wanted to eat me. At least one definitely did. There was also a witch in the basement who tried to set me on fire.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. She’s my magic instructor and Master now.”

“What the heck?”

“Have you heard? The Devil of that mansion can change fate.”

. . .

“What happened next?”

“Sakuya came in with something I later figured out was a special plant’s seed to figure out if the sun I’d made was real. Basically, it sprouts in true sunlight. It was Master’s idea.”

“Just like her, huh?”

“Yes!”

. . .

They were stopped, one on the ground, one leaning against a bamboo stalk.

“I thought the mermaid was dead. I really just wanted to stab myself in the heart for letting that happen to someone I’d just met.”

“I heard there’s some rules to stop killings in Gensokyo nowadays, though.”

“It wasn’t exactly playing by the rules.”

“Hm...”

“But! I acted fast...!”

“Hohh.”

. . .

“And there was a cute mouse.”

“Heh. Nazrin, right?”

“Yeah, I haven’t seen her in a while.”

. . .

“I stopped. There it was: the Sanzu River.”

“... Hm.”

. . .

They were walking again.

“Bullshit.”

“No, seriously! I beat them both in one fight.”

“Nah.”

“I’ll bring you to the Shrine myself and show you!”

“I’m not leaving this forest.”

. . .

“So that... that winter was kinda on you? You... You get caught up in too much stuff. What kind of human are you?”

“As many have told: a stupid one.”

“Tell all of them they’re right.”

Laughter.

. . .

They had taken longer than was needed, Gen having poured out his life’s tale to his savior, who claimed interest just from it being another’s words, and additionally from it being the words of her kinsman. Mokou, however, had said nothing about herself. After the effort of almost pulling teeth that was getting her last name, Mokou had done no more than acknowledging her supposedly very long life. They reached the forest’s exit, and Gen still had no inkling as to what he had witnessed before she had decided to get him safely to the village.

“We’re here,” she said, stopped in front of him. She turned to face him. “Can you make it back to Scarlet Devil Mansion safely on your own?”

“Hopefully,” he answered. “It’s dangerous for me to be out at night.”

“Want me to get you there?”

“Yes.”

“Too bad I won’t, then,” she said, smirking.

“What...? Seriously?” he replied, looking bothered and miserable.

“I have less capable Outsiders to stumble on and help out. It was nice meeting you though, Gen. I haven’t seen your magic, but if it’s any good come back to the Bamboo Forest sometime. It was lucky I met you tonight, and I don’t mind talking more.”

“Lucky...” he repeated, frowning. “All this because I’m ‘family’?”

“Family is important,” she said quietly but firmly, not looking his way. She told him, “Despite everything, I will never stop being a child of Fujiwara. No matter I’ve done, no matter... whatever was done to me. That’s my clan.”

What...?

She recovered from what looked to be a memorial precipice and pointed at him. “And you’re in it, no matter what anyone says.”

He wondered why she’d used the word “anyone” rather than just referring to his denials.

She lowered her hands and closed her eyes, still speaking. “If you think it doesn’t matter, I haven’t met any other Itous in my time here... so if you want something special: this is it.”

She looked at him again. “Um... please,” she requested, but wasn’t specific. Her request was delivered earnestly and almost staid, and he could tell she was apprehensive. Hesitant himself, he approached her after a few seconds of consideration.

“Alright,” he said with a calm smile when he was in front of her, lifting his forearm toward her, “Mokou-nee it is, then.”

She blinked, and lifted her own forearm. With a nervous smile, and both their hands closed to a fist, she brought her arm to his in a gesture of kinship.

Family, huh? he thought as they held steady the bond between them. I mostly couldn’t care about what blood I have, but I can tell it matters to her.

I won’t try bothering her anymore, but I definitely want to know what she’s about.


They took their hands apart.

I’ll definitely be seeing you more, Mokou, sis.

“Alright then, don’t die, and come bother me again,” said his cousin, returning her hand to its pocket. She slouched slightly, almost in a bow, and walked away from him to return to the forest. “Just be careful if you do come back,” she said as she left, “the bastard who tried killing you will try again if she thinks you’re... dangerous, I guess.” When she reached her destination, she stopped, turned, and spoke to him from the swallowing shadows of the thicket. “And my Enemy... that scum lives here too, along with youkai that’re no joke. Don’t trust the rabbits either. This grove is a gorgeous place, but, Gen? Don’t ever mistake it. Here is a hell: spilling blood, and full of deceit.”

Fire overtook her, and as she vanished in the flames and dark she parted with the final words:

“So, ‘The Bamboo Forest of the Lost’.”

It was as if the forest had become sealed, and after hearing what she said, the apprentice felt legitimately spooked, his bones seeming to grow cold. He swallowed, and looked at the heights of the bamboo.

... Ah.

He came to a realization, his mouth opening just slightly.

“Lucky”...

He readjusted his bag and squeezed the strap. This day had only gone well for one reason, and so his entire impression of the forest could be thrown into question. He had crossed paths with the White Rabbit of Good Fortune: Inaba Tewi. Almost from the start, until he met with the girl named Mokou... he hadn’t been seeing what this place truly was.

He shuddered then and there, staring at his feet, and realizing that if he had not met Mokou (his encounter with which may not have been a matter of “luck” but “chance”) he would have returned to this forest with his guard entirely down.

And if he didn’t see the Rabbit again, that would mark the end.

Sobered, confused, and with many thoughts and questions, Itou Gen finally turned from the forest, and began to make his way home.

++++++++

image sources:
https://danbooru.donmai.us/posts/2531553
https://danbooru.donmai.us/posts/1479438
and >>66845
https://danbooru.donmai.us/posts/736055
https://danbooru.donmai.us/posts/2422584


SO, in case you're wondering the "right" choice, insofar as it would have had the best outcome, was to talk about yourself. Those of you who were right, good on ya, but the reasoning of asking for a name isn't BAD, just not ideal for Mokou. Mokou is very mum about herself without a fair amount of time given for her to get used to you, BUT she's a good listener. Similar to how Komachi always talks to the Dead she ferries across the river, Mokou pretty much always happily listens to those who she takes out of the forest, only ever saying the "yakitori stand" bit. This is canon and true! This applies to everyone, not only Outsiders but villagers too. If anything she's more known for dealing with villagers who get lost, and still not talking to them much.

Mokou also took a shine very quickly to Gen, only because of his last name. If you think this is bizarre, it's definitely not an explicitly stated aspect of her personality that Mokou is big on family and the bond it implies, but it's shown. Go ahead and read her CiLR chapter and her profile/backstory if you haven't! Basically, her past, and how she hasn't abandoned it, really highlights how much who she "is" and who she's tied to mean to her. I take this farther than her immediate family for REASONS, not my own, but based off of Mokou's personal history with being a... family member.

I won't give all her details away but do encourage you to read up on her if only because ol' Kizin here loves him some Mokou. By the way? The name connection was a complete coincidence. I chose Itou because it paired nicely with Gen, and learned about its kanji characters a while after starting.
>> No. 66866
I don't want to be mean, but it occurs to me that Gen's a bit...

Let me put it this way, in the relatively short amount of time he's spend in gensokyo so far, the list of things he's accomplished includes:

- Winning a contest for his life against patchouli after having spent only about an hour or so reading about magic in a book she gave him.

- Impressing Remilia enough that she decides tp change his fate and make him part of the household.

- Fighting and holding his own against not-cthulhu at the bottom of the lake, parting the water like Moses in the process.

- Surviving getting wrecked by YUUKA KAZAMI.

- Beating both Reimu AND Marisa at the same time.

- Helping to defeat the youkai tree in the netherworld, easily dismembering a hostile youkai on the way there.

- Getting ambushed by ANOTHER youkai at the lake, whom he almost managed to kill permanently, according to Wakasagihime.

- And finally, beating an ONI in a protracted contest.

The point I'm trying to make is that I just don't ever buy that Gen's in as much danger as the story means him to be. He's TOO powerful at this point for me to believe that gensokyo really poses that much of a threat to him. Every character, and even Gen himself, keeps going on and on about how lethal the place is to him and how he needs to learn his limitations but I'm just not seeing it. It was particularily jarring when Gen got unsettled after the aforementioned ambush at the lake, which just seemed bizarre considering how well he's been doing in almost every other encounter.

I do enjoy this story, a lot. Its just that this has been bothering me for a while and I felt I needed get this off my chest. Sorry.
>> No. 66867
File 153714711291.jpg - (105.97KB, 1000x867, 8855e2ec9ff137b82e216cac1c0c68d0.jpg) [iqdb]
66867
>>66866
I think your concerns are more than warranted as this is something I think is a problem with the story myself, my desire to both present Gensokyo as a danger and, honestly, portray a person who could survive that danger.

Gen is mortal and fears for his mortality a lot of the time even for small encounters should he ever, ever, EVER feel unprepared. It doesn't matter how skilled he is because in the moment, assuming the battle is legitimately life or death, that means that a mistake could kill him. Buuuut... a mistake would kill the story too, no? I know it's an artifice but I don't want to end this prematurely with the boy dying just like that. As for being fearful despite being objectively powerful or skillful, this trait is actually taken from Kirisame Marisa, who is still easily spooked to date by youkai, although she often tries to be cool.

So what I want to do is, again, portray a person who COULD survive. This is why Gen:

-Has the pre-established traits of being obsessively studious and interested in magic.
-Happens across Patchouli Knowledge.
-Gets Remilia Scarlet to change his fate.

With these three core elements, I am hoping to create a character who can convincingly survive the encounters we put him through. To this end he also has not been put in EXTREMELY deadly situations without either a significant amount of help or the whim of the person fighting him (the Sea Monster and Kazami Yuuka, in respective example). Gen will always be afraid, because in his eyes it doesn't matter how strong he is when he conceivably COULD die at any moment. I don't think this will resonate with someone reading it, because they know he will probably survive. To THIS end I try injuring him instead, and furthermore there are a few points throughout where he could have suffered permanent damage of some kind, but those have been avoided thanks to your decisions.

I know that this story began with a tone of "survival", but my actual intent has always been to show a story of a person who "survives". Someone who WILL make it, against what odds are against him. Why? Due to diligence, preparation, practice, and connections most importantly. I want to figure out how an otherwise basic human outsider could survive in Gensokyo despite it being a meat grinder for his kind. The potential of death will always keep Gen worried, but I don't actually mean to convince the readers that he is in mortal danger, the danger is his own concern. My intent is really to entertain with a story about someone who actually makes it. Hence Gen's declaration near the very beginning:

>(Alice) “Would you mind telling me what philosophy it is you’re following ever since your arrival?”

>“Be a coward, be brave,” he said, “until cowardice is no longer of any worth. This is a mad world, and hiding away all the time in it would only make me a waiting meal for hungry monsters. However, I can’t forget: caution will be my only shield for now as I make my foolish way.” He looked Alice in the eyes next and finished with, “’Let me one day march through dream and nightmare lands with hand of fire and heart of flame’. That sort of silly thought now drives me.”

>“I see,” replied Alice, looking satisfied, “so this is why you’re Patchouli’s favored.

I hope this is reasonable/makes sense. I totally get the criticism, but that's basically what I intend for this story.
>> No. 66870
>>66866
>>66867
Something else relevant from the first thread. This was from Patchouli's perspective.

>Gen would not be able to entirely separate “fear” from “youkai” until he himself transmogrified into a full magician. It was beyond early to be thinking of such things, of course, so he would remain cowardly for some time to come. To his credit, though, the boy also knew courageousness, and she did find it admirable and human how he often decided when faced with a wall to not succumb to what brought him there, but instead break through it by all means. He’d grow in power, youkai or not, and have less cause for fear.

>He was nice.

Metatextually, or whatever, the story actually starts off without a choice and yet Gen survives, to show that he is a survivor/resourceful/studious etc.
>> No. 66871
> "right" choice

I was voting for (or at least trying to) the in-character choice. As in, no meta-knowledge. It seems kinda harsh to call that "wrong". I get your explanation though, and I did spot the connection - or close enough that it didn't come as a surprise.

> Gen OP nerf nao

I think you've done a pretty good job of balancing the story. Gen needs to be a little overpowered, because everyone in Gensoukyou is overpowered. It really does feel like one wrong move could kill him... but that would end the story, and BAD ENDs aren't in vogue anymore.

> Seija pics

Stop teasing me! There's been an amanojaku-shaped hole in my life since Isolex dropped his story. All the more motivation to start writing one myself, I guess.
>> No. 66872
>>66871
> "right" choice

>I was voting for (or at least trying to) the in-character choice. As in, no meta-knowledge. It seems kinda harsh to call that "wrong".
Yeah hence quotes, and "for Mokou". It's perfectly reasonable for Gen to ask... That's why it's a choice :>
>> No. 66874
File 153718603760.png - (817.24KB, 761x994, The Scarlet Devil Mansion.png) [iqdb]
66874
[ ♫: http://listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=EzD7D2p7stU ]
[Re:Clean Sky - 幻想古今奇譚 (Glassy:oceaN)]

It wasn’t a quiet night, and he encountered three youkai on his way home, telling him his luck from Inaba Tewi had certainly run out, likely before an arrow almost took his head. He returned to the mansion, waving to Meiling as he flew down behind the gate. He went inside, and headed down to the library.

“Master? Sakuya? ... Anlight?” he called as he entered through the book domain’s colossal doors. Eventually, a feeble voice somewhat near replied.

“Over here.”

He went in the direction of his Master, and found that Sakuya was looking at her with her arms folded and frowning. Patchouli Knowledge was at a work desk, simultaneously reading, noting things down in an open book, and trembling ever so slightly.

“Master!” he snapped, “Did you get any sleep at all today!?”

“No,” she told him. In response, he gave a look blending concern and disappointment to his fellow human. Sakuya returned his gaze and shrugged.

“She fought me when I tried to get her in bed,” said the maid, sighing. “As in, it came down to a duel. She won.”

“Patche gets like that sometimes,” he heard, and turned to see his Mistress seated in a comfortable chair with a large book in her hands. The title was Die unendliche Geschichte, and he saw that Remilia was almost crying while reading it. He didn’t know German... he’d have to ask her what it was later.

“Well...” he returned his attention to Sakuya while speaking, “I did as you requested regardless.”

He pulled the satchel off of himself and opened it to show her. She made a sound that told him she was impressed and picked one of the shoots out from the bag. “These look great,” she evaluated, rotating the fresh bamboo before her eyes, “good job, Gen. I’m sorry I couldn’t fulfill my end of the deal.”

“Master Patchouli will be Master Patchouli,” he replied, taking from the bag the small pouch he’d found in the forest. He looked at his Master, and what she was researching, and knew she was too absorbed to discuss his find. He closed the satchel and gave it and its contents to Sakuya.

“Oh, Gen? You’re back?” came an adorable voice from above. He looked to one of the tops of the bookshelves around them and saw his younger Mistress lazing around on her stomach, a copy of a volume of the manga Crows in her left hand, which was hanging off the side. She looked almost like a gold and crimson bat at rest. “So? How was the Bamboo Forest?”

“I’m not actually sure; I spotted the White Rabbit of Good Fortune, so it’s hard to say what the place is actually like based on my experience... which was good, by the way. Thank you for asking, Mistress Flandre.”

“Don’t mention it!” she answered cutely, pulling her manga up and reading it while lifting and swaying her feet behind her.

“The White Rabbit of Good Fortune...” mumbled his Master. He and Sakuya looked down at her in her seat as she put down her research materials. “You must’ve gotten lucky, then... Inaba Tewi, no? Did you find anything good, aside from bamboo shoots?”

The two humans only looked at her. To them, her eyes looked quite horrible... or rather, the area beneath them did.

“Sorry, Gen...” she said, looking down, “just a moment of zeal, that’s all. I’ll sleep, so tell me about your trip.”

He called to a chair and sat down before her when it came slowly flying to him, taking a poor and slouching posture. “It went well,” he said, “but now I don’t know what to watch out for if I go there again. I’m almost more scared.”

“Nothing to fear,” she said, looking at him and resting her hands on her lap, “not only are you capable, but Fujiwara no Mokou is likely to assist you should you ever become lost in there.”

“So Master did know about Mokou, sis,” he replied a bit quietly. Sakuya meanwhile went off to prepare tea.

“‘Sis’, eh? She lets you call her that because of your name?” Patchouli asked.

“Rather, it seemed like she wanted me to call her that,” he said. “I also found this,” he continued, presenting her with the black pouch.

“This... hmm...” she mumbled, taking it. Without pulling it out the pouch she said, “it’s a stone from Heaven, is it not?”

“... Eh? You can tell, just like that!?”

Sakuya returned, giving them both mercifully delicious drinks to nurse, while she took a cup herself and began blowing away its steam.

Patchouli told him, “I’ve seen it before, this cloth and this weight it’s carrying, not out and on my own though... I’ve had them given to me now and then, or have acquired them otherwise.” She opened the pouch allowing it to light her face, and said, “Look,” as it did not move. “There is still a roof in the way, so it isn’t compelled back to the sky. When you were outside, it began to float outside the bag, didn’t it? The more bored Celestials sometimes contain these in pouches like this one and drop them... or so it is rumored.”

“So these stones belong in the sky?” he asked, sipping from his teacup with both hands.

“Yes. Celestial earth...” she confirmed, sipping as well with one, “it’s an interesting material. Keep it and treasure it, Gen, like you do Remi’s gift.” She set down her cup on her desk, closed the bag, and handed him his discovery. “Don’t let it return to the sky, of course... You may want to ask that rude shinigami who comes uninvited about it, actually. I recommend that. I don’t know very much about Heaven... it’s not like I want to go there. I only know about what falls from it... like rocks, veils, and dead immortals.”

He had heard about the immortals, from that very same Komachi. He put his boon from the Rabbit’s luck in his lap, and noted to himself to lock it away within the library later on.

“One last thing, Gen,” said his Master, swaying slightly. He looked at her with concern. “Tell me about Setsubun tomorrow morning. Tell me everything you know.”

He squinted, and became confused... only for a moment. His eyes sharpened from an understanding.

Wait... Does...?

Does Master Patchouli hate oni...?


His expression contorted further. That wasn’t good.

“Hm...? Well, can you do that for me?” Patchouli asked, not grasping his confusion. He looked up at Sakuya, still blowing at her cup.

“Sure can,” he answered stiffly. This was bad... if it was true.

He decided to shelve the thought. Looking back at his drowsy Master, he asked her, “I actually have a request myself, Master Patchouli. Could you help me contact my family?”

“Absolutely,” she answered at once and without dramatics. The answer had come so easily he wondered if sleep deprivation had impaired her judgement. But, she continued, “We can send a letter to the outside world that can reach them with the proper magic placed on it. We can even enchant it so that your family can write a reply, and you may reply back to that exactly once. It’s not simple magic, and can be very demanding and exact, but I would do it for you. I would do that as many times as you wished.”

Gen felt his grip on his cup loosen. He did not drop it, but it had been close. He looked aside, and then looked at Patchouli with his mouth opened to speak, but no words were delivered. He felt the shape of his mouth widening and wavering, and his eyes were welling up. “R-Really, Lady Patchouli? You’d go to such lengths for me...?”

“Mm,” she answered, and she gave him a rare and gentle smile, not questioning for even a second why he might be thinking to reach out to his parents, not worrying for even a moment that he might consider going away.

Patchouli Knowledge told him confidently, “you are my apprentice.”

And he realized...

“L-Lady Patchouli...”

... he’d come to love his Master.

Gen cried. Without theatrics, he lowered his head and cried. And as he sat crying, tears falling into his tea as Flandre mocked him, Remilia came over to his side worriedly, and Sakuya looked on with a slight smirk, he considered the truth of things.

He hadn’t thought about it, but his life had changed so much more than scenery.

He remembered that the person who had first spoken of eating him was the very same who saved his life on two occasions.

He remembered the clothes given to him.

He remembered the knowledge given to him.

He remembered the new friends in his life.

He remembered the advice of his fellow human.

He remembered the charm around his neck.

He remembered Ibuki Suika.

And who it had been that truly granted all this.

Itou Gen set aside his tea, leaned toward Patchouli Knowledge, and slowly brought her into his arms, squeezing her tightly beneath hers.

Remilia Scarlet hugged him around his back.

Flandre came down and hugged Patchouli around hers.

Even Sakuya, smiling almost sarcastically, placed her arms around them all.

“You lot...” whispered Patchouli Knowledge, “I c-c-can’t breathe...! Hey!”

He had two homes. He had another family.

In that moment, he made a dedication.

~~

A letter reached a mailbox.

It began with apologies, with confirmations, explanations, and more apologies still.

But I can’t come back. I can’t even imagine leaving, and I hope you can understand that. Your son has never been very selfish, and here he wants to expend all of his selfishness at once.

I still want you to keep this letter a secret. I can correspond with you once if you write on the back of this paper and complete the broken circle there. I will be awaiting your reply and will answer as quickly as I can, to show you that this is all true.

I can never ask for forgiveness, I only want you to know that I am alive and thankful for everything you’ve ever done for me. I’ve found “reason” in this other place, and I will make it my life to follow it. Again, don’t take this as falsehood, or a prank, or madness. In Another World, your son will become someone you can be proud of, even if this has made you disappointed now.

I send my love, all of it. I hope we will keep in contact.

Your son,
伊藤彦


With the European and ancient-seeming envelope came a photograph. A strange girl in violet sat disinterested at a small table with another strange girl wearing a light-pink dress standing at her back, holding her shoulders and smirking. Standing behind the table was a foreigner child in red clothing with an ecstatic face and her hands joyfully raised as if she were jumping, and just beside her was a tall, uniformed woman wearing a pleasant expression. The thick-browed boy in front and very near to the camera, wearing a hat that matched the seated lady and throwing a lazy peace sign, was smiling a very familiar smile. They replied at once, and quickly received an answer:

Yes, the one in purple. I hope you believe me. Thanks; Father, Mother. I will reply again absolutely soon.

--End of Chapter 12: Itou Gen--


========

When he went to bed, he found a note on his pillow, marked with Patchouli’s sign.

By the end of next week, get me


[] cloth that warms itself.

[] an ωκεανό πύλη πέτρα.

[] a tengu’s feather.


He had thirteen days.

++++++++

One last note RE: Gen is definitely that, this boy has GOT to be impressive, or things won't make sense. Similarly he's GOT to be scared rather than confident at all times, because then he'd be obnoxious. He's not the type to pull off cool and OP well outside of star-aligning moments I'd say. Mostly, he's a dork.

also
>>66871
>> Seija pics
I loooove Seija, obviously, but I can't actually imagine writing any stories for her. If you haven't read Vector Spectacle yet, I highly suggest that. Not on here, it's a SFW doujin and it's awesome.
>> No. 66875
[x] an ωκεανό πύλη πέτρα
>> No. 66876
Competent MCs scare people because they make the wish-fulfiment nature of some of them too obvious. I personally don't care. I want a good story and a powerless outsider cowering in fear has been covered to death here.


[x] cloth that warms itself.

It's good to research magic for its own sake, but practicality must be always kept in mind.
>> No. 66877
[X] cloth that warms itself

The value of a heated blanket is immeasurable. Shame we couldn't prepare one before the extended winter.
>> No. 66878
[X] cloth that warms itself

I'd like to see where this goes, a mixture of practical application and theory.
>> No. 66879
[x] a tengu’s feather.
>> No. 66880
[X] a tengu’s feather

While it would be hilarious if the cloth was the Fire Rat's Robe, this is the one I want to see.
>> No. 66882
[x] an ωκεανό πύλη πέτρα.

The only thing I can come up with for "cloth that warms itself" is Kaguya, and we just got back from there. And as much as I'd love to pluck Aya, I suspect that'll result in Gen owing her something, and heck with that. So let's see how Gen's gonna deal with the fact that Gensoukyou is landlocked.
>> No. 66883
[x] cloth that warms itself.

Let's rob the lunarian household, there's no way this can backfire.
>> No. 66884
[X] an ωκεανό πύλη πέτρα.

An ocean stone gate? Sounds interesting!
>> No. 66885
[] an ωκεανό πύλη πέτρα.

'Ocean stone gate' sounds underwater-y, which means more mermaid time.
>> No. 66888
[X] an ωκεανό πύλη πέτρα.
>> No. 66889
[x] cloth that warms itself.
>> No. 66890
File 153741601421.png - (56.27KB, 736x463, thus spoke Yuyuko-sama.png) [iqdb]
66890
Tie, but I wanna write so

Flipped a virtual coin. A cloth it is. These other options may return again, however...!
>> No. 66891
>>66890
>Chooses the thing that could be used to keep food warm.
As expected of Yuyuko-sama!
>> No. 66895
File 153768083775.png - (1.81MB, 1440x975, helping out.png) [iqdb]
66895
Tuesday morning.
Twelve days remain.


[X] cloth that warms itself.


One day was spent.

After falling asleep, he was awoken in the morning by several fairies crowding into his room and at his door. Livy made her way to his bed and demanded that promises be kept. He had gotten so caught up in the day prior that he’d forgotten he’d sworn to spend it playing with the fairy maids. He’d also promised gifts. In fact, the maids had stolen his clothes the day before after realizing that he was not keeping to his commitment. Thus, he spent his Monday adventuring around the Lake and Forest looking for treasures to gift the mansion staff.

Baubles, shining plants, things that passed into fantasy from other worlds... they found many toys for the maids to play with, and he apologized to Sakuya later. Like so, one day was spent, and he was left with twelve to solve his Master’s riddle of an assignment.

By the end of next week, get me cloth that warms itself.

That was on the note she had left on his pillow. He wondered just when she had put it there, considering he had spent the entire evening working with her to send a letter through the Barrier. Now, the day after his Fair Folk Journey, he stood in his room looking at that note as if more detail about his assignment would be revealed to him somehow from examining it further. Did she want some artifact? Him to enchant a blanket? Something else? He knew asking her would result in chastisement. He took the letter from his pocket.

Dad and Mom should be getting it soon if it worked... When did mail come again? Assuming time between the “worlds” is one-to-one.

At this point they had yet to reply to him, all he had was a one-sided parchment with a backside that was blank, save for a broken circle. As he stared at it, he lifted his eyebrows. Black ink was filling it in.

The young lady sitting down. Is she the “Master” you mentioned, Gen?

He looked at the writing in shock, eyes wide and body still for almost an entire minute. He hastily scrawled a response, and flew out his bedroom in the direction of the basement stairs.

~~

According to Patchouli Knowledge, The Outside World and Gensokyo did in fact follow concurrent history, however due to the barrier and other strange phenomena that were almost beyond understanding, what passed from one to the other would not always pass “sensibly”. In truth, the letter he had wrote and sent was transported with space-time magic because of this. Thus, although it was early morning in Gensokyo (and so mail shouldn’t have been received outside), it seemed the letter had been sent forward at least a few hours in time, and then its reply was sent a kind of “backward”. Such an amazing thing... his devotion to the Girl of Knowledge and Shade merely increased.

But, after gushing over the magic’s success, his Master told him that he had already wasted a day on fairy nonsense, and he should not waste an hour more putting off her assignment. “No nonsense, Gen,” that was the decree.

So he was now headed toward the Shrine.

[ ♫: http://listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=qzIsHYksHik ]
[daisy little - 憧憬の地 (ATELIER ATMOS)]

Reimu wouldn’t be able to help him with this. He only went there intending to meet one of her alleged regular visitors. He arrived past her torii gate and landed while looking this way and that, anxious.

“Who is it!? Youkai!? Human!?” came the brusque voice of the Hakurei from her storage shed.

“Youkai-human,” he answered.

“Rinnosuke’s voice is more manly than that,” she answered, and poked her head out from the shed door. “Gen! What is it.”

A head appeared under hers, and the Shrine Maiden winced and grimaced as her chin was smacked by a long horn. Ibuki Suika showed herself, grinning brightly and shouting, “Boy!”

Reimu smacked her on her head with what looked to be her gohei, but was in fact a feather duster, eliciting a “guah!” from the oni. “Onis OUT!” the human girl snapped, striking at Suika repeatedly and shooing her out the room. Suika emerged with a crate in her arms, lifting her shoulder defensively as Reimu continued to strike her. She looked at him, one eye closed.

“What’s up, Gen? Are you here to help out Reimu too?” she asked, mostly ignoring the snarling dog at her back.

“Ah, no, I wanted to ask for your help actually,” he explained, looking at Reimu while addressing Suika.

“Oho? Ya do? That’s great~!” she answered, grinning. “What do ya need? I’ll do whatever!”

“Thank you,” he answered pleasantly, feeling happiness in his chest.

Reimu interjected, grabbing the oni’s horns like handlebars and eliciting another “guah!” “Hey,” she said, glaring at him, “the oni’s helping me out right now, so you can’t have her.”

“Ah! That’s right!” said Suika in genuine surprise, realizing what she was carrying. Reimu looked down at her in annoyance and disbelief.

“Then I’ll have tea and wait,” he said with a half-smile, pointing at her home and leaning to indicate that he would let himself in.

“What the heck!” Reimu yelled as Suika laughed and said, “I’ll take matcha!”

“Do you think this is a shrine for tea ceremonies?” asked Reimu in confusion.

“Well, three-halfs the times I see you here you’re sitting and drinking tea,” Suika explained in a slur, and as if what she had said had made sense. Reimu asked her:

Three halves?”

“Or was it five-fourths?” she questioned aloud, closing her eyes and thinking.

“It’s two-thirds!” Reimu insisted, shamelessly.

He spoke up, saying, “I’ll go get the tea” as he turned to walk toward the shrine.

You two...! Cut. It. Out!” growled the Hakurei, pushing down on a whining Suika. “Gen!” she called him, “If you’re here, help me clean!”

“Fine,” he answered easily, having had his fill of teasing.

“Ohh! Show me what you’ve got, Gen!” demanded the oni.

In some excitement and nervousness, he answered “Y-Yeah!” slightly pumping his fists, eager to try to impress her. He entered the crowded storeroom that threatened to rival the Library in its volume of dust and got to work.

~~

But he was not too impressive.

“Magicians sure are weak, huh!” the chipper Suika remarked, walking past him with two near meter-wide boxes of needles: one in each hand as though she were simply balancing plates. He had one such box himself, and was struggling.

“It can’t be helped,” Reimu said, passing him by with a futon folded over her arms, “Magicians weaken themselves, after all.”

“I-It’s for magic, and I...” he began to insist, but stopped before explaining his exercising with Hong Meiling. “It’s all for magic!” he repeated, stomping involuntarily with the weight of the box.

He dropped the thing outside and began panting over it, despite the dust it had kicked up. Reimu passed him again to enter the shed and mentioned over her shoulder, “The oni mentioned you beat her in a game, but I guess even oni can lie sometimes.”

“Hey! I wasn’t lying at all, you know!” Ibuki Suika defended, lifting a different box with both hands. He wondered how heavy thatmust have been. “He beat me fairly!” she continued. “Not even you could do that, Reimu!”

“Sh-Shut up...” complained Reimu, stopping at a chest and resting her arms on top of it. She looked embarrassed by this fact. “We didn’t play the same game.”

This was true, and he couldn’t deny it. Walking back into the shed and eyeballing another large container, he recalled that the entire reason he’d proposed a game of tag was that he knew a straight fight with an oni... perhaps even a spell card duel would have not ended well. A game with different rules was almost the only option.

“What are you cleaning up for anyway, Miss Reimu?” he asked, putting his arms around the storage unit.

Osouji,” she replied.

He stopped his efforts to raise an eyebrow at her. “... Did it turn to the end of the year without my noticing?”

Reimu yawned and answered, “‘Spring Cleaning’, then.”

“It’s summer!” he retorted.

“Honestly,” Reimu said, not joking any more, “it’s just opportunism. This oni showed up a little earlier and started cleaning up my shrine, so I told her to help me clean and organize my shed, too.”

“Yep!” chirped Suika, grinning. He blushed. “Anywayy, reallyyy, you humans are all so squishy and helpless, aren’t ya?” she noted, leaning onto a crate herself now, resting one arm on it and playfully lifting her other hand as she spoke. She took that hand to her head and pulled a small grip her hairs, blowing on them in her palm while wincing. Again she made a crowd of tiny clones, which immediately set about clearing the remaining containers and objects from the shed. “I missed this...” she said to herself, although he heard it. He watched her take the gourd she seemed to always keep at her side and begin drinking from it long.

“Yeah, yeah. ‘Humans are weak’, said the oni of all things,” Reimu muttered as two clones leapt up from below her to push the chest from the wall, fall back to the floor, and from there start to lift it. She and Gen left the shed to let the ancient youkai finish by herself. With her hands on her hips, Reimu looked up at the apprentice and ordered: “Help me sort this stuff,” pointing down at one vessel of assorted tools (seals, skewers, and orbs among them) among the thirteen or so currently out.

So he spent time doing just that, studying Reimu’s implements all the while and trying to understand how she used them too. Marisa had told him that essentially, Reimu’s weapons and techniques worked because she was Reimu. She could write and had written “seals” that were complete nonsense, and yet they were no less effective than truly expertly crafted ofuda in her hands. While organizing a pile of envelopes that all read “new year’s money” he considered this. Reimu was most definitely human, but her natural ability and spiritual strength were almost miraculous.

As he thought about how much more proud he was of being someone successful in this land of fantasy who had no innate ability or power, a question came to his mind that he felt he ought to ask later. Before that, there was another he had in mind as one of Suika’s clones walked by him with a bottle of sake four times its height held over the little one’s head.

“Miss Suika,” he said, addressing the drinking oni sitting cross-legged beside the storeroom door. Before he could continue on, she giggled and blushed.

Miss Suika! Ahahahaha!” she laughed. “‘Mi~ss’... cute,” she spoke fondly, looking at her gourd. She then resumed drinking.

He lost himself for a moment, finding her words and actions terribly affecting. He looked away from her, and asked his present question. “The clones you sent to our library: what happened to them?”

“Nng... Glp... hahh... Mm, I... re-absorbed ‘em after they finished fixin’ your broken things,” she told him. “When they’re spent, they turn into mist, find and come back into me,” she explained. He decided to look at her charming figure again.

Suika was looking into the shed, waiting for one last miniature inside of there to remove a broom. She looked serious, something he recognized as a rarity for her. Before he could let himself admire her bare neck, sleepy-gaze, and relaxed yet certain seating posture – standing the gourd at her side as though it were a staff representing prestige and power – he spoke again, in thanks, to prevent that. “I... I should thank you on behalf of Master Patchouli! F... For fixing the shelf and floor!” he said a bit louder than perhaps was necessary while looking askance.

He glanced at her and saw a thin simper cut along her face. “Nah...” she said, “you shouldn’t thank me for that at all. I busted the place up, so it’s on me.” She turned the look on him. “I’ll apologize to your Master later.”

As a waddling broom passed beside her face, Suika lifted a hand again. This time, dust from all around was collected and condensed above her palm until Reimu’s shed was spotless. Reimu was openly impressed, eyes wide and mouth slightly open as she applauded the oni, who accepted the praise with a look of immense self-satisfaction. After a few seconds of silently gloating, Suika held the orb of dust between her thumb and forefinger, and brought her gourd under her arm. She then lifted her other hand to begin “gathering” and “dispersing” Reimu’s things, swiftly sorting them all out and from box to box with only the slightest movements of her wrist. He had flashbacks to The Sword in the Stone to see it, though without the shrinking of the storm of flying objects. He had to admit, seeing her make light of what he and Reimu had been tediously working on for several minutes in a matter of seconds had him understand why she described his kind as “helpless”.

The youkai firmly tossed the ball of dust into the sky, launching it like a rocket in time to fall somewhere in the woods, and crossed her arms confidently after putting her gourd back on her belt.

“Humans, in,” she said, jerking a thumb toward the shrine’s main building and putting on a cool face, “I’ll take care of the rest, you kids can go relax.”

Reimu accepted the offer immediately, though as she left for her house told the oni, “Sure, but if you’re going to work without me looking then don’t break anything like you did at the Mansion.”

The oni’s façade broke and she became embarrassed at once, uncrossing her arms. “I-I won’t!” she cried, but Reimu was paying her no more attention. Suika’s face became sullen, she sighed, and with her eyes closed she put her hands on her knees and let her head fall back. After a while, she brought her head forward and whispered, “It’s just been a while~... that’s all, mhm,” while staring at the ground. Her brow furrowed then, as she noticed Gen’s shoes out ahead of her. She whipped her head up, surprised and embarrassed again. “Eh, uh, g-go inside!” she said to the human standing meters away.

“I just thought I’d wait here,” he answered, taking a seat on the ground, “sit in the Sun a while, not leave you feeling lonely.”

“W-Well...” the oni answered, lightly scratching at her cheek and staring off toward the woodland, “th-thanks... Go... Go ahead and watch me work!” She flexed an arm and clasped her bicep while beaming, finding her spirit again. He smiled simply in return and raised his thumb.

As Suika got up to finish the job and he sat looking between clouds and her, he wondered why it was that she seemed so eagerly helpful. She had beaten Reimu three nights ago, and rather apparently had taken a liking to the shrine maiden regardless of that. However, amicable as an oni could be, they were most often known for beating their own drums as far as he knew. They would help a sworn friend if they felt that they could, but helping of no accord was far from usual. In legend and myth, humans mostly considered the average oni to be at best a nuisance, and at worst an absolute terror. That the oni had been forgotten from Gensokyo of all places, with only Suika’s return, informed him that despite their reputation her race had not been banished either: for whatever the reason, they had to have willingly left. And so, Suika had to have willingly returned.

She had a pair of her clones relaxing on her shoulders while she brought something back in, having already returned a third of the items to the shed by now and abandoned most of the miniatures. She stood for a moment analyzing the space of the room, absently stroking a finger along a place on the bottom of her left horn in minute motions. He had a lot of questions for her, and began planning out how he might ask them in the future. He did not want to intrude, but he found he was desperate to know more.

A few minutes later, Suika had returned over half of the things that were out on the grounds back to the shelf, and began sweating—quite a lot in fact. She came to rest on the chest Reimu had been resting on earlier, and in the same way, breathing a little heavily. It is hot, he thought to himself. “Do you want some water, Miss Suika?”

She tilted her head and looked like she found that question funny, confirming this with, “Heh... I’ve got something better than water here.” She patted the gourd at her side, sweat dripping from her chin.

“Alcohol dries you out, Miss Suika,” he informed her, taking one of the small tomes from his belt.

“It’s what I drink when I’m thirsty,” she said, closing her eyes and letting her mouth hang open as a cool breeze gently rolled over the shrine. “Ahh... feels good...”

He scoffed, “What? You never drink water?”

“Nah, nah, I do, I do,” she replied, and looked toward him cheerfully, “I do need some. Could ya?” she asked.

He repeated the word and motion his Master had used on him the night he returned after the Spring Snow Incident, and water appeared above Suika’s head, dumping down on her. The clones sitting on her saw this coming and dropped to avoid getting wet, but the original Suika herself had a head of soaking hair now.

Behind her cloaking bangs she blinked now, and a wicked grin found its way on her face as she parted her hair to look sharply at him. “Why you...!” she growled playfully, and she leapt at him, getting his head under her arm before he could even fall back. Her skin was warm against his cheek, but he had no time to enjoy this, as she let him go and put her knuckles on either side of his head, grinding them “gently”... as gently as an oni could manage. He felt like he was under a millstone. “Impudent human...!”

“Whoa! Ow, ow! I-It was cold, though, right!?” he tried to defend himself. It was cold. He knew as her hair was now falling over his face and soothing him from the heat.

“I wanted something to DRINK!” she declared emphatically, pushing her knuckles further into his skull

“Sorry, sorry!” he yelled, putting aside the retort he had prepared to remind her that drinking had not necessarily been specified in her request.

“Ahh, jeez,” Suika grumbled, and she finally let his head go. She turned, and leaned her back into his, her hair between them and chilling both bodies. He let her stay like that, and he slouched forward to observe her two remaining clones finish the work of returning Reimu’s equipment and things. The human and oni stayed in silence like that for a while, nobody coming to bother them.

Eventually, he found that he was watching the diminutive oni fragments sitting on either side of the door, legs out, and basking in the Sun. He hadn’t really been thinking about anything in particular, he realized. The last several minutes had been no-fret or worry downtime. He wasn’t sure when the last time was that he’d genuinely, non-contemplatively, sat and done nothing but live for a little while.

“Since when were you two so chummy?” he heard Reimu ask. He turned slightly his ear to her voice, and heard her say more. “Watch it,” she said in a plain and sensible tone, “this one is still an oni. She’s dangerous, you know?”

As she said this, Reimu pulled him up by the shoulder cloth of his coat, dragging him away from Ibuki Suika. He heard a thud behind himself, and turned his head completely to see the short girl fallen on her back on the stone grounds, arms spread and sleeping heavily. The girl in red and white continued talking, “She fell asleep standing while against you? Ridiculous.”

“I wonder if she’s tired,” he thought aloud while looking.

“She’s drunk,” Reimu explained, and she presented him with a cylindrical yunomi from a tray she was carrying atop her other hand. “Thanks,” she said.

He took the cup and drank from it. Tea... The child really was a good host. He looked down at her tray and saw that two cups remained on it.

“Come on over,” Reimu spoke, walking back toward her home, “let’s relax and wait for her to wake up.”

So he did.

Gen’s opportunities to speak with Gensokyo’s protector were very few. Aside from the parties of the last Incident, indeed he had conversed with her all of thrice. As Patchouli’s apprentice, he simply had little reason to head all the way out to where she resided. The Shrine was not a hotbed of magical ingredients, and Reimu was not a magician or magical being of any sort.

But he enjoyed sitting with her. When not being provoked, Reimu was infectiously calm and an amusing partner over drinks. Today as well, he spoke with her about his recent studies and observations, which she would comment on lightly yet seriously, and with infrequent nonsensical thoughts such as, “If you’re collecting bamboo seeds, you should grow them in that library so the two of you can breathe better in there. Just give me some shoots if you go through with it.”

But she didn’t tend to talk about herself, mainly because there was little to say. If she didn’t have a job, he would easily think of Reimu as a hermit.

After some time, Suika woke up with her cheek on a stone, having rolled over in her sleep. She pushed herself up by her hands, looked to her two now-resting clones, and recalled them absently while focusing on getting her gourd to her lips. She drew herself up to a seated position while chugging, put the vessel down, and muttered, “Water... tea...”

“Over here, oni,” Reimu called to her. “Good work.” To this, the youkai turned in some bewilderment, stood, and made her wavering way to the porch where they were sitting. She grabbed up the remaining yunomi on the tray between them and drank it down in an actual second. Wiping her mouth with her hand, she looked for more, and when Gen saw that she was discovering there was none, he offered his cup. She took it, and drank it halfway with careful gulps, holding it out to him when she was finished and saying,

“Thanks,” with a light voice. He took the cup in both hands and looked at where her mouth had been.

“Well I don’t need you anymore so you can shove off if you want. Honestly I don’t mind you staying though,” Reimu addressed her, and she looked glad.

“Nuah,” she breathed her friendly refusal, “I told Gen I’d help him out.”

Hearing his name, the magician’s apprentice looked up suddenly, giving a, “Huh!?”

Suika put her hands on her hips and smirked brightly, seemingly now fully awake. “What, you forget? Come on...” she chastised.

“Looks like you forgot what happened about an hour ago,” Reimu answered for him, looking at her helper dully. Suika merely looked confused at this statement.

Red-faced, the boy quickly drank from where Ibuki Suika had, and pulled the cup away to stare into it when he was done, swallowing, heart beating. Whoa... th-there’s a taste—

He shook his head rapidly.

Trying not to look as ashamed as he felt, and so wearing an open smile in consideration of that, he spoke to Suika, “I’m looking for something in Gensokyo: a cloth that warms itself. Want to join me on discovering it?”

“A warming cloth?” Suika repeated, cocking her head a tiny bit, “Well one place you can go to would be the Land of Oni. We’ve got plenty of stuff like that.”

“I don’t particularly feel like dying today,” he answered, and she laughed heartily. “More importantly, could I even get there in the first place?”

“You? Hmmm...” Suika held her chin, her thumb up and her forefinger parallel to her lips. “Well, even if you could I can’t show you. ‘Cause I made an oni’s promise. If you want to find it on your own I can join you, though.”

“Well, we’ll probably go somewhere else—uh, ‘we’—” he stammered, and Suika laughed harder, holding her gut.

She swung to his left side and pulled him close with an arm over his shoulders, squeezing him and saying, “I already said I’ll do whatever! Come on, let’s go, let’s go!”

“Okay...!” he replied childishly, and then was embarrassed again for the innocence of his inflection.

“Don’t die, Gen,” Reimu said, sipping from her cup quietly. “Remember, I’m not going to help you if you’re not right in front of me.”

“Yeah!” he replied.

First...


[] ... to the human village!

[] ... to Muenzuka!

[] ... to the Bamboo Forest!
>> No. 66896
[X] ... to Muenzuka!

We just went to the bamboo forest and it doesn't feel right going to the village after ignoring it for so long, especially not if we're bringing an oni with us.
>> No. 66897
[X] ... to Muenzuka!

Oh boy, we get to go back down the Road of Reconsideration (of life choices)!
Gen's sure to have plenty of wonderful memories to reminisce about.
Who knows, we might even run into an old friend? Wouldn't that just be dandy?
>> No. 66898
[x] ... to the Bamboo Forest!

Human almost gets perforated; brings walking earthquake as retaliation.
>> No. 66899
[X] ... to Muenzuka!
>> No. 66900
[X] ... to the human village!

Looking for clues in a (somewhat) safe(r) location!
>> No. 66901
[x] ... to the Bamboo Forest!
>> No. 66902
>Whoa... th-there’s a taste—
Gen is lewd~

[X] ... to Muenzuka!

Suika can probably deal with the threats there. And more importantly, Komachi might tease Suika and Gen about whatever their relationship might be.
>> No. 66903
[] ... to Muenzuka!

I think Suika might also wax poetic a bit if she sees the humans departing from the shores.

Komachi giving them grief is also A++.
>> No. 66904
[X] ... to Muenzuka!

Incoming electric blanket.
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