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Remember how I said I used to write shorts? Like, a million years ago or something? Yeah, I still do that. Sort of.
This’ll probably be the last AFT-related thing I write for the foreseeable future; sorry, but it’s so not the end of the world it’s not even funny. I dawdled on it for far too long and, as always, I feel like I could have done a better job on it, but it fulfills the purpose it set out to serve, and so I am satisfied with it. So there you go.
Sadly, I decided not to write a Flandre and Koishi scene in this one, as much as I wanted to. The short was already getting far too long by the time I cut it off, and it felt entirely out of place compared to the rest of it. Plus I’d have probably gotten distracted again and never end up writing it. Feel free to use your imaginations, because there is seriously no limit to the weirdness those girls will pull when they’re together without supervision.
In a house underground, there lived a cat. Not that she was a very normal cat, any more than it was a very normal house, or a very normal underground. Truth be told she was so long-lived, so experienced, so human in appearance as to hardly be called a cat at all. But in this land of Gensokyo, in the land of magic and monsters, heart and soul are ever so much more important than body and mind in defining who one is. And at heart, and in soul, she was a cat.
She was Rin to those who knew her in passing, and Orin to those who knew her best. It might be said of her that her job was to ferry dead bodies and lost spirits, but if one is to be honest this was hardly a job so much as a guideline. A cat has no job except to comfort and console her mistresses, and in this she had ever excelled.
A time came, however, when the younger of her mistresses became more restless than usual. Of course everyone in the house knew that the young sister was, to be liberally polite, “rather odd”, but even in her eccentricities there was a norm she tended always to drift towards, and in those days she had drifted away from it. Worry began to creep into Rin’s heart. Of experience she had plenty, but of intelligence she fell somewhat short, for even the greatest of cats is still, at heart, a cat. She had known the young mistress for years and years again, grown used to her oddities and her lackadaisical outlook on life. Why now did she seem so restless? Why did she now begin to look out the window seemingly at random, gazing up at the dark ceiling of an underground sky? Why did she leave the house so often and yet return so quickly, when in the past she would disappear for months at a time without a word? Why did she seem sadder than usual, and yet at the same time more joyful than she ever had before? The cat took comfort in the familiar and the normal, in what she knew was good and full of happiness. To her, the different was unknown, and the unknown was to be feared.
But still… hope. In the unknown, she still felt hope. Hope, that the reason she was restless was a good reason. Oh how many nights, how many years had she wished that her young mistress would be healed of her melancholy, that she would no longer feel the need to abandon her home, her family, for the sake of an empty curiosity no one understood. Her elder mistress hoped with her, praying for the day when they could be true sisters once more rather then acting as little more than “acquaintances”.
The days dragged on like this, week after week and month after month, until the house had all but accepted the young mistresses’ strange behavior as the new norm. Rin remained ever curious of what had caused her to change, considering that the change was neither for the better nor for the worse. She perked her ears at any innocuous tidbit of information the young lady let slip about her unusual demeanor, no matter how vague or unimportant. And for all her months of trouble, she discovered only one concrete thing: someone important was coming, and coming very soon. Of course, for a cat, “soon” is never soon enough, and soon she forgot all about “soon”.
It was a day like any other day, as if there even were days that were unlike any other day in that secluded underground house. The lady Rin was working hard, though hardly working, shooing meddlesome spirit wisps from the mistress’s gardens and sending them on their rightful way. She would keep at it for another hour or so, check in with her best friend down below, play a few games of whatever they’d decide to play that day, and then while the rest of her waking hours away in the company of the mistresses. Just another pleasant day in the life of a cat.
And then “they” showed up. Out of nowhere, just like that. “They” strolled slowly down the old palace road, the road that Rin could have counted on both hands the number of people that came down it yearly. Three of them, just three little girls, though one was more than enough to make her nervous. The lesser pets began to scatter almost instantly at the sight and scent of the invaders, running behind the boulders and old pillars strewn about what passed for a front lawn in the land without a sun. Rin’s heart was of a similar disposition, though her feet stood firm. After all, If she didn’t stand up for her younger brothers and sisters and show them how adults handled things, who would?
“They” seemed to notice the conspicuous cat, and slowed their progression to a halt, giving her a wide berth as she stared at them from between the rows of strange otherworldly flowers. They were all quite short in her eyes, strangely dressed with lacey dresses and lacey hats. What odd wings they all had; this one’s like a bat, this one’s like a butterfly, and this one’s… Those hardly looked like wings at all, really. People that smelled of the above-ground… very suspicious.
Rin glared at the strangers without saying a word, back turned to them and head cocked over her shoulder. The one with the not-wings stepped forwards and bowed, looking at a small leaf of paper clutched in one hand.
“Umm… hi, Miss Orin. This is, Flandre, I guess… Is, uhh, is Koishi, home?”
The cat continued to look at her wordlessly. Who was this girl? She could hardly have looked more out of place, Rin had certainly never seen her before, and here she was talking like she was an old friend of the house? It wasn’t exactly common knowledge that Mistress Satori even had a sister. And what gave her the right to be calling her Orin, anyways?
“…Do I know you?” Rin asked skeptically, finally turning around to face the strangers properly.
The Flandre-girl fingered her ponytail nervously, not very enthusiastic about making eye contact. “No, not… not really. I guess not at all, actually. I’m a… friend, of Koishi’s. She said I should… visit, some day.”
Rin found herself walking slowly closer to the odd party of three, curiosity rising. “Koishi don’t exactly… have, friends, y’know.”
“I, I know, I know she doesn’t, but… I, still am. She, she wrote me a note. Even drew cute little pictures on it. You’re in it too, see? She drew a little cat-ears-face-girl. It says it right here: Orin~”
The oddities of the situation continued to pile and pile, quickly overriding Rin’s former caution as she crept over to the piece of paper in Flandre’s outstretched hand. She eyed it suspiciously, caught its scent; smelled enough like the underground, at least. It was definitely Koishi’s handwriting, detailing a rather obscure set of directions to travel from above-ground to the underground and then to… She didn’t believe it; there really were pictures drawn on that note? Okuu’s hair wasn’t nearly that messy in real life.
“She gave this to ya’?” Rin wondered out loud, staring intensely at the note with intrigue.
Flandre shrugged. “Well, she… I, found it on my desk this morning, just kinda sittin’ there all like, ‘yeah, hi, me again.’ I think she’s been hiding from me ever since I said I was going to kill her. Such a silly girl~”
“You’re going to kill Miss Koishi?! DIE-YOU-MONSTER!” Rin instantly jumped backwards and drew a nearby spirit wisp into her hand, poised to strike at the malefactor with all the ferocity a true hellcat had to offer. Before even another wisp had answered her call to arms, though, the butterfly-girl stepped in between them, waving her arms and shouting apologetically in some strange language that made no sense.
Author’s Note: The following spoiler-tagged text is spoken in English. The story is told from Rin’s perspective, and thus she can’t understand it, but it has been translated for your convenience.
“No no, no no-no-no-no she didn’t mean it she didn’t mean it, stop stop stop! I mean, oohhh, umm… Stop! Stop no! Girl Flandre, she, uhh, she bad not!”
The flame-haired feline glared daggers at the strange, small girl in front of her. “Who’re you supposed to be?”
She paused for a few seconds, looking almost like she didn’t understand the question, before responding frantically with, “Y-You? You, me… me… Me, I am, Francesca! Friend, friend fairy, thank you very much!”
Raising an eyebrow at the little fairy, Rin glanced over to the third girl who was currently shaking her head into an upraised palm. “Hey-hey, you in the back! Tell me what the hell’s goin’ on or bad things’re gonna happen!”
“Uggh, I swear I’m dealing with children here… No one here is trying to kill anyone, young lady. My sister Flandre met Miss Koishi by chance, a long time ago. They are for lack of a better term ‘friends’, and in my opinion they are both out of their bloody minds. They make the worst jokes I’ve ever heard at the very least. The fairy’s Francesca; she’s harmless, I assure you.”
“Why’re you here?!”
“Just a visit, miss, just a visit. Miss Koishi no doubt knows we’re coming.”
Her eyes shifted from one strange girl to the next, thoroughly confused by that point. They seemed nice enough, but… she didn’t really know. Taking a few deep breaths she waved the cantankerous wisp away and tried to calm herself down; she didn’t particularly like the prospect of fighting anyways.
“You are Mistress Koishi’s… friend?” Rin asked herself out loud, pointing towards Flandre’s general direction.
Flandre returned the gesture. “That was a question, or a statement?”
“That’s what I’m asking you!”
The little fairy started massaging her temple as she leaned over and whispered to the third girl. “I told you bringing me wasn’t gonna work out; my Japanese is horrible! They’re talking too fast!”
“Nothing we can do about that, Fran,” Flandre interrupted abruptly. “It is Friday, after all. Our hands are tied, you know, all nice and pretty with a bow, or maybe that stupid string that Eye of Koishi-girl’s is attached to, and what’s up with that anyways, really, I mean it just looks stupid floating there like some kind of balloon. I’d pop it but she probably already did that when she gave up on life, and now she’s just making everyone think that it’s really there when it’s actually not, because no sane person would bother to touch it anyways. Remind me to kiss it and make it all better the next time I see her, kay?”
“Hey, I’m still here!” Rin shouted indignantly, not particularly enjoying being left out of what must have been an extremely important explanation regarding the three girls’ master plan. “Stop talkin’ in that craaazy language already!”
“But it’s ridiculously difficult to learn and breaks all its own rules twice!” the blonde whined as she folded her arms in front of her. “Anyways, can we, like, just pretend that we’re actually really nice people who are also pretty cool and it’s no problem if we stay for tea? You do still drink tea down here, right?”
The conversation was fast-approaching a level beyond which Rin really didn’t think she’d be able to keep up with, certainly not if this funnywings girl kept talking as fast and as inanely as she already was. She followed Francesca’s example and started holding her forehead.
“I, think I should just take to see Mistress,” she finally responded, spinning around on her heels. “This is gettin’ way too confusing… Come on, follow me.”
Smiling glowingly, Flandre leaned over and gave Francesca a friendly one-armed hug. “And thuswise, the victory has become of ours~”
The young one stared back at her, eyebrows definitely skeptical. “Is that supposed to be what the pigtails-girl said or something?”
Remilia sighed yet again as she lightly pushed her two companions forwards, urging them to follow the cat. “It’s supposed to be my sister, being my sister. I’d have thought you of all people would be used to it by now.”
“Well, yeah, but… It’s Flandre, Remilia.”
“Do I detect a possible hint of resentment in that there word-speak you’re all up ons, Francine?!”
“Excellent! Moving onwardly!”
Rin continued to glance back at the overworld trio as she led them up the stone path to the great Earth Palace’s front door. Truthfully it was hardly very great or very palatial anymore in that day and age, but it wasn’t very hard to impresses a cat, and the picturesque stained glass windows remained as beautiful as they had in centuries past. She caught sight of her younger brothers and sisters peeking out from their hiding places, unsure as to whether or not they should trust these intruders if Big Sister Orin was.
“So where are all you ladies from, anyways?” the twintailed cat asked, getting a little nervous at their constant chatter in a language she hadn’t a clue about. “What language is that, is that English?”
“It is, Miss Orin,” Remilia replied. “Coincidentally we are even from England… originally. It’s quite a long story.”
Orin pouted angrily at her. “Hey, I’m not lettin’ you get away with that, my name’s not Orin! It’s Rin, Kaenbyou Rin! Buuuut that name’s too long, so it’s just Rin to you weird people!”
“I like Orin; it’s cute~” Flandre cooed, smiling innocently as she folded her hands behind her back. “Can I scratch you behind the ears~?”
“No ya’ can’t!” Noticing the little fairy trying to hide behind the sisters, Rin added, “So what’s her problem, anyways? Awful quiet back there, aren’t ya?”
Francesca caught sight of Rin’s pearly claw pointed at her and did her best to put on a smiling face, though she kept shaking her head. “I… I, no… no, uhhh… Japanese, no… Miss Remi, what’s the Japanense word for speak again?”
“She doesn’t speak Japanese very well,” Remilia answered for her. “But, she still wanted to come, to learn more about your Ms. Koishi. You might say she’s become somewhat of a legend around our house.”
“Myrrr… Myth, more like,” the cat answered as she led them under the doorless arch that served as a front door to the building. Once a grand palace honoring Earth itself, the house’s ceilings were tall and its rooms vast. The interior was Western in style and build, though the walls and nearly all the furniture were made of polished stone rather than wood like the overworlders might have been accustomed to. Glass-covered torches sparsely peppered the walls, but a strange, almost magical yellow-orange ambiance seemed to be the predominant light source, shining through the stained glass and bathing the foyer with colors. Instructing the women to wait patiently while she fetched the master, Rin dashed up the wide spiral stair and through the hallways into her older mistress’s room.
“S-Satori!” she exclaimed, bursting into the room in a very catlike manner. “Satori, there’s, there’s people here! From, from upside! She, she she she, she says she knows Miss Koishi!”
The lilac-haired woman, seemingly prepared for the outburst, calmly set down the needlework she’d been working on. Rin was one of the few pets in the house to comprehend that Satori could see into the minds and hearts of others, but had never really bothered to act any differently around her. She recalled Satori saying once that the hearts of animals like herself were “different”, but whether that meant she couldn’t look into them or not made very little difference to a simple-minded cat like herself. Regardless, it always seemed the next thing to impossible to surprise her.
“Visitors from above-ground?” she asked as if she was actually confused. “Well now, that’s something I wasn’t expecting today.”
“The, the girl!” Rin continued excitedly, “The one with the diamond wings! She said she’s Koishi’s friend! That’s gotta be a lie, right?! I mean, Koishi, she’s… y’know…”
Satori looked into Rin’s eyes, curiosity mixed with confusion. “…Indeed,” was all she said as her eyebrows furrowed. For far longer than Rin was comfortable with her mistress remained seated in her marble chair, thinking about things only she would think about. It worried her… Satori always knew what to do. She was just like that, heart-reading or no heart-reading. Rin crept closer, looking small and meek compared to the seated lady, though they were both about the same height. Eventually an accepting smile returned to Satori’s face, and she stroked her pet’s hair reassuringly.
“Well then, we should offer some hospitality to our new guests, whoever they are. It’s been such a long time since we’ve gotten company, hasn’t it Orin?”
“Well… yeah, it has~ I wish them Onis’d visit more, the kids love playin’ with em’!”
Satori only smiled and patted Rin’s hair again before standing up and walking with her out the door. It never mattered what was going on, or what the problem was; when she was with her mistresses, everything was just fine. Whoever these weird overground women were, Satori would know just what to do, and everything would work out just fine.
The pair reached the top of the stairs and slowly made their way down, Rin trailing behind Satori obediently. The mistress had walked down these steps so many times she had no need to keep her eyes open as she traversed them, leaving her mind free to focus on that third eye of hers, which gazed at the strange women from afar. Orin sincerely hoped none of them knew just what Satori was doing with it; so very, very many people had been scared away from her house as soon as they realized just what the elder mistress was, and it always hurt the cat a little to think about how lonely Miss Satori really was. Rin caught the little fairy point at the eye and start whispering to the bat-wings girl, but that blonde… that blonde one was staring right back at it, red eyes as unblinking as the red eye of Satori’s.
The cat nearly bumped into her mistress’s back, not realizing how staggered her progression had become. For the last ten seconds at least Satori had intermittently began to slow down mid-step, speed up as if to pretend nothing had happened, and then stop again. Her hand was tense against the stone banister, breath short and catching in her throat. Rin could nearly smell the sudden tension come over her dear mistress. She couldn’t see her face, and could only imagine how odd it must have looked. Nervously wringing one of her crimson braids, she wondered… just what was she seeing in that girl’s heart? She wasn’t… dangerous, was she…?
Quizzical steps aside, it wasn’t until Satori had reached the last few stairs and gotten a true face-to-face look with the one called Flandre that she stopped altogether, one hand pressed over her mouth in disbelief. Rin only dared to step so far ahead as to make sure her mistress was okay, then meekly bided her time, keeping quiet and still like a good little kitty should.
“It… It, is, you,” Satori finally said, in an astonished whisper. “Y-You… It, really is you. You’re… real…”
No one else dared speak, not even Flandre. A tear slowly welled up in Satori’s left eye, followed briefly by its mirror image in the other. She crept forwards down the stairs and onto the ground, voice faltering, each step taken with the hesitant reservation of one afraid that her dream will vanish into thin air.
“She… She, talked, of someone… for months. Months… I, I thought, she was lying… sh-she… so, so many lies… Thought, it was just, another, game… And, now… you’re here. You’re… real. Sh-she, was… t-telling the, truth… She, she finally found, a… a…”
Unable to hold herself together any longer, Satori ran the last few steps forwards and collapsed onto the diamond-winged girl’s shoulder, sobbing tears of joy without reservation. The bystanders remained speechless, motionless, barely even able to understand the emotional transaction the two women were sharing as Flandre pulled Satori close to her chest.
“Y-you, you d-don’t know what it’s like… w-w-watching her,” she cried, embracing Flandre as tightly as she could, reassuring herself that this was really happening. “I, I n-never thought this day would come… I’d, given up h-hope…”
Flandre nodded, beginning to cry herself. “I know, I, I know… I, I found her; it was a… an accident. Never, she never said it, but… I, knew. I knew she thought I was her… friend. Best… best friend.”
“Th… Thank y-you. If you never hear it from her, p-please, hear it from me. Thank you… Thank you for caring.”
Flandre nodded, supporting the crying woman’s five-foot frame without so much as a shift in balance. Rin was transfixed by the pair, hands raised to her chin in uncertainty, wondering if she should be comforting her master or not. This kind of emotion… she’d nearly forgotten that Satori was even capable of it. She was the kindest, most loving, most secure person Orin had ever met, and yet she’d only ever see her truly cry or laugh with her heart when her sister was involved. And for as long as the cat could remember, there had never really been much reason to smile as far as Mistress Koishi was involved…
For what was easily minutes the two women, complete strangers to each other yet linked inseparably through the life of a third, did nothing but cry and laugh and cry again in each other’s arms, finally realizing the end of a long, long journey. Remilia and the little fairy whispered to each other in that unobtainable English Rin had no hope of understanding, leaving her feeling quite left out. It wasn’t long before she gave up on waiting and crept up to sit next to her mistress’s feet, looking upwards hopefully.
Once Satori had finally seemed to have cried her tears dry, Flandre gently stood her back up on her own two feet. Demurely, but with an unshakable conviction, she asked her, “May… I go and see her?”
The lilac-locked lady smiled and nodded her head, looking almost like she was going to cry again. “Please… please. She’s, upstairs; I’m sure… sure you can find her, Miss Flandre.”
Nodding back, Flandre drifted away from the rest of them, looking back at her sister as she placed a childlike hand on the stone railing of the staircase. She said nothing, not even so much as a bob of the head, but somehow Rin could tell… She could tell the two strange sisters understood each other perfectly. And then, she was gone, padding up the steps faster and faster until she turned the corner and vanished from sight.
“S… Satori…” Orin mewed meekly, looking up at her mistress with wide eyes. “Did, you know that lady, from before…?”
The lilac mistress rested an unsteady hand on her pet’s head, looking up at the empty staircase with peace-filled eyes. “Yes, Orin… I know her very well. She is… welcome, here.”