"...I'm gonna go talk to the Komeijis, and see if they can help us in any way," I finally speak up. "If that fails, well... might as well go ahead with the wedding."
"The marriage of Reimu Hakurei and Remilia Scarlet," Sakuya muses, "Forming the Hakurei-Scarlet bloodline... that's something that Aya can't miss, no matter what!"
"I'm glad you approve," Patchouli says with a faint smile. "All right Meiling, while you go talk to the sisters, we'll make plans to move the ceremony up a little bit. Are you fine with that, Remi?" Patchouli turns to Remilia... who is staring off into the distance, with a dreamy look on her face.
"The Hakurei-Scarlet bloodline..." she murmurs, "Such a nice ring to it."
"Remi," Patchouli says seriously.
"Hmm? Oh!" Remilia jumps and comes back to herself. "Err, yes. Yes, that's fine. Make sure that Reimu knows, and we'll lure this tengu out once and for all!" We all nod, and set about our tasks.
I find Satori down at the bar, where she's watching Koishi play some manner of board game with a few other guests. As I come in, she glances up at me, and her eyes narrow slightly as she senses my thoughts. "I see. So it's come to that already?"
I nod and sit down across from her. "Yes. Before we move our plans too much in advance, is there anything that you or your sister could do to help us?"
Satori shakes her head. "I'm sorry, but no. While I can read hearts, sensing thoughts over long distances is not a skill of mine. The best I can do is try to pick up any abnormal thoughts during the ceremony itself. Koishi will probably be even less help."
"'Abnormal thoughts,' huh? Yeah, that sounds like Aya." I chuckle a little bit, and whisper a message into my microphone. "Satori can't help at long range. Proceed with the plan,"
"Acknowledged," Reisen replies, "Aya's keeping her distance. We've got her boxed-in, but in a wide area. We'll have Yukari seal off the chapel once we're sure everyone's in. Let people know, will you?"
I nod. "Right." Clearing my throat, I stand up. "Ladies and gentlemen, guests of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, may I please have your attention!" The crowd in the bar turns to me, curious. "Due to some eagerness on the brides' part, we will be having the ceremony earlier than planned! Please begin filing in to the chapel! And of course, the party will continue as planned after the ceremony, with both brides in attendance!" A roar of approval greets my announcement, and everyone begins to exit the room at the urging of fairy maids. Well, except for two people.
"...Why is Koishi trying to talk Nitori into taking her top off?" I ask wearily.
Satori turns the gaze of the long-suffering upon me. "She decided to play strip monopoly without letting the other players know of that particular rule. Something of a sticking point, I understand."
I shake my head and watch as Koishi tries to logically explain just why Nitori should agree to undress herself. Nitori's counter-argument, which can be summed up as 'screw you, you lunatic,' seems much more persuasive.
Credit where credit is due. Flandre went all out on this.
I'm peeking into the chapel from a side-door. Once the call went out to assemble in the mansion's large chapel, everyone began quickly filing in, while last-minute preparations were made by the staff. This included getting myself into my bridesmaid dress. Still, we had rehearsed the motions endlessly in the days leading up to today, so it wasn't that much of an issue.
Now, the chapel is jam-packed full of people from all over Gensokyo, chattering excitedly to one another while waiting for the main event. I notice to my relief that Satori seems to have a death-grip on Koishi. Thank heavens for that.
The chapel has been decorated extravagantly, but not gaudily. Symbols of both the Hakurei and Scarlet families are everywhere, in both drawings and flower arrangements. Big Papa has set up his altar with a design that looks something like a bat with a red-white ying-yang symbol making up its chest. Pretty obvious symbolism, but it still looks nice. Flowers are everywhere. One of the more talented fairies is playing the organ. Tengu security is discreetly out of sight. Everything looks beautiful.
There's a knock on the door, and Momiji slips in. She raises her eyebrow and smiles at me. "Looking good, Mei."
"Thanks," I smile back. "So, how are things out there?"
"Everyone's accounted for, and are in the chapel," she tells me, then takes a deep breath. "Including Aya. I can smell her. Yukari's already sealed off the area. But for some reason, I just can't seem to figure out where she is, even in this confined space. It's frustrating."
I nod. "I actually have a theory on that, but never mind. I guess we just have to wait for her to slip up and reveal herself."
Momiji snorts. "This is Aya. That's only a matter of time. Anyway, I need to get into position. Good luck out there!" She waves, and departs.
Finally, it is time for the ceremony.
Big Papa leads the way, resplendent in his dazzling white suit. He takes his place at the altar and stretches his arms out in a welcoming gesture to the crowd, a broad, friendly smile upon his face.
Marisa and Flandre lead the way, arm in arm, followed by Patchouli and Suika, then myself and Kasen. We take our places on either side of the altar. Then Remilia makes her entrance, escorted by Sakuya. The crowd whispers excitedly as the lady of the mansion makes her way up the aisle, looking fantastic in her wedding dress. Hatate excitedly snaps pictures, people lean in for a closer look, and Remilia... looks surprisingly shy and innocent. Sakuya leads her up to the altar, whispers a few words of encouragement, then steps out of the way.
I feel like a few people have forgotten that this is all an act.
Finally, it's Reimu's turn. The entire chapel turns to look as the shrine maiden enters the room, looking absolutely beautiful in her wedding dress, and escorted by... the ancient floating turtle from earlier. Which looks like it's on the verge of tears of joy. Then Reimu and Remilia lock eyes, and something electric passes through the room. Bride and bride stare at each other, and Reimu begins to slowly make her way up the aisle.
...You know, Reimu's looking a lot better these days. Maybe it's because she's less stressed out. Maybe it's because someone has been supporting her. Or maybe it's just because Remilia has been determined to see that Reimu never goes hungry ever again. Either way, Reimu's beauty has been steadily increasing in recent days. The wedding dress simply emphasizes what is already there.
Lead by the turtle, Reimu comes to the front of the altar, and links hands with Remilia. They stare into each other's eyes for a long moment. Big Papa looks down upon them warmly, giving them their moment, before opening his mouth to speak.
"My FRIENDS!" the big Oni roars, making everyone jump. He is suddenly the center of attention. "I am so very pleased to welcome you all to this ceremony of looooooove! This joining of these two fine beautiful women, who have realized their deep and abiding looooooove for one another, and seek to join as one in this most holy of matrimonies!" Big Papa spreads his arms wide. "This, dear friends, is looooooove! That truest, strongest of emotions that demolishes all boundaries! Tramples all who would seek to challenge or regulate it! Ignores all who would naysay it! For even the mightiest of kings, gods and devils are as naught before the all-powerful might of looooooove!"
Certain gods and devils in the audience glance at each other, but no one really wants to challenge Big Papa on this one. Hell, Suwako is nodding her head.
"Ah, but you don't want to hear this old Oni ramble on and on! So let's get to it! BEHOLD! Reimu Hakurei! Holiest of the holy here in Gensokyo! Remilia Scarlet! Greatest of vampires! Greatest of enemies! And what did they do? They said TO HELL with convention, looooooove shall triumph! And so here they stand, hand in hand, ready to join their names, join their souls, join their families!"
Big Papa glances at the audience. "And if there is anyone in this here audience who wants to make a crack about joining their bodies, now is not the time, my sweets!" He grins, and a ripple of laughter passes through the audience. "But ENOUGH! For looooooove is not about words, unless they are spoken from the heart! So! Let us hear the vows these two will make to one another!" Big Papa glances down expectantly to Reimu and Remilia.
Remilia takes a deep breath and speaks first. "Reimu. Our first meeting was not a good one, it is true. I didn't like you at first. I resented your interference. Then I was blown away... by the most shallow of reasons. You held me at arms length, and were right to do so. Then one day, I came to see you as you are. As who you are. Not as the shrine maiden as Gensokyo, but as Reimu Hakurei. We finally became true friends. And my feelings for you grew into appreciation, admiration, and finally true love. You're the best thing that ever happened to me Reimu, and you make me constantly want to make myself a better person. I love you, now and forever."
A whisper sweeps through the audience, and I'm pretty sure I see someone wipe their eyes. Big Papa turns his head to Reimu, whose eyes are looking fairly damp. She takes a deep breath.
"Remilia... yeah. We've been through that before, huh? At first, I thought you were just another problem for me to deal with. Someone else to tolerate, and occasionally beat down when you got out of line. I thought you only cared for me for how I could benefit you. But over time, things changed. You cared for me. Supported me. Laughed with me. Held me when I felt weak, and put me back on my feet. In a world where I so often felt truly alone, you made me feel wanted. Needed. Appreciated. And I can't thank you enough for that. I... love you, Remilia. Now and forever."
Reimu closes her eyes tightly after that, and Remilia gently caresses her hand. Yukari is struggling to hold back tears, with Shinki rubbing her shoulders. Hell, I think my own eyes are starting to burn. Big Papa just nods warmly.
"Very good, little chickadees," he says gently, "The spirit of looooooove is strong within you both. Accept it. Breathe it. Live it. Now..." The big Oni holds out his hands, each one with an engraved golden ring within it. "...Take these rings. Use them to bind yourselves to one another." Reimu and Remilia take the rings and do so, their ring fingers sporting a new adornment. "Good. NOW!" Big Papa looks out at the audience. "If there be any foolish soul here today who doubts the looooooove these two show to one another, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace!" Big Papa's smile suddenly has razors in it, daring anyone to be so foolish. Flandre leans out, wings twitching and eyes flashing. Unsurprisingly, no one speaks up.
"...Good!" Big Papa's smile goes back to normal. "Then let it be done! Let Reimu and Remilia walk out of here the Hakurei-Scarlets! The Scarlet Ladies Hakurei! My little chickadees, claim one another's lips, and claim one another as brides!"
A hush goes over the crowd.
Aya still hasn't appeared.
Reimu and Remilia stare at each other.
Still no Aya. Now what?
Reimu and Remilia lean in towards one another.
They're gonna do it.
They're gonna kiss.
But this was a set-up.
But they're doing it anyway.
...Why does this not surprise me.
Everyone in the chapel is holding their breath.
Their lips are so close.
The chapel goes so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Slowly, their lips not yet touching, Reimu and Remilia turn their heads to the side and see the new center of attention in the room, standing just inches from them. A tall figure in a skin-tight black bodysuit, with a camera in her hands. Who has a tired-looking blonde girl strapped to her back. Aya Shameimaru slowly lowers the camera from in front of her face. "...Bad time?" she hazards.
For one brief moment there is silence, as the entire room catches up with what has just happened.
And then, pandemonium.
"Ayayayayayayaya!" With her characteristic yell, Aya surges for the door, crossing the room in an instant. Remilia starts shouting out orders. Sakuya's face takes on a look of extreme concentration. Reimu brings her seals out of nowhere. Big Papa glowers (a terrifying expression on his face, I assure you). The tengu guards spring into action, rushing towards Aya with every drop of speed they can muster. I lunge after the tengu myself, rushing her with all the strength my chi can grant me. But it's too little, too late, Aya is too fast, she's already at the door-
-though fortunately Yukari has already sealed off the chapel. Aya bounces off of the big double doors and thumps onto the ground, hard. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Rumia is there to break her fall.
"Ow," the darkness youkai groans.
Immediately, Aya is surrounded by a small army of tengu. Sakuya and I join the group glaring down at her as the rest of the room starts shouting in confusion. Momiji has a look of grim satisfaction on her face. "Finally got you, Aya."
Aya blinks. Then, in an incredible burst of speed, surges up and over the group, flying at top speed towards the windows behind the altar, trying desperately to break through them-
-and bouncing off completely. Yukari did one hell of a job sealing this place off. Aya proceeds to fly all over the room in a blur, bouncing off of doors, windows, anything that looks like it might be an exit, bouncing off uselessly each and every time. The rest of the room can only stare in disbelief as Aya desperately tries to get free, the sounds of her body hitting an impervious object coming as fast as raindrops. At one point, Big Papa calmly reaches out, and with a *SNAP* pulls Rumia free of the lightning-fast blur.
The Oni minister gently sets Rumia down on the floor. "Are you okay, little chickadee?" he asks in concern.
"Issssss thaaaaaat sooooooo......" Rumia mumbles in reply, her eyes spinning.
Big Papa nods in satisfaction. "Good. You'll be fine."
Finally, Aya drops to the ground, dazed and bruised. She staggers, trying to regain her footing after the battering she'd just given herself. Still, she's yet standing. Tough woman. Aya shakes her head to clear it, when DyCirno slams down on the ground directly in front of her.
"Aya Shammmywhatever!" DyCirno declares, pointing an accusing finger at the tengu renegade, "You are under arrest for kidnapping my friend, breaking up a wedding, running away from your just punishment, and a bunch of other stuff the tengu guys said but I forgot because I don't care about them!"
"...It's Shameimaru," Aya says, looking up at the icy protector.
"Whatever! Now surrender to me or face the consequences!" DyCirno flexes her clawed hands, giving a good idea of just what said consequences would be.
Momiji starts walking up behind Aya. "It's over, Aya. You've had your fun. Now come on back to the village and finish your sentence quietly."
"...Go back to the village?" Aya echoes. She leaps back from DyCirno and whirls to face Momiji, a crazed smile on her face. "Go back?! When there's so much news going on?! Be forced to stay in one place while so much is happening that needs to be reported?! Let that stupid yutz take my place?!"
"Hey!" Hatate protests. Aya ignores her.
"No way!" Aya continues, "I, the pure and truthful Aya Shameimaru, will never bow to censorship! Never yield to those that would silence the noble author! And if you want to take me in so badly, then COME AND GET ME!!!" Pulling a katana out of its sheath, the crazed tengu starts twirling it in complex patterns, daring anyone to come get her.
DyCirno flexes her claws. The tengu get into formation. I crack my knuckles and lock my eyes upon Aya. Reimu readies her seals. Remilia summons her spear. Sakuya goes for her watch. Big Papa turns a cold glare on Aya. All thoughout the audience, people pull out spellcards or start placing bets. Aya falls back into a combat posture, and then...
...the room stills.
A voice has rung out. A voice filled with command and determination. A voice pulsing with cold outrage. A voice of Scarlet.
As one, every face turns to the front of the room, where, standing in front of the altar, wings spread wide, eyes burning with miniature suns... is Flandre. The younger vampire takes a long, slow step forward. Then another. Then another. Her eyes are locked with Aya's. Hesitantly, DyCirno steps out of the way, unwilling to get between Flandre and her target, such is the aura of wrath that the young mistress exudes. Remilia gapes as her sister strides forward. Aya just turns to Flandre, staring dumbly with her mouth open, sword now hanging limply at her side.
Dammit, this girl can have presence when she wants to.
"My sister," Flandre hisses, "is getting MARRIED. She's going to be happy. And YOU... are interrupting. This I cannot allow." In command of the room, Flandre comes to a halt three paces from Aya. "You will not listen to reason, tengu, This I understand. Then I shall not be reasonable. I knew you would come. And I am prepared." Slowly, ever so slowly, Flandre reaches into a pocket in her dress...
...and pulls out an 80-proof bottle of whiskey.
Before Aya's horrified eyes, Flandre opens the bottle and drinks it down, every last drop, her eyes never leaving the tengu's. The chapel is utterly silent as all present try to comprehend what is happening. Expressions range from confusion, to solemn understanding among those who know, to white-faced terror on Aya's face. Finally, Flandre finishes the bottle, caps it, and tosses it behind her, where Big Papa catches it. She closes her eyes, and waits.
And twitches a little bit.
Then she opens her bleary eyes and glares at Aya. "You," she says accusingly, pointing a wavering finger. "You. You.... you." Flandre pauses. "You suck."
"I do not!" Aya protests.
"You went to jail 'cuz you suck," Flandre insists.
"I went to jail for ped- uhhhhh, over bogus charges!" Aya insists.
"You went to jail 'cuz you were creepy," Flandre tells her. "Which you are. And your paper. And your hair. It's creepy hair. Because it's your hair. Creepy. Hair." Flandre nods in satisfaction, her point made. "So. First, you're waaaaaaaay too into a little ice fairy. Who is awesome, yeah, but you still shouldn't have done that." DyCirno nods enthusiastically, probably at both points. "And THEN.. you kidnapped a little girl. To be your... your... little girl screen, or whatever."
"...I was using her darkness as a power source to shield myself," Aya admits. "But-!"
Flandre shakes her head in disgust. "You were using her... for her body." A horrified gasp runs through the crowd. "In front of everyone." Aya freezes, and slowly takes in the audience. Which consists of everyone of any importance in Gensokyo. All staring at her in contempt. "YOU. Have boobs. And legs. Nice ones. But I don't. Where's the justice?" Flandre points at me. "Same there. Nice boobs. And legs. Awesome." I see Yuuka nodding in agreement. "Actually, LOTSA nice boobs and legs in here. But not me. I ask you, where is the justice?" Flandre spreads her arms in confusion.
Aya looks equally confused.
"So. Summing up." Flandre turns to the crowd. "Say something if you agree with what I say. Like butts. Or Aye. But not Aya. Actually, just shout something. Like Aye. Yeah." She clears her throat. "Aya sucks!"
"AYE!" Shouts the crowd.
"No one likes her newspaper!"
"People like Hatate's more!"
"Her hair is dumb!"
"That bodysuit does not flatter her!"
"She's a sucky writer!"
"I deserve to have an awesome body!"
A pause. "AYE!"
"Sis and Reimu need to hurry up and make me an aunt!"
Flandre nods in satisfaction. "Thought so." She turns to Aya. "No one likes you anymore. So shape up. Or else I'm gonna steal your boobs."
Aya stares at Flandre for a long, long moment. Then she bursts into tears. "WAAAAAAAAHHH!!! You're all so mean! I just wanna write a good newspaper! Waaaaaaahhhhhh!" Aya collapses onto the floor, sobbing pitifully.
Momiji shakes her head wearily. "Come on, you. Finish your sentence, and we'll put you through some creative writing classes. Maybe you can still salvage some journalistic integrity somewhere along the line." She reaches out for Aya, who immediately wraps her arms around Momiji's waist.
"Momi-Momi! Everyone's so mean! You're the only friend I have now!" Momiji sighs wearily and gestures to a couple of other tengu. Together, they lug Aya out of the room. Yukari sighs with visible relief as she lets go of the seal.
There's an awkward silence in the chapel after Aya is taken away. "So, are they still getting married?" asks Sanae.
Big Papa shrugs. "Soon as they kiss and seal the deal, yeah." Reimu and Remilia blink, and look at each other for a long moment. Finally, Reimu sighs.
And grabs Remilia's head to give her a massive, open-mouthed kiss.
"WE HAVE A WEDDING!!!" Big Papa roars triumphantly. The chapel explodes into cheers and applause with Sakuya, myself, and everyone clapping until our hands hurt. In front of us all, Reimu and Remilia continue to kiss.
And topple over...?
Big Papa nods with satisfaction. "Ho. That's a good sign, right there! All right! Everybody out! The newlyweds need their privacy!"
"You heeeaaaarrrd the man," Flandre slurs, swaying form side to side. "I wanna be an auntie. Get lost."
And so, while Reimu holds Remilia down on the floor and quite thoroughly seals their union with a kiss that doesn't seem ready to end anytime soon, the rest of us file out. Big Papa is the last to leave, quietly closing the doors behind him. He turns around and wipes a tear from his eye. "It's been a good day for looooooove," he sighs happily.
Pick a spot for the epilogue to this long-ass arc.
[ ] The gardens. [ ] The bar. [ ] The Risk game. [ ] A quiet lounge.
... I actually feel bad for Aya. Sure, she is a creepy deviant and all that, but humiliating her in front of all of Genoskyo's important personalities might have been a bit too much, in my honest opinion. Or maybe it's because I'm a sucker for Aya in general.
[x] Whatever happens, make a note to get Aya some psychiatric help from Erintei at some point, she's obviously got a screw loose and simply leaving her in prison is just going to result in more of this.
Probably an arc in it's own right, but it's obvious she has some sort of problem that should be fixed, preferably before she does this again. Probably tengu society values causing to to see her only value in herself within her paper causing obsession to the point of fetish, probably won't go away in prison unless the tengu can install some other way to see value in herself while she's in there.
Laughter echoes around us, the laughter of party-goers just having a good time and enjoying life.
After the marriage ceremony, everyone spread out and began enjoying themselves in earnest, no longer constrained by the need to look at least somewhat presentable for the wedding ceremony. It was time for them to take part in that most ancient of wedding traditions: getting horribly, falling-down drunk.
"This is going to be a pain in the ass to clean up," Sakuya sighs, snuggling up against me.
"Oh, hush up and enjoy the moment," Yuuka scolds her from my lap. Turns out she wanted to try it herself. It looked comfy, or something.
It took Reimu and Remilia a good fifteen minutes to pry themselves away from each other. When they walked out into the main hall, a huge cry of congratulations rang out. Along with a whole lot of wolf-whistles. Poor Reimu looked mortified; Remilia was ecstatic, and absolutely refused to let go of her new wife's arm.
Things pretty much degenerated from there. Koishi had gotten drunk, and started to lecture the two on various positions they could try out in bed, some of which sounded physically impossible. Flandre parked herself under a water faucet and drank constantly until the buzz wore off; apparently she really didn't want another hangover, and wanted to be sober during her sister's wedding. Aya incident notwithstanding.
Last I saw her, she was messing with some of the more inebriated guests. I fear for those poor souls.
Koakuma and Josef wandered around for a while, enjoying the party, before vanishing somewhere. I heard a lot of noise out in the hedge-maze, though. I'm not going to go looking; let those two have their privacy.
Albrecht wound up borrowing s suit of plated armor from Remilia, saying that it made him feel better with how some of the women were looking at him. The wedding must have put some of the females into the mood. Fortunately, Yuugi came to his assistance by gently, or not so gently, warding off females who weren't really taking 'no' for an answer. I think Albrecht might be getting to like her.
Gunslinger and Oni? Stranger things have happened. Just look at me.
Interesting fact: Patchouli can dance really, really well. She came out wearing some sort of miniskirt and started tearing up the dance floor. I swear, that woman is a bottomless pit of surprises.
Rumia turned out to be fine. Aya had captured her a few days back, and had been lugging her around, using some magical talismans to alter the darkness youkai's innate power to her own ends. Rumia actually didn't mind this so much. What bothered her was that Aya, apparently, NEVER SHUT UP. She was just glad that her ears could finally get a rest. After getting a bath, and being lent a dress by Flandre, Rumia dove into the banquet, happy as a clam. Fortunately, Aya's interest her was strictly related to her darkness abilities. And as someone to listen to her prattling, which was arguably worse.
As for the Risk game, once Flandre had sobered up the players went back to it, and eventually none other than Iku Nagae emerged victorious, turning out to be a surprisingly capable military commander. Flandre was then taken aside by Captain Murasa, and quickly sketched out a set of additional rules accommodating shipping and naval combat. A second game of risk broke out, involving fairies pushing around boats on wheels filled with other fairies. A good time was had by all.
Yukari wept openly at Reimu's marriage, and had to be led away to a quiet corner by Shinki. Apparently she got surprisingly emotional at these things. Pameel and Marisa could be seen walking through the festivities hand-in-hand, while Malla just kept following around Kaguya, apparently fascinated by her stories.
That floating turtle? Genji? Turned out to be a huge ladies' man. Who would've guessed? When I last saw him, he was surrounded by a bevy of giggling girls. Age and experience hath its privileges, I guess?
And myself? Yuuka, Sakuya and I enjoyed the party. We talked, mingled, drank, danced, dueled when the dueling finally started up (as we all knew it would). We tried our hands at Risk, ate our fill, then drank some more. Finally, we wound up here. On a quiet bench in the middle of the gardens, under a clear sky with a full moon and countless stars. Yuuka in my lap, Sakuya leaning against me, I heave a weary sigh.
"What a day," I tell them.
"Fun, though," Yuuka notes.
Sakuya snorts. "I say again: the clean-up."
"Oh, hush up," Yuuka scolds her, "We'll all lend a hand, so stop complaining."
I chuckle and run a hand through Yuuka's hair, sliding my arm around Sakuya and drawing her closer. I've started to get used to this. Both women blush deeply and fall silent. For a moment, we just sit there together, looking at the sky, smelling the flowers, and hearing the drunken revelry behind us.
"Do you think any of us will ever be up at that altar?" Sakuya wonders.
"Who knows?" I reply, "The world is full of twists. Sometimes, it's best to just appreciate things, and take life as it comes."
"Hmm," Sakuya muses, and falls silent again. She closes her eyes. Yuuka glances over at her, smiles, and after a moment does the same.
I notice Reimu and Remilia walk back into the mansion, hand-in-hand. Looks like they're eager to start the honeymoon. I shake my head and relax into the bench, holding the two women close to me.
It's late now, sometime after midnight. Warm night, too. No reason not to sleep out here, in the gardens. I yawn, close my eyes, and let sleep overtake me.
I yawn and stretch languidly, thoroughly enjoying the warm sunlight. It's most definitely summer, and I am enjoying every moment of it! Clear, azure-blue skies without a single cloud in them, just a touch of breeze to blow the scents around, and all that lovely, warm sunlight pouring down like a waterfall, warming up every last inch of my body.
"Now there's a lovely sight," a voice says from next to me.
I relax and cast a wry glance at Sakuya, who had just materialized next to me. "Getting a little obvious, aren't you?"
She looks at me innocently. "I was talking about how the sunlight was reflecting off of the lake. It's quite beautiful. What ever could you think that I meant?"
I snort. "Sure, Sakuya. Whatever you say."
She giggles, then glances around. "Okay, heads up. Reimu and Remilia are being... well, newlyweds."
I roll my eyes. "Still?"
I sigh. Ever since the wedding, those two have been insufferable. Running all over the place together, giggling and blushing, and well... doing newlywed things. Remilia managed to bribe Yukari to establish a permanent portal between the Hakurei Shrine and the mansion, enabling Reimu to get the best of both worlds. Sleep at the mansion, in comfy plushness, work at the shrine by... sitting around and drinking tea, I guess. I dunno, it works for her.
Of course, she and Remilia are adjusting to married life. It would be cute, in fact it WAS cute for quite a while, but after a bit it started to wear thin on those forced to watch. Namely: me and Sakuya. Patchouli, Koa and Joe spend most of their time in the library, while the fairy maids are absolutely tickled at how the two Hakurei-Scarlets are acting.
Flandre? She's teamed up with Suika to deliberately egg them on.
This basically means that Sakuya and I are being forced to stand around while Reimu and Remilia act all cutesy and lovey-dovey for days on end.
Yes, I have my moments with Sakuya and Yuuka. And both at the same time. But I'm not THAT bad. Really.
It's just impossible.
"So, what are they doing today?" I ask, tearing my thoughts away from any possible hypocrisy on my part.
"Remilia put on that miko outfit she got for Christmas, and is running around pretending to be a Hakurei maiden. Then Flandre and Suika got in on the act." Sakuya rolls her eyes wearily.
I stare at her. "How is Reimu taking it?"
She snorts. "Are you kidding? She loves it. In fact, she's proposing that they raise awareness of the Hakurei Shrine by going on a tour of Gensokyo."
I lower my face into my palm. "Wonder how people are gonna react to that?"
"To be fair, no one knows what to think anymore."
"True, that." I look up at my friend. "So, let me guess. You're going to go along with them, to keep them from getting into any trouble, right?"
"That was the plan, yes. Just thought I'd let you know." Sakuya pauses. "You do realize that there are going to be a lot of people coming to the gate today, asking some pointed questions about just what the hell's gotten into Reimu, right?"
I cringe. "Urgh. Good point. I think I'll have some fairies take over for me today, and take a brief vacation. Dealing with reporters, even if it's Hatate, isn't something I want to deal with right now."
Sakuya nods. "Thought you'd say that. Leave Malla at the gate; that girl manages to creep out anyone who talks to her." I nod in agreement. Cute as she is, Malla still has that strangely intense look on her face, and talks just a little too high. She also likes talking about fire and roasting things just a bit too much.
In other words, the perfect person to leave at the gate on my day off.
Anyway, Sakuya leaves later that day, trailing a group of four women dressed up as shrine maidens, and I leave a group of fairies in charge of the gate (including Malla, who is munching on a jumbo-sized bag of marshmallows). As I take to the air, I decide to go pay a visit to Yuuka. After all, I promised to visit her in her garden a long time ago, and simply never got around to it.
The garden of the sun is, as many know, an enormous field of sunflowers. It's always warm there all year round, and visitors are actually welcome. Provided that they do not harm the flowers, which would make the garden's famous owner very cross.
The thing is, you wouldn't simply stomp on someone's flowerbeds when you visited their home, would you? So really, Yuuka has no reason to get angry at people. And she's understanding; if the flowers were damaged due to some honest mistake on someone's part, such as tripping and falling, then Yuuka is entirely willing to forgive someone. Really, she treats her flowers the same way I treat my own. Sadly, her reputation tends to scare off most of the guests she might otherwise have.
Regardless, the Garden of the Sun is an amazing sight from the sky, all golden and stretching off so far into the distance. Right in the middle is Yuuka's house, and a flash of red and green tells me that the lady herself is outside, probably enjoying some tea. With a smile, I lower myself to the ground, just in front of the table where Yuuka is sipping from a cup.
She glances up as I touch down, and her eyes widen momentarily before she stands up, a broad smile (and slight blush) on her face. "Meiling! What a delightful surprise! What brings you here today?" She blinks. "Ah, of course, you are always welcome here, I didn't mean to imply otherwise, I was just saying, um... would you like some tea?" Yuuka finishes up lamely.
I smile warmly at her. "I love one, thank you so much!" Yuuka looks ready to to drop dead from joy.
A few minutes later, I'm sipping my tea as Yuuka gazes at me with her head resting on one hand. "This is lovely," I tell her.
Yuuka smiles back. "I'm glad you like it. I grow the herbs myself."
"Hm. I might have to borrow some seeds from you," I muse. "Anyway, in answer to your earlier question, I sort of needed an excuse to get away from the mansion." I smile. "You're an excellent excuse."
Yuuka coughs, blushing brightly. "Well, you know you are always welcome here," she murmurs, then blinks and glances up. "...Newlyweds being newlyweds?"
"Yep." I roll my eyes. "There are currently four women touring Gensokyo wearing Hakurei miko outfits." Yuuka bursts into laughter at this. "And I have NO doubt that you'll be reading all about it in tomorrow's Kakashi Spirit News." Yuuka just laughs even harder. I shrug. "Anyway, it occurred to me that I had never taken you up on your offer to visit you in your garden, so... here I am!"
Yuuka gets a hold of herself and nods happily. "And I'm truly glad that you came here. It's unexpected, but a very pleasant surprise!" She pauses a moment. "Hmmm. So, since you're here, what should we do today?"
I think about it.
[ ] Sit here and talk. [ ] Just wander the garden for a while. [ ] Go somewhere. -[ ] Write-in.
So, while you're all voting, do you mind if I bounce something off of you guys? Being Meiling still has some life in it, but once I finish this story (and have taken a few weeks to recharge my brainy-meats) I had an idea for another one.
Y'know those whodunit mysteries? Bunch of people stuck in a mansion with someone picking people off one by one? I was thinking of doing something like that, with Anon constructing the MC at the start, and giving the spotlight to some of the girls that don't get a lot of attention on THP.
It'd take me some time to work out the details, but... what do people think of the idea?
>>57596 So the MC is some guy who is stuck in a mansion with random touhous. And someone kills some of the touhous and we need to figure out who is behind this? It sounds good but you would need some smart and commenting reader for this. Not sure if you wish to serve everything on a plate for your readers or if you wish to make people actually think about what is going on.
>>57596 I think that is a great idea. I've been tired for so long that some characters just don't get any attention or spotlight at all. I thought of maybe starting my own story but I'm not really confident in my writing ability. So I'm happy you are suggesting of starting such a story [x]Yes
>>57609 shouldn't stop you from trying to write though as with experience and feedback you'll get better.
The main reason characters like Meiling end up neglected is because they're not given a real chance by writers as those that write seem to prefer other characters and that no one writes a story dedicated to them.
>>57596 One thing I'd caution you about: people writing mysteries are notoriously bad at accurately judging how easy they are to solve. This is compounded by the THP form where most of your readers are going to quickly forget most of what happened more than a few days ago. Anything relying on readers picking up and putting together a bunch of small clues is doomed.
If you can maintain your perfect update schedule that'll probably help a lot, but still, try to err on the side of easy if there are going to real consequences for failure.
I shrug and smile. "Well, I'm here. Why not show me around your garden?"
Yuuka's smile is as dazzling as the sun itself. "I would be absolutely delighted, Meiling!" Getting to her feet, Yuuka holds her hand out to me. I take it, and she pulls me up, leading me into the rows of sunflowers.
Her hand is very soft and warm.
Speaking of warmth, the Garden of the Sun is pretty much the epitome of everything good about summer. It's warm, but not an unpleasantly hot warmth. The sun is bright, but not blinding. Meanwhile, the sunflowers everywhere give a fair amount of shade as they tower above our heads, making everything the exact perfect temperature. It's like a little slice of paradise.
"This place is perfect," I murmur out loud.
Yuuka chuckles. "Thank you. I work hard to keep it so. My innate ability is merely to cause flowers to bloom, but I have picked up a few other tricks over my life. After all, a garden should be pleasant to walk through, no?"
I nod in agreement. "Yeah. Sometimes when I'm working, I just like to walk around and look at the flowers. Savoring my hard work, you know? It's good to look at them and think 'yeah, i did this.' You know what I mean?"
Yuuka nods. "I make it a point to spread blooms all over Gensokyo. While this garden is my personal preserve, I take a certain pride whenever I notice some flowers that I have bred successfully thriving in certain parts of Gensokyo. For me, it's no different than being a mother, and taking joy in seeing my children doing so well for themselves."
I nod at this. "I guess I see what you mean. The flowers at the mansion are all due to my hard work. Whenever I look at the gardens, I can't help but feel that all of the flowers are like my babies." I consider my own words for a moment. "...That's probably a weird turn of phrase, huh?"
Yuuka raises an eyebrow at me. "I'm a flower youkai, remember? To me, such an expression is more of a statement of fact than anything else."
I laugh. "That's true. What was I thinking?" Yukka chuckles back, and we continue to stroll through the sunflowers.
After a moment I let a sly smile cross my face. "Hey, Yuuka?" I ask innocently.
"Hmm, yes?" she replies, smiling back at me.
"I just had a thought. Your flowers are like your children, right? And my flowers are like my children."
"Yes..." Yuuka says slowly, "what about it?"
I casually gaze at the blue sky. "Well, does that mean that if we worked on a garden together, that we actually had a child together?"
It takes a moment for this comment to sink in.
"WHA?!" Yuuka yelps, leaping backwards, Her face has suddenly taken on the hue of a red rose... oh, speaking of which, there's a rose bush right behind her. Go figure. "Wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about?!" She squeaks, hands fluttering so fast that she actually drops her parasol. "Th-th-that's uh... that's ridiculous! Absolutely! I-I mean, to think such a thing-"
I take on a hurt expression. "Aw, Yuuka, does that mean you don't want to help me with my garden?"
Yuuka freezes and stares at me, uncomprehending.
"Or maybe you're saying that I'd be a bad mother?" I continue on, knowing that I'm going to hell for this but unable to stop myself. "Ah, I get it. You're saying I'm not good material, huh? Who in their right minds would want to have a kid with me?"
"That's ridiculous!" Yuuka shouts, stamping her foot on the ground angrily. "You're amazing, and I would love to make children with you!"
There's a moment of silence as Yuuka processes what she just said.
Her face goes beyond red and seems to develop new colors to properly convey her embarrassment.
I smile sweetly. "Thanks. That's nice of you to say." Yuuka just gapes at me before pouting irritably and stomping off. Oops! I think I went too far that time! Quickly, I rush after her. "Ah, Yuuka!" I call out, coming alongside the youkai as she quickly walks down the trail. I look at her apologetically. "I'm sorry. I really am! I was just teasing, I didn't mean to make you mad. Um, can you forgive me?"
Yuuka deliberately looks away from me and 'hmmphs.' After a long moment, she speaks. "Maybe. I just have to check something."
"What's that?" I ask, really not wanting Yuuka to be angry with me. I was only teasing her a little bit...
"This," Yuuka tells, me turning around. Her hand goes around my neck and pulls me close-
Yep. She's still really good at it.
Yuuka breaks the kiss and pulls back. "There. Now I forgive you."
"Uh..." I say intelligently, feeling my face burn red.
Yuuka just chuckles with amusement. "You're so adorable when you're embarrassed."
I snort. "Right back at you."
She blushes slightly, but shrugs and walks on. "That was still mean of you, you know. Toying with an innocent maiden's heart like that? For shame!" She glances over at me. "As a matter of fact, you've been doing it a lot lately, now haven't you? Constantly posing in those outfits... scandalous!"
"Is that a complaint?" I query with a catlike grin.
Yuuka sniffs and turns away. "Entirely beside the point! How dare you lure both me and Sakuya like that!"
I shrug. "Vengeance. You two mess with my head, I do it right back!" Yuuka says nothing to this, only looking away.
We continue on in silence for a moment. I look into the sunflower fields and notice something odd. Most of the flowers are sunflowers, yes, but every so often I catch a glimpse of some other kind of plant. Another rose bush. Some violets. Actually, every so often there's a small group of some kind of flower. You wouldn't think they'd grow in the midst of all these sunflowers, but they all appear strong and healthy. Go figure.
Yuuka shifts her parasol so that the shade it casts covers both of us. She gently, almost shyly, takes my hand. "...I'm sorry," she says quietly.
"...I put you under a lot of pressure, didn't I? Sakuya and I both." She sighs. "There we were, both trying to win your heart in the most brute-force way possible. You must have been so frustrated with both of us."
"I already forgave you guys for that, remember?" I smile gently as I tell this to Yuuka.
She shrugs. "Maybe. That doesn't make it right, though. We both got carried away, and went way to far in expressing ourselves. I'm sorry." She sighs. "It's just... both of us really care for you, you understand? In an often unforgiving world, you're a warm ray of sunshine for us. Sakuya and I both like to warm ourselves in this light and..." she gestures helplessly. "...that happened."
I shrug. "It's in the past, forget it. Besides..." I look off into the flowers. "...I kinda like having you two around and messing with you. I don't get to tease people like that very often, so... forgive me?"
"Well..." Yuuka muses, "You did give me quite a lovely sight, so... I suppose I can forgive you." She's blushing again.
"Hmm, see something you like, did you?" I tease her.
Yuuka coughs. "...Honestly? I almost dive-tackled you when I saw you in that bikini."
I burst into laughter at this, and Yuuka hides her face in embarrassment. It's almost too much for me! Oh, Yuuka, your reputation does not do you justice. "You know, you should join me sometime," I say once I get control of myself again, "I'll pick out a nice bathing suit for you!"
"EH?!" Yuuka stares at me in shock before shaking her head vigorously. "No. No way. Knowing how you've been acting, it would be ridiculously tiny or something like that."
"Nah, that's Flandre's thing," I assure her smoothly. "I was thing something kind of transparent." I grin at her broadly.
Yuuka glares back. "Not. Happening." She bites out, and I burst into laughter again. Yuuka just shakes her head ruefully and continues to lead me through her garden.
Still. Yuuka in a plaid-print bikini? Hmmm...
[ ]Keep walking though the garden. [ ] Go somewhere else. -[ ] Her house. -[ ] The mansion's gardens. -[ ] Write-in.
[ ] Ask Yuuka something. -[ ] About her garden. -[ ] What her relationship is with Sakuya. -[ ] What she can tell me about what happened before we came to Gensokyo. -[ ] Write-in.
(Go ahead and ask Yuuka some things while you walk, if you'd like.)
[X]Keep walking though the garden. Yuuka time only. [X] Ask Yuuka something. -[X] What she can tell me about what happened before we came to Gensokyo. -[X] How the Garden of the Sun came about. -[X] The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. -[X] Did she have old friends before Meiling? -[X] Her relationship with Sakuya. --[X] Is she open for a three-way relationship?
[x] Go somewhere else. -[x] The mansion's gardens. [x] Ask Yuuka something. -[x] About her garden. -[x] What her relationship is with Sakuya. -[x] What she can tell me about what happened before we came to Gensokyo.
Tide pissing on location as I think Meiling'd like to show Yuuka her garden.
[x] Go somewhere else. -[x] The mansion's gardens. [x] Ask Yuuka something -[x] About her garden. -[x] What her relationship is with Sakuya. -[x] What she can tell me about what happened before we came to Gensokyo.
>>57624 This. Can't have Meiling choose between one of those two lovely girls. Logically she has to take care of both.
We keep walking through the garden for a little while, just enjoying the day and making small talk. What flowers are blooming well this year, how to tend them, that sort of thing. What happened with Aya, how the marriage went over in Gensokyo... all of the little minutiae of life. It's not bad, taking a walk with Yuuka. It's refreshing, relaxing.
Though I'm curious about something. "Hey, Yuuka?"
"Hmm?" she inquires, looking peacefully off into the distance.
"You've been in Gensokyo since before the mansion arrived. What can you tell me about it?"
Yuuka ponders for a moment. "Not a whole lot that you don't already know," she admits, "Honestly, I've always been fairly solitary. The games and plots of other elder youkai never appealed to me, so I simply held my own council and kept to myself. I never really depended on fear and faith to sustain myself; the presence of many flowers was more than sufficient for me."
This surprises me. "So, you aren't dependent on faith for survival?"
She frowns. "I wouldn't go that far. I AM a youkai. But I don't need it nearly as much as other youkai. I spread flowers, and the sheer life emanating from the flowers gives me most of the energy that I require. Reputation to the contrary, I never had any real gripe with humanity." She considers. "I spend a lot of time slumbering. It's how I while away the years. Spend some time awake, and then when the world seems dull, go to sleep in my mansion for a while. Decades, sometimes. When I wake up, things have changed enough to be interesting again."
Hm. Remilia sometimes had trouble dealing with the passage of time. Me, I always kept busy by training and meditation. But wait...
"You have a mansion of your own?" I blink in surprise. I honestly thought Yuuka just lived in her little house.
She chuckles in response. "It's a bit hard to get to right now. I keep it in the dream world. It's quite nice though, I think you'd like it." Yuuka frowns again. "Although, now that you bring it up, I left my own gatekeeper, Elly, in charge of the place while I stay in Gensokyo. That girl has quite an inclination towards wild parties... I sincerely hope that she hasn't demolished the place while I'm out."
I laugh at the thought. "So when did you last wake up, anyway?"
"A few years ago. Thanks to Reimu and Marisa."
I wince. "Ouch."
"Oh, not at all! It was a very entertaining battle!"
I consider. "I suppose. I'm not one to turn down a good fight either." I sigh. "It's just that there aren't a whole lot of martial artists around here. Just danmaku duels. I miss good old fistfights."
Yuuka raises a eyebrow. "I could fight you, if you'd like."
Fighting Yuuka hand-to-hand? "Actually, that sounds kinda fun! You're really strong, right? I dueled an Oni Deva, so... I bet I could give you a run for your money!"
Yuuka blinks. "You sought out an Oni for a duel?"
She chuckles. "And people call ME obsessed with battle!" Yuuka laughs, and I feel myself blush. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out a good challenge, dammit!
We walk a little while longer. "Your garden is lovely," I tell Yuuka.
"Thank you. I created it myself with my own power." She looks around proudly at the flowers. "It's mostly sunflowers, but there are a few beds of other types of flowers as well, spread around."
"It's pretty disorganized," I note.
Yuuka bursts into laughter. "Of course! Garden is just a name. It's not laid out like your admittedly lovely garden back at your mansion. It's a more natural garden, with flowers growing and blooming however they will. It takes a bit of effort to make sure all of the flowers can grow well amidst the sunflowers, but it works quite nicely, I think. It's like there are hidden surprises, special treats hidden for those that wish to seek them out."
"How poetic," I murmur. "Is that intentional, or just something that happened in your part?"
She shrugs. "A bit of both, really. I like having a variety of flowers, but I don't really see the need in carefully organizing them by type. Although I CAN, if I want, to. But the Garden of the Sun is a place for plowers to grow freely, unrestrained."
"Interesting. I'm sorry I didn't come here earlier." I take a deep breath of the air, rich with the smell of flowers. "Maybe I should come here to sunbathe, hm?"
"EH?!" Yuuka gapes at me, her face once more going bright red.
"You could join me, you know~." I keep teasing her with a grin. "Just you and me, all alone among the sunflowers, wearing bikinis..."
"Ah..." Her eyes glaze over as her mind processes the thought, then she glowers at me. "S-stop doing that, dammit!"
"Nope!" I cheerfully reply. Yuuka throws her hands up in frustration, and I laugh, pleased at having won that round.
We keep walking through the warm field of sunflowers. After a few more minutes I clear my throat. "So. You and Sakuya seem to get along pretty well these days."
Yuuka smiles fondly. "We have a common interest."
"You used to be at each other's throats," I note.
"Well..." Yuuka considers for a moment. "We used to see each other as competition. But then you made it clear that you weren't willing to cast aside either one of us in favor of the other. That really meant something, that you cared for each of us so much. In the wake of that, we decided that there was more to gain by befriending one another, rather than working at cross-purposes."
I snort. "Yeah, I remember that all too well."
Yuuka giggles. "And got back at us for it, remember? But yes, I rather like Sakuya. She's strong and caring, and very elegant. A delicate yet strong flower, and so lovely. We're pretty good friends these days."
"Well, that's good. I hated it when you two were fighting."
"Have no fear of that, Meiling," Yuuka says with a shrug, "That conflict is in the past. Besides, wouldn't you prefer us as as set?"
I blink. "Uh... What do you mean by that?"
Yuuka looks confused. "Well... being able to associate with both of us at the same time, without the two of us glaring at one another. All of us being friends, and being able to associate amiably. That sort of thing."
I nod. "Oh."
"...What did you think I meant? You're blushing."
I fluster a little bit. ChangethesubjectchangethesubjectTHERE! "Uh... hey! Look, we're back at your house!"
Yuuka looks up as we return to the place from whence we hard started our relaxing walk. "Oh. So we are." She sound a little disappointed. "Well, then... are you hungry? Would you like to get something to eat?"
Food DOES sound good all of a sudden.
[ ] Stay here, let Yuuka cook for you. [ ] Go to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, cook for Yuuka. [ ] Go somewhere else to eat (specify).
"I could go for some food," I admit to Yuuka, "Actually, come to think of it, I really haven't eaten in a while."
"Then please come in!" Yuuka insists, leading me to her house. "I'm certain that I can put together something that you'd like. I mainly subsist on a vegetarian diet, but I have some meats here as well. Beef, chicken?"
"Beef sounds good," I muse, "And do you have any noodles? Maybe some sort of stir-fry would be good..."
"Hm. I'm afraid I've never stir-fried before," Yuuka admits, looking a bit sheepish.
THIS WILL NOT DO.
I seize her hand. "Then I shall instruct you," I tell her, staring into her red eyes with all of the intensity I can muster.
Yuuka pouts a little bit. "Aw, but here I was hoping to cook for you."
I smile. "Isn't it more fun to cook together, though?"
Yuuka considers this for a moment, then smiles. "You know what? You're right. Shall we exchange recipes, Miss Meiling?" I laugh in response, and Yuuka leads the way into her house.
Yuuka's house (at least, the one here in the midst of the sunflowers), is a very nice and cozy place. The walls are thin, but Yuuka's influence keeps it summer-like in her garden all year round, so that really isn't a concern. The furniture is simple, but elegantly carved. Decorative plants hang all over the place, and Yuuka's enjoyment of red plaid is clearly evident. It's a home built for one person, with a large outer room serving as a kitchen/dining room/living room, and a bedroom and bathroom in the back. A door leads to a small extension which holds a small study for when Yuuka feels like reading. Evidently, Yuuka doesn't tend to receive a lot of guests. I find that fact a little depressing.
"I'll make sure to visit you more often," I assure the flower youkai as we get out ingredients.
She blushes a little, but smiles in response. "I'd appreciate that. You should bring Sakuya, too."
I chuckle. "Sure thing, but fair warning: she might try to clean your house for you. She has a tendency to do that without thinking about it. High standards, you understand."
Yuuka pauses in thought. "Hmmm... if I could get you in a maid outfit too, then I could have two pretty maids cleaning my house?" She smiles happily. "How delightful!"
I cough a little bit. "I actually wore a maid outfit a while back," I mutter.
Yuuka smiles broadly. "Oh, I remember that. And as I recall, it looked FANTASTIC!" She smiles wickedly at me. "Care to do it again?"
I cough in embarrassment. "Uh... maybe, And besides," I pout at her a little bit. "Now you're checking out Sakuya, too?"
"Can you blame me? And besides, who are you to talk?"
Urk. "Point taken," I say, turning back to work. "She does have great legs, though."
"Very much so," Yuuka agrees, smiling contentedly. "You should try getting HER into a bathing suit."
I think about it. "You know what? With Flandre's help, I think I can."
Yuuka considers that. "Get her to do it, and I may just have to join in after all."
"Now THERE'S some incentive," I say, grinning at Yuuka. The two of us stare at each other for a moment, then burst into laughter. "Well, I'll see what I can do," I assure Yuuka, chuckling to myself. She just giggles a little bit, and starts chopping vegetables.
As we work, Yuuka glances over at me. "I didn't realize that you were an experienced chef."
I nod. "Oh, sure. I mean, somebody had to cook before Sakuya came along. That being said, she's a lot better at it now than I ever was. I still have a few specialties, though," I finish proudly. I mean, sure Sakuya is a genius in the kitchen, but I have a couple tricks up my own sleeve, as well.
"Have you ever cooked with her?" Yuuka asks.
I think about it for a bit. "...Actually, no, I don't think that I have. That's a shame. I should do so, some day." I laugh. "Of course, with her time-freezing powers, there's no way I could keep up with her."
"Aren't you the one who pointed out that it was just fun to cook with somebody?" Yuuka chides me, smiling.
I chuckle. "Point taken. Well... I'll bring it up with her someday." Yuuka nods her approval, and we get back to work on making dinner.
So, point of interest? Yuuka raises some REALLY good vegetables. So large, and crisp, and juicy... they go perfectly with the meat she bought at the human village.
"You don't hunt on your own?" I ask, "With your strength, I thought it would be easy for you."
Yuuka hesitates. "Gardening and fighting? That I'm good at. Hunting? Not so much. Animals tend to instinctively run when I'm around." She sighs, and I rub her shoulder consolingly. Poor Yuuka. More people need to just give her a chance.
The meal we prepare turns out to be absolutely delicious. I have to say, Yuuka's a quick study. As soon as she picked up on the basics of stir-frying, she immediately shooed me to the kitchen table and took over the cooking completely. It seemed to be a point of pride for her. With good reason, as it turns out. This is a woman who knows how to cook.
I wait until Yuuka has swallowed her bite of food. "You'd make a good wife," I comment.
"EH?!" Yuuka squeaks, and looks up at me, eyes bulging wide. She sees my broad grin and twitches a little bit. "St-stop doing that, dammit!" she complains.
"I can't" I admit, "You're just too damn adorable when you're embarrassed." Yuuka glowers, but her blush takes a lot of the sting out of it. Instead, she focuses pointedly on her meal. I giggle and pat her hand before going back to my own food. After a moment, Yuuka pats my hand as well.
After finishing our meal and cleaning the dishes, the two of us recline on Yuuka's couch. I sigh, relaxing into the plush sofa. "This is so nice," I say happily.
"It is," Yuuka quietly agrees with me. "... I love you, you know."
I smile. "Yeah. I know."
"... Do you love me?"
I should have seen this coming, huh?
I sit up straight and meet Yuuka's steady gaze. Do I? I think.... maybe? The thing is, I do like being around her a lot. Once I stopped obsessing about her being a fellow woman, I realized that Yuuka is pretty, kind at heart, and overall a really nice person to hang out with. I enjoy being with her. A lot. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't like it when she kissed me.
But then there's Sakuya, who I feel much the same way for.
Here's the problem. I wouldn't mind getting closer to either one of them. But getting closer to one means abandoning the other, doesn't it? Anything else wouldn't be fair to them. But if I just keep stringing them both along, that's even more unfair to Yuuka and Sakuya. I could wind up losing both of them.
This is hard.
Yuuka looks deep into my eyes. "We're still being hard on you, aren't we?"
I sigh. "The two of you do not make this easy." I look away, feeling ashamed. A warm, gentle hand cups my cheek and brings my face back around. Yuuka just smiles at me gently. Not upset. Not angry. Just understanding, and... a little amused?
"Don't worry about it," Yuuka tells me softly, "Actually... the two of us might have a solution to that little problem."
"Huh?" What is she talking about?
But Yuuka just shakes her head. "Don't worry about it. Right now, it's just you and me... just the two of us." Yuuka leans forward and-
She's REALLY good at this.
Tilting back onto the couch.
Yuuka on top.
Her hands are warm.
Skin so soft.
Hat falls off.
Reaching for the buttons to her shirt.
Should probably stop.
Hell with it.
Door slams open.
We break our kiss and look over in shock. There's a girl there, swaying in the doorway, clearly drunk. She's wearing a red dress and a white hat, and has a bottle of alcohol in her hand. The other is clutching a... scythe? She giggles excitedly.
"So Yuuka! I was looking around the wine cellar, and found THIS great ol' vintage, and thought to myself, 'Hey! I haven't seen Yuuka in forever!' So, I left somebody else in charge, and came to pay you a visit! That's okay, right?" The blonde woman looks at Yuuka with happy, glimmering eyes that have just the faintest tinge of alchol-induced bleariness to them. Then she notices me.
She takes in both of us, actually.
And goes very, very still.
Oh, when did my hand get in there? How embarrassing.
Yuuka's eyebrow is twitching.
The blonde girl suddenly looks very awkward. "Oh. Wow. Uh. Bad timing? Eheheheh...heh... so, um..." Miss scythe looks around nervously. "Uh. Yuuka, I didn't know you were into women."
Yuuka takes a deep breath. "FOR GOD'S SAKE, ELLY!"
It took a while for Yuuka to calm down after that. After Elly's scream of pure terror, she bolted out the door with Yuuka right behind her, shouting all of her rage at the retreating girl. I hurried along behind, and eventually managed to calm Yuuka down. There was no sign of Elly, though. My gatekeeping counterpart had headed for the hills at top speed. After she calmed down, Yuuka admitted that she had overreacted, and resolved to go find Elly and apologize for her actions.
I gave her a gentle kiss and said my goodbyes. It perked Yuuka up quite a bit.
I'm still not sure how I feel about Elly interrupting. I mean, it was probably for the best, but still...
I arrive at the mansion later that day to see Malla standing at my post with a huge, empty smile on her face, occasionally popping a marshmallow into her mouth. She's humming along tunelessly as she does so. As I carefully walk up to her, Malla sighs deeply, and looks at her marshmallows with a genuine look of regret. "It's just not the same when they aren't roasted..."
"We can build a fire if you like," I suggest.
"AH!" Malla leaps into the air as she sees me. "Oh, Meiling! I didn't see you there."
"Busy eating marshmallows, huh?" I chuckle. "So, did anyone come along today?"
"A few people," Malla tells me, "They came along asking about Mistress Remilia and Mistress Reimu, but you told me not to talk about them. So I talked about marshmallows and how much I like roasting things. They looked at me funny and flew off." Malla shakes her head ruefully. "I think they're scared of how scared roasted marshmallows taste. How silly!"
Now that's the Malla I know. I ruffle her hair. She may be nuts, but she's ours. "Well, good job, Malla! Anyway, I was just suggesting that we build a fire and go roast some marshmallows together."
The fairy's face lights right up. "Really?!"
"Yay!" Overjoyed, Malla, leaps into my arms and gives me a tight hug. I laugh, and carry her off to the firepit in the gardens. I'm going to have to settle things with Sakuya and Yuuka at some point, but for now? Marshmallows.
Option A or Option B?
[ ] The big date with Sakuya. [ ] The DyCirno Super Heroic Force
I wanna see if it will be a two-pronged attack on Meiling, or if Yuuka will need to convince Sakuya. I really want us to have our time-stopping cake and eat it in the Garden of the Sun. If we can't, this will be a difficult choice
I lean back against the gate and gaze at the sky, my senses tuned to the world around me. The feel of the sun and the gentle breeze. The buzzing of bees in the flowers, and the birds in the trees. The gentle lap of the water of the lake against the shore not far from where I stand. Behind me, I can vaguely hear the chatter of the fairies as they go about their assigned tasks. Further away, and across the lake, I can can hear the joyous squealing of the lake fairies as they play their games. I'm pretty sure that I can hear Cirno among them; she must be taking a day off from being DyCirno.
There's also the smell of roasting marshmallows at Malla's fire pit. At least that girl's tendencies are being carefully directed. It's much better than her setting furniture and appliances on fire, that's for sure.
My senses take all of this in. It's kind of hard not to, when they're as acute as mine are. However, my thoughts do not dwell on the messages sent from my eye, ears, nose, skin, and even tongue (you learn to taste the perfume of the flowers in the air after a while). No, my thoughts wander along a tired old path that I had thought resolved. Instead, it was just waiting in the bushes to jump out at me again.
...Okay, that metaphor got really weird after a while. Never mind.
But yeah. Sakuya and Yuuka. The elegant, perfect maid, and the warm, vibrant flower youkai. Dear friends to me. More than friends. Special people... no, that just sounds childish. Significant others? Girlfriends? But there are two, and I can only choose one.
No matter how I work it through in my mind, I can only focus on what the decision will cost me. But somehow, I doubt that the two of them are willing to share. So, what do I do? I mean, my day (date?) with Yuuka the other day pretty much cemented in my mind how I feel about her, even if I have a hard time saying, or even thinking the words. But then there's Sakuya-
-who has just suddenly appeared RIGHTNEXTTOMEGODDAMN-
"GAAAHH!!!" I shout, leaping a full foot into the air. Sakuya immediately bursts into merry laughter. Which turns swiftly into helpless guffaws as soon as she sets her eyes upon my embarrassed face. Well damn. I can only stand there awkwardly as Sakuya leans against the mansion's walls to support herself, clutching her stomach as laughter wracks her body.
Finally, Sakuya gets a hold of herself and straightens up, smiling at me. And God does she have a dazzling smile. She wipes tears away from her mirthful blue eyes (beautiful blue eyes, just for the record), and cocks her head at me. "Gotcha."
I sigh. "Yeah, you did."
Sakuya shakes her head sadly. "Oh, Meiling. After all of your big talk, I finally managed to catch you daydreaming."
"Pft. Only because you can actually freeze time. I'm perfectly aware of everything else going on in and around the mansion. Like the five fairies mock-jousting with rakes on the other side of the wall."
Sakuya blinks and peeks through the gate. "...Point taken," she admits, then smirks at me. "But I still feel the need to lay out a punishment for you for lack of diligence."
I snort. "You'd enjoy it too much."
"Nonsense. It's simply part of my job as head maid of the mansion. That happens to have fringe benefits." Sakuya raises an eyebrow.
"Pervert," I note.
"I was thinking making you write a letter of apology. Why, what were you thinking of?" Sakuya smiles innocently.
Oh, no you don't. I'm not losing this one. "Ancient chinese martial arts let me know exactly what you're really thinking about. Pervert."
Sakuya pauses. "Bullshit."
"Laaaame." I shake my head. "Too weak. I call the victory here."
"Crap." Sakuya sighs and shakes her head. "I almost had you there, though."
"In you dreams."
"Every night," she agrees.
I just laugh and turn back to watching the sky, Sakuya coming to stand next to me. She gives me a curious look. "Mei? Are you all right?"
"Hmm?" I turn my attention back to her lovely features, so close to my own.
"Well, it's just that you seem troubled," she continues, "I was wondering if there was something bothering you." Sakuya hesitates. "I'm here for you, you know. And I'm willing to set... US... aside if you need me to."
I smile at this. She means it too. Sakuya genuinely cares about me, and is willing to set her own feelings aside for my sake. And I'd do the same for her. I trust her, and if it were anything else, I'd confide in her in a heartbeat. Which means that I have much the same feelings for her that I do for Yuuka.
These two are not making this an easy decision.
...Wait a damn minute. Why am I keeping this from her, if I trust her? When she is a major part of the situation herself? I take a deep breath. "The other day, I went to visit Yuuka," I tell her.
"Oh? Oh, that's the day the Mistresses and Suika went on their trip."
"Yes," I nod. She's already started to look at Reimu as being one of the Mistresses of the mansion. Come to think of it, so am I. "We had a very good time."
I wait to see if she understands my meaning. She does.
Sakuya is silent for a moment. "Oh," she finally says. Just a simple word, without out any real inflection behind it. The same tone you'd use if someone told you where they had gotten a new shirt. It says volumes about her feelings, if you know how to listen close enough. Disappointment? Jealousy? No... maybe just a sense of longing.
What do I tell her? That I had a fantastic time with Yuuka? That the two of us made out a little, and came very close to going all the way? Hell no.
If only there were a way to set my mind straight-
I'm really dumb sometimes.
"Hey, Sakuya?" I say into the awkward silence.
"Yes?" she says, looking up.
"The day's young. Let's take the day off and head into town. Have some fun, see some sights, get a meal... what do you say?"
Sakuya blinks, starts to blush, then smirks at me. "Why Miss Hong, it almost sounds like you're asking me out on a date."
"...That's because I am," I tell her.
Sakuya starts to reply. Stops. Realizes what I just said. Her eyes get very, very wide. "...Huh?"
"I'm suggesting we go on a date today," I repeat myself. "Starting at the human village, and just going from there. Interested?"
Sakuya gapes at me, and goes very, very red. "Uh. Well. That. Y-yes. Yes I would. I would be delighted, in fact. Shall we... shall we take some time to get ready?" It's not often that I see Sakuya flustered. It's kinda cute, now that I see it up close. I ignore the fact that my own face feels like it's burning.
"Sure. Shall we meet up here in say... a half-hour or so?" I smile gently.
"Uh, yes. Yes! Absolutely!" Sakuya nods firmly. "I will be here in one half-hour. Sharp. So, Uh... see you then." Still blushing, Sakuya stand there for a moment before walking towards the mansion. Then she apparently remembers her ability to stop time and flickers out of sight.
I take a deep breath and head towards my room. I already know who I want to guard the gate in my absence, but what should I wear on a date with Sakuya?
[ ] Be simple. [ ] Be flashy. [ ] Be provocative. [ ] Write-ins are very welcome.
White ribbed sweater? Nah, I wore that once already. Maybe dress a little provocatively? No, no, don't want to seem like I'm throwing myself at Sakuya. I don't want to dress too plainly and seem boring, but I don't want to seem too flashy, either. Hmmm... choices, choices...
Actually, you know what? Sometimes it's best to stick to the classics. I search through my closet and pull out a semi-sheer white sundress and matching sun hat. It's the perfect way for a woman to appear classy and beautiful all at the same time.
I quickly change, and nod at the effect. The white material clings to me from my shoulders down to my hips, then loosens up to dance around my legs. It's the perfect combination of alluring and modest; showing off my curves without seeming too forward. No wonder people like the look so much. I complete the outfit with a pair of white shoes, slip on the sun hat, and voila! Meiling Hong, ready for a day out!
The only thing missing is a parasol, but that's just not me.
Humming cheerfully to myself, I practically skip out to the gate, drawing stares from the fairies as I do so. Some look curious. Others look excited. Some call out encouragement; I guess they must have guessed what's going on. Chuckling to myself, I exit the mansion and walk out to the front gate, where Sakuya is waiting for me.
And oh my.
I like her outfit. A lot.
Sakuya is standing past the gate, looking out at the lake. Still, I can see most of her outfit. What looks like a dark blue sleeveless hoodie leaves her pale arms bare. A pair of very small, very tight shorts hug her lower quarters almost as tightly as skin. I mean, seriously. I almost want to walk up there and give that ass a big ol' slap. Actually, 'almost' nothing. I DO want to. But I shall restrain myself. For now.
Completing Sakuya's ensemble are a pair of knee-high boots. It's an interesting look for her. A good one, but just so different from the image of the perfect, elegant maid she usually projects. It makes her seem more human, more approachable. More relaxed, even.
And seriously. Those shorts are damn near criminal, they look so good.
Sakuya perks up at my approach, and turns around to greet me. And stares, mouth slightly open. "Wow," she breathes, shaking her head, "You look amazing."
I laugh, but feel my face turning red. "Thanks. You look pretty damn good, yourself."
"Aw, these old things?" Sakuya shrugs dismissively. "Just something I had lying around. I like your outfit a bit better."
"I could say the same about yours," I quip. "That's quite a different look for you. I almost never see you out of your maid uniform."
"Says the woman with ten backup uniforms in her closet," Sakuya retorts. Damn. She's got me there. "But anyway, it's a warm day... I figured, why not wear something a little different? Isn't that why you put that dress on?"
Aside from wanting to see her reaction? Yes. Come to think of it, Sakuya is probably wearing something like that for similar reasons. Hmm. Should I take this as a challenge?
"Anyway, let's get going," I say, and Sakuya nods in agreement. The two of us stand side by side and lift off into the air. "The human village?" I suggest.
"Sounds like a plan," Sakuya nods, "There's more to do there than anywhere else. Besides, if we feel like sightseeing later, we'll have plenty of time to do so." I nod in agreement. It's not even noon. Sakuya and I can spend plenty of time in the human village, then wander around Gensokyo to take in the sights.
"Should we eat out tonight?" I ask.
Sakuya makes a face. "I'd say yes, but... to be honest, whenever I eat at a restaurant, I keep thinking about how much better I could do than the staff. It takes all of my willpower sometimes to keep from running into the kitchen and taking over the cooking myself." I burst into laughter at this. That's Sakuya for you. Immensely proud of her talents.
Feeling a little bit mischievous, I reach out and link my arm with Sakuya's.
"AH!" My silver haired companion looks over at me in red-faced shock, then rallies by taking my hand in her own. It's a very soft, warm hand. Delicate. Manicured. Highly dextrous, too, the way I've seen her handle those knives. It sort of makes me wonder what else he can do with her-
-aaaaaand I'm just gonna stop that train of thought right there, thank you very much. The last thing I need is to start openly drooling over Sakuya and thought of the things she could possibly do with her hands, and her ability to stop time. Not to mention thinking about that ass of hers. Seriously, those shorts are fantastic.
Yep. Gonna stop now.
Sakuya glances over at me, still blushing slightly. "What's on your mind? You've got this weird little grin on your face."
"I'm thinking about those shorts," I tell her honestly, "They make your ass look fantastic."
"Thanks," Sakuya says evenly, "That low-cut dress does wonders for your breasts."
"Buh?" I say blankly, completely caught off-guard.
Sakuya just smiles triumphantly. "I win that one, and in one blow, at that!"
I grimace. "Damn. Wasn't expecting such a quick comeback."
"You're underestimating me," Sakuya chides me, "I've been checking you out for a long time, now."
"Well, I'm admittedly a newbie to checking you out," I shrug, "But I'm an avid fan, and have gotten VERY good at it." Sakuya and I smirk at each other, neither willing to give ground in our verbal duel.
It's about that time that we realize just what we've been saying.
Sakuya's face starts turning red, and her eyes start widening in embarrassment. I feel a similar expression manifesting on my own features.
So. Never mind flirting.
We were just openly lusting over each other.
How about that.
Sakuya coughs, but doesn't let go of my arm. "So," she says hesitantly, "I see the village coming up ahead. Where do you want to go first?"
[X] Just walk around the village and enjoy each other's company.
It's a date so do it right. Meiling didn't come out here with a plan so no need to do anything complicated. It's just a day out with Sakuya. The rest of the options can follow if anything interesting happens. This also lends the possibility of RANDOM ENCOUNTERS too.
Dates are all about who you are with and how much you enjoy their company. You can do whatever and still have a great time.
"Let's just look around for a little while first," I say. "I mean, shopping can wait until we stretch our legs, and you've already given your opinion on the local food, so why not just wander around for a bit? The village does have some nice sights, after all."
Sakuya nods, smiling. "That sounds like fun. All right!"
In agreement, the two of us dive towards the village below. It's really a fair-sized village, I have to admit. It's been noted before, but the human village is where most people in Gensokyo head to if they want to buy or sell something, or even just to relax. Kinda funny how Youkai tend to gravitate to a human settlement when they want to relax, but so it goes.
From the air, the entire town is bustling, people running every which way as they take care of their errands. The market is full of shoppers, the residential district full of people tidying up their houses, and the administration areas have some bored-looking clerks staring out into the streets. I think I can see Miss Kamishirasawa teaching an outdoor class of some sort. Off in the village commons are preparations of some manner.
All in all, it's as active as ever. I always love coming here and just people-watching, taking in the energy and excitement of the village. Maybe it's that excitement that draws in other youkai as well.
Hm. After we see the sights, I have GOT to take Sakuya shopping. Maybe get her a new bathing suit? Oooh, or maybe a cheongsam! Ah, but all in good time, me. Today, just try and enjoy things.
Besides, those shorts are good enough. I just cannot get them out of my mind.
Anyway, Sakuya and I touch the ground just outside of the gates and walk on through, with the guards nodding politely to us as we pass by. "They're checking us out," Sakuya quietly notes a few moments later, an amused smirk on her face.
"Of course!" I say lightly, "Two pretty ladies like us passing by? I'd be offended if they didn't take notice."
Sakuya chuckles at this. "Fair point. Well, I suppose I don't mind as long as they're gentlemanly about it."
"There are still gentlemen in Gensokyo," I comment. "Josef is pretty good to Koakuma, I'd say. Those two don't can't seem to keep their hands off of each other."
Sakuya sighs. "They may go well together, but you don't have to clean up after them. I keep finding undergarments in the damnedest places. The other day, I saw Koakuma trying to drag Josef into Remilia's room. I had strong words with her, let me tell you."
I raise an eyebrow. "Trying to get some more excitement out of their love life, were they?"
"Apparently. As if they needed any." Sakuya just rolls her eyes.
I pause for a moment. "I had to have a word with Koakuma myself, actually. One morning I came out to see one of my flowerbeds absolutely pulped. It took me days to get it healthy again."
Sakuya blinks. "Well, some would call that romantic."
"Maybe," I grumble, "But I called it extra work. I mean, seriously..." I blink, then look over at Sakuya, who has a knowing smile on her lips. After a moment, the two of us burst into laughter. It's not often that Sakuya and I can sympathize over our jobs, but this is one of our times. Shaking our heads, we link arms and walk further into the town.
So, the human village has a museum. It's not much, really, but a while back a few humans decided to put some of their old heirlooms on display for people to look at. Other people got in the the act, and then youkai, and finally some of the big names in Gensokyo (including Remilia) began making donations in order to look good. What finally emerged was a respectable collection of artifacts from all over Gensokyo and beyond. Some of the objects were actually pretty interesting, like a carved tablet that Yuuka had apparently dragged back from Makai, realized that she didn't know what to do with it, and finally offloaded it here.
"Oh yeah, Koa told me about this," I realize, staring at the black and red marble-like substance. Makai's odd, scratchy writing covers it from top to bottom. "She came in here to have a look at it one day."
"Oh really?" Sakuya asks, interested, "Did she say what the writing meant?"
"In between her laughter, yes," I reply with a smirk.
Sakuya raises an eyebrow and looks down at the descriptive plague. "Hmmm. 'Mysterious artifact from Makai, believed to be a collection of prayers to the Goddess of that place, Shinki.' I wonder what it actually is?"
"According to Koakuma?" I grin. "It's a catchy advertisement for pet food." I gesture at the seals and talismans all around it, and the signs warning people to stay away. "All of that just to seal away an advertisement for cleaner, healthier fur."
Sakuya chortles at this. "Well, people just don't know, after all. Remilia donated some of her old clothes to the museum, passing them off as belonging to ancient European nobility."
"Well, Remilia would probably qualify for that," I note. "But all that aside, there's still some pretty neat stuff in here. Like those old tengu masks."
"I hear the tengu are making a real fuss over those," Sakuya comments, looking at the masks held inside a glass case. "Apparently hunters of old claimed these from defeated tengu, and the tengu want them back. The villagers have suggested a swap: the masks for lost ancestral weapons. Negotiations are ongoing."
I snort, walking along a little further. "Hmm. Here's something donated by the Taoists... oh. Oh my." I start to giggle. "Hey, Sakuya, come look at this." I point at a very oddly-shaping figurine.
Sakuya walks over to me. "What is it?"
"I've seen something like it once before. The Taoists are calling it an ancient prayer figurine, which I guess is true, but they must be having a real laugh over it right now." I struggle to hold in my laughter.
Sakuya just shakes her head. "So, what? You've lost me here."
"It's an ancient human fertility idol," I say primly. "New couples were supposed to pray to it to help themselves have children."
Sakuya stares at the figurine. Tilts her head to the side. "Oh. Oh! I see, those are her..."
She frowns. "But I also see a... oh. Oh! Oh my." Sakuya blinks. "I um, didn't see it at first."
"Yeah, it's pretty abstract. You have to look pretty closely."
"Huh. You'd have to be pretty athletic to pull that off. Someone had an active imagination." Sakuya is actually blushing a little as she tries to visualize the misshapen lumps of rock as people. I look at the figure thoughtfully for a little bit longer.
"I could totally pull it off," I say simply, and then walk off. It takes a moment for my words to sink in with Sakuya, and by then she can only stare in shock as I withdraw.
I totally win that one.
"Like hell you could do that," Sakuya tells me.
"I totally could~," I sing back.
"I don't believe you!"
"You've seen me work out before. Do you need me to demonstrate?"
Sakuya blushes deeply and looks around the village's park. "...Not in public, please."
"I wouldn't, don't worry," I assure her, chuckling. I pause for a moment. "So, do you want me to demonstrate when we get back to the mansion?" Sakuya's eyes bulge. "I could probably show you how to do it too, you know."
Sakuya stares at me for a long moment then claps her hands over her ears. "Oh, look! I can't hear you anymore! It's like I was never listening to you at all!"
"Too late," I say smugly, "You're already picturing me in those positions."
"Well, now you're picturing ME in those positions!" Sakuya shoots back. I don't have a response that. With her lithe body? Yeah, Sakuya could probably pull it off. Perhaps sensing that she's won this round, Sakuya falls silent and the two of us take a seat on a bench.
The village green is very nice. Someone obviously put a lot of work into it. Personally, I suspect that the villagers hired Yuuka. Plants and flowers are arranged artfully here and there. A simple, man-made stream runs through the center, and aside from the sound of the running water, and the wind in the leaves of the trees, the place is very quiet. The walls around it must absorb sound, or something.
I sigh and relax, just enjoying the day. "This is so nice," I comment.
"It is," Sakuya quietly agrees. "I'm glad we did this. You and I... don't really get a lot of chances to just spend time together, you know?
"I know. We're always so busy at the mansion." I think about it. "So, now that Remilia's married to Reimu, do you think we'll be more busy, or less?"
My companion shrugs. "It'll probably work out to be the same, really. But that's fine. Really... as long as I know you're there, I can handle anything that comes my way." Sakuya turns red and looks away.
I look at her, open-jawed. "Sakuya..." I really don't know what to say.
Sakuya just takes my hand and squeezes it. "Not now, okay? We can talk later. About things. Right now, let's just enjoy the day, all right?"
I smile gently. "Sure." With a sigh, I lean back and hold Sakuya's hand. It's very peaceful here. And I have to admit to myself, once Sakuya and I got over our difficulties, life got a lot more fun.
Yeah. Life is fun around Sakuya. Just about as much fun around Yuuka. Hm.
I look up and start to say something, then pause. I blink. "Isn't that Albrecht?"
"Your bartender friend?" Sakuya asks, also looking up. She follows my gaze to where Albrecht is walking along, talking to someone else. It looks like... "...Isn't he with Miss Hoshiguma?"
"With Yuugi?" He is, actually. And they look like they're having a good time. Sakuya and I turn to look at each other. "Is he on a date?"
"I think he might be," Sakuya concurs. We both turn to look where Albrecht and Yuugi are about to turn the corner.
[ ] Follow! [ ] Food! [ ] Shopping! [ ] Wait, what's going on at the town commons?
>>57727 Do you have anything like that planned, Keymaster? Meiling's time with Yuuka and Sakuya must be special, romantic and full of lust. Seeing as the story is nearing it's end I hope that you have something really good planned.
I smile as the two go on their way, turning a corner and disappearing form sight. "Well, good for them. Who knows? Maybe something will happen between the two of them."
Sakuya shrugs. "Maybe Miss Hoshiguma just wants another source of alcohol."
I laugh at this. "She has plenty sources as it is. Anyway, let's just leave those two be. Do you wanna head to the town common? I noticed them putting something together there while we were flying in."
Sakuya thinks about it and smiles. "Why not? It sounds like it could be fun." Together, we stand up and leave the park.
A few minutes later, we stand on the edge of the commons, watching as workmen rush around, clearing the area and apparently assembling a stage of some kind. Food vendors appear to be staking out places to set up shop, and I notice a fair amount of covered equipment far to the back. Looks like they've called in the kappa as well.
"A concert?" Sakuya suggests.
"Maybe. Let's check out one of these flyers." I lead to the way to an announcement board with a set of identical posters on it, apparently to make sure people got the message. Or maybe there was just nothing else interesting happening this week. Who knows? Anyway, the posters clearly announce that there is going to be a music concert happening tonight.
"The Prismrivers are playing," Sakuya notes. "And not just them either."
"Mystia Lorelei and Kyouko Kasodani," I note. "Huh. I know that they had their own musical group, but it looks like they've decided to team up tonight. This... could be very interesting."
"I'll say." Sakuya looks glum. "I can't believe that I didn't hear about this until now. Must've just been busy with other things."
I look at her, confused. "So, why do you look so upset?"
She sighs. "Do you have any idea how hard it's going to be to get tickets to this thing? The best we can do is stand on a rooftop a long ways away."
I purse my lips in thought. "True... though the way the village handles things, I doubt that they're sold out... it's just that the last few tickets are going to be incredibly expensive."
"More than we can afford, anyway." Sakuya shakes her head. "Well, never mind. I'll keep my ears open, maybe we can attend next ti-" she stops in mid-sentence, blinking. Sakuya takes a good, long look at me, then a good long look at herself, then looks over at what I think is the ticket booth. A grin crosses her features. "Actually, scratch that. I just had an idea."
Sakuya's smile is very amused, almost predatory. "The guy running the ticket booth? Teenage boy."
"Oh, Sakuya, don't be mean!" I scold her.
She holds her hands up defensively. "I won't be, I swear! It's just a simple business transaction. We get the tickets at a discount, he gets some eye-candy. That's fair, right?"
I stare at her. "That is cruel yet brilliant. Where the hell did you come up with it?"
"I've been watching you for the past few weeks. You inspired me."
I raise an eyebrow. "And someone else inspired me to do that. So who's really to blame, hm?"
"As long as we get our tickets, who the hell cares?" Sakuya points out.
I nod slowly at her logic. Can't argue with that!
That is how the two of us wind up sashaying up to the ticket-booth. Sakuya carefully holds her shirt tighter against her chest, and I let one of the straps of my sundress slide down my shoulder. Several of the workmen gape at us, which I take as a good sign. As I do the wolf-whistles. The boy, really a young man, sitting at the ticket booth appears to be around 16 years old. As we approach he glances up, does a double-take, and just stares as we walk up to him.
I lean over and place my hands on the counter, causing my chest to do some interesting things with the aid of gravity. Sakuya turns around as if watching the workmen, incidentally giving off a fantastic view of her tight backside. I wink at the young man. "Hi there."
I have to give the guy credit, he's a gentleman. With a clear exertion of willpower, he keeps his eyes fixed on my own. However, he's fighting a losing battle against his hormones, and his eyes keep twitching in their sockets, desperate to jump over to other parts of myself and Sakuya.
"Hello," our target finally says with carefully measured tones.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?" I continue on, still smiling at him.
"...It is indeed," he agrees. "Can I help you? I should warn you, there aren't many tickets to get past the gate left, and the ones that are happen to be fairly expensive. They're for the more private areas, you see, balconies that were built just for tonight."
"Oh come on~," I wheedle him with my best smile, "If those tickets were going to sell, they would have already. And we're just so EAGER to see the concert tonight, and would be so GRATEFUL if you could help us out!" I rock from side to side as I do so. His eyes start to rock from side to side. Gotta love gravity, sometimes.
The booth attendant looks both weary and defeated. "...I know what you're doing, you know?"
"...Is it working?" I ask hopefully.
He sighs unhappily. "Yes. And that's the problem. If I sell these tickets to you cheap, I'm going to get in a lot of trouble. Cut me some slack here, will ya?" The young man has a desperate look in his eye, and I start to feel a little guilty.
"Sorry," I say, straightening up and fixing up my dress. Sakuya also turn around with an apologetic look in her eyes. "This is just the traditional method for getting a discount for girls, you know? Thought I'd give it a shot."
He shrugs evenly. "For what it's worth? Had you been here earlier, you'd be walking away with cheap tickets at this very moment. I mean, I'm not a machine. But I don't want to lose this job. It'd look bad on me, you know?"
I nod in understanding. "I know where you're coming from, believe me." I sigh. "Well darn... I really wanted to see the concert. Now what?"
My new acquaintance is about to say something when a voice comes from behind him. "What's going on here now?" An older man comes out, takes one look at me and Sakuya, and stops in his tracks. He looks at us. At the booth attendant. Back at us. Then he sighs and claps the younger man on the shoulder. "It's fine, lad. I was your age too, once. Just give them one of the upper seats at the regular price. Not like we'll sell it otherwise."
Sakuya's eyes light up, and I'm pretty sure my own are doing the same. "Really? Are you sure it's okay?"
The older man laughs. "Pretty girls trying to get discounts is a tradition, isn't it? Sometimes it even works. Besides, we really aren't going to sell those seats otherwise. Consider them a non-free gift." With a nod to the two of us, he walks away, leaving us to buy our passes from the relieved-looking attendant.
"Thanks," I tell him, "As thanks, we'll introduce you to some pretty girls sometime."
He rolls his eyes. "Thanks, but I've heard that one before."
"Actually, I'm serious," I tell him. "As long as you don't mind a nice youkai girl, I can totally hook you up." After all, he seems like a nice guy, and there aren't too many available in Gensokyo. I wonder if he likes fairies? In any case, the attendant just looks at me, coughs, then writes his name down on a piece of paper.
Shortly thereafter, Sakuya and I walk away from the commons with tickets in hand, feeling pretty good about the whole incident. Anyway, we have a few hours until the concert. What should we do until then?
>Sakuya makes a face. "I'd say yes, but... to be honest, whenever I eat at a restaurant, I keep thinking about how much better I could do than the staff. It takes all of my willpower sometimes to keep from running into the kitchen and taking over the cooking myself." I burst into laughter at this. That's Sakuya for you. Immensely proud of her talents.
She makes a face. "I said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm likely to just try to take over the kitchen of wherever we go."
I laugh. "Well, there's no point in heading all the way back to the mansion! Come one, let's just get ourselves a snack or something. What about Mokou? She makes some pretty good fried chicken."
Sakuya considers. "Well... I suppose you have a point there. If it's just a small snack, I can withhold my comments on its undoubtedly inferior quality. And besides, Fuijiwara's had enough time to perfect a decent recipe." With a chuckle, I lead the way to the market, in the mood for some deep-fried chicken.
The market is, as always, a bustling center of activity. People flutter every which way, seeking the best deals while merchants shout out into the crowd, calling upon passers-by to sample their wares. Most of the merchants are human, but there are a few youkai here and there as well. It's an encouraging sign, really: more and more humans and youkai are willing to do business with each other. I think Myouren temple had something to do with that; the last I recall Byakuren was setting up business meetings between merchants of all stripes, demonstrating just how much was to be gained from cooperation.
It's a new tactic for her: appeal to people through their pocketbook. It seems to be working, too.
After a while, we come upon a stand operated by a relatively familiar figure. I've met Mokou Fujiwara a few times, but I'd hesitate to call myself familiar with her. At most, I've eaten at her food stand a few times while in town and made some small talk. She wasn't too bad once you got to know her, really. Provided you didn't bring up the name of a certain lunarian princess, that is. It tended to darken her mood and make her mutter angrily under her breath.
Immortal grudges. There's just nothing like them.
Sakuya and I sit down, and the proprietor turns to us, raising her eyebrow when she sees Sakuya. A grin crosses Mokou's face as she locks eyes with my companion. "Miss Izayoi, what a pleasure. Here to advise me on my cooking again?"
I facepalm. "Oh, Sakuya. You didn't really..."
Sakuya looks a little bit uncomfortable. "Well... I meant no offense."
"And none was taken, " Mokou says evenly. "Really, I understand. When I'm in a kitchen, I want to make comments on how the local chef does things too. And for what it's worth, some of your advice was very interesting." This said, Mokou takes her utensils in a very odd grip and begins turning strips of meat on her grill, not taking her eyes off of the off-duty maid. Sakuya twitches, but says nothing.
I roll my eyes. "Oh, come on, Sakuya."
She glances over at me. "I can't help it, all right? Whenever I see someone doing something wr-" she pauses, "doing something that I think I can do better," she corrects herself, glancing at the smirking Mokou, "I just tense up. I mean, how would you feel if you saw someone planting flowerbeds and doing it awkwardly?"
"Well, I'd give them a little helpful advice," I say. Then I blink. "Oh."
Mokou starts laughing and switches to a proper grip. "Yeah, that's about the size of it. Anyway, you two are here for some chicken, right?" We nod. "Coming right up. Anyway, that's why I wasn't too bothered when Miss Sakuya here started glancing at my technique and commenting on how I could do better."
"You immediately started doing the opposite of what I said," Sakuya points out.
"Eh, I'm just contrary that way. Besides, how'd you like it if another maid came into the mansion and started commenting on your handiwork?"
"They'd be gone in less than a second," Sakuya says evenly, "and I mean that in the most literal sense possible."
Mokou chuckles. "See? By definition, I'm more patient than you are. I didn't talk back or even try to torch you. I just ignored you." I laugh, and Sakuya rolls her eyes.
After a few minutes, Mokou serves up our meals. "There ya go. So, you two here on a date or something? I don't ever see you two out of uniform is all."
"Yes we are, " Sakuya and I say simultaneously, then bite into our food.
Mokou blinks. "Oh." She hesitates. "Well. There goes all of my conversation. I was expecting you two to deny it, then I'd have a great time ribbing you about it. Guess it's not happening, huh?"
"Sorry," I say evenly, "We just don't embarrass easily these days."
"Besides, it's true." Sakuya gives a shrug. "And I have no reason to be embarrassed about it."
Mokou nods slowly. "Well. Ain't that a thing. I have to respect that, Kind of irritating when people keep beating around the bush, you know?" She thinks for a minute. "So, does that mean you two are bound for an hourly-rates hotel?" I freeze mid-bite. Sakuya does as well. The two of us stare back at Mokou, slowly turning very red. The immortal just grins back in triumph. "Gotcha."
Dammit. She wins that one.
Quick, change the subject. "Actually, we were planning to head to the Prismriver concert this evening. Apparently Mystia and Kyouko are going to be part of it, too."
"Yeah, I heard about that," Mokou nods, "They want to try and combine styles, or something. Should be pretty interesting. I'm actually going to go see it with Keine."
My eyes sharpen. An opening!
"Oh really?" I ask. "Yeah, you two are pretty much best friends, aren't you?"
"Pretty much," Mokou agrees. "Yeah, we go way back now. Figured this would be something we could do together."
"Who asked who out?" asks Sakuya, who has also noticed the opening.
"Keine asked me to go," Mokou says, " So I figured- wait." She looks up at us and glares. "No, goddammit, how many times do I have to tell people, It isn't like that!"
"Where are your seats?" I ask sweetly.
"Huh? Well, in a private booth, but Keine got those as a gift from the village..."
"A private booth," Sakuya notes. "So, you two will be all alone tonight."
"Under the stars," I agree.
"With music playing."
Mokou glares at us with a bright red face.
"Yeah, well, where are you two sitting, huh?!"
"I think we already told you," I say to Mokou, "Now what's your excuse?"
The immortal just glares at me for a moment before putting her hands up in surrender. "Fine. I give. You win this, one, all right?"
Sakuya and I nod, pleased. Together, we are unbeatable. Anyway, after finishing off our snacks we pay Mokou and head on our way.
"So, what now?" Sakuya asks, looking at the sky. It's getting late in the afternoon, now. The sun will be going down in just a little while, and the concert will be starting. "We can probably look around the shops if you'd like, or just go somewhere to hang out. Anywhere you really want to go?"
Hmmm... what should we do before the concert?
[ ] Shop. [ ] Go say hello to someone (specify). [ ] Just relax and wait.
"Well, yeah!" I mean, when was the last time you updated your wardrobe?"
Sakuya narrows her eyes. "Are you saying you don't like this outfit?" Her narrowed eyes quickly turn to a wounded puppy-dog expression. "I mean, I picked them out because I thought you'd like them..."
I laugh a little bit. "No worries there. I love that getup. But be honest, Sakuya... how many casual clothes do you really have?"
She pauses, thinking it over, and looks down at her current set of clothing. "Honestly? Now many. When I checked my closet, I didn't exactly have a whole lot of options. Not that I'm usually out of uniform mind you." Sakuya looks up at me and smiles. "You know what? Why the hell not? Let's go shopping." Nodding enthusiastically, I lead the way down the street.
Sakuya and I eventually wind up walking through just about every last clothing store in the shopping district. We do manage to find some clothes that we really like. New skirts, new shirts, a few pairs of shorts. Sakuya talks me into buying a set of short shorts for myself, much like her own. I resolve to try pairing them up with a ribbed shirt one day, just to check her reaction.
I'm fishing through a set of bathing suits, toying with the idea of buying something strapless, when I hear a snort from Sakuya. I glance over at her to see the maid staring in disbelief at something, her expression part amusement and part horror. "Something wrong?" I ask her.
Sakuya looks up at me and holds up... something. It looks something like an elongated rubber band. "Apparently this is a bathing suit."
I blink, and stare a bit more closely at the material in her hand. "It's cliche to ask, but... where's the rest of it?"
Sakuya shakes her head. "Nope. This is all there is to it. Something called a 'sling bikini,' according to the tag. I have no idea how it keeps from going 'boing.' Maybe they sell some kind of adhesive with it...?"
I consider the ridiculous thing for a long moment. "Yeah, that's a little too extreme for me. Hey, Sakuya, you found it, you wear it."
Sakuya chuckles and shakes her head. "Meiling, you mean the world to me, but it just isn't happening. Not in a million years. Sorry."
I sigh in disappointment. "Drat. Well, would you at least be willing to try on something else? I've been thinking about it for a while now."
"As long as I don't get forced into THIS mockery of swimwear, you're on."
And that's how I managed to get Sakuya into a cheongsam.
It's now several minutes after that conversation, and Sakuya is staring into a mirror, eyes wide and face bright red. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this," she murmurs.
I just look her over, shaking my head in amazement. "Sakuya, consider a gift to the world that you put it on. You look AMAZING." She does, too. The dress is sleeveless and purple, slit up both legs with dark embroidery. It clings tightly to her body and highlights every last curve she has. Including some that I didn't even know were there. The contrast between the dark fabric and her pale skin is particularly appealing.
"If Remilia sees me in this, she'll never let me live it down," Sakuya complains.
"If she sees you in it, she'll order one for Reimu," I retort. Sakuya doesn't respond, instead staring at herself in the mirror. After a moment or two, she starts posing, stretching out her legs to the side and tilting her body. I can't help but tilt my own body to get a better view. After twisting and turning, Sakuya walks around in the dress for a while before turning to me with a smirk.
"It actually doesn't look too bad, does it?" she says, sounding pleased. "Maybe I will buy it... we'll have to wear this type of outfit together, some day."
I send a silent prayer of thank-you to whatever gods might be listening. I hope the Moriyas appreciate it.
"You know, I think Yuuka actually has one of these already," Sakuya comments, once more admiring herself in the mirror. "I'm pretty sure she got one commissioned and just never got around to showing it to you."
Okay. Now I'm picturing Sakuya and Yuuka side-by-side, wearing cheongsams. It is a glorious thought. "So, you're buying it?" I ask hopefully.
Sakuya purses her lips and nods. "Sure, why not?"
After collecting our purchases, Sakuya and I head for the town commons. The sun is going down, and the sky has turned into a dazzling array of pinks and reds. It's gorgeous, and promises to be a clear night, studded with stars as far as the eye can see. The moon isn't full yet, but it's getting close.
The two of us show our tickets to attendants, and are led to a private balcony with a good view of the stage, and a fair amount of room to move about. Our first task is to actually head down into the crowd and get some food from the vendors. Sakuya still makes some cracks about the quality (though to be fair she probably could do a better job of it), but still starts eating it once we've taken our seats.
It really is a nice view. I'm pretty sure that I can see the musicians preparing backstage from my angle, too. This is going to be such a great night! Coming out with Sakuya was an excellent idea; I've really enjoyed myself. It's about as nice as spending a relaxing day with Yuuka...
Ah. Back to that again. I guess I do have to make a choice soon, don't I?
A soft hand slips into my own, and I glance up to see Sakuya looking at me, worried. "You're thinking about that again, aren't you? Yuuka and myself."
I sigh. "Yeah. I am. I really like the both of you, you know that right? The thing is... it's just not right to keep stringing you both along like that. I... don't want to treat either of you poorly, Sakuya. I just, really..." I wave my hands helplessly. What the hell do I say.
Sakuya just rolls her eyes. "Meiling Hong, stop being so foolish." I stare at the smiling maid in confusion. "In case you hadn't noticed, the only person worked up about the whole situation is you. Yuuka and I aren't pushing you, in case you haven't noticed. Actually, we're pretty happy with the situation as it stands. It's not like we aren't friends too, you know? So stop worrying already. You had fun with Yuuka, now let's have fun, too!"
I stare at Sakuya's smiling face for a long moment before laughing a little bit. "Heh. Sorry. I don't mean to be a downer. You're right, tonight we're gonna have fun!" Sakuya nods approvingly, and as if on cue the show beings. Music plays, the curtain is drawn, and five young women take the stage.
Dressed in skin-tight leather with punk hairdos. This is going to outrage the moral authorities. I guess Mystia and Kyouko's new fashion sense is spreading. But boy, these girls can make music!
[ ] Sit and enjoy the show. [ ] Grab Sakuya and start dancing. [ ] Head down and dance with the rest of the crowd.
Let's go for Option FUN here, while still maintaining some intimacy. Pic related.
Also, finally caught up with the here and now. Boy, reading this has been enthralling. Keymaster, I just want to say that you are The Man, man. This is leaps and bounds beyond what my sorry ass could accomplish. Don't let any naysayers dare tell you otherwise, either. I mean, I'm aware support for you has been implied since the start, but I just want you to know, from one writer to another, that this has been absolutely fun to read, and I hope your next story strikes just as hard. Even if I still think Meiling should have ended up in Satori's clothes.
Hey, thanks! Honestly, when I started this thing up, I wasn't sure it would even last a single thread. Now I'm ready to start a ninth thread next post, and I keep getting told that I'm doing SOMETHING right. Feels good, you know?