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File 138689466239.png - (719.32KB, 600x600, 0d3e1c9dc93c0a15c0675cf384a4e840.png) [iqdb]
Newbie shorts go here!
On a dark winter night, a blue-robed stranger walked into a small village.

There was a fierce blizzard blowing, but the stranger walked unfazed to the nearest house.

If the village had a mage, he might have noticed the magic guiding the wind and snow. Maybe, just maybe, he would have realized the local terror had set its sight on the village.

But there was no village mage.

The stranger set a frozen hand on the door of the house. Ice spread quickly from its hand, covering the door, the door frame, the walls, the roof, and in an instant the entire house was trapped in ice.

The stranger walked to the next house and put its hand on the door.

Two more houses down the line, the sound of ice shattering was barely audible over the howl of the blizzard.

The noise of a collapsing house and the screams of a family were far more noticeable.

Soon desperate pounding would meet the stranger at frozen doors, was it a father, child, hunter, or baker?

It didn’t matter to the stranger.

The stranger felt people enter its magical blizzard, running to and fro. Were they trying to find each other? Were they trying to escape?

It didn’t matter to the stranger.

None of them survived a minute in its blizzard.

The stranger moved from house-to-house and one-by-one they collapsed behind him.

It passed dozens of bodies buried in the snow, sometimes propped on a wall, sometimes huddled in a group, and sometimes at a door, just a moment away from safety.

A wicked laugh, louder and colder than the blizzard, echoed through the village.

Then the stranger stopped at one house.

A woman, still living, laid upon her back across the threshold.

The stranger almost didn’t look twice, but it had glimpsed defiant eyes looking up at it.

She shielded a small child, wrapped tightly by cloth and her arms.

A minute had past as the two stared at each other, and then the stranger spoke with a sharp whisper, “Surprise, surprise. So it seems that some of you miserable humans do have the strength to stare death in the eye.”

“Please,” the woman’s weak voice betrayed the fire in her eyes, “show mercy.”

A crazed smile came on to the stranger’s face, “The winter is cruel and knows no such thing, you will all freeze tonight.”

The woman held out the child, “Please, at least—”

The stranger barked as if it had been told a funny joke.

The woman continued to plead.

The stranger continued to laugh.

Eventually, that fire smoldered, and the cold had taken another life.

Soon the village was nothing but rubble to be buried underneath the snow.

Before leaving, however, the stranger felt the need to admire its work.


The blizzard had long since ended when the stranger returned to its cave.

With a baby in a bundle of cloth.

The stranger couldn’t believe it was still alive, it wondered at what kind of magic the mother wove to protect the child from its blizzard. However, it would be no matter, the stranger’s cave has equally as dangerous enchanted ice coating it, the child would freeze or starve, and that would be that.

That wouldn’t be that.

The stranger quickly became fascinated with the small creature’s mannerisms and boundless energy. It kept the magical ice away from the child, it hunted for food, and soon it stopped venturing forth to freeze villages as all its hours became dedicated to the child.

That’s fine, the stranger thought, winter is nearly over anyway.


However, the food chain in Gensokyo is very long.

During one hunting trip in a dreadful summer, the stranger became the hunted.

Its powers useless outside of winter time, the stranger could do nothing as gouts of flame consumed him.

As the stranger fell to the ground, it counted all of its regrets, and wished that it didn’t spend so much time aimlessly killing.

If only it had found a child sooner.

The stranger was then unceremoniously snapped up by a large serpent.

Soon the child within the cave was frozen solid by the now master-less magical ice.

No one would find the child.

No one knew there was a child so far into the wilds.


For ten years, the soul of the stranger waited in limbo.

It was decided by the powers that be that he would need to earn the simple opportunity to repent.

At the very moment of this decision, the child broke free of the ice.

Her hair had become blue, tainted by the magic in the ice, and icicles were stuck in her back, torn from her resting place.

As she looked around confused, but not cold, the cave itself spoke to her.

“My child, do you remember me? Oh, my child, now my first daughter.”

The cave remembered the last word of the pleading woman.

“Oh, Cirno, my first fairy.”
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"Come on! Push harder! We're almost out!"

I strained against the wood cart, trying my hardest to push it out of a deep patch of snow. Gensokyo was beautiful in every season, but winter brought with her a heavy blizzard this year. Traveling by road was a difficult prospect but I had a delivery to make.

"You know, you could- help," I grunted at the lazy goddess sitting in my cart. Hina Kagiyama sat bundled up in warm furs, wrapped up in her own sense of superiority.

"It was your terrible luck that handed landed us in this mess, Reina, so you're going to get us out of it!"

"Terrible luck that you could rid me of within an instant, yet you refuse to."

"Well, if I were to rid you of your curse, then I'd lose my locus, and our little contract would be broken, now wouldn't it, Reina? And here I believed you to be an honest craftsman."

"Oh that's a load of bol- Just help me push Hina. Please?" I pleaded with her. This was going no where. The delivery was due at the Scarlet Devil Mansion tonight, and it was long road from my home to the village, and then through the woods to the Misty Lake.

"My my, asking a goddess to do such menial work, Reina?"


"Very well, I suppose you'll be unable to fulfill our contract if you fail the delivery. Stand back Miss Roots. I'll use some of the pitiful reserves of faith that still remain to save you from your menial task."

"I-uh-you don't have to go that far!" The cart wasn't into deep, just a single wheel had dug itself into the snowbank. I'd get it out eventually. Hina needed every last bit of faith she had left to keep her health.

"I am the Curse Goddess, Hina Kamigaya! And I've made my choice Miss Roots!" The goddess stood, pointing a finger at me. I felt a gust of wind as magic picked up around us, and the cart lifted itself out of the snow, and gently began to roll ahead. Hey… wait a minute, "and if you wish to keep in my cart, I suggest you catch up!"

"Your cart!?" I shouted, running after my cart. This goddess. She'll be the end of me yet, if my curse didn't end things first.


I've always been unlucky. A curse that had plagued me since the day I was born. Bad luck followed me around like a dark cloud, always there to send everything to Hell at the worst moment. I could do everything right, play the hand perfectly, and yet everything would fall apart at the last moment. The curse of Reina Roots: a carpenter, restorer, all around young woman trying to make her living in a fantasy land. And get laid.

It was six months ago, in the heavy summer heat that I found my self contracted to the Curse Goddess. It was routine job for the Moriya. Sanae needed a dresser fixed and had brought it to me. I'd repair it, bring it back to them, and be payed a monetary sum in the currency of my choosing. On the way back, I stepped out to water the horses at a tributary to the waterfall, and when I returned to my cart, and what do I find? A green haired woman in a frilly dress sitting atop my cart, proclaiming her self to be Curse Goddess of Gensokyo. Specifically, I learned, a goddess who felt that Gensokyo had moved on, and with the few reserves of faith she had left, wished to leave, and start over elsewhere.

"I can only attach myself to locus of extraordinary misfortune. A goddess is tied to her locus, and our influence is limited to its location. To leave Gensokyo, I'd have to leave my shrine, and leave my locus." She explained, "But you. You're special. Your luck is terrible. I can just feel the misfortune hanging around you. A miasma. My ticket out of here, so I'll be traveling with you, got it?"

“And what will you give me in return, Miss Kamigaya?” I asked, “I’m sorry, but helping you would eat up a large amount of time. I have my work, my friends, my life. I can’t set it all aside to help a stranger.” I stuffed away the nervousness that threatened to surface. Standing up and talking down an supposed goddess, it was a regular experience for someone like Reimu, but to me, it seemed so daunting, so unusual.

“Hm…” Hina adopted a thoughtful pose, seemingly thinking it over, “How about this Miss Reina.” The goddess bent over, bringing her face close to my own. I felt blood rush to my cheeks as she whispered to me, “I’ll remove that curse of yours, all of it. Let me give you a show.” She placed a finger on my lips, and I felt something leave me. A small cloud of purple smoke was flowing out of me, wrapping its self around Hina’s finger in a small, tight spiral. I felt oddly light, the feeling was feathery, like liquid confidence was swelling up from deep within. “Tell me.” Hina brought the curse cloud near her, sucking it off her finger. She seemed to be beside herself in good feelings. “Do you feel a bit lucky?”

I’d help her find freedom, and she’d free me in return; this was our contract. Whenever I was going by, I'd take her to the Yakumo's, in the mountains past Mayohiga, and then we’d part ways. A simple job; I'd be done within a week, or so I thought. Soon as I had finished up my last job for the week, Gensokyo was hit with a rainstorm that blocked off all travel in mountains, and so two weeks were lost as I waited for waters to drain away. By then, it was late August and the jobs had begun to come in for the season as villagers needed things repaired or created in time for the festivals. I was stuck in the shop with my tools for most days, and my free time was spent negotiating with suppliers and customers as I attempted to secure funds for the upcoming winter.

Week after week, something stopping me from fulfilling the contract, keeping this lazy goddess in my care, and her draining my funds. Hina would sit in my home, reading my books as I worked in the shop; sipping hot cocoa, using my own powder, while I was talking with Kenshiro about getting the right type of lumber to repair the rocking chair I was fixing; or using my food to prepare extravagant feasts at inappropriate times. It was a nuisance to me.

As for the present, the snow storm had made Mayohiga once again inaccessible, and Yukari would only be awake for a small window of time during the winter festivals, for Hina to get her paperwork sorted and be out through the border. Before that though, I needed to get this haul of furniture back to the Scarlets. No matter how I looked at it, the job would be an excellent christmas bonus.


"Tell me again, if you're business is with the Scarlets, why are we stopping at the village?" Hina yawned at me. One of the books I had borrowed from the Scarlets, in lieu of payment lay open in her lap. The road from my home to the village was a sleepy one in the winter time. It winded through a sleeping forest. This low in the valley, there were few pines to break the vast stretches of oaks and their ilk. Just a long road in a eerie forest of grey.

"I need to visit the bank. The last few contracts payed off decently and I need to deposit most of the profits."

"You're not going to hold on to it? Why leave it in others hands?"

"Because the bank is insured. As long as it's in their deposits, I don't have to worry about robbery now do I? The interest, however small, is nice bonus. Not to mention I have to get some of these payments converted to yen." I shook the small bag of coins and notes at my feet. "Human shopkeepers rarely accept youkai currency."

"You humans have different notes? You humans don’t use eagles in the village, like we do on the mountain?”

"Nah. The human village issues its own coins, yen, and notes for larger amounts. Most humans would be loathe to step down and use youkai coins. I imagine it’s the same from the other side as well. Only us merchants really deal with all the different coins.” I cracked the reins. It was a chilly morning and the heavy winter clothes were stiff. Do something, anything, helped relieve the tiredness that came with the weather.

"Well then, tell me about it. I’ve haven’t been able to leave my shrine in years, you know.” Hina stretched her arms, holding them above her head. My eyes couldn't help but be drawn to her chest. Even under the heavy winter coat I had bought her, a real warm one made with down that I bargained down to a good price, I could see the curves of her breasts underneath. Her bow that tied together her hair lay right between them. "Reina? You're staring. Something wrong?"

"I-I was just looking at your bow! It's really pretty you know! And large, and soft!" I flicked my ponytail back, looking away.

"Oh is that it?" She was smirking. I could feel it. "Is my bow that interesting? I could give you one. I'm sure I have a spare." She knew. "Or perhaps, you'd like something else pretty for Christmas, Reina~"

"About them coins! Well, to really get a handle of it, you'd have to understand the structure of Gensokyo!" Smooth. Excellent change of topic, you tell yourself. "Gensokyo, because of its small size, is easily reigned by economics. Every powerful faction keeps its own bank and currency and controls the market in some way. Or they have a large amounts of resources and invest them to gain power. The human village, the kappa, the ten gu, the oni, and the merfolk kingdom fall within the former. Powerful families like the Yakumos, the Scarlets, and Eientei fall in the later. The factions that are large enough to support their own governments, they're print and manage their own coinage and are competing with each other for investments and business around Gensokyo."

"Youkai Mountain… That's primarily Tengu territory, isn't it? I've bought and traded with the long nosed merchants for generations. Human's never really did come our way." Hina had fished out a silver coin from the folds of her dress. I recognized it as a Tengu eagle, silver.

"Mhm, most of the mountain is strictly their sphere of influence." I rattled off to her, "Youkai societies have always been secretive and closed. Even today, it takes a long time to get a visa to enter Tengu territory. Not to mention protective. The village is rather apt at taking on any sort of industry and turning profit out of it. The tengu, like the other youkai, like their stronghold on their niche markets. You know, like how the kappa deal mostly with technology and the oni with alcohol and metal working? The tengu don't want to loose their hold on luxury and artisan goods."

"Hey, wait a minute!" I looked over at my companion. She had taken out another of my books and was flipping through it. "You're just paraphrasing your books! Most of that is from Gensokyo, A History!"


"They had this book back when Gensokyo was still a valley in the outside world!" Was she dog-earing that! Woman had no idea how to treat a classic! “That Heida girl was a great historian but wow, she was a terrible writer.”

"I'll have you know it's a very informative text!"

"And boring! You must be the only person who's actually read it, Reina!" Hina’s laughter pierced the still winter air, "Come on. Tell me. What's up with all the economic books? It's all I've seen you reading in the last few months."

"Well. It's not much of a story. I just… wanted to do better for myself. Who knows how long till you rid me of this curse. And then? I still have my entire life before me. I want to improve my home some more, expand my shop, and so many other things. Fault me for wanting to understand a little more how the markets in my home work."

"It's a commendable goal. Quick! Quiz time!" Hina grabbed another tome from my safe box and flipped to a random page, "How many rin in a sen and how many sen in a yen!"

"Easy. Ten to one, and hundred to one respectively." I cracked the reigns harder. She'd have to try harder than basic knowledge for a human. The village shouldn't be to far now. We'd reach by about mid-day.

"Alright then. Reina, name the major currencies and societies in Gensokyo."

"Again, easy. Humans have the yen, the tengu have their eagles, the oni call their's caps, the kappa use shells, and the the merfolk use reeds. The conversion rate from yen to the others is ten to one, one to four, five to one, and one to three. With a relatively stable political environment and a stable supply and demand, they rarely change. Do I get extra-credit for that?"

A whack on my head was her response. "I am Hina! The Curse Goddess! And I will not take cheek from a young girl like you!"

"I'm twenty-four! That's not young at all!" I lived in a country with ancient youkai that were alive far before I was born. Twenty four was nothing!

"I guess you're serious about this economics thing then?" Hina had closed the tome she had been skimming, "Really trying to make a better future for yourself?"

"If I wasn't, I wouldn't be taking books from the library as payment for my services to the Scarlets." It was nearing noon as we were approached the Village walls. I pulled the cart over to a customs booth and fished out my papers for the officer.

"Hello there, Miss Roots." A red-headed woman took the documents from me, "Any business in the village today? Or are you and your party only passing through?"

"Kotohime! Why are you out here today? Don't you always say the desk job keeps you busy?" I asked her. The chief of police was known for being an air-head but she was Reimu's main liaison for dealing with the village. Her father was the old-fogie that was the head of the council. Reimu said that he never really did want anything in his jurisdiction to change. Her opinion was that the man had a giant stick up his ass His daughter however, was far more amiable, and held plenty of influence.

"Well, I finally got that last case cleared up, and my partner, you know, that outsider who fancies himself a detective? He's busy being stuck with home rest after getting himself shot. Again. Considering how busy it gets around the holidays around here, I decided to help out where I could. The secretaries can take care of the paperwork in the office." Kotohime stamped her way through some documents, signing off her approval, and started looking through my cart, "I'll assume these are the parts to the walnut cabinet, the two dressers, and the bookcase you indicated in form W-2? Will you be selling these within the village Reina?"

"Nope. Contract order for the Scarlet Devil, Kotohime. I'll be stopping by the bank though. Need to make a deposit and have some foreign coins exchanged. I might be opening a stall up during the festival though…"

"Well, you won't be paying any taxes on these, but make sure to stop by the courthouse when you set up Reina. I'll help you get those permits sorted out then. Otherwise, your free to go through Miss Roots." Kotohime signed off at the bottom of a page with a large, loopy flourish. I couldn't read her handwriting, but I doubt anyone else could replicate her… unique signature. Most people didn't top their "i" with a little rabbit.

I took the papers back, and stowed them away in the lockbox. I cracked the reins and took us off to the banking district.
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I left the bank with lighter money pouch and very bored goddess in tow. The village bank exhibited the highest quality of bureaucracy. As in, it took waiting in line forever to get anything done. At least they were competent at their jobs, and competitive with the youkai banks as well. It was past noon by the time we reached the market and had a chance to stop for lunch at a small cafe near the outer edge of the square. I patted the pint of twelve-year whiskey stowed in my purse. I had bought it from a nearby liquor store; I had to say, the young man at the counter knew his alcohol well, and it'd make for an enjoyable New Years.

"Hey Reina?" Hina took a pause from munching on her roast chestnuts. A white-haired woman was selling them at her stall near where I had bought the whiskey. According to her, they were an old family recipe. I had nicked one from the goddess when she was occupied with staring at a sapphire brooch in a shop window near the fancier part of the shopping street. They certainly were good. A slight taste of vanilla and chocolate was mixed in with the flavor of the chestnuts. Hina seemed to love them. In the months I was stuck together, I had rarely seen her so fully indulge in anything as much as the chestnuts, bar my money.

"Reina, what's that large gate in the building over there? The one flowing with distant magic" I looked over. Hina was pointing to a large, official looking building, off near the western edge of the market. In the busy midday, I could see traders flowing in and out with their wares.

"That? It's a cross border portal Yukari set up with Reimu. Gensokyo isn't the only refuge for the fantastical. Reimu says that a lot of the forgotten youkai and gods formed their own version of Gensokyo to survive. That portal is something Yukari set up with some of them to encourage more trade within Gensokyo." It was a natural progression. Gensokyo was far smaller than some of the larger youkai planes, not to mention far less developed. “It leads to a giant trading hall of the sort between the boundaries. Dozens of youkai set up shop there and its how Gensokyo gets most of its imports.”

"So anyone can cross into Gensokyo from there? Doesn't it defeat the purpose of Gensokyo being hidden?"

"It's open," I said, "But's still really hard to get a permit to cross over. Yukari only allows so many individuals to cross into Gensokyo, and even then, their visas are only for a week at most, not to mention the high tariffs Yukari keeps. Anyone who tries to stay longer, well, Reimu says there is a lot of empty space between borders. The other nation's aren't too happy about it. The Greeks and Spirits are accusing her of protectionist policies considering they keep their borders relatively open."

"How much does she charge others for this. Its a pain leaving Gensokyo officially for the outside world as it is. For other lands? Perhaps I could start over there…”

“Yukari? She doesn't. Or rather, she can't. Reimu complained about it for ages. She wanted to derive some profit out of it for the shrine, but holding a monopoly like that over the only trade point out of the country? For the Village, it was just asking for trouble with relationships with the other factions in Gensokoyo. So it remains free. Either way, Yukari still wins to Reimu's chagrin. Her goal is Gensokoyo's success. She doesn't need a profit out of it like Reimu does."

"Huh, I see." The village must have really changed since Hina had last seen it. She had mentioned she had last come here decades ago, before Gensokyo had split away from the outside. "The village has changed hasn't it? I remember ages ago, you could only find humans trading here. And now,” Hina pointed over to a foreign stall with a thunderbolt sigil adorning its banners, “There are those half-snake ladies mixing in with youkai and humans."

"I'm not so sure Hina." We turned down the street, making our way back to the outer walls where the cart and horses were resting. "I mean, the villagers only really tolerate them out of a need for business. Momiji says Gensokyo is still as divided as it was when she was a cadet under Aya, and even though it's improving between youkai and humans, our societies are still pretty closed. I've only ever seen the edge of the Tengu empire at the mountain. Aya's home is even further along, deeper into their territory. Most of us humans are unwilling to journey down the Underground City, and the only road to their capital is a death trap of loose rocks. The kappa hide their civilization beneath the waterfall -Akyuu says it's somehow bigger underwater- The Merfolk rarely trade with anyone but the Kappa and the other menfolk kingdoms like Atlantis. There's… still a lot of mistrust, even though people are willing to set things aside for business' sake. We human's aren't helping all to much either. Kotohime's father pushed through a bill last summer that raised the taxes on imports from non-villagers."

"Do you think it'll ever change Reina? Gensokyo will ever change? Or will it'll always be divided?"

"Maybe it will, maybe it won't. It looks like we're moving forward under Reimu, but who knows how long it will last. Hina. Come back and visit when ever you find time in your journey. I know there's people who'd be happy to see you home."

Hina was silent. I left her to her thoughts as I loaded up the horses for the trip. She seemed to be lost in her own world, just watching the village move around her as she looked around in circles.

"Hey Reina, I never really figured what I'd do after I left Gensokyo. I wonder. Maybe I'll find a nice field and take a long nap. It… sounds nice way to close the curtain on an act in my life, right?" Hina made her way to me, climbing into the cart and taking her place at my right. "How about you? What would you do?"

"I'm not sure?" I wondered what brought this on. She seemed so sure about her journey when we met, "I doubt I'd ever be able to go back to my old life. It's barely been two years in Gensokyo but I've become so used to life her. I can't even imagine having a regular job in the outside anymore. Maybe I'd just travel, like that celestial girl. Aya heard a rumor that she had run off for some grand adventure on her own. She left note for her care taker: 'The World is a book, and those who do not travel, only read one page.' Where ever she went, she must have found something about her self”

Hina stared at the clouds floating above us as I pulled the cart out of stable and towards the village walls. "You know. I wonder. That girl sounds like a cloud. Just floating where ever she feels like, making her home there, before moving on. I wonder what it's like. I've always been tied to my locus. Always tied to home. Even as the world changes, there I was forced to remain, watching it turn without me. I guess I'll find out soon, right Reina?"

"Maybe," I told her, "Don't worry about it too much." I looked through my purse, and pulled out the wrapped object next to the whiskey. "Hina."


"Merry Christmas." I dropped the gift in her hand, and turned my attention back to the road. I didn't need to watch her to see her reaction. I could hear the crinkling as she opened the gift, the draw of her breath as she realized what was inside, or the faint sound of sliding metal as Hina tied the gift around her neck.

I didn't need to look to see her wide eyed, as she fingered the brooch of the necklace. The same one she was eying earlier in the day.

But I definitely heard the soft "Thank you…" that escaped her lips.


I guided the horses up the pathway to the mansion's doors. It was twilight as I knocked on the great doors. It was colder now that the day had passed. Not even Meiling was out guarding the gate. I doubt it'd even be necessary. With this snow, a visitor would be rare. On the third knock, the doors swung themselves open, and a pair of enchanted armors marched out of the mansion. I handed them reins. Remilia's servants took care of many things, including managing the stable. I took my bags from a golem and motioned to Hina to join me.

The mansion was a flurry of activity from the moment we entered. Fairies fluttered through the halls carrying dusters and cleaning supplies, the senior ones in more fancy maid uniforms barking orders as they flew. As we entered the mansion's great hall, the air flickered and head maid appeared before us.

"Good evening, Miss Roots, Lady Kagiyama." Sakuya curtsied as she welcomed us, "I apologize for the mess, the mansion is preparing for our mistress' Christmas day festivities tomorrow. I trust you've delivered our order?"

"Just as Lady Remilia had asked."

"Excellent. Then I'll take you to the mistress now."

We followed her down the great halls, passing by framed paintings of Remilia's ancestors, and other works of art. The vampire was a collector of sorts. Through out her mansion, her visitors would find pieces from impressionists like Monet, to classical sculptures like the facsimile of David that was the centerpiece of the round hall we had passed (He was so small…). I could hear the faint sound of violin as we walked. The strings were somber tonight, carrying a melancholic feeling as they floated by.

"The Scarlet Devil welcomes you, Miss Roots," Sakuya bowed to us, as the large double doors opened behind her.

Remilia Scarlet sat at the end of long table, seated in a throne at the head. Her eyes were closed to us a she played, her fingers dancing along the strings. Hina and I waited for her to finish her piece, only taking our seats once she had looked up, and gently placed the violin a top the table.

"The order, Miss Roots?" she asked. Remilia raised a hand as she spoke. There was a flicker. A glass of deep, red wine appeared in her long, thin fingers. I glanced at the table. Two more glasses had appeared for us as well.

"Completed as you had ordered, Lady Scarlet. The cabinet and dressers have been repaired, and a new grand bookcase, polished, varnished and readied for mansion."

"Then Miss Roots, a toast." Remilia smiled as she raised her glass. I followed suit, as did my partner, "To another job well done. Let's discard the formalities and discuss your payment, shall we?" The three of us clinked our glasses together, a small bit of the wine mixing between the our three drinks. "Sakuya, bring the accounting books."

"As we agreed upon the contract, you are to be payed a sum of 95 yen and 50 sen. Am I correct?" Remilia said, thumbing through the books that had seemingly popped into existence. I nodded; that was the price we had negotiated. Nearly four months of pay in a single contract. Remilia sat in silence as she poured over her books, flipping between them, and marking notes. Her previous, composed smile was growing into a frown. I began to worry. This was unlike her.

"merde" The vampire whispered under her breath. Fuck. "Pardon my French, Reina. I've made a terrible mistake.” Double fuck. “The mansion, we've over extended this month with the expanded festivities. I don't have enough yen to pay you in full, Reina. I can only pay you 50 yen tonight.”

"What!” My blood was simmering. You do not cheat a merchant. “This is bullshit Remilia. Our contract explicitly said 95 yen and 50 sen!.” I stood out of my seat. I didn’t need to imply I’d be informing the guild, and the possibility of the group blacklisting the mansion. As for me, I needed this payment. After the last snow, I'd be getting far fewer customers until the Spring.

"I am not proud Reina. The Scarlet Devil has never forgets her promises or her contracts, but my coffers are taxed at the moment."

"How! You're rich Remilia!" Calm down Reina. Calm down. Don't raise your voice at your contractor. It's bad business. I glanced at Hina. Her brow was cocked in surprise. I took a breath. "Remilia. Please. Explain. You've never failed to fulfill your end in the two years I've done contracts for you."

"I can understand your anger, Reina. Believe me, I do. You are aware how the mansion manages it's finances? Most of our wealth is locked up in hard assets such as investments around Gensokyo, or with ties and land in the outside world. In fact, our investments are varied and large enough, that yearly, we earn enough from interest to finance every endeavor. As such, the mansion keeps very little in liquid assets. It'd be impossible to pay you in deeds at the moment. Not with this snow, or tonights blizzard, screwing over communication with my contacts for the next few days."

"Wh-what? Blizzard?" Not tonight. I needed to be in the village for the festival. I was going to set up that stall.

"Yes. I received the report late this evening. In fact, you better stay here for the night. I am insisting you take my hospitality, Reina, for your safety."

"Offering us a room isn't enough to make up for the breach in trust Remilia." Hina spoke up for the first time during our meeting, "Neither is it enough to repair the damaged relationships between our parties."

"I am aware of that. Reina. As a partner, please accept my apologies on behalf the mansion." Remilia made a motion, and Sakuya reappeared. "Sakuya. Draw this up for me. Now. I will be making this up to you. I will pay you what I can now, with the remainder of the sum in the first week of the New Year, when my finances will have recovered from the payment of coupons. In addition, I will be paying a heavy interest, as well opening my doors to your party for the future."

"Yes milady" The maid disappeared, only to appear at my side with a scrolls of paper, quills and inks. "The contract, Miss Roots. Lady Kagiyama, would you acquiesce to sign as a third party, in case either party wishes to prove the credibility of this contract?”

I looked it over. Remilia was being far more than generous. I'd have to be a fool not accept the apology. I sighed, before signing the scrolls, and pocketing my copy.

"Thank you Reina. The mansion's pride would not let us offer you any less." Remilia said, before stamping the contract with her wax seal.


I was still angry. I felt cheated. I was expecting that payment today to finance my expenses for the next few months, not to mention, I could skim a bit off the top to buy christmas gifts for my friends, as well as pay off the necklace I had bought my partner.

"Hina." I turned to the goddess as we walked through the mansion's ballroom, "it was the curse wasn't it? This was bound to happen?" She nodded to me as she fiddled with the sapphire brooch. I sighed. It was frustrating to know that I had lost because of that alone. No, almost lost - Hina's had helped salvage something positive out of this whole mess.

I felt something take my hand, stopping my exit out to the mansion foyer. Hina had taken it in her own.

"Reina… I know things didn't turn out as planned." The curse goddess drew her self closer to me, placing my hand on her own waist. "But more than you know, this day has been wonderful for me."

"H-Hina! Wh-what?" I stammered. Not now. I managed to go that whole meeting without a stutter and now it comes back. I could feel my face turning a deep red as Hina guided me into her arms, and slowly swung us into a waltz.

The fairies had finished decorating the hall while I had dealt with Remilia. Around us, their were festive decorations. Ivy and moss wrapping their way around the tall columns along the edge, ice sculptures dotting them selves between tables adorned by silk table-cloths. Around us, lit candles floated high above, casting Hina's face in a soft shadow. The enchanted instruments near the stage had changed their scores, matching themselves to the sole dancers in the room.

Hina led me with her, spinning us in circles as we danced. There was no real sense to her motion that I could understand. It was a dance that she and the ghostly band knew. I gave my trust to her and followed the best I could, trying my hardest not to trip over my own feet.

"Shh," she said, and brought her face close to my own. I could feel it floating around us.: a miasma, my curse. It flowed from me, and spun with us, before wrapping itself into Hina, as she slowly devoured the misfortune. "I've taken some of your misfortune. Not all of it. You're still my locus you know, but I don't do this for just anyone! I am Hina Kagiyama!"

"The Curse Goddess!" I said, mimicking her, "I know. You have your pride to upho-mmph”

She shut me up with a kiss, finally closing the little distance left between us. I let my self fall into the feeling of her soft lips as we spun around the ballroom. I'll worry about the curse later, the contract, the money, all that, later. Right now, I'll focus on the goddess in my arms. Or was it me in her arms? I really never can tell when she's spinning me with her, into a flurry as we dance our way through our troubles. One moment I'm atop and the next she's taken the lead once again, as we spin around each other till the day we part, when ever the spring begins.

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