This story is a Christmas special for GDiY. You can find the first thread at >>1265
(and the current thread at >>/th/182940
Merry Christmas, and enjoy.
The hot fire fills my body with warmth as I sit near the fireplace, relaxing after a long day of work shoveling the roads while watching snow lazily drift toward the ground through the window.
Yes, a window in Gensokyo, and I'm not even in the home of a village noble! I'm still not quite clear on how Keine managed to afford this thing. She may be the village guardian, but from what I've seen, that's more or less a volunteer role. All of her actual income seems to be from teaching, which unfortunately doesn't pay much more than it does in the outside. She gained a few new students after it became known that she was housing an outsider, mostly noble brats fascinated by the outside world, but attendance isn't nearly as universal as it was in the outside world, with most children either spending the day working for their families or learning a specific craft. It's unfortunate that a basic education is somewhat of a luxury, but unfortunately there's not much that can be done about that. Without the technological advances we've had in the outside world, it just isn't feasible for someone old enough to work a field or swing a hammer to not do so.
But, as unfortunate as the education situation is here in Gensokyo, this window sure is lovely. I take a sip of hot tea as I appreciate the view. As I set down the cup, I hear the familiar soft rumble of the front door sliding open. Since this is about the time I was expecting Keine to return, I turn to greet her. Instead, however, I'm enthusiastically greeted by Rumia.
Carrying some sort of evergreen tree.
tree, mangled roots and all.
"Uh, Rumia, what exactly are you doing?" I ask, confused. "What's with the pine tree?"
"It's a fir," she explains without missing a beat.
"Okay then, what's with the fir?" I clarify, somehow managing to fight back the annoyance that began to surface.
"This!" She slams the tree down hard enough that it firmly embeds its self in the floor.
It's okay. This is okay. This isn't even the most ridiculous thing Rumia's done, and replacing those floorboards shouldn't be more than an hour's work. Situations like this are exactly why I bought some spares. And to think Keine was skeptical about keeping a bunch of wood in the storage shed.
"Rumia, what are you doing." I ask, naively hoping for a reasonable answer that I can use to explain to Keine why there's a fir in her house and why I'm hammering new floorboards into the floor.
"This!" She beams, holding out what looks like a children's picture book about... Christmas? Come to think of it, it is that time of year... I guess being in Gensokyo caused me to forget all about it?
I sigh and pinch the bridge of my nose in exasperation. "Rumia, you're supposed to use a tree stand to keep it upright. And without lights, it just isn't going to work."
"Don't worry, I've already thought of that!" She giddily skips out of the room, sliding the door shut behind her.
I take a moment to sip my tea and compose myself. Okay, this is a little
worse than most of the messes Rumia's caused, but we can still work with it. I'll just have to explain to her that candles are dangerous, especially if you hang them in a tree. If I'm serious about it, she should understand.
I prepare the lecture in my mind as I hear the door slide open. Rumia's footsteps quickly cross the floor. Before I can see what she's carrying, she's stopped in front of the tree. I turn toward her to signal her to stop, but what I see quickly distracts me from what I was about to say, leaving me slack-jawed.
Rumia is carrying a small girl, not much bigger than herself. At first, their surprisingly similar appearance causes me to double-take; she looks very much like a slightly older Rumia with a shorter dress that trades Rumia's dark black for a deep blood red, and a poofy hat instead of Rumia's ribbon. Also... Wings?
"There!" the fir's needles make a soft rustling noise as Rumia just tosses
the girl into the tree. Thankfully Rumia's improvised tree mount is strong enough to keep the tree upright, and the girl, who I recognize from rumors as Flandre Scarlet, gets entangled just
well enough in the branches not to fall to the floor.
"What's going on?" The girl asks, her long, sharp canine teeth clearly visible.
Yeah, this is pretty bad.
"We're playing a game!" Rumia quickly answers, once again beaming as she holds her arms out horizontally. Okay Rumia, I get that this must be pretty fun for you right now, but there's no way that Flandre Scarlet is gonna go for-
"Oh, that sounds fun!" Flandre also beams, catching me off guard. Flandre going for it is a blessing, but it's only a temporary solace.
Okay, John, think. If Keine comes home to find Flandre Scarlet
hanging from a tree that's been sunk into her floor, she's going to throw a fit worthy of being called a small incident. I can explain away the floorboards, and she probably won't be too
angry with me if I'm in the process of fixing them as she walks in, but there's got to be something I can do to get Rumia to give up on this idea. Christmas trees... Tree lights, ornaments, a star... That's it! You can improvise tree ornaments out of almost anything, but there's no way she'll be able to find a suitable star for the top of the tree. Perhaps this will be enough to make her give up?
"Rumia, I think you're forgetting something," I state, gesturing toward the tree.
"Hmm?" She tilts her head to the side. "What is it?"
"The star. It just isn't a Christmas tree without a star on top."
"Ah..." She pauses for a moment. "I forgot about that." A disappointed expression flashes on her face. It feels bad to deny her something that she was so excited about, but the stakes are simply too high for me to take that risk. Her disappointment only lasts for a moment, though. Soon enough, her face lights back up in joy. "Oh, I know! I'll be right back!" And before I can say anything, she's already skipped her way out the door.
My eyes linger as a realization suddenly grips me: there's a good chance that this is going to be bad.
"Hi!" I'm quickly distracted from that small terror by the voice of another one. "What's up?" Flandre's voice is light and playful, but I know that I'll have to be very careful with my words to get out of this with my body, and of course the house, intact.
"I'm sorry about this, Miss Scarlet. Once Rumia has an idea like this, it's almost impossible to calm her down."
"S'okay," the vampire smiles, "sounds fun anyway. What's she doing again?"
"Trying to make a Christmas tree, apparently." I scratch the back of my head.
"Ooh, a Christmas tree! How fun! We usually put one up this time of year too. Patchy says Sister likes the irony of vampires celebrating Christmas, whatever that means."
"I see. From what I've heard about your sister, that must be quite a grand Christmas tree indeed." Okay, this is good. If I can keep her happy, maybe I can prevent the impending disaster.
"Yep! It's big and colorful, with all kinds of lights and glitter and ornaments! There's even one I made myself that Sister personally places at the top of the tree, right next to the star! She has Sakuya decorate the rest of the tree, but she insists on putting that one in just the perfect spot herself." Aww... I honestly never expected to hear something so sweet about a vampire, especially one with a reputation like Remilia's. I involuntarily crack a smile, which Flandre reciprocates.
The door slams open again. This time the girl Rumia drags into the room is significantly taller, just a bit shorter than Keine. Going by appearances, I'd figure her age is somewhere around mid to late teens. Her long, dark brown hair and brown eyes contrast sharply with the pure white overshirt she wears on top of her dark green dress, which matches the dark green bow in her hair. Of course, more noticeable are the black feathery wings on her back with what looks like a blanket draped over them, what looks like a deformed block of solid metal encasing her right foot instead of a boot, and a long orange metal rod attached to her right arm. Even without knowing who this person is, I know that she's going to end up being problematic somehow.
"Okuu!" Flandre cries out, holding out her arm toward her.
"Flan!" The girl (Okuu, I guess) responds in kind rushing over and grabbing the smaller girl's hand. "What's up?"
"Rumia's makin' a Christmas tree!" Flandre enthusiastically replies.
"A Christmas tree!" Rumia answers this time, holding out the book for Okuu to see. "We've almost gotten it all decorated, but we still need a star for the top." She points to the star on top of the illustration on the cover of the book.
"A star, you say?!" Okuu expression becomes full of confidence as she rests her hand on her hip. The other arm folds behind her back in the closest approximation to resting that hand on her other hip as she can get without removing the large rod attached to it. "I think I can manage that! Ya got any hydrogen?" She asks.
Hydrogen? That can't be good...
"Hydro-what?" Rumia asks, tilting her head to the side in confusion.
"Well, just get me some water. If I get it hot enough, the oxygen should separate from the hydrogen anyway."
Hot enough to separate oxygen from hydrogen in water? What in the world is she planning
Stars. Hydrogen. Extreme heat.
It suddenly clicks, and an overwhelming wave of pure dread washes over my body.
"Here you go!" Rumia hands the girl a bucket full of water...
"Hold on!" I jump out of the chair and walk over to them. "As ridiculous as this sounds, you aren't planning on making
a star, are you? A real one?"
Okuu raises her eyebrow at me. "Of course. What else would I need hydrogen for?"
Strength leaves my body as I drop to my knees. I've seen some pretty absurd stuff in Gensokyo, but this just goes beyond that.
Ignoring me, she floats her way to the top of the tree.
"Ready?" She calls out.
I immediately have a vision of what Keine's face will look like as she comes into her house to find not only a tree smashed into the floor and two overwhelmingly powerful youkai loitering around, but an actual honest-to-god mini sun lighting the ceiling on fire. A new energy fills me, giving me the strength to stand up and walk over to where she's floating.
"Wait, stop!" I exclaim just as she's about to start the reaction.
She looks down to me, rod-arm still holding the bucket of water over the top of the tree.
"What? Why?" She asks.
"You'll burn down the house! And probably several others nearby!" For only the slightest moment, I ponder the absurdity of telling someone off for trying to start a legitimate fusion reaction in the house I've been staying in.
She pauses for a moment.
"Hmm, you're right." She slowly places the bucket of water down on the ground.
A silence fills the room for a few minutes. I spend the time trying to figure out what to do now to try and get these girls out of the house before Keine returns. Rumia looks down at the ground in disappointment. Flandre gleefully flashes her... wing-crystal-things on and off. Okuu seems to be deep in thought pondering.
"I've got it!" She suddenly exclaims before rushing behind the tree and holding her hand up in the air. "How's this?" She asks as as the afterimage of a solar eclipse appears in the air in above her.
"It's perfect!" Rumia jumps up and down clapping. "Thank you!" She rushes over and gives Okuu a big hug.
I take a deep breath.
Okay. We've prevented two catastrophies. Now to prevent the third, which will happen when Keine comes home to this scene.
"Rumia, you still need-"
"Ornaments? You bet I have ornaments!" She runs into the storage room and comes back with... Plush dolls? Three of them, designed to look like Keine, Rumia, and myself, which she delicately hangs together on the tree above Flandre's head.
"There! All done!" She runs back and stands next to me, admiring the Christmas tree she raised and decorated.
I find myself without words. Every single thing that's happened during the decoration of this tree has been a disaster waiting to happen, but there's just no way I can be angry with her after seeing those dolls hanging there.
As we admire the tree together, I once again hear the sound of the front door opening.
"I'm home!" Keine calls out, footsteps approaching the room. "It looks like you're going to have a busy day tomorrow as we-"
Her eyes land on the tree.
Then they shift to Rumia and I, who have turned our attention to her, away from admiring the tree.
They shift to Flandre, happily humming a Christmas carol while looking as comfortable as can be, then to Okuu, who's similarly nestled herself into the back of the tree so she doesn't need to stand while holding that image over her head.
And she just... ignores it all.
"-well, the way this snow's coming down. Make sure get some sleep tonight, it looks like you'll need it. I'll have dinner ready soon."
"Yay!" Rumia does a little hop in excitement as Keine makes her way toward the kitchen.
I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding in and make my way back over to the chair, where I take a seat, energy once again draining from me.
"John!" I hear Keine call from the kitchen, "Can you come here real quick? You too, Rumia!"
"Coming!" I call out as I stand up lazily making my way toward the kitchen.
Even when you know it's coming, Keine's forehead attack is just brutal.
Later that night, well after Rumia, John, and Keine had gone to sleep, a shadowy presence sneaks in through the front door. It makes its way over to the tree, where the two youkai are sleeping peacefully with a warm blanket draped over them, and finds a spot directly behind John's doll on the back of the tree. There it hangs a fourth doll; a doll with long, flowing brown hair, hazel eyes so beautiful that you could sing, and a bright, cheerful, honest smile. With that action completed, the presence fades into the air.