“… And then the moon doctor said to the princess, ‘Just have the characters say any old thing, then in the last panel, show the Scarlet Devil Mansion or the Hakurei Shrine's offertory box exploding, and you've got yourself a Touhou manga.’”
An awkward pause settled over the group consisting of Ezo Red Fox, Silver Fox, Grey Wolf, and Reisen Udonge Inaba, the latter of which had no idea how she even got into Japari Park from Gensokyo. She had a sneaking suspicion it was Master’s fault, or if not, at least the fault of a Lunarian. (They were a bunch of ungrateful bastards, after all: she saved them from fairies on the Moon, and instead of a welcoming party, she was used for target practice by a firing squad.)
With much trepidation, Reisen raised her hand. “What happened after that?” She could already guess the punchline: the mansion would explode, followed by the donation box, ending with Sakuya’s pads. Such a sequence of events had actually happened thrice before, and nearly every person spying from the Outside World had either heard of or drawn those happenings.
She was pleasantly surprised to hear Grey Wolf’s answer: “Well, the clock tower and donation box exploded, killing twenty fairies and starting an incident. The end.”
What Reisen didn’t expect, though, was for everybody, including Beaver and Giraffe, who had just shown up, to visibly blush at that statement. Was death such a rare thing here that just hearing about it was embarrassing for the locals? How could it possibly be more improper than speaking of someone’s breast pads shooting through one’s shirt?
Reisen suddenly didn’t want to stay anymore. This silly place was stretching the limits of her belief. Perhaps she’d be better off spiting Master by asking Kanako for a way home, thereby putting her in serious debt to the Moriya Shrine…
There was something wrong with how the world keeps on treating him, Ragna the Bloodedge thought to himself as he pointed his sword to the right towards a little girl whom stood waiting. Two bat like wings folded out from her back, and the silence was broken by the wind brushing past them both.
He felt an eyebrow tick uncontrollably. Why is it always vampires, and why is it always little girls? He may be a criminal, but even he wouldn’t stoop so low to hit children. Rachel didn’t count, Nago always took the blows for her. He wasn’t sure if he could fight against this vampire with his full force.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an opponent that refuses to use spellcards. I’ve never thought that you would have made it this far, you vile brute.”
The girl gave an arrogant smirk, and Ragna shook his head. “Who are you calling vile, you damn bat? I don’t care how young you look or what your intentions are, dispel this seithr already. Don’t you know how many people will die from this mist?”
“And what do I care about them? And are you not over exaggerating? This mist merely serves to block out the sun, not to kill humans. Is it wrong for me to desire to walk out of my mansion every so often, even under the sun?”
“Don’t give me that bullshit. I know a vampire rabbit that could even fight under daylight. You must be pretty weak if you can’t handle intense light.”
“Weak? Perhaps if you came during the day, but you are here right now, under this bright red moon which shall soon light up the red of your blood!”
“Heh, bring it, you brat. I’ll introduce you to the pointy edge of my sword! Hell’s fang!”
Dashing forward, he gathered the dark energies of his grimore into his right hand and aimed it right at her gut. Ignoring the devious smile growing on her face, he made to deliver the punch when swift as a wind, Remilia took to the skies. From where she floated, she pointed her fingers at him and shot a multitude of red and blue bullets.
With a tired sigh, Ragna switched his grip on his sword and started swinging the broad side of his sword to bat a bullet into another. Under his breath, he couldn’t help but grumble about “Danmaku rules and vampire girls” as he sidestepped to avoid a clearly telegraphed red laser that was aimed his way.
From his previous fights in this strange land, he knew that this will take a while. -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ (After the fight)
Having used all her spell cards, and seeing her normal bullets are ineffective, Remilia finally landed, her face one of pure annoyance.
“That sword is cheating.”
“Yeah? Then come here and confiscate it from me.” Ragna responded, amused. “If you can, that is. Tell you what, get rid of this mist and I won’t send this sword into your gut.”
A look of annoyance slowly turned into one of exasperation as she waved her hand. “Fine, fine. Here. Happy now?” She spoke, cutting off her magic that she was using to fuel the mist, and allowing it to dissipate naturally. Ragna looked amazed and shocked at that, and Remilia laughed at how silly he looked.
“Oh... huh, I... uh. I wasn’t expecting that. This is new. Well, thanks. I guess.” He spoke, before settling back into his scowl. “But don’t do it again or I’ll come back and kick your ass.”
The two looked at each other for a few seconds. Growing uncomfortable with the silence, he cleared his throat and made to leave.
“Wait, what’s your name?”
“Ragna the bloodedge.”
“Bloodedge? Well, only manners I introduce myself. I am Remilia Scarlet, owner of this mansion you wrecked. You aren’t a human, are you?”
“Technically, it was your own doing that destroyed this grounds. I’ve got no idea how you’re going to repair it. Yeah, I’m not fully human, what about it?”
“I can smell it from here. You have the smell of a vampire on you… How?”
“That? Well, that’s rabbit’s… I mean Rachel’s doing. She told that I’m a half vampire now, but I don’t feel any different. That’s probably it.”
The two starred at each other, uncertainly, before Ragna made to move once again.
“What is it now?” he grumbled. “Look, I may not have better things to do, but it’s late, and I still haven’t had anything to eat.”
“Will you come and visit? No. Please, come and visit!”
She flew closer to him, hands clasped together as she looked up hopefully into his eyes. Flinching back from this unexpected side from the vampire, he stammered a little as his mind adjusted to the odd sight.
“H-Huh? You want me to visit? Um, no hard feelings, but is that why you set up the mist?”
“No, I genuinely do want to go out during the day. It’s rather boring and dull staying in one place for all your time, right? But, I will endure it if you promise to visit. Shall we make a deal?”
“And if I don’t?”
“Well, I can always spread the mist again.”
“Damn it bats, you drive a hard bargain. Fine. I’ll visit again. Alright? Can I go now? No hard feelings?”
“Bats? I have a name, and I’ll appreciate it if you could use it. Honestly, I did the mist on a whim in the first place, I had fate set me up for an interesting time if I did so. However…. You escape my grasps. I can’t sense any threads of fate connecting you to it. I grow curious! And being half vampire! That should be impossible. You’re either one or not. I wish to know more about you, Ragna.”
“Remilia’s too long though, I’ll call you Remi then. And there’s no such thing as fate. Well, I was fated to be the black beast, but I kicked that fate into the mud. Fate’s something that you can change, after all. And… I am flattered, but I’m not into kids.”
“I-I did not mean it that way, idiot!”
Chuckling softly, Ragna waved as he left, closing the door to the balcony behind him. What an interesting place he was in. As he idly pondered about getting information to return to his world, he did not notice the glowing eyes right above him, watching his every step.
Before the pair an imposing stone mansion loomed in the semi-darkness. The great Greek pillars and frescoes were tinted an odd purple by a trick of the dim light, and every stained-glass window glowed from within. A garden of exotic plants surrounded them; there were blue and yellow roses, grass lush despite the lack of light, trees with leaves black as pitch, and here and there a mushroom that shone clearly in the gloom.
"Don't you live in a mansion too?" Cirno said.
"But it's all red," Flandre said. "This one's pink and green and blue and yellow, like something out of a picture book. And it's all dark and spooky, like at any moment a vampire might come out and gobble us up!"
Cirno laughed at the absurdity of her friend's imagination, and Flandre giggled at her own joke.
"And the view..." Flandre said, turning around.
As if perched on the wall of a great valley, the mansion's gates opened onto the breathtaking sight of a great sprawling city on the valley floor below. The lights of streets, shops and houses stood out against the blackness, and the sound of voices and merrymaking drifted on the faintest edges of hearing. In the far distance a dim, hazy light shone, as if through fog or cloud after the sun had dipped below distant mountains. Only the massive, top-heavy rock formations hinted at the great stone ceiling thousands of feet above their heads.
"...yeah," Cirno said at last. "That's a view alright."
"Haven't you been here before?" Flandre asked.
"Nope! I only visited the Geyser Centre a few times. They got nothing like this." Cirno turned back to the great house. "Better go say hello, yeah?"
Cirno lifted the heavy wrought-iron knocker on the door and let it fall three times. For a moment there was silence, and it seemed as though she had gone unheard. Then all at once there was a heavy click and the great doors began to swing inward.
Flandre let out an "Eep!" and hid behind Cirno as the doors were opened by a towering figure that darkened the entire doorway, staring at them with a single blood-red eye.
"Cirno!" the figure said.
"Okuu!" Cirno replied.
The figure fell forward to pull Cirno into a hug, and in the light it revealed itself to be a girl - a tremendously tall girl with great black wings, each as long as her immense height, and an enormous glowing eye that peered out of her chest.
"You made it after all!" Okuu said as she put Cirno back down.
"Yep!" Cirno patted Flandre on the back and gently nudged her forward. "Don't be afraid, Flan. This is my friend, Okuu! Okuu, this is Flandre Scarlet."
"P-pleased to meet you," Flandre stammered, with a nervous curtsey.
"Pleased to meet you too!" Okuu chirped. "My name's Utsuho, but everyone just calls me Okuu."
The eye in Utsuho's chest fixed Flandre with its unblinking stare, and Flandre couldn't help but stare back.
"Um... why have you got..." Flandre awkwardly began.
"This?" Utsuho pointed at the eye, and rolled it around in a rapid circle. "Don't worry, it doesn't bite. It was a present from a goddess. Now I can look at two things at once, just like Lady Satori!"
"Is she home?" Cirno asked.
"Always! Come on in, come on in!" Okuu waved them both inside and shut the door behind them. "Wow, you're all dressed up and everything," she added.
"Gotta look the part when you're meeting someone important!" Cirno replied. "I dunno who Lady Satori is yet, but she must be really important to live in a house like this!"
Utsuho laughed. "Lady Satori would be tickled pink to hear that! She's in charge of all of Old Hell, but she's really unpopular and nobody pays her any notice if they don't have to."
Okuu began leading them through the vast hall, taking one leisurely stride to every three of the guests'.
"Why does nobody like her?" Flandre asked. "Is she really mean or something?"
"Not at all!" Utsuho said. "Lady Satori is the nicest person I know. But she can read people's minds, so everyone's afraid she'll expose all their dirty secrets."
"Secrets are dumb," Cirno scoffed.
"Exactly! Lady Satori says most people's thoughts are really boring. She wouldn't read them at all if she could avoid it."
Here Okuu turned off into another hall, narrower but longer, and the trio found themselves surrounded by all manner of animals. There was a lion, a dove, an ostrich, a snake and many others besides.
"But these guys love it, because she can understand all of them!" Okuu said.
Flandre stared in surprise as the big cat padded up to her. She tilted her head curiously, and the lion mimicked her.
"Don't worry, she's really friendly," Utsuho assured her. "Give her a pat and she'll purr like a kitten."
"Do they all have names?" Cirno asked, fearlessly face to face with a python large enough to swallow her whole.
"Yep! That's Benjamin, this is Kali -"
The lioness designated 'Kali' gave a low growl. Flandre jumped slightly.
"- sorry, Tali; she and Kali are twins so it's hard to tell them apart - and that's Chiko over there and Haku up the back and -"
Okuu continued in this vein for some time before Cirno stopped her.
"I'm never gonna remember all of those," the ice fairy said.
"That's okay; even I get them mixed up sometimes!" Utsuho's face fell. "Normal animals don't live very long after all..."
"But there's others like you, right?"
Utsuho brightened. "Well, I'm the only hell raven, but there's Orin, and the zofies!"
"Zombie fairies! They're fairies that live underground. They're all pale from living in the dark so we call them zombie fairies!"
Cirno grinned. "You have fairies all the way down here? I gotta meet those!"
"Sure! But let's not keep Lady Satori waiting any longer, okay?"
Utsuho herded the crowding animals out of the way and they continued on. Flandre hung back and tugged on Cirno's sleeve.
"What's the matter?" Cirno asked.
"What if she goes 'kyuu' when she tries to read my mind?" Flandre whispered.
"She won't, Flan. It'll be fine."
"What makes you so sure? What if she sees all the crazy in my head and goes crazy too?"
Cirno put an arm around Flan's shoulders. "You're not crazy, Flan."
"Yes I am. You know I am. You don't have to be nice about it; it's not mean if it's true."
"You're not crazy," Cirno repeated. "You remember Lily, right?"
Flandre giggled. "She's funny!"
"She's crazy. You've got nothing to worry about."
"But she doesn't break things when she gets mad," Flandre said.
"Flandre, listen to me," Cirno said, putting a firm hand on each of Flandre's shoulders. "You're not going to break anything you don't want to."
"But what if-"
"If you feel like you're going to break something, break me."
Flandre's eyes widened in horror. "I can't do that!"
"You've done it before, remember?" Flandre looked away. Cirno put a finger on her chin and guided it back to face her. "Flan, I'm immortal. You can do whatever you like to me and I'll be right as rain in a day. I'd much, much rather wake up to you beating yourself up over hurting me than watch you break something that can't be unbroken. You hear?"
Flandre nodded, not trusting her voice.
"Good. Now dry your eyes and think happy thoughts. If you don't think about the bad stuff it won't happen, you know?"
Flandre smiled weakly. After a moment she followed Cirno to where Okuu was patiently waiting.
Utsuho knocked at the door and entered. "Lady Satori, you have guests!" Cirno and Flandre followed her in on cue.
Lady Satori, it seemed, was decidedly pink. Pink hair, pink skirt, pink fluffy slippers, and in the process of removing a pink pair of reading glasses. She hurriedly put them and the book she was holding down on the tea table and straightened her back, looking for all the world as if she'd just got out of bed.
"Oh dear. I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting - certainly not so soon -"
"Have we come at a bad time?" Cirno asked politely.
"No, goodness, not at all. I'm merely old and senile and lost all my wits. Now where are my manners? Satori Komeiji, at your service." Satori bowed low in Japanese fashion.
Cirno replied with a proper Western curtesy. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintence, milady."
"...please, your formalities are wasted on me," Satori said plainly after a moment. "Such superficial gestures bore me as well."
Cirno grinned. "It was a good excuse to dress up, regardless."
Satori smiled back. "And I'm honoured you thought I was worth the effort."
She turned to Flandre, and her smile faded. Flandre's eyes remained downcast, but widened as Satori placed a hand on her head.
"You've been through some hard times, haven't you?" Satori murmured, stroking her hair gently. "Hush now, you're perfectly welcome here. I've seen worse, far worse; you're a little angel compared to the vengeful spirits I have to keep an eye on every day."
A single tear began to run slowly down Flandre's cheek.
"No, she's quite right," Satori continued. "You were crazy, but you're better now. And will be better still. Be patient, child, and all your prayers will be answered."
Flandre choked back a sniffle, and quickly wiped her eyes. Satori withdrew her hand.
"Well, now, I'm flattered that you would come all this way - and to meet me, no less - but I'm rather afraid I haven't had to entertain guests in a terribly long time. I do seem to have forgotten how."
"Why don't we just talk?" Cirno suggested. "Or tell stories! Okuu told me you write novels."
"D-did she now," Satori said nervously. The third eye suspended in front of her chest glanced at the hell raven, who smiled back innocently.
"You write books?" Flandre asked. "I love books! Especially story books!"
"You do? Well... I suppose I might have a tale or two..."
Okuu grinned. "I got a few chores to finish. Be right back!" She slipped out before anyone could stop her.
"That... really isn't all that urgent, you know..." Satori said helplessly.
"Better do it now than forget it later, right?" Cirno said, grinning knowingly.
"Yes, I suppose. Well, erm, do make yourselves comfortable..."
The reading room they were in was quite cozy. Shelf after shelf of books lined the walls, soft, decorative carpet covered the floor, and two well-loved couches faced each other over a simple tea table. Satori returned to her spot on one and Cirno and Flandre sat on the other. After a little smalltalk and not a little cajoling, Satori began to tell a story.
She was nervous, at first. She stammered and corrected herself repeatedly, and cringed inwardly at the hopeless mess she'd made of things. But her audience paid it no mind. Flandre listened on the edge of her seat, always with words of encouragement for the hero or exclamations of dismay at the work of the villain. Cirno grinned and chuckled at the antics of her companion, and smiled yet wider for every dramatic twist of the tale.
Spurred on by Flandre's childish cheering, Satori's confidence grew. Her words grew firmer, her voice louder, and she began an imitation of each character's mannerisms, at first verbally, and then physically, gesticulating wildly and pulling faces that set the little vampire rolling with laughter. Even the less easily excited ice fairy began to break into guffaws.
The scene was set for the final confrontation when Okuu burst back into the room.
"Lady Satori! Lady Satori! There's -" the huge girl began in a rush.
"Let them in, Utsuho," Satori sighed.
"And just where do you think you're sneaking off to, madam?" a diminutive figure demanded as she stepped into the room.
"Remi!" Flandre gasped, jumping to her feet.
"'Gone to visit a friend' indeed! You could have at least said where you were going!" Remilia Scarlet continued.
"Heaven forbid you actually come and say it to my face instead of leaving a note and disappearing into thin air!"
"You had me worried sick! For all I knew you could have been kidnapped!"
Flandre cringed and stared at the carpet. "...I'm sorry..."
Remilia's face softened. "At least invite me next time, okay?"
"...you never invite me to the Shrine," Flandre said quietly.
Remilia opened her mouth, then closed it again. "The Shrine's boring, dear," she said at last. "You wouldn't like it there."
Flandre's hands curled into fists. "What makes you so sure?"
"There's nothing there but Reimu. You don't like Reimu, remember?"
"...maybe I want to change that. Maybe I want to say I'm sorry. Maybe I want to find out why she said what she did." Flandre finally looked up, glaring at her sister. "I'm not a little kid, Remi."
Remilia took a step back, hands raised placatingly. Flandre moved to step foward, but stopped when Satori placed a hand on her shoulder.
"She only has your best interests at heart. Really she does," Satori said.
"But she -" Flandre began.
"- is a big sister, and big sisters worry about little sisters. It's what we do." Satori squeezed Flandre's shoulder and smiled. "Her life hasn't been easy either, you know. She was only a child herself when she was forced to take you under her wing. She had to play the role of parent with no-one around to teach her how.
"But she managed. She provided for you, sometimes at the expense of herself. She kept you warm, she kept you fed, and most importantly of all, she kept you safe. That's all she's ever wanted, Flandre. And she did it all alone." She smiled again. "I think you can forgive her for making a few mistakes here and there, under the circumstances."
Flandre stared at her. She turned to look back at Remilia with tears in her eyes.
Satori looked up at Remilia as well. "But things change. Worlds change. People grow a little every day. You are right to worry about her, of that I am certain. But sooner or later all children must leave the nest." She squeezed Flandre's shoulder again. "Even if they're not really our own."
Remilia scowled at her. Then she cleared her throat. "Flandre?"
"It has come to my attention that I may have been a little... overbearing, of late. Can you forgive me?"
"Um... I guess so."
"Then I forgive you for going out without telling me. You've never done that before and it worried me. Whatever else you may think of me, know that I care about your safety more than my own. Just..." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "...come and tell me, next time. Please."
Flandre nodded, then lunged forward to pull her sister into a hug.
Remilia awkwardly returned it. "Now now, don't be like that. This isn't something to get all teary-eyed about. You're not a little kid anymore, remember?"
Flandre punched her lightly in the side before letting go. She turned away and tried to regain her composure.
Satori bowed to Remilia. "I do apologise for rifling through your memories without your permission, but I'm sorry to say it's not something I can supress at will. It's why I live in such a place, after all."
Remilia waved her hand dismissively and made a noise that sounded like "pfeh". "It's not really much of a secret. I left that nonsense in the Middle Ages where it belongs. And I did just barge into your house without asking, so really I should be apologising to you, not the other way around."
Satori smiled. "Let's call it even then, shall we?"
"Yes, let's." Remilia smiled. "I'm Remilia Scarlet, by the way, and this is my head maid, Sakuya."
Sakuya bowed primly.
"Satori Komeiji," Satori replied. "I'd offer you tea, but I'm afraid I don't have any..."
"That will be no problem at all," Sakuya said, producing a small box from her pocket with a flourish. "I came prepared, as always."
Satori stared at her for a moment. "You... did not have that on your person a moment ago."
Sakuya's only answer was a weak smile.
Satori made an aborted motion to take the box of tea leaves. "Well, if you insist... but do mind the stove. Rin rather likes fire, and it can be quite nasty if you're not expecting it."
"I will take every precaution humanly possible," Sakuya said, bowing again.
Scarcely a moment after she had departed through the rear door, another figure entered through the front.
"Lady Satori, I'm home!" said a girl with fluffy cat ears and improbably red hair on her head. "Oh? Guests?"
"Yes, Rin. Guests. I can't quite believe it myself," Satori replied dryly. "Be a dear and help Sakuya with the tea, if you will; I fear she's going to burn the house down at this rate."
With a low mock-cry of "Nooooo, my kitchen!" the twin-tailed cat-girl scampered out of the room. By the time she returned, deep in conversation with the maid about the finer points of preparing salmon, Lady Satori was once again entertaining her guests with her tales of magic and myth.
This continued for some time, and once she was finished, the others took up the torch. Remilia regaled her hostess with grand accounts of English nobility, brazen knights and valiant would-be vampire slayers. Cirno wove a magical story of times long forgotten, of the druids and the people in the mounds.
Orin, catlike, claimed miss Izayoi's lap as a pillow, and the maid absently stroked the kasha's hair and fuzzy ears, making her purr with pleasure. Okuu sat on the floor by her lady's side, as there was no room for her on the couches; but in this position she held a monopoly on her mistress's coveted head-pets, so to the hell raven's mind it was the best seat in the house.
By the time the last word had been said, both Orin and Flandre were fast asleep. Okuu was leaning sleepily against the armrest, but was not so drowsy that she failed to notice her mistress rise.
"It's gotten quite late," Satori said. Time was easy to lose track of in the Underground, where such light as there was remained constant night and day, but the clock on the wall confirmed her suspicions.
"How time flies when you're enjoying yourself," Remilia said. She kept her voice low so as not to wake her sister, sleeping beside her with her head in Cirno's lap. "I must thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable evening, madam Komeiji, and I do hope I may redress the rudeness of my arrival by returning the favour in future."
"I am most grateful for the offer, but that may not be wise," Satori replied. "I was banished to these depths for a reason, after all."
"Nevertheless, my invitation stands. You are welcome in my house at any time."
Satori said nothing, but smiled and bowed her head.
"Come, Sakuya. It's time we were going."
Sakuya nodded, and slipped out from under Rin's head, laying her gently on the couch. She approached the younger Scarlet, but Cirno had already lifted her into her arms with an ease not many people could manage for someone as big as themselves. Flandre stirred but did not wake. Remilia smiled approvingly.
"It's a long way to the surface," Satori said. "It may not be as comfortable as you're used to, but... you're welcome to stay the night."
"I wouldn't want to impose," Remilia said, as courtesy demanded.
"Nothing of the sort. I rattle around in this old place, really I do."
Utsuho stood, stretching her great wings. "I already finished preparing the guest rooms!"
"...have you now," Satori said. The hell raven ignored her frown.
"Well in that case, we will be in your care," Remilia said with a fanged grin.
Birds of a Feather [1/3]Anonymous2017/06/23 (Fri) 09:58No. 2144▼
I'm leaning forward, elbows on the counter, chin resting atop interlaced fingers, as I stare at my absolute lack of customers.
Business is dead tonight.
It's slow most nights, really; side-effect of setting the cart up in the bamboo forest, I guess. There's cicadas chirping, and bugs flit around the paper lantern hanging from the stall's roof. Something's rustling in the underbrush not far off – but whatever it is moves on quickly enough.
I sigh through my nostrils, scuffing a sandal across the ground below. Sure, I'm not exactly making good use of my voice tonight, but even despite that I've usually attracted somebody, fairy or youkai or whatever else, by now.
Ah, well, if the money won't come to me, I'll just have to lure it in. I clear my throat a few times, take a deep breath, exhale, inhale, shut my eyes... and sing-
"SHADDUP MYSTIA I'M TRYING TO SLEEP HERE" screams an irate immortal.
I do so.
...This is one of those times I wonder why I even bother.
Maybe I should just call it quits for tonight-
There's a whumpfh of something landing on my roof.
I look up just in time for a pale-white hand to pull one of the stall's flaps aside from the top, and an upside-down head of white hair to poke down from the roof and stare at me, her smile overly wide. I meet her softly glowing red eyes as I straighten up, keeping my expression carefully neutral. “...Why are you on top of my stall?”
"Ah? I don't understand." Her tone is light and breezy, even if I can't understand a word of the English she speaks. Delicate white eyebrows draw together in thought. "Well, this is a bit of a long shot, but there's no sense in not trying! What abouuuuut... Verstehen Sie mich jetzt?"
I blink, ears twitching, as I process a language I haven't heard in years.
"...Ja! Guten Abend!" I reply, unable to keep the smile off my face. "It's been a long time since I've spoken my mother tongue, you should know. I'm sorry if I'm rusty."
She waves a hand dismissively, shaking her head. "The effort's what matters, and that's that! Unless it's something really important, then doing it right matters because you get no trophies for dying because you messed up."
"...Right," I say, smile wavering the more I listen to her. "So, uh, now that we understand each other, I'll ask again; why are you on top of my stall?"
Her smile inches wider, which is not a pleasant look at all. "Is that necessarily a problem?"
"I'd prefer it if we could talk like normal people and not upside-down people."
Red eyes drift away from mine as she thinks on this. "...Fair enough!"
With that, she disappears upward, letting the flap settle back into place. A moment later, she comes swinging down through the flap, and the slender girl deposits herself right on the seat in front of me. Her outfit's clearly Outsider kit, from the blue shorts to the lighter-blue, uh, hoodie, I think it's called (even if she's not using the hood part at all), and also that necklace with the long, gem-tipped bullet attached to it is definitely not something I'd see around here often.
"Hello again!" she says, grinning brightly at me.
"Hi," I drawl, because a customer's a customer, even if they're weird. "What brings you to Lorelei's Lamprey?"
"So that's what all those weird lines on these things meant." She pokes one of the flaps.
"I'm assuming you mean the Japanese lettering."
"Oh! That's what it is?" She scratches one of her (long, feathery) ears. "Well, I'm sure you're the expert here, Lorelei!"
I sigh. "Just call me Mystia."
Her smile shrinks to a level that doesn't leave me feeling like she's getting ready to pluck my eyes out. "Altina~ But you can just call me Altie. It's cuter! And I'm definitely the cutest, so it's fine."
"The cutest, huh?" I squint at her appraisingly. She patiently waits for my verdict, swaying back and forth with her hands folded atop her lap. "...I dunno, I've met a lot of people around here that could fit that bill."
That smile of hers creeps me out when it widens, I can't deny it. "Well, you should see me in my cheerleader outfit~"
"...I don't know what that is but I don't think it'd convince me."
"It's really cute, is what it is." She leans forward, the better to poke me in the chest. "Like you!"
I fix her finger with a stern look. "Are you coming onto me?"
Altina blinks, and her hand all but teleports back onto her lap. "Oh! Oh, no, no, not at all! I already have a girl I love very much and even if I can't find her anywhere around here that's no excuse for being an awful person! Even if you're cute too."
"Ahuh," I say, keeping my expression deliberately neutral. "Thanks."
She leans back in her seat, still grinning. "You're very welcome!"
"Right. Right." I take a moment, shutting my eyes and inhaling deeply to steady myself, before I straighten up and return to being a good host. "...So, uh, what brings you here?"
Altina tilts even further back, so much so I'm surprised she doesn't just fall off the stool as she spreads her arms wide. "I am totally lost!"
"As expected of an Outsider." I sigh- and then recoil as she leans way too close again.
"Is calling people Outsiders a Japanese thing?" Her head cocks left, right, left again, eyelashes fluttering. "It's a Japanese thing, isn't it. It's very rude!"
"I'm calling you an Outsider because you're from Outside, clearly." I resist the urge to take a step back, barely, but this is still really unnerving.
She giggles like I just said something terribly amusing. "I expected the xenophobia, what with Japan's 'Do Not Fly Over Us Or We Will Shoot You Dead' policy, but wow! It's something else to actually have people be rude like this in person."
"I-" I start, before she shifts forward that little extra bit to leave her nose-to-nose with me.
"Don't call me an outsider again, okay?" Her grin is very, very wide. "It's not nice."
I swallow, not daring to blink. "R-right. Got it."
"Okay!" She plops herself back down on her stool like she hadn't just probably threatened my life. "Now we can move on to good things!"
"Like?" I ask, eager for a change of topic.
"Well..." Her fingers rattle-tap-tap across the counter. "I guess while 'outsider' is still a very rude term, I'm curious as to what kind of people like that you're actually used to seeing around here!" Altina looks around at all of my no customers. "Because I'm not exactly going to get to ask them myself!"
I repress the urge to swat her for that jab. "They're not usually like you, that's for sure."
"Oh? She smiles-nods-smiles. "I wouldn't expect anyone as cute as me to show up here, for sure!"
"That's... not really what I meant." I wave a hand vaguely at her head. "Like, the ears, and eyes, and definitely the hair – I normally get humans, not youkai."
"...I don't know what that is!" she says, entirely too cheerily.
"No, I"-here she lays a hand on her chest-"am this pretty through eugenics~"
Whatever I was thinking to say, I've lost it. "...What?"
"If you want me to explain, maybe you can serve up some of this..." She leans to the side this time, the better to gesture at my stove. "...Whatever-you-called-it?"
"I- That's-" I heave a sigh. "Okay, fine." I'd gotten so caught up in everything I'd almost forgotten she was a customer, sheesh. Fortunately, I've been keeping something on the grill, so it's not long before I've got a filled plate and a knife in hand-
"Oh, no, you don't need to cut it up!" Altina says, and I pause, glancing over my shoulder to see her beckoning at me. "Just pass it over."
"...If you say so?" I shrug, setting my knife aside and turning about to lay the plate, and its accompanying lamprey, in front of my only customer. "Let me at least get you some-"
"No need!" Altina raises her index finger, and the fingertip pops open, revealing its hollowed-out insides; I only realize I've backed up when my wings brush against the stove. There's a vrrrrr as a small beam extends out from her finger, and then she dices up her meal into bite-sized pieces with terribly precise movements, humming merrily all the while.
My mouth is very dry when I find it in myself to speak up. "I- I see some weird things at night, but that's- that's pretty up there, you know?"
She shrugs, beam retracting inside her finger, tip closing as if nothing had happened. "It's just a laser blade."
"I'm familiar with both lasers and blades and even both combined but normally they don't pop out of your finger like that."
"I am clearly a special girl, then!" Altina pops a piece of the meal into her mouth and shuts her eyes as she chews, swaying gently to-and-fro. "Mmm, this has... texture. I think that's what it's called. Maybe I'm being silly and using the wrong word on accident."
"...Do you like it, though?" I ask, giving up on pressing for any more information about the finger thing for now.
"Mm-hm!" Her head bobs up and down, up and down. "At least I get to try new things when I travel! So that's one lovely little upside to all this."
"Right." I let her snack on little cubes of lamprey for a time, waiting for her to keep going, but I get precisely nothing. "...So, you said you were going to explain what you meant earlier?"
Altina blinks, eyes very wide indeed as she pauses with another bit of lamprey poised in front of her open mouth. "Oh! That's right, isn't it? I apologize." She clears her throat, setting her food back down before affecting a deep voice. "Eugenics is normally the process of selective breeding to ensure certain desirable traits"-here she waves a hand at herself-"pass on to the next generation! But in this case it was all really scientific and more just like 'you come here and pay us money and we'll science up the most adorable children you'll ever see in your life~'" Altina lays her hands on her heart, her grin broad. "And I was so cute that I was a model in the advertisements! Probably."
"What, you some kind of amnesiac?" Still wouldn't make her the weirdest person I've met, but she keeps ramping up higher and higher.
"As it so happens, yes! There's a great big hole in my memory here!" She taps her skull demonstratively. "In fact I've got great big holes everywhere in my brain, probably, but I don't like a lot of what I do remember so that's fine." She leans back in her chair again, hands folded on her lap. "But anyway, I've been told I looked like the ads did, and besides, it's bad PR to be a postergirl for eugenics if you aren't actually a product of it, right?"
"Hm." I prop my elbows on the counter, resting my chin on my fists as I consider this. "Outsider technology sure is scary, sometimes."
"Well, look at me!" Altina's smile is perfectly innocent. "I turned out perfectly, didn't I?"
"...I'm not sure I can say yes to that?"
She gasps, reeling back in her seat, hands clasped over her heart. "I am wounded!"
"Kidding, kidding," I say, smiling; she's not so strange I can't have fun with her. "So this gave you your ears, too?"
"What? Oh, no, no, I've just been sprouting bits lately."
I blink as a brilliantly white tail fans out behind her, wide enough to fully encompass her twice over and half that besides.
"Like so~" she trills.
And it's gone again – well, packed up, anyway.
"...That's- pretty cute, actually?" I say, lacking much else to contribute.
"I know, right?" Altina giggles, swaying delightedly on her seat. "It's just the best."
I'd rather not get dragged into a talk on the cuteness of tails with her, so I decide on the next best thing to ask about. "Anyway, your meal comes up to-"
She's already shoved a hand into a pocket, fishing out coins. "Here, here, shh, keep the change!" The money she tosses down is something I don't recognize at all – and my nose wrinkles as I take a closer look; these are little bronze-ringed circles of meat, with something stamped onto them that's... probably supposed to tell me what they're worth?
"...These are worthless to me," I tell her, after a moment's hesitation.
Her eyes widen in sync with her smile, but this time I don't flinch at the look she's giving me. "Oh? Hm. I don't have anything that's not these."
"So you can't pay me anything," I say, as she stuffs the money back into her pocket.
Those delicate white eyebrows draw tightly together in thought as her eyes drift upward. "...Nope! I'm very terribly sorry."
Gah, I'm stupid, getting so caught up in things I forgot to ask for the payment first, just stupid. "I usually don't operate at a loss, you know."
She idly pushes some of her diced-up lamprey around with a finger. "Ooh, is this the part you demand I pay you back in a fashion that's ethically despicable?"
It takes a moment for the insinuation she's making to click in my head, but she only giggles at the way my expression's tightened up. "What kind of person do you think I am?"
"I don't know! But it's good to poke and prod and find out, right? After all," she lifts her index finger, the tip uncapping again to emit that beam as she wags it back and forth, "bad people don't deserve to live!"
I suck in a breath that's only a little shaky. "...The proprietor of this establishment reserves the right to kick out customers that make death threats."
There's a little whirr as the finger-blade deactivates and the fingertip caps itself again, and Altina's smile shrinks as she nods agreeably at me. "It's a good thing I'm not making any threats, then! Because you're a charming, lovely person who has absolutely nothing unfortunate in mind for me just because my money's no good."
"Oh." That's... good to hear, I suppose. "So-"
"But!" She holds her hand up, cutting me off. "I still need to do something nice for you to make up for how I can't pay for this! So~" This time she leans over the counter, it's to glance about for any eavesdroppers, before she fixes me with a conspiratorial little grin. "If you have any bad feelings, you can talk to me about them! I'm a very good listener~"
"Why do you wanna know?"
Whumpfh, she's back on her stool properly again. "Well, because I'm a selfish girl who just wants to learn about your personal issues, what else?" She flutters white eyelashes at me even as she lists sideways, before shooting a meaningful look at the bottles behind me. "But if I'm going to be listening to you and we're having a nice back and forth about your troubles, we should totally have something to drink while we do it! That, and the food, will be more than enough payment for me to hear your problems!"
"Hey, how come I'm paying you, now? You're the one who's got a tab to deal with!"
"I just explained, you doof~"
"You just want free drinks," I accuse.
"How are they free if they're my listener's fee?" Altina giggles. "Really, you are silly sometimes."
Gods help me, this girl is impossible. I should just kick her out and be done with it.
"Oh, what the hell," I grumble, turning to grab a cup and bottle. Altina perks up in her seat, eagerly awaiting free drinks. That expression twists a bit when I actually set the cup down in front of her and fill it.
She picks it up, staring at the contents. "Is this just a cultural thing? Cups for ants?"
"Hey, you're drinking for-"
"-a nominal fee-"
"-free," I say, ignoring her. "Now shut up and enjoy it."
"Hmph. The Russians are more generous." Altina takes a long, deep breath, eyeing her cup again, and then she shrugs, picks it up, and downs it in one go. "Mmm! Well, this is new."
"Mirin," I say, because it's only polite to tell her just what it is.
"I see!" She pauses, thinking on that. "Well, technically, I taste. But I like it! I'm not used to my drinks being sweet."
I cock an eyebrow. "Really? You're not the kind of girl I'd think would go for the hard stuff."
"Oh, yes, yes, I've had some incredibly awful alcohol before. So this is a real treat!" She giggles, taking another sip. "...But enough about me, right? I want to hear about all your problems! The easy ones and hard ones and really intimate ones too if you want to share those~"
"I think I can decide on what I want to talk about, okay?"
"Okay!" She sets an elbow on the counter and lays her chin on an upraised palm, pausing only to drink again. "Lay upon me any and all secrets that you wish to share. I promise you they're very safe in my head."
I look around. "...Well, you're my only customer I've gotten all night, for one. That's kind of a downer."
Hers is a thoughtful nod. "I have to say that relying on people randomly stumbling through the woods at night for the specific purpose of buying food from you in the middle of nowhere is perhaps an unwise business plan."
I huff. "You're tellin' me. Can't even advertise out here."
"This probably has something to do with that very loud lady who yelled at you to shut up, right? Guessing from her tone, anyway."
I raise a finger - pause - lower it again. "...You did show up right after that happened, huh?"
"Indeed! I also have excellent hearing!" Her head bobs up and down excitedly. "So even if I was really far away I'd have heard it. But instead I heard you sing and then heard her yell at you and now I'm kind of wanting to hear you sing some more, you know?"
"That's probably not a good idea." I sigh. "Even if it is how I draw in customers."
"So why don't you just pack up and go somewhere an angry woman can't shut you down for being obnoxious?"
"That's a very good question and the answer is that it sounds like a lot of work and I'm lazy."
"Oh." Altina's lips purse as her head tilts ever so slightly. "Working hard is a good thing, you realize?"
I fix this dainty, pale girl with the flattest of stares. "Have you ever worked a hard day in your life, Altina?"
"I kill people for money."
"...Oh," I say.
"They're terrible, awful people, mind," she continues, setting her cup aside and folding her arms across the counter. "Standards are important! It's what helps make all the times I've been shot and sliced and stabbed and blown up tolerable, because all of that really, really hurts!" Her smile shrinks to just the lightest quirking of her lips. "...But at least I always have a special someone right beside me, ehehehehe~"
"Must be real special if you're willing to deal with all of that, huh?"
"I love her bunches and bunches~" Her head tilts this way and that, eyes drifting shut as she fingers her bullet-necklace. "...Except now I'm here and not with her and I don't know how I'm supposed to get back to her because this place is terribly, terribly Japanese and we weren't even close to Japan last time I checked and everyone else I've asked for help around here has tried to hurt me and I'm just about ready to kill someone-"
"Altina?" I say, biting down on my lip. "Can you maybe not break the counter?"
Cracks are spreading through the wood from where her slender fingers grip the stand. She looks down at it, then up at me, blinking owlishly. “Oh, dear, I'm being terrible. I'm very sorry.” Her fingers ease off the counter, leaving me to sigh in relief.
“Just... watch it, okay?” I plead.
“Mmhm!" Hers is a determined nod. "...And, dear me, I've gotten swept up in things so much that I completely made this conversation about myself again." Her ears droop, her fingers tap-tap-tap on the counter, and she sheepishly averts her eyes. "Well! Ah, you didn't want to sing before, for reasons that we've gone over, but I still think it wouldn't be so bad if you did! You sounded quite good from what little I heard before."
"It comes naturally," I say, happy for the change in topic as I refill her cup - and, after a moment's hesitation, pour one out for myself, too. "Birdsong, yeah?"
Altina huffs amusedly. "Ahah, yes, I get it." Her tail puffs out again, just briefly. "So, like, do you practice a whole bunch?"
"Voice exercises, sometimes," I say, taking a little sip of my sweet alcohol. "Mm. Mostly I just sing to draw people in here. That's all the practice I really need."
"Hmm." There's a steady littlethump-thump-thump coming from Altina - I can't see her legs, but I'd bet her toes are tapping against the stall. "If you can sing, well, that's the first step to getting into a band, I think! That'd be fun, right?"
This time, I chuckle. "I'm actually in one. You wouldn't have heard of us, but there's this other girl I know with a rockin' set of vocal cords. We team up - I do backup vocals and play guitar, she really screams out into the night, and we just rock right out." My sigh is a happy one. "Outsiders might be weird, but the electric guitar is a miracle."
"...That sounds really cool." Altina picks now to empty her cup in one go. "I bet you'd make lots of money doing stuff like that! I know I'd charge if I was putting on a show. Except I've never really tried singing. Dancing, though! Dancing is something I am very, very good at." One of her eyebrows lifts up, eyes on the ceiling as she thinks. "I should put on a show too when I finally get back. I'm sure people would find it lovely."
"Just dancing alone seems a bit... lackluster," I say, pouring her another cup. "Maybe you should try a song and dance routine instead?"
"Like a musical?" she asks, as I offer myself the same courtesy.
"Like a musical." I nod.
"Hm. But that needs a script and lots of rehearsals and everything." Her eyebrows draw together. "That seems like a lot of extra work when I could just dress up in the sexy outfits with Adrian and dance with her in a really exciting way."
I'm glad I hadn't yet taken a sip from my cup, or I'd probably be choking on it. "...That sounds, ah, risqué. But Adrian's the name of the lucky girl you're with, huh?"
Altina blinks several times rapid. "Did I let that slip? Oh. I was trying to keep it secret." She punishes herself for this indiscretion by polishing off her latest cup. "But yes, she's a wonderful person! Even when she's yelling so loudly at horrible people that it makes my ears hurt. But she loves me a whole bunch and she gets so, so angry when people try to hurt me! And then she eats them."
"...Eats them?" I ask.
"Eats them." She sniffs. "I don't see the appeal, but apparently I'm the only one. They have it coming anyway, though, so I don't mind so much that she goes around eating bad people."
"Ahuh." I buy myself time by taking a long, slow pull from my drink. "Sounds like someone good to have on your side?"
"You don't want her punching you in the face, because you would die. And it would be really painful. But enough about that!" Altina holds her empty little cup up for another refill, which I oblige. "I want to get back on track a little, which is why I still want to hear you sing properly!"
"I don't really fancy a visit from an angry pyromaniac," I say, and only realize I've lost track of how many refills I've doled out when I notice my cup's full yet again.
Altina dismissively waves my concerns off. "Ooh, do it anyway. She's probably asleep again. And if she isn't, she can just keep complaining!"
I shrug, frowning as I swirl my drink around. "I dunno..."
Altina flutters her eyelashes, the picture of oddball innocence. "Please? Don't let some shouty hag bully you."
Maybe it's the alcohol talking, but... "Oh, what the hell. Comes down to it, I can always fight Mokou if she kicks up another fuss."
Altina claps her hands together merrily. "There you go!"
"Okay. Okay. So." I push my cup aside, straighten up, and clear my throat a few times. Altina watches me with unabashed curiosity as I ready myself. "I don't really go for lyrics, but I can carry a tune pretty nicely? Just a heads up, there."
"This is fine." Altina patiently awaits my performance, all smiles.
"Okay," I say again, shutting my eyes, clasping my hands together - taking a deep breath -
...It's nice to just cut loose and sing, sometimes. Even without a proper song to put out there, simply making my voice heard in a (dare I say lilting) melody fills me with deep satisfaction.
This is what I should be doing. And nothing can-
"MYSTIA!" comes a very familiar scream in the distance, "I TOLD YOU TO SHADDUP!"
I shut up immediately-
"YOU SHUT YOUR FAT MOUTH!" Altina hollers back.
I wince as the faraway sound of flames burning reach my ears. "Oh dear," I say, opening my eyes again to find Altina staring up at me, fists clenched atop the table, smile wide as can be, eyebrows twitching. "Um, maybe you should go before Mokou gets here."
"No, no, no, that just won't do~" she trills, rising from her chair (rather more wobbly than when she started). She takes one last drink, then sets her cup down - just as there's a thunderous crash behind her. "Oh, my, I think we're going to settle this right away!"
"Oh, gods," I say, peeking out at her from between my fingers as she spins about and pulls the stall's flaps aside, revealing a still-smoldering Mokou unfolding to her full lanky height.
"Sup!" Mokou calls out, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her red suspenders. "I know I told you to shaddup, Mystia, but that definitely wasn't you who shouted back!"
"Ahh, nihongo~" Altina titters, strolling out to meet the intruding immortal. I hastily vault over the counter and bustle after her, because there's no way this is ending well.
"Um, Mokou, maybe take it easy-" I start (in Japanese, obviously), before the woman holds a hand up.
"So it was her?" she says, jerking her head at the grinning girl not far from me. "What'd she say?"
"She told you-" I wince. "To, uh-"
"Mystia?" Altina says, not taking her eyes off Mokou one bit. "I realize there's a bit of a language barrier here, but please do tell her exactly what I said. I stand by it!"
I squeeze my eyes shut. "She told you to shut your fat mouth."
Mokou makes a sound. Fire starts crackling. "Oh, it's on-"
I don't see what happens next, nor can I quite describe the noise that follows - but it ends in a whumpfh, and Mokou's on her back when I open my eyes, a quartet of holes drilled through her skull. I slowly turn to my customer, who smiles wide at me, crosshairs visible in her red eyes, and she waggles uncapped fingers. Four of them.
Birds of a Feather [2/3]Anonymous2017/06/23 (Fri) 10:00No. 2145▼
The pale girl shrugs, cocking her head. "She was on fire and looked exceptionally angry with me, so she was probably a bad person."
"That... is actually not bad thinking at all," I admit. "Still, Mokou's weird and also immortal so basically it's okay to kill her in a fight, but-”
“what the shit was that” says Mokou, sitting up as those holes in her head regenerate remarkably quickly.
“Should I shoot her again?” Altina asks.
“No,” I say immediately, eyes flicking between the smoldering phoenix and the not-quite-right girl training fingers on the former. “No, don't-”
Altina shoots her again, a flurry of blue lasers bursting from her fingers, blasting Mokou's face clean off. I cringe as the woman flops down again.
"I just asked you not to do that!" I hiss at Altina, who simply shrugs.
“what the shit was that” Mokou reiterates a moment later, good as new, looking from Altina to me to her to me again. "I mean, I'll give her credit for being quick and spiteful, but what the shit was that?
“She can't understand you,” I say, switching back to Japanese just for the moment-
"I don't give a damn, she shot me in the head-"
Altina giggles, waggling her shooting fingers. "She sounds really extra angry this time. I should shoot her again, right?"
"Do not shoot her again-"
Altina shoots her again.
"I JUST ASKED YOU NOT TO DO THAT. AGAIN. WHY."
"Sorry, not sorry."
"You are making it really difficult to keep you alive right now," I say, and that's about when Mokou's flaming boot connects with Altina's jaw. "Oh."
The petite girl's head snaps back as she gets launched into the air several feet - flips - makes the three-point landing - looks up, and her jaw is neatly dislocated, gods, that looks bad. Mokou, for her part, finishes her fiery kick-flip to land on her feet, looking about as irate as I'd expect of someone who's just died three times in a row.
"Are ya done?" Mokou growls, clothes smoking from residual fires burning out on her.
Altina straightens up, wheezing giggles through her busted jaw, wide, wide eyes fixated on the immortal in front of her.
"Uh," I say, eloquently.
"That's friggin' creepy as shit," Mokou adds, frowning - which is right about when Altina thrusts her other hand out, those fingers popping open too; wires shoot out, wrapping around Mokou's neck and arms, and reel in. "Oh fu-"
I see the little laser blades pop out of Altina's non-reeling hand as Mokou's yanked towards them, and I screw my eyes shut before the inevitable happens.
"Don't you friggin' start- ow, goddamn, this is actually pretty terrible- SHIT-" Mokou's swearing is punctuated by the repeated sounds of lasers carving through her body. "FFFF- AGH- STOP IT- SCREW YOU, SERIOUSLY- OW- OW- OW- OW- OKAY, THAT'S ENOUGH!"
I dare to open my eyes again in time to see Mokou entirely go up in flames, and I'm forced to step back at the blistering heat - Altina's not nearly so lucky, managing to get a surprised yelp out before she's totally engulfed in the phoenix's fire.
"Oooooh, that's- that's not good," I say, helplessly watching this take place. "That's not good at all."
The burning continues for a good ten seconds before they abruptly snuff out, leaving Mokou absolutely fine and Altina decidedly not. The very much toasted girl stands on wobbly legs, coated in minor burns from head to toe, clothes nice and charred. One of her hands is clamped around her necklace.
"I'm..." she says, voice tremulous, eyes squeezed shut. "I'm gonna-"
She topples backwards, totally fried.
Mokou smoulders silently, turning her head to glower at me. I take another step back, holding my hands up placatingly. "H-hey, okay, you made your point, Mokou, j-just-"
"I'd better not hear anything else tonight," she says, and I nod frantically in response. "Good. Now-"
Mokou's head jerks to the side, because another quartet of lasers just went through it.
"If I was- ahehehahaheh- that easy to put down," Altina breathlessly giggles, eyes still shut as the immortal crumples, "I wouldn't even be here~"
She doesn't have the time to say anything else before I'm on her, grabbing her outstretched arm, yanking her to her feet (gods, she's light), and tugging her along as I run. "Oh, you've done it now! We gotta go!"
Altina wheezes merrily as I haul her into the treeline and keep running, spurred on as a roar of "FRIGGIN' PANSIES!" follows us. Thankfully, Mokou apparently finds us to be too much trouble to pursue.
"I coulda taken her~" Altina says, stumbling along with me as we keep putting ground between us and Mokou.
"You just got set completely on fire!" I hiss at her.
"Ooh, I'm fine." She waves a limp hand dismissively. "I'm fiiiine."
"You're loopy is what you are," I grumble.
"GO SUCK ALL THE DICKS," Mokou roars in the distance, and I cringe while Altina has herself a laugh. "CLIMB A FENCE CONSISTING ENTIRELY OF COCKS."
"Wow, she's really"-Altie just can't stop snickering-"really mad, isn't she?"
"-AND WHEN YOU FINISH CROSSING THE SEA OF PENISES, LO, YOU WILL DIVE BACK IN, UNABLE TO RESIST THE CALLS OF THE-"
"She sure is," I say, intent on never ever translating this. "Can you walk on your own?"
Altina pulls loose from me, managing something approximating a proper stride. "I thiiiiiink so." She immediately sags, her path drunkenly zig-zagging.
"...Why don't we just take a break for a minute?" I grab her hand, still toasty-warm from her close encounter with Mokou, and she offers no resistance as I gently guide her to the closest of the bamboo trees. Once I put her back up against it, she slides down until she's sitting, eyes closed, arms at her sides, legs splayed out.
"Well," she says, doozily. "Wowie, as they say. Is she always so irritable?"
"You did shoot her," I say, crouching as I look her injuries over: nothing too major, amazingly enough - I'd have been in much worse shape than she is after something like that. "In fact, I recall lasers repeatedly going through her skull. At least three times."
"And I carved her up good, too!" Altina sniggers some more, grinning wide.
"Yes." I wait to see if she'll actually catch on to what was bad about that.
It takes a few moments of silence before she tilts her head, looking in my vague direction, eyes still shut. "...Look, she was going to set me on fire anyway. I am not at fault for her own terrible joylessness here."
"I... can't, no." Okay, taking her immortality into consideration, watching Mokou get blasted like that was pretty entertaining. But I'm not letting Altie know that. "Really, though, don't you have any sense of self-preservation?"
"I already said I could've taken her." Her reprimand is enough to make me growl.
"You're an outsider. You could've died and no one would really care." I hope my tone makes it sink in.
"But you pulled me all the way out here, didn'tcha?" Her smile gradually shrinks. "I'd say that's a pretty good sign of how you feel about me~"
I roll my eyes, even though she can't see it. "Oh, please. I'm just trying to get my money's worth out of you, that's all."
"Suuuuuuure." She cracks one of her eyes open - and I hiss in surprise at the burns on it too, her glowing gaze not even close to meeting mine. "Just keep on telling yourself you don't find the cute Outsider girl worth helping. That's fine."
"Shh, shh, your eye-"
"Can't see a thing~" she merrily confirms.
"Doesn't that hurt?" I ask, aghast.
"Quite a bit!" Gods, her giggling is just unsettling, now. "But I'm totally okay. I've had worse."
"This one time I accidentally hit a friend with my laser fingers and she exploded all over me and pretty much all that was left of me afterwards was a little chunk of my torso because she's a bomb. It was terrible but also my fault."
...Okay. "What even are you?"
"Undead, you dummy~ Are you not?" Her tone is joking.
Both her eyes pop open now, and the other one isn't doing any better than the first. "...Huh?"
I grimace at the sight. "Look, I don't know what kind of zombie nightmare you're from, but here everyone's very much alive. ...Although, for a zombie, I gotta say you're in great shape."
"Not a zombie." She sniffs haughtily. "Zombies are plebs. I'm a doll. It's very different."
"Yeah, okay, you still need a doctor, no matter if you're zombie or doll or whatever." She could probably use a necromancer if I was desperate, but the only one I know around Gensokyo is such a shit. "I can't just leave you blind out here, you know?"
She thinks on this, tapping burnt fingers against a leg. "I'm really racking up the tab, ahaha~"
"Yeah, yeah, you can pay me back later. Right now, let's just go."
"...'kay~" She's still easy to lift up, even leaning on me for support. "Let's- let's go- where are we going?"
"I have no idea what that is, but if you say doctors are there, well, I suppose I just gotta believe you~"
"Or you'll do something horrible to me as an act of vengeance if I'm lying, I'm sure," I say, carefully guiding her along, my hand on hers as we pick our way through the forest.
"That's only if you're a bad person, silly. Honestly, do I look like a savage to you?"
"You look like someone who oughta be in the burn ward."
She's quiet for longer than usual. "...That's a really good point, actually."
"Yeah, so let's get you there."
We move on in silence.
Well, this is Eientei, all right. Big mansion, very wooden, very elegant - bunnies all over the place, too. They keep an eye on us, some scurrying away while I guide Altina along; she's regained some bounce in her step, even if it's a bit more perilous to move like that while she's blinded.
"Looks like we made it!" I say, spirits bouyed by the sight as I lead my charge up the front steps.
"Hooray~" Altie cheers, still subdued. Not that I blame her, in her state.
The front doors are pulled open before I reach them, revealing a crack medical team of one (1) Reisen Inaba, and nobody else. "Lorelei." Her eyes flick to the girl beside me, and her nose wrinkles as she takes in all the injuries. "Gods, Outsider, you look rough."
"Don't call her an Outsider," I say reflexively. "She doesn't like it."
Altina waves, cheerily clueless as to the contents of our Japanese chattering.
"...You're sure about that?" Reisen asks.
"She only speaks English and German." I shrug. "Still. Better to be polite, yes?"
Reisen inhales deeply through her nose, squeezing her eyes shut. "...That raises a bit of a communication problem, but all right. We'll see what we can do. Also why is the forest on fire."
I look back at the smoke rising in the distance. Lots of it.
"It was Mokou," I say, my face stonily neutral when I look to Reisen again.
"That firebird really did have it coming!" Altie chimes in, having latched onto Mokou's name in the conversation.
"...Right," Reisen says. She whistles a short tune, and rabbits all around snap to attention - a water brigade quickly bustles out from a side entrance I must've missed. Reisen watches them go, and then she steps to the side, beckoning us in. "Well, forest fires or no, a patient's a patient. Come on, let's go."
"Phew." I take Altie up the steps, leading her inside as Reisen falls in step just ahead of me.
"Just follow me to our waiting room and we'll take it from here," Reisen says, hands folded behind her back. "These injuries aren't exactly easy to handle, but we can deal with them, no problem."
"Ooh, such a professional tone~" Altina says, blankly looking around. "I'm sure I'm in capable hands!"
"Altie, watch the commentary," I say, shooting her a warning look - and then realizing that such a gesture is meaningless because, duh, she's blind. And also I'm the only one who can understand her. So I feel pretty dumb right now!
"I'll say what I like, thank you," she replies, but any further bickering is cut off when Reisen leads us into a smartly-kept waiting room and spins around to face us. There's rabbit nurses here who quickly flock to the taller woman's side.
"So, Altina!" Reisen makes a quick little gesture at the nurses, who start swarming around their newest patient. "I- well, actually you can't understand me, but we're gonna fix you right up, okay?"
"I heard my name!" Altina says, bouncing on her (bare) heels, staring blindly at all the girls pitter-pattering around her. "Is this a good thing or a bad thing?"
"Reisen's good, yeah," I say. "Go, go, she'll take good care of you."
"There's not going to be any shady medical practices?"
"I... can't guarantee that," I admit. Reisen gives me a disapproving look at my hesitation, even if what I'm saying in German's beyond her.
Altie cocks her head, thinking on this as a burnt ear twitches. "...Well, I'd rather be able to see than not, so, eheh, here we go!"
She holds a hand out, and one of the nurses takes it, leading her on as the gaggle of bunnies follow her.
"She's undead, apparently," I say, because that feels like something they'd find out anyway.
Reisen blinks at me, then fixes Altina with a newly curious stare before she's led out of view. "...This might be the first time we've treated a zombie-"
"Doll," I correct."
"...Doll," Reisen says, frowning at me. "This is a... unique problem for us, but I suppose we have to try."
"Well, I'll leave you to it, then," I say - right as an ash-coated rabbit scurries on by, pausing to squeak something at Reisen before it keeps going.
Reisen hums thoughtfully, watching it go, and then she lays a hand on my shoulder without looking at me. "Let me help you with that."
"...Excuse me?" I say, trying to pull away, but she squeezes hard. "Hey, what're you-"
"Looks like someone didn't shut their stove off," Reisen says, idly inspecting her fingernails.
"You can't prove-"
I land face-first in the dirt.
That's not the worst way I've left an establishment.
Birds of a Feather [3/3]Anonymous2017/06/23 (Fri) 10:02No. 2146▼
Sunshine beats down on my head as I glower at the ashen remains of my stand. There's quite a bit of roasted forest all around me, but the Rabbit Fire Brigade stopped the worst of it. Small comfort for me when I'm gonna have to rebuy, oh... pretty much everything I owned, but, y'know, hooray for trees.
All this because I didn't turn off the stove.
Nice going, me.
I cover my face in my hands. "Ffffffffffffffffffff-"
There's a whumpfh of someone landing nearby.
"This one's not my fault," Mokou says, strolling up to study my wrecked business.
I glower sidelong at her. "Go directly to hell, Mokou."
"Hey, fire safety's important," she drawls, scuffing a boot through the ashes. "Look at me, f'rinstance." She spreads her hands, wiggling her fingers. "I'm magic, ooh~ I only set stuff on fire that I want to set on fire, aah~ I'm smart enough to turn my stove off when I'm done with it~"
Mokou snickers at me - and then she stops as a very familiar sound pierces the air, right before she falls on her face, more holes in her head.
I turn around just in time for Altina, good as new, to grab my hand. "So I can't help but notice everything was set on fire! And she seemed like a likely culprit! Also she was being obnoxious, probably."
"Wha-" I manage. "You should still be in the hospital!"
"I heal really quickly~"
Mokou starts pushing herself up. "IS IT TIME FOR ROUND TWO ALREADY-"
Altina blasts her skull again.
"Can you not do this?" I wheeze, horrified.
"Quickly, quickly, leeeeet's gooooooo~!" Altie sings, and then I find myself getting yanked along as she sprints, gods, she's fast.
"Why are you getting me involved in this!?"
"Because you're the only person around here who understands me!"
That is an irritatingly reasonable explanation, but that doesn't mean I like it. My protests are interrupted by a roar of "COCKJUGGLERS! GET BACK HERE SO I CAN-"
"Oooh, that's bad," I say, wincing as Mokou sets off on this latest tirade.
"You're stuck with me now~" Altina giggles merrily as we beat feet through the woods. "Mission complete!"
"Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-" I snarl, unable to pry myself loose.
Old, wrinkled eyes stared back at seemingly younger, brighter ones; both of the two knew that this simply wasn't the case, but appearances are hard to ignore. Even to a youkai such as her. Or, perhaps it could be said that it should be the case. He was old — very old for a turtle. And, likewise, she was young for her species.
The young turtle of graying hair, and the old kappa of vibrant youth. An odd pair to consider as anything but elder and youth, though one would have to assess who to call which.
The great turtle that had long played the part of caretaker of the Hakurei wasn't sure what to think of the one that looked as young as his charge. Not when she was making eyes at him, or so he thought. In truth, being a turtle, he wasn't attracted to the features of any resemblance to a human. Flushed cheeks, a cute face, perky breasts and a sweet ass were all things she had in spades, and not one of these things truly appealed to him. Much like humans react to a dog, the old turtle could recognize these assets of hers from an outsider's perspective, but wasn't attracted one bit.
The aqua eyes turned downcast, and the kappa let out a held breath, as if that breath contained all of the hopes that she held. She did what she could to refrain from trembling or crying, but he saw that lip tremble once or twice. He knew.
As she turned to leave, Genjii sighed. "Wait." Before those eyes could once more fill with hope, he said, snuffing it like a candle, "I don't return your feelings. ...Well, that's not quite right. Thing is, you're a pretty young thing, but I'm just a turtle. And, well... none of what you have is any more attractive to me than a dog is to you." Quickly changing gears before she could think too deeply on that, he added, "Besides, even ignoring that: I'm old. I've lived a long life. All the way to the point of doubling the age any turtle should be reaching."
He didn't think it would work, but he had to at least try talking some sense into the girl. Sure, he'd take a thick, lustrous shell any day of the week, but seeing a sad anything tugs at one's heart.
It reminded him too much of little Reimu, crying for a mother that wasn't coming back.
He lost count of how many nights that girl waited by the door. Was certainly enough that it became a habit for her to ride his back, not that he minded. If he didn't notice, she might end up all wet, though.
Before he knew what he had done — which is to say, made matters worse — he had pulled the kappa into his flippers. "It's okay." He let out a sigh as he comforted the girl, smacking her on the back with a flipper, mindful of his claws. She still winced regardless, but she recognized the gesture. "You could have any man — kappa or otherwise — couldn't you? Why pick me of all the turtles in the sea?"
She averted her eyes, which he proceeded to whisk relatively free of tears. It was an impressive feat indeed, when one has clawed flippers. "Well... If I had to pick any one reason, I couldn't." She let out a long sigh. "I'd say it was love at first sight, but it wasn't. I'd call it..." She looked about conspiratorially, before whispering, "...fate, but I don't want the Vampire to go on some grand spiel." The kappa shook her head, her slightly green cheeks tingeing a darker shade. "I just love you. Every time I spot you, you just have the most handsome of smiles on your beak." A small smile spreads on her own lips. "And the way you stroke your beard is kind of cute. Never would have thought a flipper could bend like that." That smile spread a bit further still. "And you have this way of grumbling when Reimu gets on your back that's kind of cute, too."
Genjii wasn't quite sure what to make of that. On one hand, under his scales, his cheeks were heated up.
On the other, she sounds a little sadistic.
Genjii let out a weary sigh, cutting to the chase. "What would I have to do to have you give up on this?"
"Well, I already haaaa—" She hurriedly corrected, "Imeaneatdinnerwithme." Her cheeks were about as deep a shade as they could reach at the realization of what she demanded.
Genjii's gaze bore down on the ever increasingly embarrassed kappa.
"On one condition."
"Umm... Sure?" She awkwardly tapped the ends of her index fingers together.
"It has to be a vegan menu."
"No animal products. No milk, or cheese, or meat, or anything of the sort. I would cook, but I have no hands." She smiled a bit when he flapped them to showcase this.
Genjii was an adventurous sort, but eating ass secondhand was not something he was prepared to do. In truth, he ate meat as often as he could, but fresh shirikodama were just right out.
He did, however, know that kappa have one other beloved food. As such, he expected her to know how to whip something up, even if limited so. Or, failing that, he at least wouldn't have to worry about anything unsavory to the extreme.
Nitori nodded, carefully considering her options. She knew that cucumbers would be on the dish, but she had to figure something else out. Maybe a nice cucumber spaghetti? "Alright, then. Umm... if you're not too busy, could we do this tonight?"
Gejii looked to the sky. About noon, it seemed. "That should be fine. That gives me time to wax my shell." Thankfully Reimu can look after herself anymore, so Genjii was free. He was largely unneeded these days, at least until she winds up pregnant.
"Okay!" The kappa flew off with a wave and a smile, before yelling back, "I'll be by tonight! My lab isn't easy to find!"
Likewise, Genjii waved his flipper goodbye, before diving under the water to wax his shell. So, a kappa lab. Hopefully she's just mechanically inclined or the like, as he wasn't a fan of chemicals or dogs.
Genji rubbed his shell against the stones and mud at the bottom of the pond, and spun in the grass to clean off the mud. Then he ran about a bit as a bit of a workout. He only lasted a minute, but he felt it was enough. He expected to have to do some walking after all, and it wouldn't do to pull a muscle or break a bone.
Nitori simply made sure to take a shower and put on slightly fresher clothes from the pile, herself.
"Well, someone looks like they have a date..."
Nitori sighed, asking, "Marisa, why are you even in here?"
"Ohh, y'know. Stuff and things."
"Well, put down my stuff and things."
"Aww." She chuckled, dumping her hat's contents on the table.
Nitori looked at the contents oddly. "My screwdrivers?"
"Well, I had to make sure you didn't screw things up!"
Nitori groaned, before complaining, "That was terrible, Marisa."
"Well, I left the screws so you could still screw hi—"
"Marisa! Out!!" The clammy kappa's face was positively tepid.
"Fine, fine." With a flourish of her hat, she took a bow. "Now, for my final act, I shall make the lovely lady... disappea—!" And then she was gone, her hat drifting to the ground like a feather.
Nitori blinked. Marisa wasn't one to skip a chance to hear herself talk. "...Marisa?"
Silence greeted her, only making her worry more. As such, she picked up the hat, ready to start looking for her. She was more than a little shocked when Marisa appeared from her hip down — exactly the height Nitori lifted it to. Nitori paused, before placing it back down. She could deal with her later. It'd serve her right for scaring her, not that Nitori would ever admit to caring.
With Marisa dealt with, she had work to do. She pulled out her freshest cucumbers — because what else could she choose — and got to work. She decided against the spaghetti, though she did make sure to make a wide selection of food. As big as he was, he would surely eat as much as her, if not more.
With that, the kappa proceeded to head for her destination: the Hakurei shrine. Or, at least, the pond in the back. What she found made her blush just a bit, a smile plastered on her face.
Genjii was jogging about, shell gleaming in the sun like a gemstone. He was far from slow, but the amount he looked like he was struggling to do so just made the kappa smile all the more. Waiting for when Genjii inevitably stopped doing so, and instead plopped down on his belly, she then cleared her throat.
The turtle jumped a bit, spinning around on the grass to face her. "Ohh. Hello again. Have you come for me?"
She winced, asking, "Is the thought so terrible?" At his raised caterpillar of a brow, she added, "You sounded like you were talking to the reaper." She rolled her eyes a bit.
"Ohh. My apologies, miss kappa." His tone was that of embarrassment. Of course, being a turtle, she wasn't sure if he even could blush. The scales probably blocked anything of the sort.
Just then, Nitori realized something. "...Do you not know my name?" At the shake of his head, she drooped a bit. "...Ohh. ...I guess that certainly explains things a bit." After all, if he didn't know her name, she probably was a nobody to him. She yelped a bit when a she felt a heavy flipper slap her on the back, nearly knocking her down.
"Stop that." The turtle sighed. "So many people come here that it's just not really easy to learn names from the pond." His words cheered her up just a bit, though she was taken out of that when he said, "Now, hop aboard."
The kappa blinked owlishly. "Aboard?"
"Yeah. My back?"
"Well, It'd be something nice to do."
"I just don't see why."
Genjii sighed. "If you don't want to, you don't have to."
Nitori paused at his sigh, before awkwardly climbing on his great back. "Like thiiiIIIIIS?!"
And then she was nearly bowled over when he took off, forcing her to hug his long, wrinkled neck tightly. "Are you okay up there?"
Nitori would have responded, but her cheeks were billowing outwards from the sheer wind resistance. It was times like these that she was glad that her cap suctioned to her scalp, not to mention that her hair was both short and put up in pigtails. If it weren't for such a thing, disaster would surely strike, and she would look a fool.
By the time they had landed, Nitori was more or less straddling Genjii's neck. With the stimulation that was an irrational fear of falling removed from the equation, she quickly began to light up like a christmas tree. In that same instant, she scrambled off of his long neck to the sound of a chuckle from the great turtle. He was used to this, as each and every person who had ever ridden him always had fairly similar first-time reactions. "You alright, back there?"
Nitori wasn't prepared for when he showcased an odd sort of flexibility by bending his neck back and looking up at her. She was still frazzled by the turtle's swiftness. Truth be told, she wasn't expecting speeds faster than she can reach, let alone double them. Being a turtle of sorts, she expected to have at least a slight understanding of what to expect. After all, turtles were typically know for only a few things: being slow, living a long time and, well... sex.
She was very quick to push that last thought out of her head, however. If it ever led to that, he would rip her in half.
"Ahh, umm... l-let's go in." She was swift to dive in the river, happy to not have to worry about fiddling with the surface entrance. It always took her a few tries to get it open, which would only embarrass her further. It kept her out better than Marisa, but at least it slowed her down.
It helped that she disabled the automated security getting worse with every failure. She made it with Marisa in mind, and didn't want a repeat of that near death experience.
That the water gave her a chance to clean the bugs out of her hair was a nice side-effect. There was a reason she never was interested in going as fast as the tengu do. They have wind magic, after all. Water isn't gonna keep a bug from getting in your eye — not in the sky, anyways. It would at least keep the rain from murdering her, but a bug in the eye at 60 miles per hour was bad enough. Even imagining 100, or even 200 made her shudder.
She was pleasantly surprised to find that, when she turned to check if the great turtle could keep up, she came nose to beak with the hulking creature.
He's an aquatic turtle, after all; she really should have expected that. ...And she really should open the gate eventually. Spending minutes just staring into his eyes probably wouldn't go over too well, though she did find difficulty in doing anything but that. They were oddly... pretty.
And, even so, she managed that monumental feat. She can stare longingly later, if things go well. For now, she had to bag him before she could start getting absent minded and lovey dovey. If she let things get in the way, she'd never get that chance, after all. Quickly punching in the code, she gripped the wheel-like handle, spinning it as if it were a greased ball bearing.
When she opened it, water rushed in. Expecting it, she kicked just once to equalize the force of the suction, keeping herself from being sucked into the stairs. There was no real need for her to worry about air or the like, so she simply had the door open at the bottom of steps that lead to her lab. It kept things from being needlessly aggravating, as waiting for an airlock would just be pointless. And, as she regularly had to worry about large machinery, Genjii had no trouble entering like a shelled gentleman.
Although, the turtle did have trouble with the steep incline of stairs, much to Nitori's growing amusement. "Need help?"
Genjii shook his head. "No, I should be fine." Deciding to simply give up, he took to the air.
If there was one thing Genjii hated, it was stairs. Either they made a fool of him, or he was forced to deal with them in the most exhausting of ways: flight. There was a reason he never left the confines of the pond, after all; flying wasn't easy, no matter how good he was at it. After all, he was as heavy as one would imagine a turtle his size to be, and gravity did still hold some sway over magical flight. It's why Eastern dragons were so potent, or at least their flight did a good job at demonstrating that fact.
As they ascended the steps, one by air and the other by stair, he asked, "So, what will we be having?"
Perking up, the kappa replied, "Well, I figured a good base for the dishes would be cucumbers." Genjii smiled a bit at her predictable answer, only to be slightly surprised when she added, "I made cucumber sandwiches, candied cucumbers, grilled cucumbers, cucumber bread, cucumber-shaped bread, cucumber salad, fruit salad with cucumbers in it, and a cucumber cake for dessert." She smiled with pride at her efforts. "I, umm... I figured you ate a lot, as big as you are."
Genjii, of course, was more than a little surprised. He was expecting cucumbers, but not such a display of cucumber ingenuity. He more expected a plate of raw cucumbers, as the kappa aren't exactly known for being master chefs. Maybe sliced cucumber, or perhaps in a particular shape if she was feeling particularly fancy.
However, the more food she brought out, the more it revealed the truth: this wasn't a meal, this was a small feast. ...Not a vegan one, either, assuming that the the recipes were even approaching normal. Still, there were no shirikodama in sight, so he was happy.
Halfway through, he started to realize just how much food she was eating. Not that he minded, but the fact that she was packing away as much food as he did was more than a little impressive. Of course, she eventually noticed that he was staring at her stomach, and blushed a bit. "W-what...?"
"I'm just wondering where you put it all. You're still eating." Tact was not a skill turtles often practiced.
Her face went a few shades darker. "Err... I mean, isn't this normal?"
"Reimu can only eat, at most, enough to fill up on just two of these dishes."
Nitori suddenly realized that this explains why Marisa stares so much when they eat together. It wasn't that she wasn't touching her food, but that she was full. Nitori couldn't help but wonder why the two needed so little. After all, they have more magic than her. It's not like she's fat, right?
The rest of the meal, Nitori only picked at her second helping of cake, feeling a little self conscious.
With the meal over, and the turtle looking satisfied, he said, "That was good. A lot better than I expected, to be honest."
She grinned a bit, happy to have pleased and quick to forget her newly acquired body image issues. "Thanks. ...Maybe we could... do this again sometime?"
And just then it hit Genjii like a ton of bricks. She wasn't interesting in that way before, and, if he were to be honest, still wasn't. But, even so, he had to admit that he had fun. He enjoyed himself.
He might not return her feelings, but he did enjoy his time with her. "Well..." Her returned expectant look tugged at his heart strings a bit more than earlier, earning a sigh. "...Sure."
Her face lit up like a firework of joy. "Really?"
He nodded, saying, "Yeah. I enjoyed myself tonight."
He had to be extra sure he didn't return her feelings before he rejects her, after all. And if that means seeing more smiles like that, so be it.
At a later date, Kirisame Marisa was found heavily dehydrated, having to be rushed to Eientei. Her stay was short, but Nitori couldn't meet her eyes for months after, much to the human's amusement.