What I wouldn't give to find out what eggnog tastes like.
This the proper board?
“Christmas? What’s christmas?”
You and Sekibanki simultaneously react to Kagerou’s ignorance of what is probably one of the most well-recognized dates of the year in the outside world by spitting out your tea. If Keine’s shouts of protest are any indication, you’ve both chosen the same unfortunate target for the synchronized spit-take.
“How can you not know about christmas?” you ask, turning to the direction Kagerou’s voice came from.
“Er, well… It’s not like I haven’t heard of it!” she protests, clearly sounding pressured. “They celebrate it at the Moriya shrine, I just don’t know what it is exactly.”
“It’s a holiday celebrated by Christians,” Keine calls out from somewhere near where you remember her kitchen to be. Most likely toweling off. “The Hakurei shrine already has to compete with the Moriyas, Buddhists and Taoists for faith so Reimu’s been making sure that no other religion from the outside world establishes a foothold.”
“If Gensokyo were a ship that means she’d be tossing missionaries overboard,” you muse. Of course, them being youkai who can fly the implication is lost on the three. “She’s not killing anyone, is she?”
“Well, there was that poet a while back,” Keine says as the sound of her shuffling to sit down beside you is interrupted by you spitting out your tea. Again. On her. “Seriously?!”
“Totally unrelated, that guy,” Sekibanki says. “Reimu’s not killing missionaries, she’s just been sending them back out quicker than the rest. That’s why Christmas never caught on in Gensokyo.”
But then, if she knows this, why did she also—?
“The tea was hot.”
“Ah.” She’s getting better at reading your expressions.
“I don’t understand, though,” Kagerou says. “Why is this ‘Christmas’ so important to you?”
That’s something that you can’t explain without going into religion, a topic you’d rather avoid in a place where different religions apparently wage war on each other on a weekly basis. That and while you remember the rationale behind Christmas had something to do with religion, you can't remember exactly what that reason is. With what you have right now, mostly you remember Christmas because that meant luxuries that wouldn't normally be available otherwise. Wines, roasts, and more than a few minutes of break.
Luckily for you, Sekibanki bails you out of having to explain.
“It’s just a special time of the year in some places in the outside world like where I come from in,” she starts. “Other than the religious significance, it’s a time that encourages generosity between people close to each other and a time associated with peace. It’s a holiday that encourages goodwill and emphasized the bond you share with your friends and family.”
It doesn’t exactly do much on your end but you turn to Sekibanki, steel your eyes, and act out a stare. You stare and stare at her.
And you wonder where the hell all that came from. Did it really come from Seki?!
“Which book, Banki?” Kagerou asks.
“Fuck you. How do you know I can’t be a deep thinker every now and then?”
“You looked like you were about to throw up while saying all that.”
Ah, your worst enemy. Visual cues.
“A Christmas Carol,” Seki admits, to your confusion. You don’t recognize the title. “I bought it off Marisa who stole it from the Scarlet Devil Mansion and that's what I got from it. Was pretty interesting. Couldn’t take it seriously though.”
“Ah, I remember that! That was such a nice movie!”
“EEEK!!!” Next thing you know Kagero’s launched herself at you and is using you as a meat shield against the surprise appearance(?) of the familiar voice of S…
Ah, right. It’s all coming back to you now.
“I hope you don’t mind. I let Sanae in,” Keine says far too late for the thought to have slipped her mind.
“Ah, I won’t be staying long,” Sansae says. “I am merely here to humbly invite Kamishirasawa-san to our shrine’s christmas party!”
She’s forming a party?!
“Oh! Are you going hunting?” You barely have a memory of what it was like to go hunting, but you remember that it was quite enjoyable.
Then again, it’s not like you’re capable of going hunting in the first place… Damn it…
“What? No!” Sanae says, sounding very much appalled. “That ruins the whole point of Christmas!”
You don’t know whether to feel sad that there will be no hunting involved, or that you wouldn’t have been able to go hunting in the first place.
“Besides, hunting youkai is what the New Year’s danmaku fireworks are for!”
It’s the latter.
Lack of (and your inability to go) hunting aside, you remember that while you didn’t particularly celebrate christmas as much as, say, the germans might have (you knew a man from your sailing days), you do remember that you enjoyed it because it usually involved a lot of drinks. So, you ask Keine.
However, against her better judgement (or so she says), Keine allows you to go to the party in her stead as she was having dinner with a local aristocrat. Hideo, was it? In any case you’re told that Sanae’s invitation, which she apparently gave to Keine, states that you can bring one guest with you. Kagerou’s already going with someone so you take Sekibanki with you to be your guest/seeing-eye-friend. On paper, though? Sekibanki’s the one taking up the invite and you’re her guest.
“Funny. I thought shrine parties were open to everyone,” she says.
“Remember what happened last year?” Kagerou asks.
“I woke up in a basketball net. You tell me.”
The conversation falls into a routine from then on. Kagerou brings up some outlandish event, then Sekibanki claims that she doesn’t remember. It’s pretty obvious to you that she’s lying during some of those denials, but for the most part she claims that her memory is a total blank slate for that particular night.
“Ugh, nevermind,” Kagerou eventually sighs. “Long story short, everyone’s invited except for four people.”
“Am I one of them?”
“Oh, no. I was referring to Miko, Seiga, Seija and and that one tengu who was flirting with Sanae.”
"The guy with the mask? What was his name again? Kirito?"
"No, it was something else."
You make note to ask about those other three names one of these days.
“So, if only four people are banned, why bother with the invitations? Why not just announce who’s banned and not who’s invited?” you end up asking.
The rustle of the fabric of her dress is Kagerou’s reply.
“Kagerou. I can’t see you shrug.”
“Then stop staring at me all the time when I screw up! I know you can’t see anything and it’s creepy and you keep acting like youcanactuallyseebutit'ssoconfusing!”
Although you can’t see anything and she’s just ranted to you about that sort of thing, your brow narrows and you fix your eyes at her general direction.
“Like that! Stop that!”
Due to the fact that you can’t fly (“Gotta find a way to fix that,” Seki mutters), It takes the three of you much longer to reach the mountain that it would have if the two had just flown.
You honestly can’t help but wonder how it makes sense for a werewolf to be able to fly. Then again, Keine’s mentioned that she can do that too and she’s supposed to be a were-cow-thing.
In any case, the weather in Gensokyo has gotten much colder since you first arrived. However, not having much, you’ve merely settled for wearing gloves that Keine was kind-enough to buy for you (but not without you insisting that she use some of the coins found in your travel sack) and wrapping up your feet without covering them completely to the best of your ability.
Although… There’s still some coins in the bag, aren’t there? Maybe you should buy her something.
Well, that would have to wait until she she isn’t with you. You make a mental note to ask Keine to help you with that later. You’ll probably get something for her too.
You don’t know yet about Kagerou.
Making your way outside, you carefully tread around the turns and corners of Keine’s house, having committed the layout to memory after mapping it out the hard way but with your hands nonetheless held out in case you miss anything. You reach the door and slide it open.
“There you are,” Seki says, her voice coming from directly in front of you which makes it easy for you to reach her.
Oddly you don’t particularly find yourself affected by the cold. Even when your foot makes contact with that could only be snow. Sekibanki takes note of the fact that parts of your feet are still exposed, but you wave off her concerns. You can’t help but wonder if the hosts of the party will mind you being almost barefoot, but Seki doesn’t so you assume that to be fine.
“Couple of things,” she says as the sounds of the village fade further and further away as the two of you walk. “Let me do the talking, only talk when you’re talked to, and stick close to me at all times.
“Yes mother,” you huff, “I can take care of myself.”
“What color is this bullet I’m holding up?”
“Point taken, but still. You know what I mean.”
Seki sighs. “Just don’t try to draw too much attention.”
“Attention usually finds me.”
You hear the party long before you actually arrive, which says something about the kind of guests involved. You can hear laughter, shouting, and unless your ears were deceiving you, two people getting intimate among the rustling of shrubbery as Sekibanki guides you up the stairs to the shrine.
The closer you get the more distinct the sounds become. Not only can you pick up the snippets of conversation, but even music that was completely drowned-out when you listened from a distance.
The music isn’t really anything you’ve heard before, actually. It reminds you of an orchestra even though the fact that the music did not drown out the sound of chatter tells you that the act is nothing so grandiose.
You turn to the direction of the voice, not recognizing it to be Kagerou’s. It isn’t, and she’s the only person you know that Sekibanki would allow to get away with that nickname.
The moment you do, however, the new voice goes “eep!” followed by what you could have sworn was the splashing of water.
Sekibanki guides you over.
“I’m glad that you two made it safely,” Kagerou says.
“Unlike you, I wouldn’t let Wash out of my sight.”
You lightly nudge Sekibanki out of both annoyance at the ‘sight’ pun (intentional or not) and to convey the message that now is not the time for such remarks.
If she got the meaning behind it, you don’t know.
“Hey! What are you doing here!” somebody calls in the distance. It’s not meant for you, but you can immediately hear people cursing and plates dropping as whoever it is that isn’t suposed to be here leaves a trail that goes straight towards your group. Not wanting to be caught in whatever’s going to happen, you take a step back…
“Oi, Hime. You can come out now. I want you to meet— GAH!”
“Gah?” a meek-sounding voice wonders, seemingly unfazed that Sekibanki was just abruptly cut-off. “Is he Norwegian?”
“Alright! Nobody move!”
You turn towards the direction of the shout.
“Either I go free or the head gets it!”
Ah, you made a mental pun completely without knowing. Interesting.
You can’t help but wonder if anyone ever told whoever took Seki’s head that she can make copies of it.
The sound of something sizzling.
“Ow! Why are there two?!”
Someone grunting as something knocks the wind out of them.
“I’M NOT FECKIN DRUNK ENOUGH FOR THIS!”
Finally something breaks off into a sprint with heavy footsteps, maybe Seki’s body since the sound started from her last known position, and crashes into the would-be hostage taker. The sound of the bodies going down on a table is something you have to wonder if it feels as painful as it sounds.
Your thought is answered when the sounds of a brawl begin to emerge, mostly just two tangled bodies crashing into other things while someone drunkenly chears “Fight! Fight! Fight!”
You’re just gonna slowly step back…
And a chill, one that reaches into you very soul, staring at your eyes as something long, wet, and cold traces itself up your spine and stays there. Then the sensation spreads throughout the rest of your body, everywhere. One that threatens to freeze the most sensitive nerves solid and leave you shivering for the rest of your natural life, unable to move, unable to escape the eternal discomfort.
You sneeze and continue backing away because you don’t particularly care.
“Oh, my~” You jump as someone speaks from directly in front of you, no more than an inch away, which catches you off guard because you should’ve felt her when she’s so close! “Aren;t you the daring one?”
...is she talking to you?
“Most men would consider courting me before doing such a thing, but you…”
Her voice suddenly becomes much closer without you feeling anything.
“How did it feel to be so deep inside me~?”
...you cannot even begin to point out what is wrong with that statement, but you’re smarter than that. You’re unaffected because you haven’t woken up hungover in the cargo hold.
“I felt like a dog was licking my back,” you say with the straightest face possible.
Silence fills the air as all the chatter around you suddenly stops, even the brawl, leaving you wondering what was so shocking that Sekibanki saw fit to stop beating the stuffing out of her would-be hostage taker.
“Uwaah!!!” and whoever it was in front of you takes off, voice fading as she cries out “Youmu!”
And just like that everyone goes back to talking.
You need a fucking drink.
Your expression grows hopeful—
Before Sanae nips it in the bud by popping the ‘p’ and basically telling you that there are no fucking drinks at this party.
What the fuck.
“Well, we have sake if you’d like!” she offers hopefully.
This time, it’s you who says “nope” and immediately walks away to the sound of Kagerou’s laughter.
“Why the hell do you not like sake?” Sekibanki’s floating head asks you, “That stuff’s pretty damn good.
You suppress the urge to grimace. Sake is like rice wine, if you remember correctly, and the last time you thought it was a good idea to buy rice wine, the whole crew got sick and the whole ship was confined to port for at least two days.
You don’t remember what the name of it was, but you remember that they didn’t want you back after the change of color of the water around the ship dissuaded locals from visiting the adjacent fish market.
“I’d rather not be forced to destroy the local economy again, thank you very much.”
Dejected, you plop down a seat away from Kagerou as Sekibanki goes to retrieve her body, which, last she told you, was “teaching the Amanojaku the German Supplex”, whatever the hell that was supposed to be.
Then something pokes your arm.
As in sharp, pointy-kind of poking and not index finger poking.
“Hey, buddy,” somebody slurs from somewhere behind you. “I couldn’t help but notice your ‘predicament’.”
The sound of pouring liquid immediately snatches your attention and something is slid on the table in front of you.
You carefully feel for the object and your fingers brush against a small cup. You carefully bring the cup to your face and take a tentative sniff before frowning and setting it down.
“This is sake.”
“It’s like rice wine, yeah?”
You slowly shake your head. “No. Not after what the Chinese version did—”
“HA!” the new voice cackles, “Trust me bud, this stuff is on a whole other level than the piss they sell in the markets over there!”
Something heavy slams down on the table followed by the ‘thud’ of someone plopping down beside you.
“Trust me bud, I know good sake when I taste it, and this is good sake,” she says, sliding the cup closer to you. “Wouldn’t give ya anything less. We alcoholics gotta stick together!”
She grabs the heavy object that was set down on the table. Listening again, you can distinguish the sound of liquid sloshing around inside.
“Kanpai!” Everything that follows in nothing but continuous gulping. Gulping. More gulping. How the hell has she not run out of drink yet?!
You tentatively raise the tiny cup again. Your fellow ‘alcoholic’ had nothing but good things to say about it, and truth be told you’re a bit curious. The stuff from underground put you under rather quickly, but you were tired, injured, unprepared, and going unconcious. Sans injured and unconscious, it was the same thing back then on the ship.
“Ah, what the hell. Bottoms up!”
Sekibanki gives her head a fet good pats to make sure it won’t come off her body again while walking away from an Amanojaku half-buried into the ground with her legs sticking up into the air.
“Ah, that felt good,” she says.” Now to get back to Wa—
...what the fuck.
“Look at him go!”
There was a crowd. A crowd consisting some of the most dangerous, non-dangerous, and whatever individuals of Gensokyo gathered around the table. Around the table where bottles. Sake bottles. Empty sake bottles numbering into the dozens. At the center of the crowd were a loli oni, that grey-haired hag with the cleaver, that tengu reporter, and the goddess of the shrine. Suika was swaying and cheering in her usual perpetually-drunk manner. Aya was on the ground, mumbling incoherently. Kanako was passed out. You forgot the hag’s name and she was trying and failing horribly to pour sake into a dish. Her arm kept wobbling and spilling until she tossed the dish and went straight for the bottle.
At the center of it all was Wash.
Drinking from Suika’s gourd.
He and the hag stopped at the same time, slamming the bottle and gourd down on the table dramatically as the cheering pauses and seconds tick by.
Then then hag falls over backwards.
The cheering starts again, but much louder this time
“What the fuck.”
Wash perks up, most likely having heard Sekibanki, somehow, and turns to her (or to be more accurate the direction her voice came from). He waves in a perfectly coordinated and non-drunk manner before going back to the gourd as if he were drinking water.
Such was the strength of Sekibanki’s facepalm that her head was sent flying.
You wake up somewhere inside some place.
You can tell because it isn’t cold.
You’re also missing your cloak and gloves.
There’s also something on your chest. You reach for it and a quick pat tells you that Seki chose to rest her head there for whatever reason. You don’t feel her body beside you so you breathe a sigh of relief.
“Your breath smells like booze.”
Oh. She’s awake.
“After last night? I’m not surprised,” you say as she floats off of you and you prop yourself up. “Where are we?”
“We’re inside the shrine,” she says offhandedly, voice roaming. You assume that she’s looking for her body. “I wouldn’t step there if I were you. You pause just as your foot comes into contact with something furry, or rather the end of the furs.
“Ah, there you are Kagerou,” you say, leaning down to nudge her awake.
You do so, but a different voice greets you instead. “Mmph… Fuck off Aya… Too hungover for this.”
Ah, well… Apparently Gensokyo has more than one werewolf.
After that you walk slowly, directing yourself towards by turning away as your foot (softly) comes into contact with sleeping forms on the floor while your hands are out to feel for higher obstacles.
“Uh, Seki? Could use some help here.”
You hear her groan tiredly, but her head nonetheless levitates over to you and nudges you. You place one hand gently on top and she levitates along, with you following and stepping over anyone sleeping on the floor.
Eventually, you reach the door. You can hear Kagerou chatting with someone outside, so you feel for the handle to open it.
Sekibanki didn’t seem to like that idea, for some reason. “Wait! Don’t—”
By the time she starts, however, you’ve already slid the door open. You turn to her voice, coming from directly beside you.
“Oh! Well will you look at that!” Kagerou says, oddly happy.
“Fuck…” Seki curses.
“What’s going on?” you ask.
“Nothing~ Just stay where you are,” Kagerou says.
You’re about to ask why when you feel something… different. The faintest of touch against your cheek by something soft, almost as if…
“Let’s go,” Seki grumbles.
You, on the other hand, are still trying to process just what happened. You lightly touch the spot where she was not a moment before, wondering what brought that on. You don’t think that Seki… Well, you just weren’t expecting it, is all!
“Wash,” Kagerou coyly says, picking up on your confusion. “Above you.”
Brow raised in confusion, you raise your hand, moving your fingers along the wooden door frame until you come across something. It’s leafy, somewhat wet from snow that might have gotten on it, and you assume those small, spherical growths are the fruit.
You wrack your memory but it just isn’t there, and not because of your memory problems. You could never really get the hang of memorizing plants by touch and smell. Other than that there’s something pulling at the back of your mind, but you can’t pull back to get it out there.
You just stand there, thoughts lingering on what a plant hanging above the door had to do with Sekibanki suddenly deciding to kiss you.
“W-Wash! Hurry up!” she calls. She sounds angry but the stutter at the start tells you something else.
You sigh, a soft smile on your face as you decide to ask Keine or Kagerou about it when Seki isn’t around.
“Coming,” you say, following her voice.
“‘Bout time,” she says, You feel her hand grab yours so you assume that her body was outside all along. “Let’s get out of here.”
She pulls you along, seemingly in a hurry, and you barely have enough time to wave at the general direction of Kagerou, who was saying goodbye.
“Oh, and Wash?” Seki says when the two of you are halfway down the stairs. “Merry Christmas.”
Although it's muttered, there's a sincerity in those words that brings a smile to your face.