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769 No. 769
A one-shot? Probably.

Hold on to what you have. How long will it last?

------

I still remember the day I met her. She bared her fangs at me in the forest at the base of the mountain. It was a long time ago, but not too far away. Right now, the wind from the very same mountain is tickling my hair as I sit on the porch, stargazing with a cup full of nearly perfectly-brewed green tea. Mars is bright today.

Tea...
Thinking about tea again, am I? I shouldn't; it always reminds me how the tea used to be better, perfect, before she...
No, not the tea.

I met her during one rainy morning in late spring. The cherry trees had already grown leaves and the winds had clear signs of the coming summer in them. That day, however, was rainy. It was just a relatively light downpour, but it had lasted for days. Everything was wet, even my clothes despite the umbrella. The hem of the dress I had back then got coloured brown that day. It still is. That day, something told me to go for a walk despite the rain. I usually listen to these calls. I think they're what sets me – us – apart from humans, the calls and urges. Anyways, the ground was carpeted in last year's leaves as I walked along the lower slopes of the mountain. They were soft to step on and muffled sounds, but a little slippery because of the rain.

The moment was immemorial. The only sound was the hum of the rain on the young, fresh leaves of the deciduous trees. The sky was gray, but the leaves... They were so full of life. The raw power, the pure will of life itself could be felt that day. Was it morning or evening, that I cannot remember, but I was taking a walk, listening to the calming, meditative hum of the rain when I saw her. She had sprung a trap of a hunter, meant for a rabbit. Fate, if such thing exists, had to have its hands in it, for she was far too wise to fall for something like that even back then, all those years ago.

I lift the cup to your lips and take a sip of the bitter, hot tea in it.
”Haa... This sure isn't quite as good as is used to be.”
Yes, she used to make your tea, but now she's...
Not the tea again. Looking at Mars, the planet of war, I wonder. It's bright today. That means that somewhere, nearby or perhaps on the other side of the world, war is brewing. Is it in Gensokyo, I do not know. My power may be vast, but what goes on inside the minds of others is beyond me. Or, theoretically, I could... No. That is a step I will never take. Never. That would rip the last bit of... humanity from me, make them all hate me. Strangely said by me who is far from being a human. Humans, despite all their flaws, make good friends and I want to keep the few I have. Even if, one day, they will be gone.

So, that day, in the forest near the base of the mountain, I helped her get free of the trap. She backed off and tripped on a root. I smiled at her clumsiness. She growled and bared her fangs as I kneeled and reached towards her with my palms visible. Her hair rose up just like a cat's. I giggled at her and spoke calming words. She still hasn't told me why she didn't flee when she still had the chance. It has been in my mind for a long time, and I never got an answer.

My spell was as strong as ever that day, bringing her into my lap where I forced her to perform the ritual. My sense told me that she wasn't a normal animal, but I didn't know what exactly she was until we were bound together. I still remember what it felt like when the tip of her snout, wet from the rain and cold because of her having been trapped for days, touched my palm for the first time. It tickled. I smiled and let a tear flow for the magnificent work of nature which would be mine. She gathered her courage and jumped into my warm, waiting lap, sealing her fate which had probably been set the day she was born if not even earlier. The ritual itself took longer, but of that I cannot remember much.

The planet of war is bright... That's right, she did much more than just tea. She also fought. For me, because of me and to protect me and what's important for us. Was important. I feel tears forming at my eyes as I gaze at the skies and let the memories take hold.

I was asleep the day they approached. For me, being asleep doesn't really differ from being awake, the little bit of me that is my physical form is unimportant concerning most of my duties one of which is – was – looking over her. She was patrolling the border of the Netherworld when they came. First came the witch. She fought valiantly, weaving through the bullets while responding with her own. The sky was lit by iridescent shots from both sources. I know because I was watching. Her shots formed mathematical flowers, hexagons, icosahedrons, hypnotizingly spaced Fibonacci spirals... The witch responded with flickering flames, blinding beams of light and a dance of her own. They fought for hours, but in the end, the one who fell was her. I shared her pain, humiliation and self-loathing. Yes, despite her being mad at me for a long time after I took her in, she learned to like me and was perfectly loyal.

Then came the maiden. Another loss for her. They were an even match, but eventually the divine powers were too much.

Finally, the maid. She was efficient, accurate and deadly. I wish not to speak of what happened because even I personally fought with her.

Later, I became friends with those three humans, or as close to friends as I can be with those beings. Even she befriended them and forgave the humiliation. Later on, we all had multiple rematches. Now, everyone's won and everyone's lost, but none of the fights had the fury, the zeal of the first battle. I once heard Youmu say that she has never seen anything as beautiful as the night when I fought the maid for the first time. Her silver glinting in the middle of my sea of lights, her graceful, beautiful face immersed in the deepest possible concentration as she weaved through what should have been impossible to dodge. I broke some barriers I had not broken before but she endured it all...

The morning after I woke in her lap. “Are you feeling well?” Those were her first words. I still remember them. Her voice was soft and silent and her fingers were brushing my hair while my head rested on her thighs. I saw that she had cried, but never told it to her. I told her that I was fine, after which she tried to leave. I stopped her just so I could lay there in her warmth for a bit longer. She smiled and barely held back her tears, continuing to brush my hair, which had been dirtied in combat. “Mistress, your clothes are in rags. You need to get changed.” Her voice from back then echoes in my head. I smiled the most genuine smile I have ever shown to anyone and told it doesn't matter. She let out a giggle. I don't know why, but it filled me with a warm sensation. I knew she cared of me, and that made her too dear to lose. I wish it hadn't been so close that day.

The droplet falls from my chin into the teacup I hold. Closing my eyes, I let the tears flow freely. It is rare for me to display emotion, but this is too much. A hand is gripping my heart tightly, or at least it feels like it as I fall backwards onto the wood of the porch. The warm wind, blowing from the mountain, brings no solace.

Once, I was sitting on the porch just like now. She was with me, then. It was a warm summer night. We both had had a little something to drink, so it was easy to talk and laugh. Then she suddenly got up and yelled “Tag!” I got up quickly as she began running away from me and sprinted after her. We raced across the yard barefoot, touching each other and changing roles every now and then. Oh, and laughed. Laughed a lot, too. Almost the whole time. “Come on mistress, you can run faster than that!” She always said that when it seemed like I couldn’t catch up with her. And then I ran faster. I always could. I wouldn't let her get away, not on my back lawn which was wonderfully soft to run on. Then, I touched her and she laughed and fell to the ground. It was just a trap to get me to stay near, however. She quickly got up again and touched me, to my amazement, and kept on running. Unfair, that was, but it didn't matter. We ran for however long we did, I cannot remember, but eventually we got back to the porch and sat down, our backs against each other for support. Panting, tired and happy, we both were. “I... haa... sure showed you, mistress!” And she did. For that, I gave her some more wine, and then some more. Later that night, she carried me into bed again, undressed and covered me before going to sleep herself. I'm sure she smiled the whole time. Happiness...

“Miss Yukari, you fell asleep again.” The most welcome voice, her warm, caring voice, wakes me up. I turn around as fast as I can to see her, tipping over the tea cup while doing so, only to face...

Nothing.

The doorway is empty. As it will always be. It feels like a part of me went with her. I feel like I'll never feel the same happiness again. She felt like the family I never had, the caring person I always needed. I close my eyes again, let myself fall onto my side and cry. Cry like a child, but not before muttering something. Her name.

“Ran... please come back...”
>> No. 1098
goddamn...
those feels...


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