Minutes after, Mokou sits on the low-lying table in the main section of the shrine, her slacks rolled up, and her gorgeous legs outstretched.
Naturally, you can tell that much by looking.
No arguing with it – you're perched right in front of her, after all, cross-legged on the floor, your hands dipped in a giant basin of steaming water, playing hide and seek with her toes – in fact, you could even lean forward and kiss her knees, or rub your face in her rosy thighs if you felt inclined. Of course you can tell. Consider it for a moment. You've got what is potentially the best pair of legs in the world to delight in right there, for God's sake – you could tell with your eyes plucked out. Sir James Barrie could come crashing through the baulks, a minstrelsy of winged brats on his tail, tooting on their paper trumpets and tossing up confetti, and he could screw your head off and take it to the land of Never-Never, and you would still be able to tell.
What you CAN'T tell is entirely another thing.
“Wait just a cotton-picking moment,” you say and throw your wet arms up. “Why and what in the blazes am I doing?”
Mokou makes a candid face. “Giving me a foot bath, I thought?”
“Well, yes,” you say, letting your arms back down, “it sort of seems like it, but didn't this come sort of out of nowhere? I was under the impression that I was the one in urgent need of a wash, not you.”
“I don't object.”
“Nor do I,” you reply, “not to this, at least, but it could have waited, no? I sort of wanted that wash, you know. I've had a load of occasions to break a sweat today, and I thought to rinse it off if I could. Sure, okay, I've gone days dirty before, living in the barracks, no showers, cold rivers and all that, but this is all going somewhat over the board. I've got a tap with hot bloody water right under my nose, and what am I doing? Giving my girl a foot bath, is what. Not a bad thing to do all right, I will admit. I could put myself behind it. Or in front of it. Or in it, if that works, but there is something I don't understand, and that is why I am giving her feet a bath when I could be giving myself a bath, so I can give her feet a bath later, without her moaning that I smell like a heap of old rubbish – which I, admittedly, do – and object to, generally.”
“Didn't you say you'd take care of my feet if I was of a mind?”
“I did?” you ask. “I did,” you answer before she does. “Confound you, me, why you've always got to go rearwards about things like these? God damn you, you sick, little twit. God sodding damn you.”
“Does it bother you that much?”
“Does it? I don't know.”
“Well,” you say, “I'd presumed we were sort of hard-pressed for time, and I'd planned to decamp the botch aye-sap, but… to be fair, I don't even know any more. If Hieda got her cheeky rump up here, then why didn't the rest of the yokels? I specifically told Reimu to make a good show yesterday, so it should have been ruddy obvious where she and Keine were headed. I mean, I am pretty daft myself,” you say, lifting her one foot and giving it a thorough look-over, “and even I could put two and two together, no tizzy. What's up with that? Do I get my knickers up in a bunch about that or not? That's what I'd like to know.”
“Couldn't you have just asked?”
“Oh yes,” you give her a sour look and put the foot away, “that I ought to have, all right, but you see, there was this one testy thing, threatening to set fire to my heels if I didn't tend to her feeling a little tad lonesome right awa—” Slap. “… away,” you finish flatly when the same foot lands on your face. “I don't appreciate that. I have water down my shirt now.”
“I should think so,” Mokou says with a glower. “Did you have any other dozy complaints?”
“Other than the one about the foot? Oh, I had oodles, I just don't reckon anybody cares for them a lo—OW! Hey!” you exclaim, “Mind the friendly fire! Mokou! Ouch! Good Lord!”
“Did you have any other complaints, Tiger?” she repeats, still splashing water at you with her other leg. “I'm a little hard of hearing, remember? Well? What say you? Did you? Did you? Did you?”
“I—bloody hell! Stop that! I—blast—I didn't, buggery!”
“Surely, you must have some at least, no?”
“No! No, I—!”
“Are you certain?”
“I am—! I am bloody certain, for the love of—!”
“Yes! I swear to God—!”
Mokou moves her legs, and before you realise, you're pulled forward, locked between her thighs, like a crass baby-fly in a Venus fly trap. Only warmer. And more emotional. And presumably less deadly.
“Oh dear,” you say with a sigh. “I thought you were sick of that joke?”
Mokou shifts around a bit, her smooth, beige skin rubbing you all kinds of curious. “Maybe.”
“I told you. Sometimes your waffling is just good enough to keep in mind for later… and cut you down to size, if you start letting your stupid gob run away with you again.”
“And you like to win at my own game, so I heard.”
“Oh yes, there's that, too,” she says and pulls you closer, hugging you to her naked belly. “Were you going to whine about that as well?”
“Oh no, I wouldn't dream to. Not ever.”
“Funny, Tiger. Very funny.”
“No, not at all,” you tell her. “I didn't mean to be funny, I meant to say you're doing well.”
“Flattery again?” She squeezes. “Were you planning to run out of that any time soon?”
“Not if I can help it,” you say and start sliding your fingers slowly across her back. “Flattering you is like learning to fly, dear,” you say in a philosophical tone. “I could bounce off a perch and flap my wings with great effort, but in the end I would grow into a very footsore and cranky bird, with an irksome climb back up ahead. I could stay in the safe and beat my wings till I get the straights of it, too, but that could end up rather long-winded and tedious a way. So,” you look up and smile, “what I do is whisper sweet nothings at the air so it picks me up and flies me places on its own accord.”
“… you're positively evil.”
“And I get these in return,” you poke at one of her thighs. “Good deal, if you ask me. Speaking of deals, I never got to ask – where exactly did you get that skirt – you know, the one you showed me at the Clinic? On that sweet night? I was sort of curious about that.”
“Sweet, my tits,” Mokou grunts, “I was sore the whole day next day. I got it from Kourin's place, Tiger,” she says nevertheless, “I went to get my clothes, I noticed he had that thing, and, uh… I thought… well, I thought that I could surprise you or something. Kag—I mean, SOMEBODY,” she corrects, “SOMEBODY told me you might, uh… like, that sort of thing. So, I asked if he could, uh, give it to me, or at least lend it to me for one day, and… well, I got it… I still need to give it back, too, ugh.”
“So, he had it?” you ask, surprised. “How come? He's a tailor, then, or what? I had imagined he was, uh… a gunsmith? Or an artificer, perhaps? But a tailor?”
“No,” Mokou says, jiggling about again. Even if all she got was a foot bath—as opposed to a full-body bath—you have to say, she still smells absolutely appetising. “Kourin,” she goes on, tentatively, “he is… He just, uh… He just has all sorts of rubbish in that dump of his, is all. Mostly litter, though. Machinery pieces, rusted junk, some broken weaponry and tools, some rags… Useless crap in general.”
“Oh, so he's a conservator?”
“I wouldn't let him conserve my nail clippings if my life depended on it,” she says with a snort. “He has all that trash in his house and around it, so much you can hardly walk from the bedroom to the outhouse, but he hardly even looks at it twice. He just glances over the new crap, nods his empty loaf like he knows what and how, then goes to bury his nose in a book, and never even goes back to maybe tidy up or throw it out, the stupid sod. I cringed every time I went to crash at his place.”
“So,” you assume an inquisitive tone, “… why did you? Crash at his place, that is?”
“Ah,” Mokou makes a strange face and looks away, “… well…”
Mokou dithers. “He, uh… He let me stay, so…”
“I inferred that much,” you say. “I still don't know why you took him up on that, though.”
“Does that really matter, Tiger?” She turns back to you, a nasty glow in her eyes. “What are you? Jealous? You? Seriously?”
“Can't I?” you return. “I am very fond of you, as you may have noticed, and I am a man. Not the best there is, as I've said already, but a man all the same. I am also thick as a short plank, and a raging hypocrite. I reckon it isn't all too hard to do the maths here, is it, sweetheart?”
“… you're impossible.”
“Here we go again,” you exhale. “Not impossible. Questionable. So, your answer is?”
“None of your business!” she snaps. “I slept at his place a couple of times – that's all you need to know!”
“Is that it?”
“Were you looking for something else?”
“I don't know,” you say. “I gathered I should have been capable of solving this conflict of interest in a manner that precludes the usage of violence, as opposed to that which includes one, but…”
“What?” Mokou frowns. “What are you talking about?”
“… but,” you find your footing and resume, “under the circumstances, I reckon a little violence never hurt anybody.”
Sooner than the testy girl can mount a defence, you flex your arms and push yourself upwards.
Mokou topples back onto the wide tabletop, her knees still hung about your shoulders, and blinks madly when you pin her wrists down, making nothing of her dismayed looks and sudden blush. Curiously, that's all she does – blush and bat her lashes, instead of giving you the opportunity to regret putting Archimedes' life-long research to misuse with a swift kick to the jaw.
An inexperienced eye could take this for physical assault, or an awkward rape attempt, where the rapist is either a forgetful SOB with a below-seventy IQ score, or an incorrigible dry-hump fetishist.
An inexperienced eye wouldn't be far off.
“Now,” you breathe through your teeth, grinning, “you will tell me, sweetheart. What is your relation with that Kourin bloke?”
Mokou glares. “… you're having retakes of too many things today, Tiger.”
Indeed, now that she mentions it, this does resemble a certain other situation you two were tangled in not long ago.
“Ah,” you say, “but I don't mind. Do you?”
“… does it matter?” she says with an aside glance.
“Not right now, no. So, what was it? Kourin, and you, what was your affair?”
Mokou groans and turns her stare at you. “… you're not going to give it up, are you.”
“I've a fight in my blood.”
“… you're just… just… ugh, fine!” she cries out. “His place was the closest, all right?!”
“Closest to what?”
“Quit being stupid! Closest to the Village, you nonce!”
“… the Village? What business did you have staying close to the Village? Mokou?” you stare at her, baffled. “I thought they didn't like you very much at the Village? Why were you—?”
Mokou purses her lips. “THINK, Tiger.”
“I am thinking,” you say, “and I still don't see why—… Oh,” you let out in abrupt realisation. “Um… Oh.”
“… I thought so,” she looks away again. “I couldn't stay at the Village because of Keine and her meddling, and my own house is farther on in the Forest, so Kourin's place was the closest. He let me stay and didn't bitch about my coming and going, so I stayed there, despite the mess and all that. That's all. I didn't shag him, Tiger,” she says. “He's a... He's not even a friend! He's in love with his books, anyhow. I couldn't shag him if I tried! And besides…!”
Mokou hesitates, growing slightly redder. “… I told you, right,” she mutters, “… you were my—”
“And what is it this time?” a voice says from behind.
Her carmine eyes go wild, and before you know, you're rolling, tumbling off the huge table, kicked in the side of the head, all the way down to the hard floorings. “Hieda!” Mokou almost squeals. “Why, you—!”
“Ah, would you look at that pretty pink,” Akyu notes rather delightfully. “I never would have thought you able of so feminine a colour, Fujiwara. Oh, that is so cute! So very, very cute! Could you tell that big idiot to stand up?” she asks. “He's unsightly.”
“No, I won't,” you retort from the floor, “I'll lay here all I blooming want.”
“Men!” the little miss exclaims. “Very well, you can lay there till you rot, but are you at least packed, you daft puss?”
“For the trip, you jerk!” she stamps her foot and moans. “Keine and I are finished here, and I believe I gave her enough time to chew through what I had to say. Shouldn't you be getting making ready to go?”
“Chew through?” you sit up and repeat. Reimu backs away a step – the numerous company must be making her exceptionally nervy, and the girl is still wearing only that white towel from the sauna.
So is Akyu, you observe. Good Lord, you think, you made the right decision to keep out of the blasted place, smelly or not.
“Chew through, yes,” the young miss confirms. “I had some unpleasant things to say to her – the stupid old girl needed some time to swallow, if you get my meaning. Quite human of her, in my opinion. Now, I wonder if she is done wrinkling her underwear yet. KEINE!” she screams back down the hallway, “GET YOUR STUPID BUNS OVER HERE! Ah, and I will require a lift home too, pet,” she tells you, completely serious. “I made a promise to certain someone I would be back before noon, and he may get… chippy, if I turn up late. Ah, Keine, darling. Here you are.”
Keine totters out of the shade of the corridor, fully dressed, but apprehensive; her beautiful, aqua-blue eyes flicker from the floor to the young miss and back as she enters. “… Good—Good morning,” she throws in your direction, not even looking, “I, um… I am ready to—… to go.”
“Marvellous,” the young miss claps her hands, “that means we are the only ones holding you back! So inattentive of us, no?”
“I kid. I would have put you over for hours if I could. I absolutely adore a steam bath, oh, I really do! I will have to ask Father to think about building one some day. Oh yes,” she turns to you, “I never caught it, pet – you said you were packed, yes?”
“Great,” she grants you a pleasant smile, “then I will tell you now what you shall do next. Tell that girl to put some clothes on,” she nods at Mokou, “then go and get your baggage and wait for me and Hakurei outside. Next, you will take Keine and make for that… Clinic you were so keen to visit, while one of those birds flies this poor, little me home. It's looking like it's about to burst a cloud, anyway, so I will have to make as good time as I can.”
“I'd rather we didn't split up again,” you say.
“And I,” she returns, “would rather Keine stayed away from the Village just yet, pet. I will try and investigate what I can, but you will have to… keep your distance, for the time being. Doesn't that sound, ah, more reasonable? Keine?”
“… yes,” the teacher agrees placidly, “she's… she's right.”
“So you have it,” the young miss beams like a miniature sun. “I will let you hammer out the details. If I have to be touched by either of those two, it is all the same to me. Consider this an expression of my… let's say, trust. How about it, pet?”
[ ] “I don't like it, but… Mokou, would you be so kind? The little witch should be lighter than me and all my rubbish.”
[ ] “Cool. Whatever you say. Reimu? Please?”
[ ] “I'll see you off to the Village, then. I might as well do that.”
—[ ] “Mokou, you'll get us there, okay? We can make the Princess wait a bit. It's classy to be slightly late.”
—[ ] “Reimu, you're better at flying, so two people shouldn't be a problem, right? If it's you, we can make up for the delays.”