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[x] The Child of Miare. She has extensive knowledge of Gensokyo.
The instant I step out of the clinic, the blinding summer sunlight assaults my vision. I’m forced to shield my eyes with a hand, squinting hard, before I can finally recover my bearings and proceed into the street.
A few villagers nod to me as I pass by. They’re acquaintances, accustomed to seeing me out shopping on errands for the doctor. Proof that I’ve blended into the village’s daily life.
Yet, to tell the truth, I still feel like as much of an outsider as I did the day I dropped into this place. The doctor is probably the one person I know best, but ours is a strictly professional relationship- I have no one I could call a close friend. Part of this is my own fault; I generally keep to myself, and only mingle with the other villagers during festivals and other events. I tend to find myself the center of attention during such gatherings, pressed for details about the outside world. But every so often, when I’ve started to feel comfortable, I’ll catch an odd look, a sidelong cold stare, and realize my mistake.
In the end, I’m an outsider. I don’t know their ways; I never grew up alongside them as a child. I’m lucky that I found a job as the doctor’s assistant, or I might have wandered out of the village trying to find my way home, and ended up in the belly of a youkai. More importantly, my job gives me a purpose. Even if the villagers don’t entirely trust me, it’s my duty to help them.
Lost in thought, I barely notice how far I’ve come, until I realize that the hubbub of the market has rapidly dwindled away; distant, ghostly voices float on the breeze. A few more steps, and I reach my destination.
The Child of Miare’s house is tucked into an unassuming corner of the village, near the woods; it’s a traditional Japanese dwelling, shaded by trees and surrounded by carefully trimmed shrubbery. A bamboo fountain and a pool of water ringed with stones add to the tranquil atmosphere.
For a while, I linger in the front garden, unsure of myself. The porch is vacant, and there are no signs of anyone at home. I’m on the verge of picking up my courage and going inside, when the slim form of a girl emerges from the darkness of the interior.
“Hello,” she says, looking at me inquisitively. “Do you need anything?”
I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed in front of this girl, nearly a foot shorter than me but twice as dignified, her purple eyes shining with an otherworldly wisdom.
“Good afternoon,” I manage, hastening to bow. She returns the bow deeply and gravely, a wry smile spreading across her face.
“I, ah, I’m here for- I was hoping you could give me some advice, Miss Akyuu.”
“In that case, why don’t you come inside? I’ll prepare some tea.”
Once we’ve both settled down, sitting seiza-style with our hands wrapped around steaming cups of red tea, I feel the time is ripe to ask my question.
“I was wondering if you knew anything about the spider youkai- the one that’s supposedly been in the village, of late.”
“Oh!” Her face lights up, though I can’t fathom why. “That will be no problem. I’ve been gathering information on youkai for a long time, so naturally I have a file on her.”
“Her?” I hadn’t thought of the spider youkai as female. In fact, I hadn’t considered its gender at all.
“Yes. Kurodani Yamame, to be precise. An earth spider. She has the power to manipulate illness, mainly infectious disease. Her dwelling is the blowhole at the foot of Youkai Mountain. Her level of friendship with humans is low, and she is highly dangerous. Interaction with her usually causes the person to become infected.” She says all this matter-of-factly, without pausing to think, then takes a sip of tea.
“Wow- thank you, that’s very helpful!” I mull over this new information for a moment. Now the unseen threat had a name, if not a face.
Akyuu smiles. “I’m glad to be of help. Is that all you were here for?”
“Well… actually, that leads me to another topic.”
I glance down at my cup uncertainly, before saying in a formal tone:
“There’s a good chance that the spider youkai- that Yamame is infecting the villagers, and posing a threat to their wellbeing. As the assistant to the village doctor, I feel that it’s my duty to resolve this issue.”
“What exactly do you intend to do?” Akyuu inquires cautiously.
“I want to gather a group of villagers and attack Yamame in her lair. To instill fear in her, and to ensure that she never sets foot in the village again.”
“That’s…” Her expression darkens. “Do you understand what you’re proposing?”
“I don’t see why-”
“That would be the equivalent of declaring war on the youkai.”
I stare at her. “But- isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? We’re just trying to defend ourselves.”
“Think about it.” Akyuu holds my gaze, her face impassive. “If a group of youkai attacked a human home, what do you think the villagers would do?”
“Go after the youkai, I guess.”
“It’s the same thing. If a group of villagers attacks a youkai, the other youkai will start to feel that all of them are in equal danger. That the same thing could happen to any of them. The lesser youkai don’t know or care about your individual grudges against them. They’ll just sense a shift in power. And in order to correct the shift, they will attack more humans.”
“But-” I bite my lip in frustration. Somehow, I just can’t seem to get my point across. “There’s a power imbalance here! The youkai can bother humans any time they want, but we’re not allowed to do anything in response? Is that the way Gensokyo works?”
“The way Gensokyo works,” Akyuu says, slowly and decisively, “is that the Hakurei shrine maiden resolves incidents. The powerful humans challenge the youkai to spellcard duels, and thus the balance between humans and youkai is maintained. This case is an aberration. A youkai running wild. It will resolve itself eventually, if you wait.
“Not to mention- in my opinion, you don’t know enough about the situation. Why is Yamame infecting villagers? Do you even have concrete evidence that this is Yamame’s doing? You need to know more before you take action.”
For a long time, neither of us says a word. Only the gentle thunk, thunk of the bamboo fountain interrupts the silence.
Now that my anger’s cooled, I can gather my thoughts and think calmly. Maybe Akyuu is right. I don’t know all that much about the circumstances. Maybe I should just leave this to the Hakurei shrine maiden… although the doctor seems to have tried that, with poor results. If things get too out of hand, perhaps someone other powerful figure will step in to deal with Yamame.
But on the other hand… what Akyuu said can be applied to herself as well. What are her motives? Is she only giving me half of the truth? She’s lived in Gensokyo for a long time; her top priority is probably preserving the ever-important balance. She might not care if a few unimportant humans died for the sake of that balance. After all, her friends are the powerful humans and youkai, not the ordinary villagers.
A sick feeling of helplessness swims in the pit of my stomach. Deep down, I don’t want to let someone else handle this. I want to control the situation myself, damn it! I hate feeling powerless.
 Listen to Akyuu
 Continue with my original plan
 There has to be another way (possible write-in)
A note: Just wanted to let people know that I do intend to finish this story, and I won’t be driven off by pro-human sentiment or anything.