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File 136970739716.jpg - (158.44KB, 850x687, Awesome and Homey.jpg) [iqdb]
35509
"Welllll..." Reimu begins by settling onto the porch with tea in hand. "The Human Village totals roughly 100,000 people, and lies in the geographic center of Gensokyo. A good amount of the population is dedicated to working the surrounding farmland, but there's only so much you can do before all you can do is wait, so the village still has a bustling commercial district."

The lecture pauses as Reimu sips from her steaming cup, with her pale lips open just slightly, to seal themselves against the ceramic. Her eyes close as she tastes the bitter brew, a small hum escapes her lips, and the poor shrine maiden seems to glow with happiness.

"This is a really good brew, Marisa. Where did you get it?"

"Ah! It's Kourin's special blend. He made an extra batch this time, so I helped myself!"

Reimu catches my smirk of course, but since she smiles and shakes her head, she's not chastising me like usual. I guess she doesn't mind so long as she benefits. How mercenary of her! But I could use this.

"Riiiiight. Anyways - the wall is manned by a rotating militia. It's mostly just for show now that the Spellcard System is in place, but sometimes younger youkai get frisky. Keine's been trying to teach the younger kids about danmaku, but it never was her best subject, so..." She shrugs. "Outsiders usually come to me to head back instead of staying, and those who do stay usually just... go native, I guess. Why are you asking me, anyways? You were born and raised there, so you'd know more than me."

"Eheheh... well!" I take a drink from my own cup - but the tea's still steaming hot, and it burns me on the way down. I wince and cough a bit while Reimu just looks on with amusement. How she drinks it this hot, I'll never know. "I, uh. I got into a bet. With Patchy."

There's a pause in the conversation, although actual silence never descends upon us. It's spring again, and we can both hear Lily's screams echoing in the distance, accompanied by birdsong and the swaying of branches. The shrine grounds are clear of leaves and sakura petals - they were all sweeped up into some forgotten corner.

"...And what was the bet about?"

"Wait, you're not interested in how it happened?"

She shakes her head, setting the cup aside to better look at me. "I know how it happened. You sneaked into the Voile library to steal some books again, Patchouli caught you again, you dueled her again, you - "

I snap my fingers and a bullet ricochets off her forehead. "Hmph! Fine, fine, Marisa, I give."

I can't help but grumble as I put my own cup aside, and pull out my hakkero. I bring it up to the sky at an angle, letting the sunlight reflect off the polished metal and illuminate a small circle on Reimu's porch. The magic reactor gleams in the light, and it's warm, as always, to the touch. Well, to my touch at any rate.

"Long story short, she insulted Mima." Reimu winced - it was a sore subject, after all.

"Short story long, she... she said Mima couldn't have been that great if Mima had ended up kicking the bucket. And the fact that she taught a talentless hack like me instead of someone worthy of magic meant she had to scrape from the bottom of the barrel just to pass on what she knew."

My fingers clench around the reactor; it pulses in my hand, singing notes only I can hear, desperately wanting to be used. Shame I can't just blast Patchy some more.

"So...we made a bet. I said I'd prove her wrong, that Mima was the best teacher ever, and I'd make Patchy eat her words. Literally. Once I win, I am going to get the dirtiest, most repulsive piece of paper to ever exist, write on it with the most foul tasting ink ever, and force it into her mouth."

Reimu just nods, rubbing my shoulder with her free hand as she grabs her cup and takes another serene gulp of tea.

Ahh. It's cooled, a bit. I put the hakkero away and take a sip from my cup, focusing on the flavor, the bitterness and the heat, the herbal fragrance of the tea, as I watch the pink petals falling slowly and gently towards the ground.

"So..." Reimu speaks up again, placing her empty cup back on the tray. " I suppose the Human Village has something to do with your bet?"

I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. The dregs of the tea still have a weak scent, but the breeze just... blows it away. The air just tastes crisp, now. Clean.

"Uhm, yeah. See...I, uh...kiiinda want to start a library in the village, and teach everyone there. Teach 'em magic, I mean. Because Mima taught me and I'm from the village, so the best way to prove Patchy wrong is to do the same thing. The library thing is really just so I can say I have a better library than Viole. I mean, what kind of library doesn't let you check out books? It's ridiculous."

Reimu just keeps smiling as I ramble on about the unfairness of Voile, about how it has so much Knowledge and yet only Patchy gets to see it, and how my library would be awesome, and homey, and - and she starts talking as soon as I run out of things to say. "You know, I think this is the first time anyone has asked for my permission to start an incident."

I burst up from my seat, glaring at her; there's probably a flush on my cheeks. "Oh, come on! It won't be that bad, I promise!"

"Ah, of course, my mistake!" Reimu smirks as she stares at me, eyes half-closed. "I am positive it will never come to blows! You teaching a bunch of humans how to handle phenomenal cosmic power in an itty bitty space absolutely will not cause the village to blow up in a storm of magic, and Keine and the Buddhists and the Taoists will never react to our very own Ordinary Magician returning to the village like the prodigal daughter she is. Nothing could possibly go wrong!"

Now Reimu gets off the porch as well, and three ofuda slip down from her sleeves into the space between her fingers. They're glowing, and she's grinning. And while on a regular day I could absolutely blast her away, the duel with Patchy had left me exhausted.

"Quite frankly, Marisa, I should probably nip this in the bud right now. So I, Reimu Hakurei, will just have to challenge you to - "

"I'll let you put your donation box in front of the library."

That puts a stop to her melodramatics - and we both glance over to the front of the shrine, where her giant, empty donation box lays. The poor thing 's all beat up - give it another couple years and it'll be a youkai, running away from the mean, cruel shrine maiden who never fed it any coin.

Reimu just hums, looking back at her rickety old shrine and taps her chin in thought. "But that would mean going into the village. Flying back and forth every day would be a waste of time, and the villagers don't exactly like me anyways."

I shove my hands into my pockets, whistling the jauntiest tune I can think of...and charging my hakkero inside said pocket just in case negotiations don't pan out. "Well, I like you, so there's that. And you'd need to check on me to make sure I don't start an incident, right? And if I get popular, I can convince the people there to help donate. And since they don't need to walk so far, they'll donate more often! They'll think, 'Oh, that poor beautiful shrine maiden, all alone in the mountains! Maybe I should listen to my wise and all-powerful teacher, the Great and Powerful Marisa, and donate money to help her best friend!'"

Annnnnnnd Reimu stares at me like I'm crazy. Well, I'd stare at me like I'm crazy, so I can't blame her.

"That is - that is definitely a convincing argument, right there." She brings her hand to try to stifle her laughter. "Very well, then. Why not? I will cut you some slack, if you bribe me with donations."

Hook, line, sinker. "You're the best, Reimu! I promise you won't regret it!"

She laughs, waving me of as she sits back down on the porch. "So, does that mean you already have books and a building for your new library?"

"Weeeeeeeelllll...I have books! Lots of books. Some of them are even mine! But - er, Reimu, I was kinda hoping you'd help me figure out where to actually get the building. To, you know, put the library in."

Reimu just shakes her head, hiding another smile with her palm. "Let me brew some more tea, then."

---------------------

One fresh pot later, and we're sitting back down again and enjoying the breeze.

"Well, Marisa, I'm not too sure you have the money...or the time, really, to commission a new building. Space is at a premium, and you will want a building close to the center of the village for foot traffic."

The tea is burning hot as usual, so I leave mine on the tray as Reimu enjoys hers. "Exactly, so I was thinking about renting a place out, maybe charging a small fee for the books or something to stay afloat. Do you think Kosuzu would be willing to help me out? Oh, or Keine! Getting kids at their youngest means they're the most malleable or something like that, right?"

"Hmmmm... either of those two would work, I think." Reimu smiles as she thinks, looking into her cup. "Suzunaan is getting pretty popular, and Kosuzu's ability would help make those magic books more palpable to everyone else. And she already collects some, right?"

"Yeah - books written by youkai. If we add my own books to the mix, we'd have enough to start an actual magic section in Suzunaan. I could offer free magic lessons outside or something."

"But, Marisa... If you're focused on teaching, wouldn't Keine be a better idea? Your students would come to you every day, assuming Keine approves."

"Right, but...see, I love Mima to death, but she always got frustrated when she first took me under her wing, yannow? Since, well, I was just a kid - it's hard to simplify complicated stuff for a bunch of tots to understand."

There's another peaceful lull in the conversation as Reimu lets me mull things over. If I went with Kosuzu, then I'd get students who actually wanted to learn. The problem would be finding a space to teach them, and...getting people interested in the first place. With Keine, I'd have students by the dozens and could, I don't know, convert a classroom into an atelier for the kids...but Keine would have to give me a crash course in teaching.

I break the silence. "And that's assuming they'll let me start this idea in the first place."

But Reimu waves that objection off. "Just bribe them like you did me. You'll think of something. And if they both say no, you could always go to Senkai or the Myouren Temple."

"...Why would Miko or Byakuren help?"

Another shrug, another sip of her tea. "Well, they are teachers of a sort. And they're always talking about how to best better oneself. Do that thing with your tongue you always do, make it sound like it would benefit them as well. It probably would not even be a lie. You would help interested believers learn more, and that should make the faith stronger. With Miko or Byakuren sponsoring you, you would have willing students, to boot."

I pick up my own cup now, blowing on the tea to cool it down. The steam wafts away from me and into the yard, rising to the sky. "Yeah, but if I side with one group, the other won't exactly be chummy with me. Not to mention they might pressure me to convert, or shove all sorts of religious text in the library..."

"But it would still be better than losing the bet." As always, Reimu cuts to the quick. "And, if everything else fails...you could always go back to your father's shop and ask for help."

I squeeze reflexively around the cup - but, luckily, it's cooled to the point where it doesn't burn me... too much. I've been burned worse by my own brewing, at least. "I don't think that's the best of ideas."

"...Very well."

--------------------------------------------

The sun's high in the sky when I finally leave. With spring's arrival, Reimu had some cleaning to do in the shrine, and she needed to be on her guard in case Suika came around to party. Or drink. Or really just to be in the general vicinity of the place.

I leave some notes in the donation box - Reimu, did, after all, give me a consultation - wave to Genji in the back as I rise into the air, and ride the ol' broom towards the village.

Riding at... a leisurely pace, I suppose. I'm flying towards the sun, so I have to adjust my hat to shield me from the worst of the glare. On top of that, I...want to savor the feeling, I guess. The anxiety and the curiosity and all the anticipation.

Reimu's right; one way or another this is definitely going to end up as an ncident.

But, for now, I should head to...

[ ]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[ ]Keine. She's already a great teacher from what everyone says, and teaching the way Mima does might not be the best of ideas. Plus, Kirisame-Sensei has a really nice ring to it!

[ ]Miko. That girl has a lot of panache, and we talked for a bit after Akyuu's group interview thing. Having her on my side would mean Taoist magic on my shelves too, and Feng Shui brings good luck!

[ ]Byakuren. Buddhists are supposed to help people in need, right? And learning's one of the first steps to Enlightenment! She's sure to help me out, and it'd give her a place to store all her sutras or whatever.

[ ]Pops. Not happening.

And, as for the library's name...

[ ]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

[ ]Write in.

(Note that the first choice of who to talk to for library locations isn't a routelock. Starting the library at Myouren won't stop Marisa from being friends - or closer - with Miko. It'll just make things a bit harder.)
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

I'm hesitant about getting Keine's help considering her solution to problem students is headbutts. That and we're trying to educate kids, not put them to sleep.
[ ]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

Hit up Little Bell.

and

[ ]Kirisame Library
[x] Miko. That girl has a lot of panache, and we talked for a bit after Akyuu's group interview thing. Having her on my side would mean Taoist magic on my shelves too, and Feng Shui brings good luck!

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

"Oh, yeah? Well, MY library's in another dimension!"

I seem to recall Miko having a bunch of power-hungry human followers. They'd make for pretty good students, I imagine. And we need more TD.
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

>yannow
Huh, this is the first time I've actually seen "ya know" spelled like that.
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

I am interested.
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

Sup new story.
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

This story is relevant to my interests.
File 136972208033.gif - (509.03KB, 346x259, The-Joker-Popcorn-Gif-On-Batman-The-Animated-Serie.gif) [iqdb]
35519
[ ]Keine. She's already a great teacher from what everyone says, and teaching the way Mima does might not be the best of ideas. Plus, Kirisame-Sensei has a really nice ring to it!

[ ]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

Oh man, I can already tell this is going to be hilarious.

Also, choosing Keine because I doubt using Mima-style teaching is going to end well for us.
>>35519
Not sure if that was Marisa's plan regardless as she herself stated that it wouldn't be a good method.
>>35520

"Ah, well, Mima was great for me, but just like how new parents tend to raise their kids like how their parents raised them, I might kinda sorta default on Mima's methods regardless. Subconsciously. Exposure to new teaching methods would help, but I don't think philosophizing like Miko or Byakuren would be useful with non-believers, and Keine's method would just be condescending on adults."
>>35521
What about the part about Mima getting frustrated when she had to explain terms to Marisa growing up?
>>35522
Don't see why we couldn't see Keine about learning to teach if we can manage to find time for it.
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

Kosuzu would be the best neutral party, we could get into delegation with the Taosists and Buddhists Later
I wonder what Marisa's deal with her dad is.

this story has a lot of promise, good luck OP!
>>35522

"What about it? I mean, it's been a pretty long time, so it's not like I'd be able to just spit out Mima's starting lessons at a drop of a hat. And even if I do end up teaching like Mima, the subjects would probably be different, so I'd need to make up new comparisons, anyways."

>>35523

"Well, it's not so much a matter of can or can't, but, uh, effectiveness! Or efficiency, one of the two. If I work with Keine all the time, she can teach me the ropes, and she'll be more invested, since it'll be her students I'm corrupting giving lessons to. At Kosuzu's all I can expect from Keine is a few tips or something, unless I blackmail her, or like, seduce her, or really just do something to make her want to help."

>>35526

"It's, uhm, ah - let's not talk about it."
Oh well... Even then, better get students actually interested in the subject rather than maybe get a class full of them who may want to have nothing to do with magic.

Btw author, maybe you should get a tag to identify youself when you post?
File 136979754918.png - (1.99MB, 1000x1412, Most Demon of Books.png) [iqdb]
35533
>>33530

"It's kinda disheartening that you need me to spell out my name. I thought I'd be at least somewhat well known! This doesn't bode well for Kirisame Library at all... I hope Kosuzu's place is popular enough."
[x]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[x]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!


I'm really liking the promise of this story. The pacing and mood creation before the break was absolutely beautiful. I'm fairly certain no one else writing here can hit that particular tone as well as this (the style happens to be a favorite of mine). Characters have very good hints of depth and complexity; OP, I hope you know them well enough to be fleshed fully to their motivations, and that there's enough to spread around to everybody.
That said, the switch to laying out choices was a bit jarring in places, if only in comparison to the quality of the preceding prose. It may have worked better as a brainstorming session with Reimu, going over all possible options, but it is hard to naturally integrate choices into story. That's what practice is for. So go on. Get more practice. We'll be watching you.
File 136997893835.jpg - (974.69KB, 530x1100, Under Her Wing.jpg) [iqdb]
35536
[X]Kosuzu. She probably has the most experience on running a library, and we know each other already. Just bribe her with some books from my collection and we're set~

[X]Kirisame Library. If it isn't broken, don't fix it!

With savoring done and destination at hand, I suddenly blast through the sky, using my charged hakkero like one of those booster rockets they strap onto spaceships Outside.

It's incredibly wasteful, incredibly dangerous, incredibly crude and oh so incredibly fun. Aya might hit the highest top speed, but I definitely have the fastest acceleration!

I cackle with glee like a proper witch of the night as I speed off like a bullet towards the Village! Buuuuuuut... even after all the practice I've had, it's still really hard to control this thing!

The wind angrily whips around me, cutting into my skin and screeching past my ears. Like this, I would never hear the sounds of danmaku, people calling my name, or even the rumbling thunder of angry gods.

I'd never try this during an incident, but even though my eyes are watering and I'm blasting past both flocks of birds and fairies galore... I feel free.

But the problem with going so fast is that you can never enjoy it for too long. Also, slowing down without hurting yourself is a pain.

The hakkero stops flaring out power, but even then I don't exactly have a way of braking that doesn't include a large, painful, expensive crash. So, instead of cutting through the Village I'll have to make a few circles around the walls to bleed off the speed. I... suppose Aya's ability to stop on a dime is a bit more impressive now.

The first, oh, five laps have me still going too fast to make out anything. Luckily, I'm also high as a kite, so no one actually notices me. For once, I don't want to make a big ruckus - that's for later.

By the sixth run-around I start descending, and soon I can make out the huge throngs of people that inhabit my childhood home. They're like ants, scurrying around and toiling under a meaningless regime, while I view on like a holy goddess from above, mwahaha.

Or at least, that's what Mima would have always think and say. Word for word, in fact, and she would even do the laugh too; it always made me giggle. Even now, her habits as a self-styled 'vengeful spirit' bring me a small smile.

But in reality, the overlooking view isn't bad at all. There's a magic in just watching so many stories unfold. People: so very small from up high, so very big hopes and dreams, inside. But now I'm just getting philosophical. And maybe a just a teeny bit sentimental.

As I make my final descent, I can see a gaggle of children leaving Suzunaan, en masse. I'm still too high up to make anything out, but Kosuzu does do that storytime thing every once in a while. I'll have to ask for a schedule.

Ahh~ It seems the little tots have seen me. Well, in that case...

I let myself fall. Now, a few books will tell you that flying is just falling and missing the ground, or just falling with style, but that's a load of dung. Flying's like swimming and falling - hoo boy, falling.

My hat whips off me as gravity takes me into her cruel, sadistic embrace, and I can feel all my clothes pressing into the front of my body. I can hear - or at least imagine hearing - the kids start pointing, and yelling, and fleeing far, far away from my projected landing zone as I dive towards the ground.

But with the top of my head facing the earth - and with lots and lots of magic, like you wouldn't believe - it's not hard to do a flip -

And rapidly punch gravity in her bitch face repeatedly until she lets me go.

I end up stopping just a couple inches above the dirt road. And silence descends, as I:

Float down the last few centimeters -

Stick my hand out -

And catch my totally radical hat, putting it back on my head.

It ends up with me having to take a few curtseys for everyone to realize it was a show. The kids all surround me, delight at the impossible in their eyes as they beg me to tell them "How you did that super awesome thing, Miss," or "Is it true you're a Youkai Exterminator," or "Where did you get that totally radical hat!?"

The older kids - and some of the adults - just sigh or grin at my antics, and at least a few of them give me a couple claps before they head off.

"Now now, everyone. I have to talk to Kosuzu for a moment. I'll tell you all about magic once I'm done, alright? You guys should head off for now."

Gensokyo tends to raise good kids; at my encouragement, they all disperse, back to their regular schedules.

I notice that more than a few eyes are gleam ingat 'magic'! This won't be hard at all~

----------------------------

It takes only a quick peak inside to realize that Kosuzu's a bit busy with Mamizou, and so I wander the village a tad for something to snack on. So two soft, weighty, pale-white meat buns later, I head back to the bookstore -

And realize those two are still talking.

Riiiiiiiiight. This displeases the Great and Powerful Marisa, and so I make my way in. Those two are actually so into it that it takes a while for Kosuzu to notice me.


" - actually a big problem since Mister Rinnosuke's place is only able to stock books that fall into Gensokyo and if Youkai are really as rare Outside as you say Miss Mamizou than I don't think you'll be able to find one and even if you do just giving it to me is just too much so I can't exactly not charge you a proper price on such a rare and valuable book but I don't think I actually have that much money saved up." Kosuzu finishes explaining, and takes a few breaths to center herself. The bells in her hair jingle as she moves, and the red-white kimono makes her stand out in the dusky gloom of Suzunaan. Seriously, not even a single window in here.

"Kosuzu, please." Mamizou smiles gently, adjusting both her glasses and her little leaf hair-clip. Or, at least, it looks like a hair-clip. "It's to be your birthday, and you've been quite wonderful to me. It gets to the point where I would daresay you give me priority service... and, in fact, there's another customer right next to us; you've ignored her completely." With that gentle chastisement, she steps back a bit, and Kosuzu finally notices me.

I wave. "Hi there, Kosuzu. Just chatting up a storm, huh?"

She blushes, not quite as red as her hair or her kimono but definitely close enough, and clears her throat to compose herself. "Ah! Hello, Miss Marisa. Miss Mamizou was just asking me about foreign Youkai books. We don't have any of those, and when I asked her why she said she wanted to get me a birthday present."

Oh man, this is really my lucky day. I look out of the corner of my eye, rubbing my chin as if lost in thought.

"You know..." I drawl out, as though I was without a care in the world. "I actually have a collection of Western Youkai books. 'Goethe's Faust,' 'Waiting for Godot,' 'Paradise Lost'... if you help me with a teensy favor, I'll give one to you."

Mamizou immediately brings her hand up to her mouth, cradling her chin just so, somehow managing to look interested without immediately guffawing. Well, she is from Outside, so she's probably heard of them.

Kosuzu, though, is immediately enraptured. "And you'd let me have them, just like that?"

"Juuust like that." I put on my best smile, all gleaming teeth and dazzling eyes, attacking Kosuzu head on. "How about it?"

"Ah - of course! You're not carrying any books on you, so they must be at your home, right? Let me just tell Father and we'll be off!" Without a moment's hesitation, she's throwing her apron onto the chair and rushing towards the back. Girl must love her books.

"So, Marisa...where did you hear about such famous 'Youkai', hmm?" Mamizou grins, nudging my shoulder and winking while Kosuzu yells in excitement a few rooms away.

"Oh, well, you know. Mom was an Outsider, and she fell through with just a giant pile of books. She even let me keep some! I trust you won't tell her?"

The tanuki just smiles. A leaf falls from her side to the ground, breaking the magic hiding her bottle of sake. She gestures it to me, offering a sip... but it's one of those polite offers the offerer doesn't want you to accept. I start making a move to accept it anyways, but I'm too slow - she's already gulping the alcohol down. She all but chugs it, and finishes with a rather unladylike smack of the lips. "Nah; I love good pranks too much. Kosuzu will just have to learn how to see when someone's pulling a fast one on her. Besides, she's far cuter when she's angry." She slaps another leaf on her bottle, hiding it away, and leaves without a goodbye.

"Father, I'll see you later!" Kosuzu yells over her shoulders, jumping towards me on one foot as she hurriedly puts on her overcoat. "Ah - Miss Marisa, I'm ready now! Let's be off, we can discuss the details on the way... ah? Where's Miss Mamizou?"

We both head outside as I get my broom ready. I toss it into the air with a small flourish, and let it slowly float back down to pick us both up. "Oh, she said she had something to do, and didn't want to take any more of your time." With a small jump, I straddle the broom, leaving enough space for Kosuzu to sit however she pleases.

The young shopkeeper nods in understanding, and joins me rather quickly. Luckily for the both of us, she's used to this kind of transportation, even if she can't fly herself - though the poor girl still has a death grip around my waist, and her small, perky breasts are pressed tightly against my back.

Soon enough we're off, though now there's no need to hurry. After all, it's time for ~negotiations~!

It's a somewhat slow ride, slow enough that the wind won't make it impossible to talk, but fast enough that Kosuzu's bells jingle quite merrily. "Now, Miss Marisa, what sort of favor do you want? I can't do anything too much, but I'll try my best for a Youkai book!"

Time to reel her in! "Well, I came to you because of your work with Suzunaan. See, I want to start a library of my own, and I was hoping I could rent a space from you to stock my books."

Though she doesn't say anything, and though I can't see her, I can feel her merchant's analytic eye start working. "Sorry, Miss Marisa," she begins, and I immediately know this is going to take a long while. "But you're still a known thief, and I have a lot of rare books. I can't let you store your books on our shelves - that'd just give you a reason to 'accidentally' mix some of my books with yours. I mean, you even tried to steal my Necronomicon right in front of me!"

"I only wanted to borrow it for a bit! Besides, I'm making it up with a new Youkai book, aren't I?"

"Miss Marisa, please, you're offering one book for this really, really big favor. Make it four and I'll reconsider." I can already imagine her smiling impishly, and maybe batting her eyelids for me.

But one of the perks of flying like this is that I don't need to worry about face or body language - just our words and our wills! "Two books and my guarantee as a Kirisame I won't steal."

"Pffffft. Miss Marisa, you're disowned."

"Well yeah, but I still got to keep the name! I mean, I already run the Kirisame Magic Shop, so we're still affiliated! And besides, my pops disowned me for a totally illegitimate reason anyways, so it's fine."

I speed up a little, to throw her off balance juuuuuuuuuust a bit. She grips harder, and places her chin on my right shoulder, her eyes probably shut tight. Jingle jangle, her bells ring into my ears. Such a pretty sound~

"Actually - Miss Marisa, if you don't mind, how did you get disowned?"


"Oh, you know how it goes. Pops wanted a boy instead of a girl, I became the cliché rebellious daughter, and then he was like 'I HAVE NO POINTY HATTED DAUGHTER!' and I was like 'OH YEAH? WELL I HAVE NO BERET WEARING FATHER!' and then I left."

"...Really?"

As we talk, we soon approach the Forest of Magic. Everything hums with life here, and the sounds of a hundred thousand creatures all echo about. Even from this distance, my house is easily seen - you can't miss the giant potion flask that rests on my roof!

"Ohhh, yeah. Hats are serious business in the Kirisame Household. Did you know that Dad used to wear a top hat? And he disowned me because of my totally radical witch's hat. Feel it! It's one hundred percent silk!" And also loaded with hypnotic enchantments that'll enrapture anyone who touches it.

Kosuzu giggles, and I slow down enough for her to let go of me and play with the brim of my hat. If I know my fabric - and I do since Alice would kill me otherwise - I'd say it's as soft as Kosuzu's delicate skin.

"Oh, you're right, it's quite... quite, soft..." Success!

We touch down in front of my door, and Kosuzu quickly gets off - though she's still mesmerized by my hat. "So, Kosuzu, do we have a deal?"

"Ahhhh... Yes, of course, Marisaaaaaa..." Oooooh, yes, I can definitely get used to this. I'm set. "Alrighty, then. Come on in, and we'll pick a book out for you!" I tell her, yanking off my hat and handing it to her before opening the door.

Unfortunately... this is where my messy habit comes and bites me in my tush.

The sea of books that rests on my floors instantly snaps Kosuzu out of her hat-(and magically-) induced trance. And she stares, she stares with her judging eyes. "Ehehehehe...whoops?" I mutter, smiling at the angry, angry girl. "I'll, uh, I'll just... "

"You monster! You, YOU BOOK ABUSER!"

And so Kosuzu throws my hat at my face and rush in, rapidly picking up my books and setting them aside.

"Oh come on, I'm not that messy!"

Kosuzu rapidly spins around, and even her bells sound ominous now as she points at me. "But you are! You so very clearly are! The deal's off, I can't trust you with my books - I can't trust you with YOURS! I'm taking all of these back to Suzunaan!"

"Wha - you can't do that, that's totally theft!"

Kosuzu's arguing as she cleans up now, rapidly chucking old bags and clothes out of the windows and tossing aside all my knick-knacks to make room for book stacking. "It's not theft, it's rescue!"

I toss my hat onto the couch and float over my books to try and stop her. Already she has one of my thieving commandeering sacks in hand and is stuffing my books inside. I grab the bag, gripping it shut, and Kosuzu stares coldly, with those judging eyes. "Look, Kosuzu, calm down, I ward all my books, there's no dust or stains on any of them, see?"

Kosuzu's cheeks are burning red, and her whole body's shaking with barely contained passion. Her eyes are aglow with wrathful fire, and her bells hum constantly due to her shaking form.

...Mamizou's right, she is cute when angry.

--------------------------------

The sky's already orangish-red with the setting sun by the time we finally clean up my house. Kosuzu and I are both impossibly sweaty, our clothes sticking to us and outlining our bodies like second skins. Dirty, salty second skins. Kosuzu's standing on my shoulders now, gripping the top of a bookshelf with one hand, reverently sliding in my books with the other. "Ahh, Miss Marisa, please move closer!"

Yeah, that's right. I'm reduced to a footstool. "Hurry uuuuuuuup!" I grumble at her, as she shifts her weight back and forth on me. Kosuzu took her boots off, at least - hooray for small mercies.

"Annnnd - there!" Last book's in place, and we both collapse onto my (somehow sparkling clean) couch. "So, Miss Marisa," Kosuzu says, before taking a deep breath. I notice, a bit belatedly, that her eyes still look firey. "I am willing to reconsider my disapproval for the Kirisame Library - if you give to me all of your book collection indefinitely for safe keeping."

"Oh come on, I wasn't that messy!" I try, a bit pointlessly, to defend myself. "My books were all protected from damage, there wasn't a single stain you could find, and the only problem I had was my lack of a filing system, which you just taught me, so I'll make an awesome librarian with your amazing tutelage!"

Kosuzu flushes a bit at the compliment, but I can't tell if it's real or if she's just really good at faking. She is a shopkeep after all, and Kourin's managed to outbluff me more than once.

"Not all your books then," she concedes, and I let out a sigh of relief. "But! In exchange for my cooperation, up to and including free fliers for the Village, I need you to offer me something of equal value!"

I raise an eyebrow, leaning forward to look at her. "Well, then... define 'equal value'."

But Kosuzu shakes her head, smirking right at me. "Nope! That's your job. I'll know it when I see it."

I grumble melodramatically, stepping off the couch in a fit of annoyance to take a glance at the clock - it's late, and we haven't eaten, so...

With a snap of my fingers to start the fire in the kitchen, I turn to point at her. "How about dinner with a lovely lady?"

Kosuzu laughs. "Okay, that's a start."

--------------------------------------

Since we're both hungry, and I'm in no mood to cook, I end up just reheating a pot of stew. Luckily for me, Mima had to make sure I knew my way around the kitchen, since she never ate herself, and grasping stuff is hard as a ghost. Upshot of all this is that even though it's been sitting since morning, the stew still tastes boiling fresh.

Kosuzu's all smiles as I ladle out bowls for the both of us, and she puts aside my copy of 'Paradise Lost' as we get ready to eat.

"Uh, aren't you worried you'll spill the soup?" I ask, as I sit myself down and take a quick sip.

Ahhhh, nothing like freshly harvested mushroom and veggie soup! They're double-nutritious too, since they're grown in the Forest of Magic. The best time is to collect at night, like right now - and if I wasn't entertaining a guest, I'd be out and about and grabbing all the reagents I need, instead of using up my candles like this.

Kosuzu's abandoned most pretenses of politeness, it seems, and a bit of the candlelight reflects in her glasses as she drinks and reads. "Not particularly. You said the pages were all protected as well - if I end up ruining this, then that just means the deal's off. Better hope I don't spill~"

I chuckle, and leave the girl to her reading as I glance around my spring-cleaned home. I'm honestly a bit surprised I have so much variety in magical subjects. Geomancy, Necromancy - and that's the divination stuff, not the zombie raising - magical healing, elemental control... I'd say that more than half of my own library consists of books from Voile.

Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, maybe it's time to do more than a quick skim of some of these. Explosions are my specialty, but I know firsthand that you don't want to mix that kind of magic with books.

So, in that case, what should I start teaching? I only want to get my feet wet, and Suzunaan's already packed with books, so I should probably stick with one subject. But which one?

[ ]Alchemy. It's just like folk remedies, except Magical, so most adults won't really mind letting their kids know this. It's simple enough that it shouldn't be too hard to teach, and I'm already good at this! It's probably the most peaceful of magics as well, so outside of some spills I should be fine.

[ ]Geomancy. You can do some crazy stuff with the earth, and knowing a bit about Geomancy would be enough to help the farms around here a good amount! At the very least, it'd be much easier to till and plow through all the dirt. It might attract some of the Taoists too, but that might be a good thing or a bad thing.

[ ]Divination. Not the bone-using kind, that'd just get me lynched, but tea, cards, and the stars could be used to give a quick second opinion on a course of action - everyone likes a sure thing, and it'd let the kids know when a pop test is coming up! The tea and the cards would be a bit of a hassle to supply, though, and I don't think I have enough clout to do night classes.

[ ]Write in.

As for what to offer Kosuzu... well, one of these should be enough, and two will definitely earn me brownie points. Three's too much of a bribe, though, and she definitely wanted 'a fair trade.' Being in debt's a terrible thing.

[ ]Warding. Technically most of these books have been warded by Patchy, but I know enough to do a decent job. Books that can't be damaged or collect dirt would make Kosuzu's job easier, as well as provide a cheaper price for lending her books out.

[ ]Magic. Kosuzu's definitely a smart enough girl to pick up the tricks 'o the trade, and you just can't beat magic! It's quite the varied skillset, and I could use a personal assistant when I start teaching others!

[ ]Energy. Gods know I've stayed up late studying, and a bibliophile like Kosuzu must want to read every chance she gets - especially if she's reading and eating like this right in front of me. A small supply of my famous mushroom-derived energy drinks would make a good deal, especially if I give her a discount once her first batch is gone.

[ ]Write-in.

And, lastly... it's pretty late now, and flying by night's always a hassle. Not to mention the Youkai flying about. What should I do about Kosuzu?

[ ]Let her stay the night. Kosuzu said that she got permission to go out as long as she wants while we were cleaning, and I'm sure she'd rather stay up reading than go home and go to bed. We could have a book reading... thing!

[ ]Escort her home. Permission or not, her father's going to get worried regardless, and night flying has its own kinds of charms. It shouldn't take too long to get there and back, and I must admit that my bed is comfier than my couch.

(Write-ins are encouraged to have a reasoning in line with Marisa's own thought processes. Secondly, each batch of votes - teaching subjects, Kosuzu's gifts, and Kosuzu herself - will be tallied separately.)
[x]Geomancy. You can do some crazy stuff with the earth, and knowing a bit about Geomancy would be enough to help the farms around here a good amount! At the very least, it'd be much easier to till and plow through all the dirt. It might attract some of the Taoists too, but that might be a good thing or a bad thing.

[x]Warding. Technically most of these books have been warded by Patchy, but I know enough to do a decent job. Books that can't be damaged or collect dirt would make Kosuzu's job easier, as well as provide a cheaper price for lending her books out.

[x]Magic. Kosuzu's definitely a smart enough girl to pick up the tricks 'o the trade, and you just can't beat magic! It's quite the varied skillset, and I could use a personal assistant when I start teaching others!

[x]Let her stay the night. Kosuzu said that she got permission to go out as long as she wants while we were cleaning, and I'm sure she'd rather stay up reading than go home and go to bed. We could have a book reading... thing!

Was Marisa flirting with Kosuzu?
>>35537

"Uhm. I'll just say 'yes' and move on, okay?"
[x]Geomancy. You can do some crazy stuff with the earth, and knowing a bit about Geomancy would be enough to help the farms around here a good amount! At the very least, it'd be much easier to till and plow through all the dirt. It might attract some of the Taoists too, but that might be a good thing or a bad thing.

[x]Warding. Technically most of these books have been warded by Patchy, but I know enough to do a decent job. Books that can't be damaged or collect dirt would make Kosuzu's job easier, as well as provide a cheaper price for lending her books out.

[x]Magic. Kosuzu's definitely a smart enough girl to pick up the tricks 'o the trade, and you just can't beat magic! It's quite the varied skillset, and I could use a personal assistant when I start teaching others!

[x]Let her stay the night. Kosuzu said that she got permission to go out as long as she wants while we were cleaning, and I'm sure she'd rather stay up reading than go home and go to bed. We could have a book reading... thing!

Is this story going to be based around the mechanics of running a library, or are you going to eschew the technicalities and go for characterization and plot?
[X]Geomancy.
[X]Warding.
[X]Magic.
[X]Let her stay the night.

Sounds good.
[x]Geomancy. You can do some crazy stuff with the earth, and knowing a bit about Geomancy would be enough to help the farms around here a good amount! At the very least, it'd be much easier to till and plow through all the dirt. It might attract some of the Taoists too, but that might be a good thing or a bad thing.

[x]Warding. Technically most of these books have been warded by Patchy, but I know enough to do a decent job. Books that can't be damaged or collect dirt would make Kosuzu's job easier, as well as provide a cheaper price for lending her books out.

[x]Magic. Kosuzu's definitely a smart enough girl to pick up the tricks 'o the trade, and you just can't beat magic! It's quite the varied skillset, and I could use a personal assistant when I start teaching others!

[x]Let her stay the night. Kosuzu said that she got permission to go out as long as she wants while we were cleaning, and I'm sure she'd rather stay up reading than go home and go to bed. We could have a book reading... thing!

Some of the best things I know are book reading things.
[x] Aquamancy. Dust, dirt, and rocks? Not going to get many girls interested in that. Water's a much more gender-neutral interest, while still being useful; dealing with structural dampness, handling floodwaters, irrigating fields. Probably less likely to result in injury, too.

[x] Warding.
[x] Energy.

[x] Escort her home.
[x] Alchemy
[x] Warding.
[x] Escort her home
[X]Geomancy.

[X]Warding.
[X]Magic.

[X]Escort her home. Permission or not, her father's going to get worried regardless, and night flying has its own kinds of charms. It shouldn't take too long to get there and back, and I must admit that my bed is comfier than my couch.

Probably, for the best. Alchemy is safer but since our first students will be kids? Doubt they'll be really interested in that. And Reisen would definitely try to have our head for making her lose business.

As for gifts, energy potion is definitely a recipe for disaster. I can just see Kosuzu depends too much on it. Better keep that recipe on us.
[x] Divination.
[x] Magic.
[x] Let her stay the night.

Divination seems pretty harmless, and pretty practical for kids. If you can use it to tell if a girl likes you, that alone would be worth it.

Magic seems like a pretty big gift, so I think Kosuzu will be pretty happy just with that. Especially if we let her stay the night, too.

Speaking of which, about how old is Kosuzu? Mid-teens?
>>35540

"What mechanics? People come in to borrow books, and they'll return books when they're done. I'll also be teaching any folks curious enough about magic - it seems simple enough."

>>35548

"Well, Kosuzu's only a little younger than Reimu and I, so - I think she's about 16 years? Quite frankly I'm surprised she hasn't been wooed yet."
[x]Geomancy. You can do some crazy stuff with the earth, and knowing a bit about Geomancy would be enough to help the farms around here a good amount! At the very least, it'd be much easier to till and plow through all the dirt. It might attract some of the Taoists too, but that might be a good thing or a bad thing.

[x]Warding. Technically most of these books have been warded by Patchy, but I know enough to do a decent job. Books that can't be damaged or collect dirt would make Kosuzu's job easier, as well as provide a cheaper price for lending her books out.

[x]Magic. Kosuzu's definitely a smart enough girl to pick up the tricks 'o the trade, and you just can't beat magic! It's quite the varied skillset, and I could use a personal assistant when I start teaching others!

[x]Let her stay the night. Kosuzu said that she got permission to go out as long as she wants while we were cleaning, and I'm sure she'd rather stay up reading than go home and go to bed. We could have a book reading... thing!


To me, divination nor alchemy have the 'wow' factor to attract children. Meanwhile, geomancy has that factor while still retaining a level of usefulness to attract older students as well.
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35552
"I'll have to brush up on my Geomancy, and Warding Kosuzu's books will take a while. But teaching her Magic can start right now, since she'll be Staying the Night!"
>>35550
Marisa, Marisa! Are you a one night stand type of gal?
>>35553

"Not...exactly? I don't mind a roll in the hay with a cute girl if that's all she wants, but relationships are fine, too."
>>35554
You misunderstood the question, but you answered it anyways. Cool.
>>35553

All of her bedtime reading material probably wouldn't fit on one night stand. I would imagine that Marisa has several.
File 137055181788.jpg - (168.90KB, 1024x1448, Alice Route.jpg) [iqdb]
35557
[X]Geomancy. You can do some crazy stuff with the earth, and knowing a bit about Geomancy would be enough to help the farms around here a good amount! At the very least, it'd be much easier to till and plow through all the dirt. It might attract some of the Taoists too, but that might be a good thing or a bad thing.

[X]Warding. Technically most of these books have been warded by Patchy, but I know enough to do a decent job. Books that can't be damaged or collect dirt would make Kosuzu's job easier, as well as provide a cheaper price for lending her books out.

[X]Magic. Kosuzu's definitely a smart enough girl to pick up the tricks 'o the trade, and you just can't beat magic! It's quite the varied skill-set, and I could use a personal assistant when I start teaching others!

[X]Let her stay the night. Kosuzu said that she got permission to go out as long as she wants while we were cleaning, and I'm sure she'd rather stay up reading than go home and go to bed. We could have a book reading... thing!

I'm not particularly used to dinnertime conversation, so the fact that Kosuzu's too entranced with her new book to talk is quite the relief. It lets me just... focus on the meal, and feel the warm, savory broth run down my throat.

I'm usually eating while running an experiment, or just skipping dinner outright. So, eating at the table... it's nice. Relaxing, even. Just a simple candlelit dinner, with all my worries and projects put on hold.

Well, almost all my projects. There's still Kosuzu to take care of.

"So... Kosuzu, it's getting late. Why don't you stay the night?" I ask after finishing most of my bowl, stretching a bit to get all the kinks out. Early to bed, early to rise and all that, and I'm far too lazy to bother with bringing her back to the Village.

But Kosuzu's too into the story to pay much attention to me. Hell, her bowl's still fulled to the brim. It's a bit insulting - I am a damn fine cook, thank you very much!

So I'll just scoop up the rest of my soup, caaaarefully bring it over to Kosuzu...

And pour it all over Paradise Lost.

"AHHHHH! No! Towel, towel!" Kosuzu literally jumps out of the chair, knocking me down onto the floor on her way to the kitchen. By the time I get up she's already back with one of my clean rags, hurriedly dabbing them on the book and soaking up the soup from the paper.

"Why would you do that, Marisa? I was reading... it?" She berates me angrily, but it turns into confusion as the rags soak up the spilled broth - and reveal dry, unblemished paper underneath.

"So, Kosuzu, I was thinking..." I continue, getting up like it ain't no thing, "You have a lot of books, right? And I bet they're not as durable as my books. But I, being the wonderful person that I am, can make them just like this. See?" I reach over the table to my waterproofed book, holding it open from the top and flipping the pages with my other. "Waterproof, crease-resistant, you can't even get the pages muddy - sauces and dirt just wash right off!" To make my point, I wipe some of the dirt off my apron and smear it riiiiiiiiight on the page, over what I presume to be Satan's name. I can't actually see it from this angle.

Kosuzu stares in dumbfounded horror as I just utterly desecrate everything she holds dear. Her face, contorted in a pained, agonized visage, doesn't change as I get to work cleaning the mess I just made, using the rags she grabbed earlier to gently wipe the book clean.

"See? Good as new. I'll personally ward every single one of your books - " And here I die a little inside at the prospect of so much menial work - " in exchange for your cooperation. In fact, sign right now and I'll be your personal tutor and guide to the woundrous world of magic! Phenomenal cosmic power, to do with as you please! Change the distance of the stars, in any way you like! Revive your dreams, revise your stance, color them to life! All this and more under my wise and gentle guidance – if you help me out with this teensy little library thing."

It takes a moment for Kosuzu to, well, recover from her disorientation, and a minute longer for to her actually process my ranting. She slumps back onto her her chair, pitifully rubbing her temples, her bells quiet and still. “That's...frankly, Miss Marisa, you seem like you would be a terrible teacher. Or at least a terrifying teacher. I'd much rather you just... ward my books?”

Oh, no. I'm going to have her under me whether she likes it or not.

“But what about Reimu? Or Mamizou?” And she stares, she stares with her... oh, good, they're just curious eyes.

“...What about them, Miss Marisa?” It's an obvious tactic I'm about to use, but it doesn't make it any less effective!

“Well, they worry about you. We all do; collecting Youkai Books is fine and all, but it's always so dangerous. I mean, remember the Night Parade Scroll you have? Or even that Ennera youkai that escaped over the winter!”

“Yes, but I've been getting better! There haven't been any escapes or anything for at least a few months!” Poor, flustered Kosuzu is desperately trying to defend herself. Perfect.

“Ah... no, no, that's not what I meant. You've been doing a great job already, Kosuzu. You're probably the only human Reimu and Mamizou would trust to take care of those things. But... you can always do a better job, yannow? And I know for a fact that they'd feel a little better if you knew how to defend yourself!”

Kosuzu bites her lip, hard, almost chewing it as she thinks things through. And for good reason – magic's just like any other trade, and she's a bit too old have an apprenticeship now.

And yet, the colors, the sounds~ I can already picture Kosuzu with her very own witch's hat – perhaps a good, light purple, to compliment her vibrant red hair; not robes, those are just too unfashionable. And a tad childish. Heck, Patchouli looks like she's wearing pajamas all the time. A mantle's a must for Kosuzu... or maybe a capelet? Her shoulders can't be bare, of course, but a leotard would be perfect for her! Just a tad clingy to show off her body, and make it easier to focus her magic...

Well, now I see why Alice likes dress up.

“Uhm, Miss Marisa?” Kosuzu asks, gently prodding my shoulder to get my attention. I jolt at the touch, letting the 'Youkai' Book slip from my hand and drop to the floor.

“Whoops! Sorry, Kosuzu, I got lost in thought.” I pass the blush on my face as one of embarrassment, but I don't think Kosuzu quite notices. Or if she does, she's not saying anything about it.

“That's, uhm – that's quite alright, Miss Marisa...” Kosuzu mumbles out, just as red as I am. She distracts herself by picking up the book and dusting it off – though it's not like there's any scruff marks on it. My wards are thorough, and the way Kosuzu's examining it, she knows it too.

“...So, warding my books, and teaching me magic?” She offers a brave, cautious smile. “When do we start?”

--------------------------------------

My little training ground, which is really just a small clearing in the Forest of Magic I spent weeks cleaning up, is littered with makeshift lampposts that cast a reddish glow upon the land. It's buried deep inside the heart of the forest, and both flora and fauna have mutated with the magic that dances upon the air, that soaks into the soft, fertile soil below. A small circle in the center's been fenced off, for me to practice growing my own mushrooms, but the rest of the land shows furrows and scars from spells both accidental and purposeful.

“Uhm, Miss Marisa, is this really necessary?” poor Kosuzu murmurs, too focused on rubbing her arms for warmth to really give much notice to her surroundings. Her two elbow-length gloves are on quite snugly, and the velvet fabric twists and flexes nicely as her fingers dance upon her skin.

“That's Mistress to you, Ko-su-zu~” I reply, stepping over to gently brush her pale, slender shoulders. I couldn't find anything to cover them, but it adds to Kosozu's appeal in its own way. The wind is fierce and cold tonight, whipping Kosuzu's hair about and causing her bells to dance and sing. I'm used to the windchill, thanks to experience and a few helpful spells, but Kosuzu has neither of those, and she's left curling into herself. Her shivering, the way her nipples press into the rubbery leotard that hugs her body – well, let's just say it's quite clear on how she's dealing with it all.

“But... but, Miss, Mistress, it's so cold! How can I concentrate like this?” Another wind comes by as if to punctuate Kosuzu's statement, and the chill finally gets the best of her. She takes one step, two, and she's buried herself into my chest, desperately hugging me for warmth. And, well, I'd just be a terrible teacher if I left her to suffer.

With a serene smile, I pull on the edge of my cape, wrapping it around Kosuzu like a makeshift blanket. It's terribly thin, however, and not exactly what you'd call long. In fact, all it really does is cover half of her back, leaving her bare ass and thighs exposed for the cruel wind to ravage her with sharp, stinging slices.

Indeed, the air seems to grow thicker, heavier, as though it was herald to a storm. Kosuzu's bells grow silent underneath my tender care, but the savage wind does nothing for intimacy. Indeed, branches are snapping and being thrown aloft, and the lamps I've hung amongst the trees have grown cold, the paper shielding too weak to oppose the wind. With no moon, the clearing plunges into darkness, and I can feel Kosuzu stiffen and shake as I guide her to a nearby tree.

My new apprentice sits in my lap, her soft, plush butt gently rubbing against my own thighs. Kosuzu's just so soft, and adorable, and malleable~ As my new apprentice grinds against me for just a little more warmth, I can't help but brush my knuckles against the back of her neck, and -

“Pffffffffffffft. 'I'm going to have her under me whether she likes it or not'? Good Golly Miss Molly, Marisa; you do sure suck at this.”

And my awesome sex dream is ruined.

Oh, sure Kosuzu and 'I' are still necking in the woods at night, using each other to satisfy our need for warmth and pleasure, but it's like the difference between watching someone do it and doing it yourself. That and I'm too distracted to actually pay attention to the world-shattering sex I'm supposed to be enjoying.

"Oh, come on Mima! These dreams only come like twice a month! And the last time I had one I was off killing an evil caricature of Alice! You didn't wake me up then!"

“I just want to point out that that particular dream was after your break-up thing which still makes no sense considering you two were never officially in a relationship, and also you were having the time of your life stabbing zombies in the gut.” Dream-Mima waves me off, still skimming through the book of my memories. Thoughts. Memory-thoughts.

Or at least I think it's Dream-Mima. The 'real' Mima had left me with this spell that ensures either good dreams or dreamless sleep, though I can't figure out the mechanics and it seems to lean towards the latter. She apparently modified an anesthesia spell for human sacrifices, but whatever. This Mima in my head acts just like I remember, and she certainly isn't telling if she's real or fake or something in between.

I settle down in one of those fancy reading chairs as walls sprout up around Mima and I, a fireplace providing all the warmth and light I'd ever need. I grumble a bit, tossing my hat to the side as I let myself have a little pout.

Mima doesn't give a damn, of course. Doesn't even have the decency to sit down. And she clearly has legs even though she's a ghost, since I can see the outlines of her knees whenever she crosses them. Like right now.

She's just floating. A few centimeters off the chair. She's even in a sitting position too, and catching up on the Life and Times of Marisa Kirisame.

“Oh, don't look so upset. It's a teacher's prerogative to give their students all the shit in the world. And whatever did happen to Alice? Or Miss Hakurei herself? I mean, just who is this pretty new thing who's caught your eye?”

I try watching myself undress Kosuzu through the television, but it's not exactly like I can play with myself when Mima's right there. So all I can do is grumble. Grumble in spite. “Alice is great in bed, but we just clash too much. And I'm not even sure Reimu swings that way.”

Mima absentmindedly waves her hand, increasing the flare of the fire and dimming the volume of the, well, porn. “Yup, like that's ever stopped you from fantasizing. So, what's this about defending my honor? I'm not sure I approve.”

I snort. “You told me, and I quote, 'I don't give a flying fuck on what you do with this knowledge, so long as you use it.' So, yannow, I'm using it. And glorifying your name in the process, so you can't even accuse me of being ungrateful.”

“And your response was, and I quote, 'Oooooooh, you said sweaaaaaaars~' So you'll forgive me for not trusting your comprehension.” The book snaps shut and vaporizes into so much smoke, as Mima finally sits down and stretches her arms. There's a smirk on her lips.

“So, want to woo the Motoori girl, eh? She certainly seems your type, all delicate on the outside, all fire and passion on the inside, yadda yadda yadda.”

I conjure up a book to throw at her, but she just blasts it out of the air with a laser. Hmph.

“Oh come on, it's just a fantasy. One you woke me up from, I might add! Didn't you cast this spell for, you know, good-dream having?”

“That I did, Marisa, that I did.” She responds, nodding sagely. “But I'm also a vengeful spirit. Barging in on you like a mother catching her child red handed? Far too tempting.”

“You didn't stop me from dreaming about Reimu or Alice!”

“That's because I thought you'd settle down with one of them, Marisa dearest!” Mima's suddenly hugging me from behind, through the chair. “You have the down to earth, stable, and pretty Reimu as bride one, and then there's adorably feisty, passionately angry, ice-queen-on-the-surface Alice as bride two! It's the pefect love triangle!”

“And, well,” she adds after a moment's pause, still embracing me. Somehow. Her hands and arms don't have any physical weight, but I can't seem to move through them. “Watching you stab zombies in the gut with a knife was pretty awesome. Anything that led to that is retroactively the best choice.”

“You were turned into a doll made of stitched-together human flesh and forced to dance on a hundred-meter-tall Alice's strings, who was also made of stitched-together human flesh and also had entrails and feces coming out of every orifice.”

And now she phases through me, giving me a chilling jolt, before floating over to the television and sitting on it.

With her legs crossed. In front of the screen. And she's smiling.

“Yes, but it was awesome and so all is forgiven. Now – Kosuzu. Spill.”

Gods. If the real Mima ever comes back, I will hug her or strangle her.

“Okay, then. Kosuzu. She's cute, she's going to help me run my new library, and I'd be able to use her as teaching practice. Keine's too busy to go to for help with this, and Miko and Byakuren are landmines at the moment.”

Mima waves her finger at me, in that tut-tut motion I'm never actually sure how to describe. “I meant romance, dearest. You have Love Sign spellcards, come on now.”

I'm positive I've asked this before, but the whole dream malarkey makes everything... unsure. “Why do you even care, Mima?” I groan at her.

“Because I'm a terribly old woman who enjoys being a gossipy busybody. Also because you're my only student, and I want to root my pride and ego into you, like all great and powerful teachers.”

...And she says this with a pleased grin.

I surrender. “Oh, fine. I'm interested in Kosuzu. I'm also interested in Reimu. Alice... not so much, these days. Miko was kind of disappointing when I realized that she wasn't actually you, but she's fun enough to hang around with. I don't know too much about Byakuren, but with a body like that, who wouldn't be curious? And everybody who's lived in the Human Village has a crush on Keine, so.” I also list them all tonelessly, carelessly, topping it off with a shrug.

Not that she sees it, since she's too busy looking at her nails. “All acceptable wives, then. And your choice?” Mima shoots back, without even taking a glance at me.

“Ehhhhhhhh. I'll figure it out as I go along. Hell, I might just focus on teaching and stay single.”

“A sensible choice, I suppose. But speaking of teaching... how do you plan to do that?”

Oh good, she's done discussing my love life. I let a smile grace my lips, and let myself relax just a bit.

Although I must admit, the television screen's still a bit distracting.

-----------------------------------------

Birds. Hateful, evil, obnoxious birds. They chirp, they screech, they wake me up.

It takes me a moment to actually get up and rub the sleep from my eyes. With only one arm to do said rubbing, I don't realize why I only have one arm to rub said sleep from said eyes until I yawn and look down.

My first lesson was pretty light, if a bit makeshift. Just some reading homework really, and a few scribblings on the floor for Kosuzu to practice her seal-making. I must have fallen asleep, watching her draw pentagrams and perfect concentric circles again and again – and she must have crawled into the couch with me, if her grip on my arm's anything to go by.

Heh. Kosuzu smiles when she sleeps. That delicate tidbit in mind, I dilly dally, shilly shally my way out of her grip, and head on over to the bathroom to freshen up.

Or I would have if someone hadn't just knocked on the door. Luckily for me, my house is actually clean and orderly for once, and so I don't trip on anything as I walk to the door.

Ahhhhhhh damn it it's Alice.

The door opens and I give her a tired glare. My hat's all jaunty too. “Morn', toots.” I drawl.

Now, how should I describe her, as she appears before me? Her golden locks gleam as always in the sun, a shock of red from her headband adding to the fairy tale image. Her clothing is immaculate, her eyes, passionate, and -

And I am far, far too tired for this. She looks like a porcelain doll, with all the beauty and unreality that description entails. And implies. And states.

And those 'passionate' eyes roll at me. “Good morning to you too, Marisa; you're quite surly today. Did you spend last night cleaning, for once?”

I smirk and let her step inside, letting my beautiful home speak for itself. And Alice just blinks. “Ah – so you did. And who's that child on your couch? I wasn't aware your thievery extended to cradle robbing.”

There's no malice in her voice. There never is. I really have to see if I can't learn that trick one of these days. “Oh, that's just Kosuzu. We were discussing some business yesterday, and it got late enough to where she had to spend the night.”

“Ah. Well, I'm sure you discussed all sorts of contracts and had incredibly rough negotiations and some other terrible double entendres.” She lets herself into the kitchen to make breakfast.

We might not be all that close, but we're not like some mages, who have a maid to wait on them hand and foot. It's easier to manage the food bills by eating together; magic doesn't pay all that well in the scheme of things.

I mean, granted Alice doesn't actually neeeeeeed to eat these days, but I presume there's still a sense of fullness and pleasure involved. Who knows.

Regardless! I'm not to disturb Alice while she's cooking, and Kosuzu will probably be out of it for a while longer. A glance at the clock says we've slept in late, which means I have a few hours to kill. Alice's meals are the best, but her micromanagement means she takes an incredibly long time in the kitchen. Like, “calls it breakfast but it's really lunch” long.

So... where to now?

[ ]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.

[ ]The Schoolhouse. Classes should be in session, which means I can get a quick glimpse into the how-tos of teaching. Mima just reminded me firsthand of why her teaching style might not pan out, and there's a big difference between specialized training and teaching a group.

[ ]Suzunaan. Kosuzu's father would probably appreciate knowing how his daughter's doing, at the least, and getting started on the Warding would probably score me some points all around. Plus, I need to scope out where to, you know, put all my Geomancy books.

[ ]Write in.
[X]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.

(types ENGAGE REIMU, MOTHER FUCKER at the password screen)
[x]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.

I figure this'd be funny, that and a fed Reimu is a happy Reimu and a Happy Reimu isn't going to fantasy heaven you into next week.
[x]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.
dat dream
had me goin fo a sec
[x]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.

Yeah, this sounds like fun.
[x]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.

...Do all your dreams happen to be like a bad and sappy romance novel?
>>35562
"Given that I was complaining to Mima about how my last dream before the one with Kosuzu involved zombies and stabbings and literal puppets made of meat, I'm going to say no, they are not all bad and sappy romance novels.

Just. Just some of them."
[x]Suzunaan. Kosuzu's father would probably appreciate knowing how his daughter's doing, at the least, and getting started on the Warding would probably score me some points all around. Plus, I need to scope out where to, you know, put all my Geomancy books.

Let's get on the good side of our benefactor's father.
[X] The Schoolhouse. Classes should be in session, which means I can get a quick glimpse into the how-tos of teaching. Mima just reminded me firsthand of why her teaching style might not pan out, and there's a big difference between specialized training and teaching a group.

We could use the information
[X] The Schoolhouse. Classes should be in session, which means I can get a quick glimpse into the how-tos of teaching. Mima just reminded me firsthand of why her teaching style might not pan out, and there's a big difference between specialized training and teaching a group.
[X] The Schoolhouse. Classes should be in session, which means I can get a quick glimpse into the how-tos of teaching. Mima just reminded me firsthand of why her teaching style might not pan out, and there's a big difference between specialized training and teaching a group.
[x]Suzunaan. Kosuzu's father would probably appreciate knowing how his daughter's doing, at the least, and getting started on the Warding would probably score me some points all around. Plus, I need to scope out where to, you know, put all my Geomancy books.


Might as well get this out of the way.
[X] The Schoolhouse. Classes should be in session, which means I can get a quick glimpse into the how-tos of teaching. Mima just reminded me firsthand of why her teaching style might not pan out, and there's a big difference between specialized training and teaching a group.

Hey Marisa, even if you're interested in Byakuren, won't her vow of chastity gets in the way?
>>35569

"Well... yeah, actually it would. But to be honest, Byakuren doesn't seem like a very good Buddhist anyway. And if she's fun enough to be with, I wouldn't mind waiting."
>>35569
>>35570
Pretty sure it doesn't count if you're both girls.
Its about emotions not inheritence so I don't see why gender would make a difference.
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35573
"Reimu's it is! Though, knowing how early she gets up, she might have eaten by now."

>>35571

"What >>35572 said. Sex is a big no no for Buddhist monks because of the lust angle."
>>35573
one might argue lust is only bad if it's unfulfilled as isn't it unfulfilled desires that hinder the path to enlightenment?
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35575
>>35574

"I'm not actually sure. I mean, if we ever head over to Byakuren, I'd be sure to ask. But considering their source of all evil is a giant penis demon riding a war chariot, I think it's just any lust at all clouds Enlightenmnet.
While we wait for the update, I'd just like to say that I'm really liking this story. It feels a bit different, a bit fresh, and that's always welcome.
>>35576

Yea I kinda like being able to chat with MC should we feel so inclined.
>>35576

"Thanks a lot! I know some of my friends coughAlicecough like more melodramatic storytelling, but I'm more fond of, ah, irreverent narration like this. More relatable!"

>>35577

"Chatting with you guys helps me a lot, too. There's always a bunch of stuff I have to skip to make the story flowing and going at a good pace, so questions and clarifications lets me go over the things I missed the first time around. Keep the questions coming!"
Out of curiosity, how old is Kosuzu in this story? Early teens?

>>35575

...Now I have this mental image of Byakuren fighting Mara. It is a very strange image, and I wish it would go away.
>>35579

"I could have sworn I mentioned it... yeah, I did at >>35550 over there. Kosuzu's about 16, and Reimu and I are about 18. Age is always a fuzzy thing in Genoskyo though, what with the magic and the timlessness feeling and all.

As for Mara. Well, I wouldn't mind seeing that image! It'd be fun to watch Byakuren lose horribly get corrupted by prevail valiantly against that ridiculous thing. The Buddhists weren't exactly the masters of subtlety when they came up with the thing. That, or Mara just enjoys being a sledgehammer of desire."
>>35581

Gah, yes you did mention it before. Curse my terrible memory.
What exactly are Byakuren's views on sex? She can't be a prude or utterly chaste given the body she made for herself.

On a different note, what kind of magic does she use on a day-to-day basis? A lot of what I've read tends to overlook her being a magician.
>>35583

That's kinda something we would have to ask her personally. I'm sure her actual narration of her sexual preferences/day to day magic use would be far more complete/entertaining than whatever hearsay Marisa could give you.
>>35584
To be fair, she's a pretty shitty budhist in canon. But I think she made her body like it is due to pride not lust.
>>35585

Or maybe she's an exceptional Buddhist and she made her body like that to achieve perfect balance while meditating into nirvana.
>>35583
>>35584
>>35585
>>35586

"I hear a lot of rumors about Byakuren, both sex wise and magic wise, but they're all just rumors - and they contradict each other a lot, anyways. We can always head over there, if you guys or I can think of a reason to go. Byakuren probably wouldn't appreciate a direct Q&A, after Akyuu's Symposium, but we could probably figure something out just by hanging around the Temple.

As for my money - well, regardless of whether she's a good Buddhist or not, I think she does try to be one. I mean, the whole not drinking and eating meat thing's made her rather unpopular at first, so if it's all just a power grab she would have given into the peer pressure, right?"
Honestly I think shes more heretical then lapsing, ie she seems to have a very strong world view, and if that conflicts with mainstream Buddhism then well too bad.

But you've met the girl.

It might work better to talk to Nazarin or Murasa.
[x]Suzunaan. Kosuzu's father would probably appreciate knowing how his daughter's doing, at the least, and getting started on the Warding would probably score me some points all around. Plus, I need to scope out where to, you know, put all my Geomancy books. Also, ask Mamizou what she knows about Byakuren regarding magic.
>>35589
In case you forgot, vote has been called.
>>35588

"Heretical? Hmmm - that might actually be a good way to phrase things. I'd have to ask her on the specifics, though. I'm a bit wary of Nazrin or Murasa, though - Byakuren's nice, but her disciples are still youkai."

>>35589
>>35590

"Yeah, sorry about the late update. I've been busy with stuff - like warding the books, hashing the budget out with Alice, working with Eirin to get certified for basic life support training and other stuff like that. Update soon, I hope!"
>>35590

Whoops, missed that. Sorry.
>>35587
>sex wise
What's the most scandalous rumor you've heard about Byakuren?
>>35684

I hear from a very reliable source that she keeps a vibrating Mara dildo under her pillow. maybe we should poke around her room a bit when we visit.
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35688
[X]The Hakurei Shrine. Reimu'd probably appreciate a good meal, and we need to move her donation box to its new home anyway. Seeing Kosuzu react to her hero would be good for a laugh, too.

Reimu's place is actually kind of small for a shrine, when you get down to it. I mean, she has this huge mountaintop all to herself, and a lake to boot, but there's only three bedrooms and a kitchen in there – I can't even tell if there's an actual place to worship or not.

Although, I guess for Reimu it's probably way too big. Genji's a nice turtle, but he gets boring to talk to, and Suika and Yukari are assholes. Like, the biggest. Suika's constant partying did at least as much damage to the Human Village's stockpiles as Yukari's everlasting winter. Things were terribly touch and go for a while. I like a feast as much as the next guy, but come on. Everyone was all partied out for the next month, and it ruined the Shooting Star Viewing they had planned!

I was looking forward to that, damn it!

I'm left shaking my fist at imaginary oni and gap hags as I touch down in the Hakurei Shrine's backyard. Silently, of course. Old Genji's snoozin' at the hotsprings and soaking up the heat; it'd be rude to wake him up. So, I'll just slide open the weathered doors and let myself in.

The clinking of chopsticks on ceramic echoes loudly throughout the shrine, and it's a peace of cake to follow the sound all the way to... Reimu elegantly eating a bowl of plain rice, with a touch of soy sauce.

The rice is probably cold, too. Not that I'd actually know but it seems... fitting. But regardless, this can't stand!

So I rap my knuckles against the wall, and let myself into the room. Not that Reimu actually reacts, but it's the thought that counts.

Indeed, she just continues to add more soy sauce to flavor her meal, as though I wasn't there at all. “Good morning, Marisa. I still have Rinnosuke's tea leaves, if you want to sit for a spell.”

She doesn't stop eating as I walk up to her and sit down. Her eyes are closed, almost thoughtful, though her furrowed brow breaks the serene image she was trying to go for. She doesn't notice – or at least, care – about my scrutiny as she pops a small bit of brown rice into her mouth. A small hum escapes her as she chews, as if treasuring every bite.

I take the moment to brush my knuckles against the rice – yup, cold.

“Uhm – actually, Reimu. I was thinking we could go over to my place for breakfast. Kosuzu's over there too, so we can iron out the details while we eat.”

Silence. And when Reimu opens her eyes, there's a terrifying, hungry sheen.

“You sure about that, Marisa? I'd hate to be a bother...” Her voice is slow, soft – and yet I can hear Reimu struggle to keep the excitement out of her voice. She's not completely successful, either – her pitch wavers just a tiny bit, and she gently bites on the back of her lip.

“Of course! The more the merrier, and all that.” And then she moves. The rice's done, the bowl's in the sink, and Reimu's outside.

“Hurry up, Marisa! I'm waiting~!”

Waiting my ass! She doesn't even 'wait' for me to get outside before she's in the air, flying towards the forest. 'Course, with my speed it's a breeze to catch up with her. “Don't you want to talk about the donation box, first?”

“What's there to talk about? You came over and mentioned it, so clearly everything's fine on that front.”

“Well, yeah, but don't you want to... spruce up the box? That thing's taken a beating.” Mostly from Reimu kicking it in frustration. That box abuser.

But Reimu just shrugs her shoulders. “Too much money to fix it. And if people don't donate because of that, then I'll just have to keep living like this. Or stop you from taking my extermination work.”

“Hey, I need to eat too!” I overtake Reimu before spinning around and looking her in the eye. Not that this actually stops her from accelerating , so I'm forced to keep flying backwards lest I receive a shrine maiden tackle. “Not my fault you're a lazy bum. You're the heroine everyone wants, but I am the heroine everyone settles for. Advertise, be flashier, and you'll get all kinds of requests!”

“Yes, and that's the problem. All kinds. The hundred-thousand yen service was bad enough; it's the Hakurei Shrine, not the Hakurei Brothel. Miko and Byakuren have snatched up all my wedding and funeral money, too!”

There's this terrible urge within me to ask just what, exactly, a hundred-thousand yen service actually involves. Because she can't possibly be implying what I think she's implying. But for once, my sensible side wins out and I totally and casually continue. “Couldn't you just... move the shrine over to the village?”

Reimu's too hungry to notice my... trepidation, and shakes her head, sighing as we descend into the forest. “I've tried. For one, Yukari won't let me – the current location of the Shrine is tied to the Hakurei Barrier, so I need to stay there to maintain it. And even if she was fine with it, the villagers aren't. Remilia, and Suika, and Yukari, and the Fairies – the Hakurei Shrine's too popular with youkai for the Village to be comfortable with me.”

“What about those hot springs?”

She gives me The Look. You know the one, that exhausted glare you always get when you give out a totally reasonablesuggestion or ask a completely legitimate question and the other person just thinks you're full of crap.

“You mean the hot springs that my giant pet turtle regularly sleeps, eats, and defecates in?”

...Ooooookay, maybe Reimu does have a point.

------------------------------

We eventually resolve to stop talking about Reimu's monetary situation, and head for breakfast. Or rather, she stops talking about it, and I don't really know how to continue the conversation.

Regardless, we touch down at my house soon enough, and are... well, assaulted is kind of a bad word to use, because it implies the smell we're... smelling, well... smells bad. Not like warm, toasted bread, the faint sweet-sour twinge of oranges, and – wait a tic.

Reimu's eyes are closed as she steps through the doorway, her head angled high to sniff out her next meal. I can almost see the wafts of steam lead her, ever so gently, by the nose. “I thought oranges were out of season now,” I hear her murmur.

And yet, there they are when we enter – three plates piled with a modest assortment of food. Scrambled eggs collected from Alice's chickens, toasted bread with butter and jam, oranges.

“They are, but Miss Kazami has taken to the habit of growing and selling out of season go – ah. I see Marisa has brought another guest. Will you be dining with us as well, Miss Hakurei?” Alice's voice echoes from my kitchen, and it takes me a moment to realize she's, once again, placed some of her dolls around the place to keep watch. Hourai's sitting on the bookshelf, and happily waves at us when I notice her.

Cheeky little thing. Wish Alice was more like this. I wave back, floating up to pull Hourai off and set her somewhere safe. The blond doll struggles in my hands a bit, but all the magic in the world can't stop someone fifty times your size squeezing her hands around you.

...Well, all the magic Alice knows, at any rate. I could totally break out of someone fifty times my size squeezing the life out of me. But Horuai's just doomed, though it doesn't stop her from kicking me with her little adorable feet. She tosses me an angry pout as I place her on my coffee table, crossing her arms and glaring petulantly – but, she stays still, which is good enough for me.

By the time I turn around, Reimu's already sitting on the table, talking to – Kosuzu in an apron?

“ - so it's not too hard to grow a garden of your own, Miss Reimu. That should help with some of your food problems; since you always help the village with youkai, I'm sure a few of the farmers wouldn't mind giving you seeds if you ask for them – and I have a few books on gardening too, if you want to check them out!” Kosuzu happily informs Reimu as she slides a fourth plate onto the tabletop. A few of Alice's dolls, equipped with tiny spoons and aprons, are still busily scrambling the eggs on the hot plate, only stopping to glare at Reimu and wave those wooden sticks around when she tries to get an early bite.

Reimu harrumphs, getting a giggle out of Kosuzu and making the egg-splattered dolls roll their eyes. “Well, Marisa offered to place the donation box in front of her library, if I gave her my sponsorship. I'm sure I could look around the village while we bring the box there – ah, if that's alright with you, Kosuzu.”

Kosuzu beams, and her merry bells jingle as she takes off her apron and sets it on one of the clothing hooks. “Oh, that's perfectly fine, Miss Reimu. Anything to help you out!”

“Mmm. I never pictured Marisa to be responsible enough to run a library,” Alice says as she glides out from my kitchen. The dollmaker has one of her handkerchiefs in hand, and her cooking dolls line up behind her her, waiting to be cleaned. Flours, crumbs and dobs of jam... her cooking utensils are all quite dirty, and incredibly high maintenance.

I can't really fault her peculiarities – though I do double check to make sure she hasn't left the fires on. “Oh, well, you know. Mima was good to me, so I gotta do her teachings proud. And since she was all for the spreading of magic, figured the best way to do that was, well, teach.”

“Yes, I'm sure the best way to ensure the continued survival of Mima's magic philosophy is to offer weekly lessons in your home neighborhood,” I can hear her scoff as I bleed out the excess magic in my kitchen out the window. “Dilettante.”

“Hey, there's nothing wrong with learning what you want to learn. What's the point of magic if you never use it?” I return to the living room, where Kosuzu and Reimu are already seated. And eating – the scraping of metal on ceramic is the only real accompaniment to my talk with Alice. That's a small relief – Alice is a damn fine cook, and this way neither of my guests will need to butt in. Or feel awkward.

“I've no problems with you using magic – it's your attitude I have trouble digesting. Such a mystical, powerful force, and you treat it so... mundanely. It's insulting, really. Like a chef who slaves over fine cuisine versus, say, you, or a artist's masterpiece versus a toddler's scribbles. What, pray tell, is the point of creating if you don't create something worthwhile?"

Alice is still cleaning her dolls when I sit down and take care of my own growing hunger. The jam is sweet but not overly so, and adds a touch of moisture to the crispy, savory toast. I chase the bread down with a small gulp of milk, and shrug.

“My cooking is perfectly fine and you know it. And parents hang their kids' drawings on the wall, like, all the time.” I'm not exactly giving all my attention to Alice, but once food's before me I'm far too uninterested in philosophical debate. Reimu's the same apparently, if the way she's shoveling her food down is anything to go by.

Kosuzu's slowed down her eating, though, and I can almost see her ears perk up at the conversation. She's been glancing between me and Alice, too, and she flushes a bit when I manage to catch her eye.

Alice doesn't quite notice, however. Once her dolls are clean, they all float off to who knows where, leaving her to finally eat. Normally, that'd be the end of the conversation, but...

Well, it's good to give a student more things to think about, right?

“And anyways, 'something worthwhile' is totally subjective. Like those kid drawings – we might think they're just a bunch of scribbles, but the tot's parents are going to be the proudest folks in the world.”

Alice doesn't quite dignify me with a response at first, instead cutting a piece of her toast with a knife and gently adding some eggs onto the piece. “But you do not deny that there's no real technical aptitude in the child's art. If it had no family or caretakers, the child's art is just so much trash in the wind.”

“What about the kid's teachers?”

“I did say 'caretaker', did I not? A teacher safeguards their charge's health, both physical and mental. If you plan to teach them how to use magic without any real principles to restrain them, Marisa, then I'm going to enjoy watching this all blow up in your face.”

“They're perfectly good kids, Alice. And I totally have a guiding philosophy in mind – but those are really more like guidelines than rules. If my students end up doing something I didn't plan, then oh well.”

“Your 'guiding philosophy' is 'do whatever you can get away with'!”

“And that's a perfectly fine philosophy!”

“Seconds, please!” Reimu's voice knocks both of us out of our argument. We both look at her plate – it's empty, crumbs at all. The only thing left is the orange peel, which still has a bit of its citrus scent on it.

“Ah... of course. Marisa, do you terribly mind helping?”

“...Not at all.”

I can see Reimu hide a smirk behind her napkin, and Kosuzu can't help but sigh in relief.

----------------------------------

“Wait, hold up, you can't be serious.” I take a few steps closer to my 'library', pinching myself to make sure I'm not still asleep. Alice is doubled over, and her dolls are busy helping her stifle her laughter - though it does nothing to stop her tears. Reimu's not helping either, with the way she leans against her donation box, almost shaking with the effort to keep a straight face.

Kosuzu flushes, and her bells ring morosely as she tilts her head in apology. “I'm sorry, Miss Marisa, but... it's only been a day. It takes time to get new bookshelves.”

“But. It's a tent.

“More of an awning, really,” Reimu points out. “The canvas doesn't even touch the ground."

Kosuzu's dad must have strung this up while we were arriving - a thick, brown canvas is now tied to Suzunaan's roof now, and stretched across to two tall wooden poles. Two dusty, waist-high bookshelves sit in the shade, one of which is supposed to double as a desk if the chair next to it is any indication.

“We... we don't have any room, Miss Marisa. And if you're going to be teaching magic, it... it wouldn't really be in anyone's best interest if you did it... inside. With the books. It's cramped! And dark. And our floors are wood, not dirt. Terrible place to teach geomancy, right?”

Kosuzu's getting far too flustered, and her babbling's making me look really bad. With that and Alice's laughter, we're gathering quite the crowd, and I can feel some of them staring at me.

But... where there's a crowd, there's an audience.

“Well~! I know a way you can make it up to me, Kosuzu. Why don't you help me make some new walls?”

Some of the villagers lean closer in interest, although Kosuzu's a bit confused at first. “But... how? We don't have any wood, just some dirt, and – oh, oh! Absolutely, Miss Marisa!”

“I'll be grading you on this, okay~?” I tell her, and she smiles and nods in response. Of course, since it's her first practical examination, I make sure to give her as much space as she needs, and the villagers know enough to step back if the Great and Powerful Marisa is being cautious.

Alice has wiped away her tears by now, though she's still breathing a bit heavily from all the laughter. Reimu's much more relaxed... after she moves her donation box far, far away from Kosuzu.

“You've already taught her something?” Alice asks me, as we watch my apprentice. Kosuzu's taking her first steps as a magician, and already she's doing a fine job; geomancy requires a lot of, well, geometry, and drawing perfect circles and rectangles without any tools is damn hard.

She starts emitting a magical hum as the spell gets to work, and the energy escaping her body is cooking up a slight breeze. Her hair's starting to float as she concentrates, and her bells jingle almost in time with the magic. It's quite the show, and it does a lot to lighten the monotony of watching a girl bend down and draw shapes in the soil.

Said soil is already starting to coalesce into a pile, though; the villagers all gasp when they notice the ground surrounding Kosuzu sink a bit, as her magic begins collecting the loose earth and forming it into a wall. It's not quite a dance yet – Kosuzu's movements are too deliberate and jerky, and the dirt responds as such. Quick spurts of progress are diminished by dirt falling away, revealing jagged cracks, while pebbles and grass continue to disrupt the flow of magic, making one half of the dirt lag behind the other.

It's her first time, and she hasn't developed the feel of things quite yet, which means she pauses more than once, one hand on the almost crumbling wall to keep the spell going, to take breaks. Her right hand is always busy, though, adding a bit of mundane effort to the magical construction – pulling out weed-roots and rocks, filling in the gaps of cracks with hand-compacted dirt, and redrawing lines and marks with a slender, glowing finger.

The sun travels along, beating a heat into Kosuzu as she works on the finishing touches, hardening the dirt around the wooden poles and on top of the canvas, trying to reinforce the wall as best she can. More and more people start to gather to watch – it's hard not to notice the constant humming and chiming of bells, after all. Even her dad's come out of Suzunaan, crossing his arms and looking upon his girl with pride.

It's about an hour when Kosuzu finishes, and the panting, sweaty, dirt-encrusted girl takes a step back -

“Ahhhhh!” And falls into a newly made ditch.

That breaks the magic, figuratively and literally, and the ringing in all of our ears finally stops. The wall, miraculously, holds – except for a square in the middle, which just crumbles apart, the globs of earth falling away to leave a hole.

A lot of the villagers start clapping while I pull Kosuzu up from her fall. The poor girl's heaving from exhaustion, her face flushed and sweaty and her hair so dirty it's brown instead of red.

Kosuzu ends up leaning on me for support. “How... how did I do, Miss, Miss Marisa?” She asks. With all the magic and adrenalin gone, Kosuzu's shaking all over, both her body and her voice, and this time her brass bells are too clumped up with dirt to ring.

She definitely needs a bath. And maybe some sleep on an actual bed. “You did just fine, Kosuzu,” I tell her, loud enough for everyone to hear, and the crowd helpfully clears a path for us to limp on.

Not that it matters; almost as soon as she's up on her feet, her pop's already in front of us, picking her up in his arms. “Good job, honey – with this, we can save on renovation costs!”

Kosuzu groans at the teasing – or maybe the thought of doing this on a regular basis. Still, though... she looks as proud as I feel. Biggest shit-eating grin I've seen outside a mirror.

“So, everyone!” Kosuzu's dad spins around to look at the audience, cradling Kosuzu with one hand while the other's pointing at me. “I hope you enjoyed that little demonstration! The Kirisame Library will be open tomorrow, with the best selection of magic books you'll find in the Village! Pay a little extra, and I'm sure Marisa here wouldn't mind teaching your kids how to do this as well! I'm certainly pleased with her results!” He laughs, deep and loud, loud enough to probably get half the Human Village to notice.

Of course, if it's that loud, then the ones closest to him are gonna get their ears hurt.

That includes us. Owwwwwwwww.

“In the meantime, my Kosuzu needs some rest – which means Marisa will be taking over for the day. Please go to her if you wish to purchase anything.” And just like that, the man heads back inside. Bastard didn't even give me the option to refuse!

The things one does to ensure a profitable relationship. I choke back a sigh and put on a smile of my own, waving to everybody before ducking into Suzunaan. Alice must have slipped away in the crowd, since I don't see her, but at least Reimu's here with me.

Here to read those mystery novels and not help me at all, that punk, but here all the same.

There's already a huge line by the time I get behind the desk – and now I really do sigh. Customer service sucks.

“Hi!” I begin with false cheer. “Welcome to Suzunaan!”


---------------------------------------------------

“You're holding your first lesson now?” Reimu asks as she pages through another... well, page turner. “I thought you wanted to advertise a bit first.”

“Word of mouth's the best way to do that, and I already have four kids.” It's only been a day, and considering how conservative most of the Village is, four kids is a lot. But, they're not set to show up until noon, which leaves me free to plan how to approach the lesson.

Well, free to ward all of Kosuzu's books. There are just towering... towers, of books surrounding me, all sorted by alphabetical order and genre. As for Kosuzu, she's busy reading another storybook to the kids.

She has most of them paying attention, but, well – they're kids. Their eyes wander. One kid in particular's been staring at Reimu all day, though I don't think she's actually noticed. Two others – which I'm guessing are my students – are more enraptured by the flying books, and the small flashes of light they make whenever I finish having my way with them.

“Ah – hey, Reimu?” I make sure to whisper, leaning just a bit to the side to make the message travel farther, without actually whispering into her ear.

“Hmm?”

“Mind if I use a Spellcard as a teaching tool? Kosuzu was fine since she's an adult, but these kids are still growing.”

“Oh, yeah, sure.” Reimu's too distracted to give it much thought, and waves me off as she continues her read.

All the better for me – and a good, proper lesson should give her enough donations to forgive this bending of the rules.

But, the town bell's about to ring, and we're going to start as soon as Kosuzu's story is done. How should I approach this...?

[ ] Mima's methods – that is, let 'em learn mostly on their own. Kosuzu's proof that it works just fine, so long as you don't start reaching for the stars. Plus, all of the books in my new ~Library~ are perfectly safe, so none of my students will be able to hurt themselves on accident. Whether they can actually figure it out on their own is a whole 'nother matter.

[ ] Write In.

>>35684

“Ones I heard? Well... the Myouren Temple's really popular with younger boys. Byakuren just has that 'nice big sister' vibe to her, and she doesn't mind helping out non-believers make up and play nice. Apparently 'make up and play nice' involves them working together to bang her like a drum.”

>>35686

“Are. Are you sure? Who'd you hear that from? Because I'd definitely like some proof before I break in myself to see it.”
[x] Give them the basics, see where they go from there. Step in if anything looks like it's going to explode, and make sure it explodes in a constructive manner. Or at least a spectacular one.
>Hourai's sitting on the bookshelf, and happily waves at us when I notice her.

Hnnnnnnnggggggg, my heart

> Apparently 'make up and play nice' involves them working together to bang her like a drum
Magician Harem. Magician Harem. Magician Harem. Magician Harem. Magician Harem. Magician Harem. Marisa's Magnificent Magician Harem!

[ ]Write in

Lets start simple. We can teach the kids to make bright, glowing orbs of light. Double as flashlights and what not. Utilitarian spells attract people. Flashy ones attract kids.
>>35690

"Uhm - I guess this is my fault for not clarifying, but you guys voted for geomancy earlier, remember? Light magic's a good idea, and something I should look into, but everyone who's signed up for this session is expecting earth magic."
[z]Start simple - like with globes o' light or small embers. This would gradually grow into advanced magic as sessions go on.

This will do mighty fine.

>Apparently 'make up and play nice' involves them working together to bang her like a drum
haw haw haw haw
[x] Give them the basics, see where they go from there. Step in if anything looks like it's going to explode, and make sure it explodes in a constructive manner. Or at least a spectacular one.
>>35693

"Uhm - like I told >>35690, light magic's a no go. It sounded like half of the kids were from farming families, so they'd really rather prefer geomancy over the basic basics. Also? Lights and flame spells work a lot better at night. Ever shine a flashlight in the middle of the day outside? You can't see a thing."
>>35695
Ah. My mistake, apologies.

I guess making earth pillars wouldn't be too much for a first-timer?
[x] Give them the basics, see where they go from there. Step in if anything looks like it's going to explode, and make sure it explodes in a constructive manner. Or at least a spectacular one.
[x] Start simple, giving the kids the basics. Maybe see if they can learn something simple... like, a spell that can make furrows in the ground for a garden?

You know, something simple but practical that they'll be able to practice on a daily basis as part of their chores.
[X] Let the kids do their own thing, but have three or so "classes" per day to cover the basics and the important stuff. A little guidance can go a long way.
[x] Start simple, giving the kids the basics. Maybe see if they can learn something simple... like, a spell that can make furrows in the ground for a garden?
[x] Start simple, giving the kids the basics. Maybe see if they can learn something simple... like, a spell that can make furrows in the ground for a garden?

Sounds alright.
[X] Basic stuff to let you gauge their aptitude. Splitting rocks into smaller rocks (and eventually sand) seems like a good starter exercise, and should be potentially useful on a farm. You might need to find a suitably large boulder for a proper demonstration, though...
I vote for teaching the kids the basics of geomancy then letting them learn on their own.
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35725
"Looks like we'll be starting off with the basics, and seeing what goes from there. Should be simple enough - though walking them through every single step might be a pain."

>>35690

>Magician Harem

"See the picture. It'd certainly be nice, I admit, but dueling personalities are dueling personalities. Alice and Patchy are more likely to kill everyone else involved than share."

>>35697

"Earth pillars would work just fine - although, I have something a bit more useful in mind..."
>>35725
> "See the picture. It'd certainly be nice, I admit, but dueling personalities are dueling personalities. Alice and Patchy are more likely to kill everyone else involved than share."

...I'd still go for it.
>>35725
What the guy above me said.
The power of Love is pretty good at resolving conflicts~
>>35726
>>35740

"As someone who regularly harnesses the power of love to reduce my enemies to nothing, I feel I can safely say with authority that... that Patchouli, at least, has no soul. Or at least, not a soul with any love in it. That girl lives and breathes for magic and nothing else - who else would summon a succubus to take care of a library? There are so many saner, safer summon options, and what she's making Koakuma do is a damn waste.

As for Alice - ah screw it, I'll ask you guys. Who do you think has the most chemistry with me so far, and why?"
>>35747
A bit early to ask that of us, no? From what we've seen so far, it seems you get along well enough with everyone else. But I myself has yet to really see someone outshine others on chemistry with you.
>>35747

>Patchy has no soul

Oh snap Marisa, just had a thought. Maybe....maybe Koakuma has something to do with that? Like...she is subtly influencing patchy to further her nefarious, demon agenda.

I think we need to schedule a friendly visit to Voile and see whats up.
Maybe she willingly pawned off her immortal soul for some thing or the other. Could be that she hired on Koak Klassic by willingly trading one (1) soul for one (1) lifetime of servitude. Wizards are classically short-sighted like that.

Frankly, 'Ris, you ain't gotta settle for nobody. It's a big Gensokyo and these bitches be cray cray.
>>35747
>who else would summon a succubus to take care of a library?
They could be banging in secret.
>>35757
Of course they are.
>>35747
Chemistry? Alice. She's already in housewife mode, making us food and taking care if the house while we're on business.
>>35759
Mmm... naked apron Alice.

Also naked apron dolls are fine too.
>>35747

Well, your interplay with Kosuzu is cute, but that's more of a master/apprentice thing, really. So yeah, still too soon to say.

...Get Kosuzu into that leotard, and we'll talk.
>>35747

You need to meet some more sexy girls before asking us something big like that Marisa! Don't get people into a routelocked mindset before even meeting all of our options.
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35764
>>35752
>>35756

"Honestly, if Koakuma did in fact steal Patchy's soul? I am totally okay with that. Everything she is and stands for is just... complete anathema to me. Blegh. Although if >>35757 and >>35759 have the right idea, I guess I could throw in a visit somewhere..."

>>35759
>>35760

"Alice and I... let's just say that I haven't seen a more beautiful sight than Alice in a naked apron. Her dolls being dressed in the same way really were the perfect touch to it all.

But... well, she's not as bad as Patchouli is about magic, but we still clash over a lot of stuff. There's a reason why we don't live together."

>>35761

"Trust me, I am trying. Any ideas to do so are greatly appreciated. My old uniform really works best with red hair, and Kosuzu just has the perfect shade for it; my hair dye can't compare, and it takes too long for my dyes to soak in anyways."

>>35762

"Thank you for picking up on that. I'm a busy gal, and we still have at least three more people to meet before everything actually begins! All this talk of magician harems and stuff was kinda, uh, getting to me. Like, I definitely wouldn't mind but - uhm, nevermind.

Anyways, it might take a bit of time for the update to come around - teaching the kids is already done, but Reimu and I still have to find some fanservice outfits to pass out fliers. Word of mouth can only do so much for advertising, yannow?

But, since I already asked the question - keep on talking about it! Time flies when you're having fun, and all that jazz."
>>35764

Hm... it is way too early to start thinking about girls, but...

Reimu and Alice just don't click, and Kosuzu is too much of a student for any fun stuff. Which doesn't mean that Marisa shouldn't, say, invite her out to the forest for some private lessons, and lend her a specialized, enchanted training uniform that happens to look like a leotard. I mean, SHE trained in it, is it not good enough for Kosuzu?

No I am not trying to get Kosuzu into a leotard, what are you talking about? That's crazy. And delectable.

...Dammit, Marisa, this is all your fault, with those vivid descriptions of Kosuzu in a leotard...
>>35765

I agree with this guy. Let's tell her it's a magic enhancement battle suit, that is absolutely necessary to awaken the magical energy within the untrained.

Also, convince her that it automatically hides her Identity while she is transformed into Magical Kosuzu-chan, so she won't be embarrassed to be seen in public with it on.
File 137272051741.jpg - (72.26KB, 470x470, Bismuth Crystal.jpg) [iqdb]
35775
[x] Go to the pharmacy and ask to borrow (as in return when you're done) medicine with bismuth in it. I recommend the thick, pink, sweet stuff. Use magic to draw bismuth out, make pretty metal clusters (they should look like rainbow staircase-pits that'd remind you of Hokkai), and put the bismuth back in to restore the medicine to the way it was.
>>35775
wrong story bub.
>>35779

OR: He could be suggesting to use that as the seed bismuth to grow a great scientific academy dedicated to the study of the Ether.
>>35779

OR: he could be suggesting a simple yet fun use of earth magic that kids will love to get them interested in learning. Similar to when your 8th grade science teacher handed out sunglasses and ignited a sliver of Magnesium.
>>35759
Same guy here. I mean there's Alice, who's gone full housewife over us, however snarky. And however much Marisa thinks they clash, she holds serious affection for the witch to be sharing meals (and the cost of) with her, despite not needing to eat.

Reimu, Marisa has already expressed intrest in her, and Kosuzu has the whole teacher/student dynamic going on.

I think Marisa's already well on her way to a Magician harem.
Bueno
>>35785
>>35790

Yeah, that. Thanks for the assist.

Also, if it'll help, bismuth was known to alchemists (or rather, by miners in the heyday of Outside alchemists) as "tectum argenti."
File 137329736960.png - (8.69KB, 218x151, peptobismol.png) [iqdb]
35889
>>35775

I'm not sure I'd trust it as a medicine after that process - the bismuth isn't exactly just floating around in solution, you know. Pic related. Might be best to just buy a supply and maybe keep it around for use in the same demonstration with other students.
>>35889

Yes, something to consider, but I was figuring she could fix up the molecules with magic.
>>35899
That'd be Alchemy, not Geomancy.
>>35905

Hmm...

Hey, Marisa, you here? Could you clarify what geomancy is and isn't capable of?
File 137349195114.jpg - (236.30KB, 800x810, Delicious Alchemy.jpg) [iqdb]
35917
"Apologies for the long wait - I've never good at writing. I can answer all these questions while on my break, though! I hope it ties you guys over."

>>35765
>>35767

"I have a couple plans to get Kosuzu in that outfit, trust me! If nothing else, we can't have her kimono get dirty all the time!

I'll have to be a lot better at fast-talking if I want to con Kosuzu into believing the disguise-magic, though. That or just study up on my illusions."

>>35793
"That's... That's a good point - about Alice, I mean.

...I'll think about it."

>>35775
>>35790
>>35905
>>35916

"Okay, so heads up, this might be a long lecture.

Geomancy originally referred to a specific type of divination using the earth, dirt, the ground, stuff like that. People would train in order to 'feel' the nuances of the flow of magic in the earth, and use that to predict the future.

Nowadays, it generally refers to direct manipulation of the earth. So, going from basic to advanced to prodigy, you'd start from learning how to move dirt while using lines and geometry to guide you, like using crayons in a coloring book.

Someone who's better at it could eventually move the earth instinctively, no matter what the soil's being made of, or if there's 'not-earth' like plant life or fluids or something similar mixed into the dirt. So just like, you point at something, and then jaws of earth would come up to swallow it whole.

After that, it becomes more a matter of finesse. The bismuth trick would be something only experts could do, since it involves isolating the already-bonded 'earth' molecules in the medical suspension, breaking the molecular bonds without accidentally infusing the medicine with magic, and then clumping enough of the bismuth together to make it, well, seeable without a microscope. There's only so much of the stuff in Pepto-bismol, after all.

At that level of control, you could be doing a lot more productive things too, like turning coal into diamond through sheer physical heat and pressure, punching the ground to make an entire mansion out of hardened clay, or disintegrating clothesbuildings by wearing them away with rapid-onset friction.

The bismuth trick isn't quite in the realm of Alchemy, either. Potion-brewing and item-crafting are... I guess 'theoretical' is the best term? You can make your own ingredients by charging regular plants and ores with your own magic - soaking them in blood usually works - but for the most part you just have to know what works.

A good grip on botany to know which plants or roots would give you the effect you're looking for, mineralogy to know which ores or minerals best amplify or dampen spells - and that's not taking into account how more exotic things might interact with each other, like a petal of wolf's bane mixed with the fur of a divine wolf.

But, the other side of the coin is that Alchemy is like cooking - you need to know your stuff if you want to experiment, but it's pretty easy to make anything if you have the ingredients, the tools, and the recipe in front of you. Basic aphrodisiacs, love potions, and healing broths can be made pretty easily even without foraging in the Forest of Magic.

Hope that help clarifies things! And, again, sorry for the wait."
>>35917

Good to have you back, Marisa. This story's worth waiting for.
>>35917
Alchemy? Have you heard of this guy named Ivan by chance?
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35922
>>35919
"Thanks for the vote of confidence! And, in retrospect, I think I'm trying to cram too much in one update, so I'm making it shorter - so, hopefully, it'll come out faster."

>>35920
"Ivan? Ivan, Ivan... He's the alchemist living in the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, isn't he? I know of him, but...

See, Gensokyo is pretty weird, even by most standards of pocket dimensions. There are actually lots of different Gensokyos, that kinda-sorta... overlap, on each other. Usually that's no big deal - after all, we overlap with the Outside. But, sometimes, two different Gensokyos can overlap with each other, to the point where you can walk from one into the other, without realizing it.

I've never actually met Ivan, and I've never heard Eirin talking about him, and Mokou and Letty are still single as far as I'm aware. So, my guess is that he's from a different Gensokyo entirely.

Likewise, there was the kooky knife-guy that appeared a long while back; wore all blue, could parkour like no one's business. Said something about looking for his... wife, I think? And he talked a bit about jumping from one Gensokyo to the next. Stuff like that happens every once in a while, it's just par for the course.

Though it usually does end up with a couple of us gathering together and laughing at rumors about our alternate universe lovers."
>>35922
Have you ever chilled and drank booze with an alternate you?
Also sex.
>>35922

Alternate Dimensions. . . well that might explain what happened to Shinki, Mima, and the like. . .
File 137369378781.jpg - (157.85KB, 600x900, I'd Be The One On The Right.jpg) [iqdb]
35965
>>35955
"Hah. I wish - though it'd be a toss up as to whether we make out or kill each other. I'm told I have quite the insufferable personality, so that'd be interesting if nothing else.

But hey, is it really stealing if you're doing it from yourself?

>>35956
"Yeah. There are still connections sometimes, but traveling between Makai and Gensokyo's a lot rougher nowadays. Alice can still send letters, at least, and every once in a while she gets a care package from her mom.

And, not quite related, but the update should be on by tomorrow!
File 137378072616.jpg - (294.18KB, 578x787, Miko Route.jpg) [iqdb]
35985
[X] Write-in – Teach 'em the basics! Keep it nice and slow, simple and clean, all that jazz. Well, maybe not clean.

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, because that herald tolls for me.

It continues to ring, and I can hear Kosuzu leaving Suzunaan to do some chores for her pops. Reimu and I however, are relaxing in the newly christened Kirisame Library – though really it's more Reimu who's resting. I'm busy peeking out the curtains to see the horde outside. “They all want to watch, don't they?” I mutter.

Reimu's yawn, and the pops of her stretching body, make me turn around. It's still terribly dark – you don't want to light too many candles in a library, after all – but I could still see the teasing smile on her face, right before she speaks. “Of course they do. They have to make sure you won't blow their kids up.”

…And even though it's still terribly dark, I guess she can see the frown on mine. “It's not like you to be so jittery. You taught Kosuzu perfectly fine.”

“Yeah, but... I don't like the idea of screwing up in front of an audience.” This feeling isn't quite fear, or nervousness. Just... a hint of dread.

I move to take another peek out the window – can't really start without all my students – but before I can waste any more time, Reimu's up and placed her hands around my waist.

My shrine maiden leans over my back, resting her chin on my shoulder. It might just be the lack of air conditioning, but Reimu's incredibly warm, and everything in me just... unwinds. I can picture her smile as she whispers into my ear. “You'll be fine, Marisa. And if you're not, I'll make sure you pay for making me lose out on donations. So no pressure.”

And before I can react she shoves me, stumbling, out the door.

The sun's shining bright as always, so the flush on my face can easily be excused. I still take the time to readjust my hat, though it's more to buy time to center myself than it is to keep the sun at bay – my shirt and dress already have cooling charms on, after all.

The parents and the passerby all shush as I get ready, giving a wide berth for me and my... three students?

A check of the list assures me that yes, there are supposed to be four people here. Huh.

“Okay, well – I'm Marisa Kirisame, and I'm going to be your magic teacher from now on! Pleasure to meet you all, and let's do roll call for now. Kiyoshi?”

“Here.” The oldest of the trio raises his hand and speaks, just a mite nervous. He's only a bit taller than the other two kids, though he's definitely from a farming family. The slightly muscular frame and the calluses on his hands give it away; plus, there are still flecks of dirt on his black hair and his tanned, round face. His clothes are a bit ragged, with patches sewn on to mend the cloth. It looks durable enough, however, which means it probably won't be destroyed during the lesson.

His mental state's a whole different story. I mark his name with a glowing fingertip, and jot down a note as he puts his hand back down. ”Kiyoshi – terribly shy.” The poor boy is just constantly fidgeting, and he's always just a tad hunched over, looking anywhere except at me. His parents must have put him to this lesson; I can't imagine why else he'd be forcing himself through this.

But learning new things is supposed to increase confidence, right? I'm sure Kiyoshi will learn to handle himself.

“Right – Hideki?”

The second boy nods and waves – he's dressed similarly to Kiyoshi, but he definitely doesn't look as... worn. His skin, for one, is a lot less tan, and he's definitely scrawnier, too. Almost... twig-like, really. He's as messy as Kiyoshi, with dirt on his clothes and scrapes on his skin, but that's probably more from roughhousing than from work.

What to write down, what to write down... hmm. Well, he's definitely the only one smiling; Kiyoshi's nervous, the girl's irritated with the wait, and everyone watching is keeping a straight face.

Well, whatever. He's energetic enough for my tastes! Better a poor student who wants to learn than a lazy genius, right? I scribble a bit about his enthusiasm, and it's time to move on.

“And that leaves...Riko, right?” And the girl just seems to shine at the recognition.

“That's right, Miss Marisa! I'll be in your care, so please take good care of me!” It's a little embarrassing to see a little girl bow so deeply to me... though watching Hideki and Kiyoshi flush at being socially upstaged by an seven year old is hilarious. Riko probably isn't doing it on purpose, but that will certainly change with time, if I have anything to say about it.

Although I wonder if she can handle the magic training. It's a toss up if she's as well bred as Akyuu; I was never really interested in the Human Village's nobility. But Riko's still quite pale, and she's young enough to have a bit of baby fat on her cheeks. Large round eyes, button nose... the works, really. Her yukata is in fine shape too, with nary a speck of dirt on the red cloth; even Kosuzu had dust on hers. It's not natural for little kids to be so clean. I really hope her parents realized that magic involves getting your hands dirty.

“Don't worry, Riko, I'll think you'll do just fine.” Because I plan to abuse spellcards to hell and back, but she doesn't need to know that. “But, I think we're missing someone.”

“No, no, your wayward student is right here.” A young, clear voice rings out, from no particular source. The parents are all glancing around in confusion, oblivious to the rapidly accumulating magic that's collecting in front of them.

I can't blame them, though. Most magic in Gensokyo is flashy as all get out, and living here means they're already accustomed to the hum of energy that permeates everything.

My students, however... they all take a few, instinctive steps back. They've noticed.

They retreat just in time, too, because a second later everyone's blinded by a brilliant flash of light. And when the spots finally clear from my eyes, I...

See a cape? Long and billowing, even though there's no wind at all today. It's a gorgeous purple, too, deeper and darker than my leotard, and it just radiates a regal presence. There's only one person with such a fabulous cape.

And indeed, one Toyosatsumi no Miko, with her half lidded eyes and her pixie face and those totally radical headphones, reveals herself. Her presence is so eyecatching, I almost lose don't notice the little kid right next to her.

At first glance, he's probably about Riko's age. Shivering in anticipation, with bright red hair and brighter... green eyes? Huh. Maybe he has some Outsider ancestry.

Not that it matters; attitude's the most important thing! I toss a quick wave to Miko, who waves back, and bend down to look at – Daichi, I presume, eye to eye. “Nice to meetcha, Daichi. So, what was it like, teleporting with Miko?”

And with that he opens up. “It was so cool! Mistress Miko's magic is usually a lot less cool, because you don't really see anything happen, but just now it was like 'VWHOOSH!' and 'BANG' and here we were!”

“Vwhoosh and bang, eh?” Daichi nods, and before I can say anything else, he runs off to the other students to introduce himself. They're chatting up a storm by the time I head on over, and Miko's already stepped into the crowd to watch.

Girl does a damn good poker face; She stares on at me without a hint of humor at all. If Daichi's one of her students, then I guess that makes sense – Miko has to be here to make sure I don't screw anything up for him.

But it's already been a few minutes, and I'm tired of waiting. “Alright everyone, gather around.”

------------------------

“So, normally I'd be asking you to introduce yourselves and ask you why you wanted to learn magic. But, frankly, I don't have that much time. Once a week is too short to really teach you like how Keine, er, Miss Kamishirasawa would do it.” Not that I actually know how Keine would teach something like this.

And now that I think about it, I haven't even assigned any pre-reading to do. So they're all going in blind. Crap. “So, please wait to ask questions unless you're really confused, okay?”

Four hesitant nods... which is better than nothing. So I'll just smile and nod, smile and nod. “Thanks a lot, guys. Now, because we're doing geomancy, I need you four to do something first.” I take a step back, and gesture to the ditches and holes Kosuzu made during her spellwork. “You've all played in the dirt, right? Well, I need you to uproot all the weeds and pebbles for me.”

Annnd I've lost them. Hideki already looks a bit put off by the busywork, and Daichi's almost begging to ask a question. If it was just us, I could probably force them to do it, but I need a gentler touch when everyone's watching. “Yes, Daichi?”

“Miss Marisa, why aren't we going over Qi, or the Eight Directions? I thought geomancy was more, uhm... subtle, than this? More... 'thought before action', not 'action before thought.'”

It takes me a moment to realize that Daichi's talking about feng shui. Geomancy and feng shui use the same symbols in Japanese, but... Well, I only have a few translated texts about western geomancy, so I'll just have to make do with those. As for Daichi's question...

Let's see if this pans out. Focusing magic through the feet instead of the hands is a lot trickier, but for a magician of my caliber, it should be fine.

“Ah, see – Daichi, there are different kinds of geomancy. The one Miko teaches really is more subtle and slow. It's about taking advantage of the magic in the earth and surroundings to help build good luck and stuff. My geomancy, though, is tons cooler.”

I stomp the earth with one forceful boot -

And three dirt pillars rise up behind me, high enough to block the sun.

But only for a moment. I'm still pretty new to geomancy myself, so as soon as I stop the spell the pillars come tumbling down, and end up coating the kids in a slight film of dirt. My hat – and my orientation – keeps the dirt out of my eyes, but seeing Riko's pretty red kimono turn brown makes me wince all the same.

The dust clears soon enough, however, and I end up taking my hat off to brush the dirt of the brim. The kids try cleaning themselves up too, hopping and shaking their clothes to at least get some of the soil off them. It takes a while for everyone to get settled, but I launch into my lecture again as soon as they're ready.

“See, western geomancy is pretty simple. You just use magic to move the earth. And, by messing around with the dirt, you get more familiar with it. It's like a cook tasting ingredients, or a carpenter feeling the wood. You have to know how the earth feels and moves before you can try geomancy.”

Daichi seems to mull it over, probably comparing what he knows from Miko to what I've told him. “I... guess that makes sense.”

“Doesn't it? So go dig around for a moment, while I talk to your parents, okay?”

Daichi nods, and is about to rush past me when Kiyoshi raises his hand. “Uhm, Miss Marisa? A lot of people say you need to be born with the talent for magic, otherwise it won't work.”

Luckily, I was expecting someone to ask this question, and I don't need to come up with something off the top of my head.

I start by whipping my hat off of me again, and begin spinning it around by the brim. One loop, then two, and it starts shooting out sparkles and little yellow stars; with the way my kids are watching, I know I've got them entranced.

“Well, whoever told you didn't know all of it... You do need a little bit of talent, Kiyoshi,” I begin the small lecture by walking over to my students; they take a step back at first, as if to avoid the sparks my spinning hat's giving off, but stop when one star bounces harmlessly off of Riko's arm. The girl even giggles, and begins to zone out while she tries to catch more.

“But you only need a little, and everything else is just practice. Things like wands or books can help you focus your talent, too – that's why Miss Reimu's Spellcards work so well; they do some of the hard parts for you. In fact, I got Miss Reimu to make a few practice cards, just for this lesson!” Daichi's eyes light up at that – but the rest of the kids are too unfamiliar with real magic to understand just what that means.

“For now, though... I wanted to keep this a secret, but I guess it's okay. Hideki, you saw how my hat was shooting out magic, right?”

“Ah – uhm, yes! A few of the stars hit me, but it just felt kinda ticklish.”

Man, I really hope this works. “Good. You see, even though I'm a magician, I cheat just a little tiny bit. My hat's super magical, and just touching it can help you learn how to be magical, too. Since you're my students, I'll let you have a feel, okay? It's really soft and cool, too~”

If you make something seem rare or valuable, people will want to mess with it. Just like that, I have four little kids touching the brim of my hat – and being put into a hypnotic trance.

It's... probably not required, but if nothing else I'm the kind of gal who'll hedge her bets. It's important to either be super relaxed - or frightened for your life - when accessing magic your first time. Every little bit is going to help. But, as is... I'm a bit too focused on making sure the hat doesn't overload my students to look up at the crowd, but I can clearly hear the crowd muttering to themselves.

“Everything's going to go just fine, okay guys? Just listen to me, and start cleaning up the yard.” I gently pull my hat away from their fingers, and they follow my every word, like Alice and the Mad Hatter.

Or was it the rats and the Pied Piper? I need to go over my fairy tales.

Regardless, I can finally deal with the parents while the kids are working. I head into the street a bit, and snap my fingers to make sure I have everyone's attention.

“Okay, everyone. I have a few questions to ask. First, do all of you watch over your kids while Keine is teaching them?”

Their hesitance is all I need. “Alright, that needs to stop. If I'm going to be a teacher, I need the respect you give Keine – and that means trusting me with your kids. Kiyoshi, Hideki, Riko, and Daichi – they can't learn and I can't teach if we're performing in front of an audience. The families can stay, and so can people who are actually interested in letting me teach their kids, but everyone who's looking for a show, please leave.”

Firm, but polite. Serious about my role. If I want any respect from the Village, I'll need to change their public opinion of me.

And thankfully, my words have an effect. Most of the spectators leave - however reluctantly - which ends up with a group of five or so – not including Miko, who's been standing separately. While the parents look bored, Miko seems... fascinated, really, by children playing in the dirt.

I can talk to her later, though; for now, I have to give the parents some bad news.

“First, my thanks for trusting me with your children. Second... this might take a while, so you might want to get lunch or something.”
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Thirty minutes and a few sticks of yakitori later, the yard outside the Kirisame Library is thoroughly upturned. The packed, dry topsoil's crumpled apart, revealing the moist, fertile dirt beneath. The kids have all dutifully followed my instructions to the letter, and there are weeds, roots, and pebbles scattered all around outskirts of the yard.

“Perfect – good job, all of you. You guys can take a little break while I get things ready, alright?”

As if on cue, all of my students sit down in a line. The hypnotism shouldn't be too strong, and sure enough Hideki and Daichi start getting along immediately, talking about soccer. It's a bit of a relief – having them blankly stare at me while I blew away the debris would be a bit unnerving. And suspicious.

But all that's left now is a fresh field of overturned dirt. So all I have to do is pull my spellcards out.

The paper's still crisp and pristine, unlike the ones I use regularly. Sharp red borders, yin-yang sign at the bottom. 'Course, I don't think anyone here's actually seen a spellcard – except for Miko, who leans forward just a bit, to get a better look.

“Right. Like I said before, I have these spellcards for you. Now, you probably won't be able to use these in any real duels, because they're just to help you get used to feeling the magic inside you.” I hand them out in order, and I get a little chuckle from how they all react. Kiyoshi's still a tiny bit nervous, even despite the hypnotism, while Hideki's all pumped up and rearing to go.

Riko, though... it's like she can't take her eyes off it. The girl's enraptured, fingering the spellcard like it was a flower – delicate and deliberate. Daichi's the same way, with faster breaths and widened eyes.

Daichi, I can understand. He's been trained by Miko... pretty well, if my gut has it right. Even if he's never used magic himself, knowing the theory makes it easier the first time through. But, Riko? Little seven year old girl, never touched magic in her life?

Either she has a lot of untapped talent... or she's simply that entranced by magic.

I give them a minute to snap out of it, but no dice. The two are just too busy toying with their cards, feeling the tingle and warmth of magic for the first time. I probably won't have any problems with those two, but right now I need to keep a quick pace.

“So... Kiyoshi, Hideki. Why don't you try and use those cards at me? Don't worry about messing up – just do what comes natural.”

The two young boys dutifully nod, and I take enough steps back that they... shouldn't hit anything besides me. I get out my own notes as they take a couple deep breaths, lighting my finger to get ready to scribble things down.

No one's ever given spellcards like this, so it'll be interesting. Time to see if this plan will work at all.

But... the first test run actually goes pretty smoothly. No big explosions, no roaring magical energies. The boys might be sons of farmers, but it doesn't seem like they have any particular affinity to earth – which means the spell should be just fine. Everything going right as planned is quite the refreshing feeling, I must admit!

I make sure to jot down what I see and feel: the cards rapidly dissolving once my boys hold them up, and the fragments of light gently tugging on their magic to kickstart the spell. It's a small nudge, more a reminder on the duelist to power the spell than anything forceful...

But Kiyoshi and Hideki are young kids, barely teens. Years of daily chores, a quick refresher on the nature of dirt – and a malleable mind, placed into a hypnotic trance. Moving the earth isn't just familiar, it really is natural for them – as natural as breathing.

The golden fragments coalesce around their hands. And, synchronized -

They smash their fists into the ground -

And launch a few globs of dirt at me.

I don't – actually need to move at all. The aim is off and the velocity is terribly slow. The bullets of packed earth aren't so much thrown at me as they are lazily floated over, their grasp on the magic too weak to make their shots do anything more.

But, Hideki and Kiyoshi realize it – the surge of glorious power, however miniscule, however transient. The ache in the chest and the pain in the head and all the pride in the heart as they feel the magic course through their fingers. My little hat-trick can't stand up to that kind of emotion, and I can feel it break as their feelings well up inside.

It's such a simple, simple spell; no tricks, no power, not a single drop of elegance.

But no one would ever deny the beauty of those slapdash, proud shots.

All the same, though – the ache in the chest and the pain in the head and all the pride in the heart make for terrible, terrible concentration. Hideki's already lost his hold on the spell and fallen onto his knees, and Kiyoshi's not too far behind. The dirt in front of him is forming into furrowed rows, but he can't quite fire a second volley, despite all the ammo he's managed to collect.

The quiet hum of first-time magic finally gives out, and Kiyoshi's quick to join his fellow student on the ground.

“Mom, did you see that!?” Hideki yells out. “That – I did that!” Kiyoshi doesn't say anything, but he does look around for his parents – and beams like the sun when he sees them smiling back.

I walk back to them, ruffling them both on the head before taking back the borrowed spellcards. “Good job, the both of you. Using magic the first time is always super exhausting, so just rest until Riko and Daichi are done.” I don't need to hypnotize them to make 'em listen – before my words are done they're already straggling to their parents.

Riko's – either a parent or a servant – is a bit more stoic than his fellows, but he does give her a thumbs up at the least. Miko's the same way with Daichi – no smile, no real encouragement, because it's not needed. She knows he'll do it, and he knows she knows.

Or at least, I imagine that's why she's leaning against a wall, eyes closed like she's snoozing.

Daichi doesn't mind, either way, and I stash my copies of the spellcard before I face my other two students. “Alright, you two! Show me what you got!”

A moment. Two, three... and nothing.

They have their eyes closed, and their brows are furrowed in thought. Riko's keeping her hands by her sides, the spellcard held between her two fingers. Daichi, in contrast, has brought his hands in front of him, almost as if in prayer. I can see his lips moving too, though whether he's actually praying, or just thinking out loud, I could never say.

But they haven't declared their spellcards yet, and it doesn't seem like they're stalling for time. They're too... relaxed.

A moment. Two, three... and movement.

Riko's the one who wins the draw, and she thrusts her arm forward, fast and hard enough that she has to take a step to keep up. Her eyes are open and fierce, and I can hear the magic click into place.

Hear. The spellcard activates, like the clap of thunder.

And with a high, fierce voice, Riko takes her first steps. “Earth Sign! Quarrelsome Plough!”

She's all aglow with power. It pours out of her in waves, and now she's moving in a complete trance. Quickly, effortlessly, she bends to one knee, her free arm keeping her stable and balanced.

With pride in heart, she rears her right arm back -

Grinds her card against the rough earth -

And fires a shotgun barrage of dirt on the upswing.

But they're not actually, well, bullets. It's more of a... thick, high speed dirt cloud. I end up using the brim of my hat to shield my eyes, but I still end up stumbling back from the force and tasting dirt. When everything's finally clear, my front's all brown and heavy from the magically clinging soil.

It's not enough to truly bother the Great and Powerful Marisa, but – well, it's damn impressive. I try brushing the dirt off my apron, but the stuff refuses to let go.

I eventually give up, and look up to see the rest of Riko's handiwork. Or at least, I try to – the second blast of soil puts a hamper on things. Quite the trooper, that one!

But dirt tastes just awful, so I'm quick to float up and escape the confusion. But even that's not quite enough – Riko manages to keep track of me as I ascend, and I can see her rear her hand back for a third volley.

She's not like Kiyoshi or Hideki; affinity does matter quite a bit, and I'm guessing she could keep going for a long while if the spellcard hadn't timed out.

But she doesn't, because it has, and I drop down to check on my own little prodigy. The first thing I notice isn't her dazed giggling, or the shuddering body; that's pretty common when you're learning magic. No, the first thing I notice is that her kimono is red and vibrant again. Riko managed to force the dirt to just slough off of her, and there's a small pile of soil at her feet.

A small pile at her feet, and three long, furrowed ditches right in front of her. The earth's incredibly fluffy, too – I give it a few steps, and I can feel myself sinking in just a tad.

Riko and I are all smiles. “Alright, Riko, you did perfect. Why don't you wait with Hideki and Kiyoshi, and watch how Daichi does it?”

“Okay, Miss Marisa!” She gives me an adorable, proper bow, and then flounces on over to the others. The jaw-dropped, wide eyed others.

All of the parents are with their children now, and after a while to recover from the shock, I can hear regular gossip mixed with their thoughts about me. Only Miko's waiting for her charge... but it doesn't seem she minds. Really, all she does is give me a relaxed smile and wave me off.

Well, if she doesn't mind being last, less pressure on me. I hover back towards my starting point, and take a big breath. Let's see if we can't go four for four, eh?

Daichi's calmed down now, though his stance reminds me too much of Miko to not summon giggles. Back straight, eyes forward and closed, a long, thin object held betwixt the fingers.

“Daichi, whenever you're ready.”

He nods once, and sticks his hand out in front of him. I can feel the magic begin to well up – both inside him, and inside of the earth.

The young Taoist lets go, and the spellcard starts to flutter to the ground.

A clap of thunder.

“Earth Sign: Quarrelsome Plough.”

The spellcard bursts into light before it ever touches the ground, but the fragments don't glove his hands like Kiyoshi's or Hideki's did. Instead, they cross the remaining distance, and... imprint themselves onto the ground.

Six small rectangles, two rows of three - the trigram for 'Earth' in feng shui. Appropriate, I guess? It doesn't seem to be doing anything, though.

Sure, I can feel Daichi's magic interact with the dirt, but it's more, ah, efficient than effective. If I lie on my stomach, I can see the dirt in front of Daichi slowly... ripple, almost. He's relying on the magic already in the dirt to move it, instead of powering through like the other students.

He still manages to make a clean furrow, and the excess dirt is packed and floating, ready to fire...

But like Riko, Daichi's spell times out, and the bullets fall back down to earth.

It takes a moment for Daichi to shake off both my hypnotism and the spellcard's trance, but a few moments and he's all smiles.

He's holding the reformed spellcard close, and rapidly glancing back to a pleased Miko. “Mistress! Was that an adequate performance?”

Miko's opened her eyes, but they're still half-lidded. There's a coy smile on her lips as well, though her baton hides most of it. “Now now, Daichi,” she teases, “That's really something you should ask your instructor.”

Poor Daichi blushes at his mistress's admonishment, and he's rather subdued when he walks up to me, handing back the spellcard. “I'm sorry, Miss Marisa.”

I pluck it from him, adding it back to my pack, and end up ruffling his hair. It's terribly coarse and dry, but it still gets a pleased chuckle out of the boy.

“All's forgiven. And you did just fine, Daichi. In fact, since you did so well, why don't you and Riko teach Kiyoshi and Hideki on how to do it without spellcards?”

His eyes go wide, and he bites his lips as he mulls it over. “But, Miss Marisa, I only just started. I don't know enough to teach!”

“Nonsense!” I grab him by the shoulders and spin him right 'round, pushing him closer and closer to the others. “You can feel the magic now, so you'll be fine. It's only the first step that's hard.” I end up pushing him all the way to the others, and back away before he can retreat.

Miko's voice rings out, loud and clear – and yet, with my students so engrossed with magic, it's only the parents who end up hearing. “Miss Marisa, is it wise to allow self study at such an accelerated rate?”

Everyone's being nice about it, but I still feel the eyes on me. Time to milk this for all it's worth.

“Absolutely. While there are individual spells for geomancy, all of those are really just shortcuts to manipulate the earth. My plan is to slowly introduce new spells to them to broaden their mindset, but learning how to use geomancy without spells will give them a greater appreciation for the subject – as well as prevent them from charging too recklessly.”

My voice is clear and strong, but that's all pointless if I ramble; to capture attention, you have to be both swift and deliberate!

“As such, I hope that my students will incorporate their magic into everyday life. Quarrelsome Plough's just the most obvious usage, since Kiyoshi and Hideki help their families on the farms; being able to quickly get the fields ready will be quite helpful, since it's planting season, and Riko can use geomancy to play with others without getting dirty. As for Daichi – I'm sure a respected saint such as yourself can think of the possibilities.” Because I certainly can't.

But, the lecture was clear, and I can feel the acceptance from the parents standing behind me. I can't help but sigh in relief – and I can't help but grin when I see Miko smile and wink.

Sneaky minx fed me the question after all.

-----------------------------------

Not much progress was made after that, but that's to be expected; magic's damned exhausting. We make a full hour just in time, with the village bell's ringing keeping Riko from slumping over and napping away.

She's still yawning and rubbing her eyes though, so her pop grabs her and carries her in his arms. He offers me a bow – at least, the deepest bow he can do when there's a seven year old hanging on to him. The other parents start thanking me as well, and confirm that they'll be back in a week before heading off.

They, uh. They don't actually donate, though.

I never actually charged them for lessons. I literally couldn't afford it – with my reputation, I really needed a draw to get people to come. I was hoping that they'd donate afterward, but...

Luckily for me, Reimu's still in Suzunaan, reading. Which means she won't see me adding a few bills to the box. And start admonishing me for covering up the lack of donations like this.

I'm suppressing grumbles as the charms on my clothing finally go off, blasting the dirt and grime off of me. Thank heavens for small mercies, I suppose. And either way, I still have some savings stashed up, so this shouldn't hurt my wallet too badly.

“The humans here are just terrible, aren't they? My apologies on their behalf, Marisa – it's a slight for them to treat you as they do."

Whoops. Miko and Daichi are still here. Now I'm the one flushing, as Miko walks over to the donation box and dramatically sighs.

She does give me some time to respond, though, and I happily take it.“Ehh, what can you do? You know politics; neither my name nor Reimu's are that well recieved, so we have to take some concessions now to do more in the future.”

Miko doesn't look at me directly, instead focusing on the donation box. Her cape's still billowing, even as she sweeps her baton across the box's bars. The wooden clacking mingles with the birdsong, and there's even a nice breeze coming in.

“Perhaps,” Miko allows, before digging around in one of her cape-pockets. “But it is just as important to establish good alliances. No man is an island.”

And she brings out an incredibly large roll of bills. It's... almost obscene. Lewd, even! It's more a bribe than a donation, and she knows it.

But there's just a serene smile on her lips as she drops the roll into the box. Or tries to, at any rate – the roll is so thick that she has to force it through. “A token of my affection, Marisa. Give Reimu my regards.” She's already a few steps away with Daichi before I can come up with anything to say.

“Ah – of course, absolutely! And feel free to bring more students, Miko!”

The Taoist nods, and waves her goodbyes.

-------------------------------------

“That,” Reimu declares, as I show her and Kosuzu Miko's generous donation, “is incredibly obscene. Lewd, even. Why would she donate so much money? We're business rivals.”

The sun's setting, casting a warm glow to the twilit sky as we lean against the Kirisame Library's magical dirt wall. Lamps and candles are being slowly lit to get ready for the night rush, and the foot traffic for the nearby restaurants is increasing.

I'd wager that about half the crowd's heading to the red light district too, but that's neither here nor there.

Kosuzu yanks the roll out of my hand, undoing the cloth tying it together and flipping through the paper. “Well... they're definitely real, Miss Reimu, Miss Marisa. A hundred thousand yen total, I think.”

The air freezes.

I glance at Reimu.

Reimu glances at me.

And Kosuzu breaks the frigid chill. “Oh wait, I miscounted. Ninety five thousand yen. Sorry to get your hopes up!”

Reimu breathes out heavily, almost shaking from the relief – or the excitement, it's hard to tell. “In that case... I guess she just wants to smooth over relationships between Senkai and the Hakurei Shrine. Since she did cause some trouble with her mausoleum. I certainly wish Byakuren would donate to apologize. Or Remilia, Kaguya... or any of them.”

The shadows grow deeper, so I end up snapping my fingers for a light. “I don't think we can really expect much more help from Miko, though. She kinda hinted at wanting a political alliance between us and her... though if she's that popular, Reimu, I'm not sure why.”

“Oh, Miss Marisa, that's easy!” Kosuzu and her bells chime in as she hands over the donated cash. “Just because Miss Reimu lives so far away doesn't mean people don't think of her. Many families are still rather conservative, and much prefer any Hakurei representative over anyone else. That's why they all pooled their money together to pay her and break up Akyuu's Symposium.”

Reimu's quicker to the draw than I am. “If that's the case, taking the money would be a terrible idea. Especially when it's this much; I'd be seen as bowing down to her whims.”

I don't respond at first. It really is quite comfortable having Reimu and Kosuzu both lean on me, and the more I can rest like this, the better. But, I do see the flaw in Reimu's reasoning. “That's not quite true, Reimu. On the absolute surface, she had to give us a donation, since it's only proper. She could probably argue that she gave us extra since the other parents forgot, and it wouldn't have to be a lie, either.”

Kosuzu suddenly hums in thought, and I can feel her shift her weight off me to draw shapes into the dirt. “On... on top of what Miss Marisa said, by donating at all she's acknowledging you as, well, superior. I remember hearing about the Moriya Shrine going to the Hakurei Shrine and ordering you to close it down. That was really scandalous, Miss Reimu – almost everyone in the village was rooting for you then.”

Huh. I guess that's where all that faith we were collecting came from. “That might have been true, Kosuzu, but they're a lot more ambivalent about things now. My guess is that unless we do something big with Miko, the villagers won't change their opinion of Reimu or me. And, speaking of change? We need a way to get more donations. We really need a steadier cash flow if we want to keep this thing going.”

It's only now, in the dark of the approaching night, that I notice Reimu's smirk and Kosuzu's pleased grin. “Don't worry, Miss Marisa,” Kosuzu says. “I've just finished printing the fliers, so we can all go around town and advertise tomorrow!”

Reimu chimes in right after. “Yeah – you'll need to pick Kosuzu up and bring her over to the shrine tomorrow, but after we get ready we'll spend the rest of the morning advertising.”

They must have planned this while I was busy teaching. I certainly like it, but 'morning' tugs at my curiosity. “Just the morning? Wouldn't the afternoon give us more foot traffic?”

“It would, but I've been meaning to ask around for crop seeds, like Kosuzu suggested.” Reimu shrugs without a care in the world. “We don't have that many fliers, either.”

“I'm sorry, Miss Marisa,” Kosuzu says. “But paper still costs a good amount of money. Miss Reimu taught me a few tricks to stretch out my ink supply, but I think we'll need to rely more on word of mouth, even with all the advertisement.”

“Oh, don't apologize, Kosuzu.” I end up ruffling both my girls, and though Reimu ends up finagling with her ribbons with a pout, Kosuzu's happily eating it up. “I'll just have to figure out what to do with the rest of my day.”

And a booming voice destroys any intimacy we might have had. “Kosuzu! Dinner's ready! Ask your friends if they want some!” Kosuzu's dad calls out from the kitchen, and it's only now that I notice the scent of juicy, roasted chicken.

“Okay, dad! Uhm, Miss Reimu, Miss Marisa, would you like to eat with us?” Kosuzu quickly disentangles herself from me and stands up, offering a hand to the both of us.

Our response, well – that should be obvious.

------------------------

It's with a full stomach that I fly back home, wash up, and settle back in bed. I'll have a pretty light day tomorrow – and with my reagents still healthily stocked, I can use the afternoon however I like.

But, what to do...

[ ]Help Reimu collect seed donations. You wouldn't know it, looking at her, but Reimu doesn't do as well with strangers as you'd think. Having me there should keep her relaxed, and I might be able to buy some winter vegetables for cheap.

[ ]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.

[ ]Head to the schoolhouse. I... think I have teaching down well enough, but word's going to spread, and I could really use some help with group management. Plus, I'm pretty sure Kiyoshi, Hideki, Riko, and Daichi all go to school regularly, so learning how they normally act might be a plus.

[ ]Write-in.
[X]Help Reimu collect seed donations. You wouldn't know it, looking at her, but Reimu doesn't do as well with strangers as you'd think. Having me there should keep her relaxed, and I might be able to buy some winter vegetables for cheap.

Can't be a teaching machine 24/7, gotta help the bros now and again.
>>35985
>Geomancy and feng shui use the same symbols in Japanese

Seems strange, considering what those symbols are. Are those books machine-translated, by chance?

>100,000 yen
I've heard of some versions of Gensokyo where this amount means something... what exactly does it mean here, to cause this reaction?

[ ]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.
[X]Help Reimu collect seed donations. You wouldn't know it, looking at her, but Reimu doesn't do as well with strangers as you'd think. Having me there should keep her relaxed, and I might be able to buy some winter vegetables for cheap.

If you have to advertise, why not with the tengu? Don't some of them have newspapers you could post adds on?
[x]Help Reimu collect seed donations.
>Kiyoshi
heh
>seed donations
heheh
>>35988
Sex. The one hundred thousand yen service is sex. With the miko.
[X]Help Reimu collect seed donations. You wouldn't know it, looking at her, but Reimu doesn't do as well with strangers as you'd think. Having me there should keep her relaxed, and I might be able to buy some winter vegetables for cheap.
[x]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.

Thoughts of the leotard have consumed my mind.

So, Miko's sending her disciples to learn from Marisa? Interesting... maybe she wants them to get a broader magical background? Or is this something political?
[x]Head to the schoolhouse. I... think I have teaching down well enough, but word's going to spread, and I could really use some help with group management. Plus, I'm pretty sure Kiyoshi, Hideki, Riko, and Daichi all go to school regularly, so learning how they normally act might be a plus.

It'd be nice to at least see how Keine's teaching works. Especially since she's been trying to teach the kids about danmaku...
File 137383216524.jpg - (307.01KB, 650x919, Giving Reimu Her Dues.jpg) [iqdb]
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>>35988

"That one was all me. I used the kanji for feng shui in short hand, since it's faster than writing out geomancy in English or katakana. Sorry about the confusion!

As for the hundred thousand yen, well - Reimu kinda hinted at it last update. I'm not sure if it's actually prostitution like >>35993 thinks, but it's certainly possible. My shrine maiden has a wonderful body!"

>>35992

"That's because, well... I didn't actually think of it. In retrospect that would have probably gotten the word out quicker. As is, though, Kosuzu's eating the cost of printing, and things should take care of themselves after that!"

>>36000

"Leotards are pretty great~ As for Miko - well, who knows what she's thinking. She came out looking pretty good in Akyuu's Symposium, so it's not like she needs to entangle herself with the Hakurei Shrine. On the other hand, being so carte blanche with her students seems odd - I could steal Daichi away completely, if Miko's not careful."

>>36002

"Keine's always been looking out for the village, since she doesn't think Reimu does a good enough job. I know some of the kids, at least, can give fairies a run for their money!

And since the fairies can fly and the kids can't, that's actually kind of impressive.
Ah, Marisa... Perhaps Miko is simply trying to influence YOU? Even if she can't outright convert you, she may just want you to like her so you can take her side if something happen between her and Byakuren. Because after today, would you really say no if she asked for a small favor or such? And since you're probably the talk of the village right now, doing so in public could quickly spread the word that you're friendly with her.

Which will probably not make Byakuren happy.
>And since the fairies can fly and the kids can't, that's actually kind of impressive.

How hard would it be to teach them to fly? Whether with a broom or some other aid, or without one.
[x]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.

We'll have the morning with Reimu while we're distributing flyers, to get her psyched up for the seed donation stuff.
File 137384700835.jpg - (233.22KB, 731x989, One of Us One of Us.jpg) [iqdb]
36011
>>36007

"Hmmm. That's possible, I suppose. And you're right, I'd probably do her a solid if she needed one... But I don't think Byakuren would be that territorial. If worse comes to worst, I could always just fly over to Myouren Temple and offer favors to her, too."

>>36009

"The thing about flying is that the actual ascending part is easy. The problem is landing safely. I'll probably shy away from teaching flying for a long while; I don't think my students have the energy to stay in the air, and the last thing I need is for one of them to splatter on me."
[x ]Head to the schoolhouse. I... think I have teaching down well enough, but word's going to spread, and I could really use some help with group management. Plus, I'm pretty sure Kiyoshi, Hideki, Riko, and Daichi all go to school regularly, so learning how they normally act might be a plus.

More interaction with the kids is a plus. I like all four of them.

So, Ms. Kirisame, how do you like taking the role of teaching so far?
>>36011
Well, maybe not Byakuren herself. I doubt you can say the same about her followers however.
>>36011
>I don't think my students have the energy to stay in the air
Start with hovering lessons indoors.
But yeah that's probably a long-term goal.
File 137394281276.jpg - (477.96KB, 850x637, Glowing With Happiness.jpg) [iqdb]
36027
"I'm a bit busy, so I'll be keeping voting open for a little while longer. right now the votes stand at:

Four for Reimu,
Three for Kosuzu,
and Two for Keine.

It's actually pretty close, so if you haven't voted yet,now's your chance!"

>>36012

"It's... nerve wracking, I guess? But there's the feeling of watching your students grow, and it's pretty hard to beat. I can see how Mima put up with me for so long, now!"

>>36013

"Yeah, her followers might get a little anxious, to say the least. But a lot of her followers stick around just because they like Byakuren that much. So if Byakuren's okay with me, her followers will put up with me for her sake."

>>36015

"It's a pretty good idea, but - they are kids. I don't want to risk the chance of them trying to fly without me right there. Temptation's a pretty big draw, and who doesn't want to learn how to fly?"
[z]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.
[X]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.

You should take pride in corrupting guiding your cute little apprentice!
[X]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.

We can't have Marisa break any promises with her student.
[ ]Teach Kosuzu some more. Also, when she visits, tell Mamizou that you're not in Miko's pocket.
File 137402874540.jpg - (36.65KB, 850x601, ADORABLE.jpg) [iqdb]
36050
"And with a rapid swing of votes, it seems like I'll be teaching Kosuzu some more! Hooray for one on one tutoring sessions! Reimu will just have to work things out on her own."
Hmm. For some reason I thought your mother was Dutch. Nice piece of writing.
File 137663332912.jpg - (229.27KB, 740x1035, How Can Reimu Stand This.jpg) [iqdb]
36585
“A bit of a disclaimer before we start – my apologies for being so late, I suck cocks. I'm still not done with the rest of the entire update, but I have the first half done and the second half's being worked on right now. I hope you'll enjoy reading this, at the least.”

----------------------------------------------------

[X]Teach Kosuzu some more. I probably won't be able to get Kosuzu in that leotard quite yet, but it's important to make sure Kosuzu's keeping up with her studies! Sticking around Suzunaan will let me finish up the book warding part of the deal as well, and the faster I take care of that the quicker I can focus on Kosuzu exclusively. Or, you know, just sit own and read.

“The Kirisame Library is open for business!”

“Sponsored by the Hakurei Shrine!”

“Tell your friends and family!”

It ends up being a couple of days before we can actually do this little publicity stunt. Suika and Yukari ended up holding Reimu up one day, I had to collect some potion ingredients another, Kosuzu's dad fell ill... it feels like it's been weeks since we've done anything together.

But disregarding all that? Today is cold as hell. And breezy. And these uniforms, frankly, suck.

I didn't get any time to enchant Reimu's spare priestess robes, so the thin cotton isn't really doing much to keep out the breeze. It's a bit too tight around the chest area too, even though the long sleeves and the too-large collar and the billowing dress would make you think it's, you know, supposed to be loose.

Frankly, this would still have been good enough to keep the cold out. I've enchanted all my underwear too, so even with the thin cotton I'd be pretty toasty inside.

But – that's assuming I'm wearing any underwear. And according to Reimu, shrine maidens aren't supposed to wear underwear.

Which is bullshit since I've seen Reimu in her breast bindings when out doing shrine maiden-y things, but whatever makes us look more traditional to the rest of the village, I guess. My goosebumps are hidden underneath the outfit, and it's pretty flattering to my breasts, so I'll just have to roll with it.

But my commitment to the process does nothing to actually keep me warm. Hot blood and burning spirit can only do so much. I place my stack of flyers on the ground when there's a lull in the traffic, which leaves me free to desperately rub my arms for just some extra warmth. The sky's full of clouds today, so the lack of sun is really not helping matters.

“Reimu, how do you handle this?” I can't help but wail as I walk up to her, hugging her from behind for just a bit of extra heat. She's like a furnace, just radiating warmth, and it's insane. I'm even rubbing my cheek next to hers, and her skin just won't stop heating up.

“Because I'm used to it, Marisa. I'm not the one who walks around with enchanted clothes.” Reimu lets out a long suffering sigh, but she doesn't push me away. All the better – this girl is toasty, and I can feel my goosebumps vanishing just like that.

“So, you're weak against the cold, Miss Marisa?” Kosuzu puts her flyers down too, pausing to adjust her own dress. The red cloth, vibrant even in the cloudy light, doesn't quite fit Kosuzu, leaving the hem of the cloth to drag across the dirt.

Not that it particularly matters for Kosuzu. Just a few seconds of concentration, and all the dirt slides right off. I'm so proud~

But my sense of pride, much like my hot blood and burning spirit, is worthless against the spring chill. Another cool breeze passes us by, and I'm left shivering into Reimu's back.

“I'm not weak, it's just...unnatural, for people to like cold temperatures.” I murmur weakly into Reimu's neck, so soft that I don't think Kosuzu can actually, well, hear me. But at least Reimu can, and she gently pats my head before speaking.

“Actually, Marisa – your house was unusually warm. How did you do that? I didn't see any open fires.”

“Oh, that?” I pull back from Reimu to stifle a yawn – the cold and the early morning are just wrecking havoc on me. “I, uh, what was it... well, I used magic, that's kinda obvious. I have a few magical heaters around... somewhere, and I keep the walls enchanted to keep the heat in and the cold out.”

“...Ah. Is it terribly expensive?” Reimu's question is giving me a bad feeling, but I'm far too cold to think things through.

“Uh huh. First thing I did when I got the house. It only takes a couple hours for each wall, but since it keeps me warm I don't care.”

That's when Reimu pushes me off and turns around. There's that glimmer in her eyes again...

“Marisa, if you renovate my shrine, I'll teach you everything I know about borders and barriers.” And she opens with a bluff.

I respond! By running over to Kosuzu and pulling her into my arms. She squeaks a bit and tries to escape, but a few good neck nuzzlings calm her down – and heat her up. I can feel the blush on her skin, and she's tensing up like a rock. All in all, not as warm as Reimu, but any port in a storm will do.

With my arms wrapped around my new, stammering, warming blanket, I turn to Reimu – pulling Kosuzu with me as I turn – and glare.

“Nuh uh, you tried that last time. I already set up the automagic hot spring cleaner for you!” It was an amazing piece of work too, especially since Genji was constantly leaving filth everywhere. Reimu did end up telling me about borders... but since it was all bloodline and faith-based, there was no way for me to learn it.

Reimu doesn't give an inch. “Hey, you're the magician here. I thought you were just interested in the theory. What about a blessing?”

“I don't believe in Shinto, your gods wouldn't help me.” I mean, Kanako and Suwako prove that gods are totally real, but I can't say I feel comfortable putting my faith in someone not me. Self-sufficiency is the ideal of humanity, after all! To conquer the natural, the supernatural, and everything in between, by your own sweat and tears! But not blood, because losing too much blood makes you die, and dying is the exact opposite of conquering.

Reimu's voice knocks me out of my mental rambling, and I have to shake my head to clear my head.

“Sorry, Reimu, could you repeat that?”

And Reimu just smiles, and helplessly shrugs. “I said it's fine, Marisa. You believe in me, right?”

I don't want to give Reimu the satisfaction of seeing me blush like a young schoolgirl. But Kosuzu can probably feel the warmth of the blood rushing to my cheeks, and without my withing uniform, I'm not fast enough on the magical draw to hide the blush.

But my voice is in good condition, so I'm free to point something out. “I thought you said you were used to the cold.”

“And you said it was unnatural for humans to enjoy the cold. So come now, Marisa, help warm me up~!” Reimu turns around to collect her own flyers, since our bit of conversation's caused an audience to sprout up. Hooray for gossipers.

But I'm cold, tired, and just the worst emotional wreck right. My heart's all undone, and I feel like I could faint at any minute.

Well, I exaggerate. But good lord I am tired of passing out flyers in the cold. And getting my ass kicked in verbal sparring matches.

Luckily, in this time of pure, desperate need – I am saved.

“Miss Marisa!”

By a little seven year old girl, but beggars can't be choosers!

“Ah, Riko!” I finally let go of Kosuzu, pausing only to recast a small illusion – I can take my time now, so I might as well keep the 'cool, confident' look going. Reimu lets out a rather undignified snort, and Kosuzu has to cover her mouth to muffle her laughter – but out of sight, out of mind, and I'm too busy casually sauntering over to my student to pay them much more attention.

“Hey there, Riko. You're up early.” I squat down to look at her face to face – and I notice how especially dirty she is. It's only been a couple days, and the girl's already caked in soil and grass stains.

“Mhmm! I woke up super early today because I wanted to practice my magic some more! I did all my chores before mom and dad woke up, too!” Riko starts babbling about how she's been using 'magic' nonstop. A lot of what she says sounds, well, improbable, the stuff of daydreams... but who knows? Maybe she did create a rising platform and reach the top of some trees, and maybe she did go spelunking in her backyard.

“But, uhm...” Riko trails off, however, and it takes her a moment to compose herself again. “Mom and Dad get a bit angry, because I break too much stuff. Could you help me fix, umh, everything?”

Oh god. Ohhhh, god.

--------------------------------

I do have a way to help Riko, of course. No magician goes around without learning how to fix things. I can't, however, really go around fixing things for her. She has to learn to take care of herself, and that means abusing magic to hell and back to clean up after herself. Self-sufficiency is the ideal of humanity~

Problem is, the books I used to learn repair magic, I sold. To Pops. And I don't feel quite brave enough to consider teaching it without those books. Or brave enough to steal them back. The man is way more scary than Patchy about protecting what's his.

Which means I have to talk to him. He'll probably sell them back to me. Hell, he'll probably be polite about it, too. At the least, we're both professionals.

I just...really don't want to talk to him. But my own wants are less important than my student's needs, so here I am, right outside the door to the shop.

My dad always claimed he had an organizational system for all his wares. It just didn't look like it, because everything in his cabinets was strewn so... haphazardly. Clothing would rest next to the kitchenware, and musical instruments would lie on the ground with old toys piled right on top. Hats would hang from the rafters, next to a few battered masks.

In all honesty, he was more like a public storage service than an actual shop. There were, of course, thrift shoppers looking for something simple and clean, but my dad's merchandise was rarely simple and never clean. In reality, most of his customers were folks who ended up buying back the things they sold to him in the first place. At a marked up price, of course.

And... I'm really no exception. I needed a lot of start up cash to start the Kirisame Magic Shop, so I had to sell my spellbooks to him. He paid a bunch of cash, since they were magic and all, and I had already learned all the spells I could from them. With any luck, the whole 'magic' issue will have scared away anyone otherwise interested.

And worse comes to worst, Pops probably remembers who he sold them to.

The door - and the bell that rings when I open it - are both new. The storefront looks a lot bigger, too. It's about noon now, and there are more customers in today than I remember ever seeing as a kid.

It's still as bright as I remember it, with a bunch of windows on every wall to let daylight shine in. Pops must have cleaned up some, since for once, none of what he's selling has any dust on it. The clothing's finally spotless, and the kitchenware sparkles in the sun. The music instruments are finely tuned, equipped with bows and picks and not random toys – which are now on a low shelf, perfect for a child to look and play with.

And the man actually found a rack for his hats and his masks. Holy shit.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the book 'section' is still pressed against the right wall, next to a couple of chairs and a shelf of old calligraphy sets. Most of the books were here when I had left, and even though the bindings are new, the pages are still yellowed and falling apart. Finding my grimoires will be a snap, if they're in here.

They aren't, of course. I double check anyways, plucking book after book out of the shelves and skimming the pages, but everything feels so terribly... mundane. The other customers are giving me a wide berth, now, and I can't say I blame them. Or even that I mind.

Second verse, same as the first, and I come up empty handed. Which means either someone's bought them already, or they're in the back with storage.

...And either way, I'll have to talk with Pops.

The walk from the book section to the countertop doesn't take an eternity. My footsteps aren't slow or heavy, and the air isn't anything close to oppressive. It's just... the same, casual saunter over to my dad.

He's wearing a bowler hat today, but he doesn't have the boyish charm to really work it. He has a really... angular, almost chiseled face, with wrinkles and sharp eyes and... and it's honestly been so long that I almost don't recognize him without a beard.

He sees me. I know he does. But he's ignoring me all the same, focusing on his scissors and coupon clippings. Still giving me a chance to compose myself and think my words out. The asshole.

“...So, Mister Kirisame. I was wondering if you still had those books I sold you a couple years back.”

He doesn't bother looking at me, and just grunts out a ridiculous, impossible sum. Double what I sold them for. His manners haven't changed. Neither has the deep, almost gravelly voice. He's always sounded old, and now his face matches it.

But I digress, and I dig out my wallet to slam the bills onto the counter.

Not that my father seems to mind. He calmly gets up from his stool, folds the newspaper on the countertop, and ducks back into storage. Leaving me here with...

Well, with no-one, really. I take a look around, and all the customers are gone. I must have scared them away... or maybe they're just giving us some space. There was a lot of gossip about my family when I left, after all.

And it does give me time to skim through Pops's newspaper. Aya charges a bit too much money for my taste, and I'm usually part of the articles anyway. Why pay for a secondhand account when you have one literally first hand?

Sure enough, Reimu and I are on the headlines. “Ordinary Magician Teaches Extraordinary Magic with Shrine Maiden Sponsor.” Aya managed to snap a good aerial picture too, one of Kosuzu building up the walls for the Library while the rest of us stand in the background.

...But, there are a couple pieces of the article cut out. And a quick check makes sure the article clippings are in a pile, mixed in with all the ads and coupons Pops's yoinked.

A crash and a curse bring me out of my thoughts though, and a much dustier father appears before me, books in tow. In good condition, too – some of the magic still hums from the pages. He sets 'em on the table, and I, like any other customer, skim through to check for damages. The bindings are just as new as the books in the storefront, but none of the pages have a single tear or fold... besides the ones I made before selling them.

And then, when I grab them and turn to leave...

For the first time, in a long time, my father actually talks to me.

“I could have sworn I taught you how to haggle, Marisa.”

I don't respond at first – because I'm a bit too distracted pulling one of the stools on display over to sit on. And when I do try to respond... the words feel almost... rusty, old from disuse. “You certainly did. You also taught me that sometimes it's best just to eat a ridiculous price and flee, fleeeeeeeeee with the goods.”

And my dad scoffs, almost with affection. “Not when you can't afford it.” He gestures to the newspaper, tapping the headlines with the tip of his scissors. “You and the Hakurei girl need whatever you can get. Is Koga charging you rent yet?”

He lets me take the newspaper, and I glance through it. The article's... flattering, actually, and I'm left wondering what Reimu did to get Aya to not write her usual tripe.

“You mean Kosuzu's dad? Nah, he's been really hands off. Kosuzu's been giving me free everything, it's super nice. The power of good friends, eh?”

Pops nods, and starts going through the paper clippings. Some of them are really good deals... but he seems more focused on what he's clipped from the article.

“Your mom would kill me if I didn't do this much,” he answers the question I can't... quite put into words. “And it's always nice to hear how you're doing. You should write more often.”

And now it's my turn to scoff. I go hog wild, though, making a demented 'pffffft' noise and everything. “You're the one who disowned me.”

“And we both know it's unofficial, otherwise you'd be going by your mom's maiden name.”

I... I hadn't given much thought to Mom. There's another awkward pause before dad finally lets go of his scissors, setting them aside to count out the cash I've paid him. “How is Mom doing?”

“She still writes. She still tutors some of the kids at Kamishirasawa's school – she's with a student right now. And she still misses you, of course.”

“Is she purple?”

“Are you red?” He glances at my eyes, and I stare right back. My eyes haven't been red for a while. And that answers that question.

“Visit her tomorrow. I'll let her know you're coming.” He gets up from his chair, sweeping the cash into his hand and walking around the counter. I don't get up, not at first, and leave him to grab one of the books and skim through it.

“Will you be there too?”

“I tried learning some of the stuff inside this one, after you left. Ended up bedridden for days. Hammers and nails are so much easier.” And of course he ignores me. But not answering is still an answer... I guess.

I end up getting up to yank the spellbook out of his hands, before snapping it shut and tossing it onto the rest of the pile. But with my back turned, I don't notice him raising his hand up...

Until it's too late, and he's ruffling my hair, just like the old days.

“Glad to see the Hakurei Maiden taught you some fashion sense. You look terrible in that outfit by the way, but at least the hat's gone.”

But now I'm tall enough to jump up and snatch his bowler hat off him. It doesn't quite fit on my own head – and the dull, brown coloring isn't doing me any favors – but at least now he can't get at me. And I can get at him.

Ruffle, ruffle. “Dad, your hair's softer.”

We walk the rest of the way to the entrance like this. Well, he's walking, I'm floating a few inches off the air. And he only knocks my hand aside when we reach the door. “Yeah, well, your mom's shampoo's cheaper.”

The bell jingles out as he opens the door for me – and a tired Reimu is sitting on a bench, almost nodding off. Kosuzu's already out like a light, leaning her head against the older girl's shoulder. Riko's the only one still up and about, drawing pictures in the dirt with her geomancy – hell, she even has a small audience, other kids her age going 'oohh' and 'aaah' and asking her for requests.

Pops and I both suck at goodbyes, so I just walk out without saying a word, books in hand. And he lets the door shut behind me.

It takes me a while to realize he slipped the cash I paid him into my grimoire.

It takes me a while longer to realize we were both speaking English.
That was nice.
Marisa, you look adorable in that shrine maiden outfit.
This is really interesting, I'm definitely adding this to my "keep an eye out for" list.
>It takes me a while longer to realize we were both speaking English.

I snickered. Out of curiosity, though, would that mean Marisa has some English heritage in her blood?
Well, that fulfilled my heartwarming quota for this month.

Really, that was pretty darn d'aww inspiring. Kudos!
Call your damn parents every once in awhile Marisa! Jeez, there are parents out there who CAN'T even speak to their kids.
Your father seems like a pretty decent person, Marisa. A bit of an asshole, but as far as I know, he's not as bad as I imagined him to be.
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36679
>>36599

"While I've no doubt that's true, I'm not entirely sure if it's because I'm working the outfit or if the outfit's just that awesome. I saw Cirno sneak into one a long while back and even she made it look cute.

>>36659
"I'm... not entirely sure. Mom always joked about her time outside. I mean, she has the blond hair, but her eye color changes a lot, like mine. Sometimes it's purple, sometimes it's blue. I can't pin down her old nationality by her looks."

>>36674
>>36676

"Hey, Pops said 'write more often', not 'write to us'! I'm not that callous a daughter.

But - well, I guess I'm a bit callous. Pops really took issue with the whole 'learning magic from an evil spirit' thing, but I don't think there was ever any hate on either of our parts. Just... awkwardness. And stubbornness."

>>36598
>>36601
>>36662

"Thanks for all the support! But, uhm... sorry to burst your bubbles, but the next updates might not come for a while.

See, summer's ending, and, well - we all know what that means. I'll try to get at least two updates a month in, but no promises."
>>36679
Any updates a month is good. Even status updates.
Even 'took my cat to the vet this week' updates.
>>36679
No problem. Just knowing that there will be updates, even if at a slow rate, is good enough.
And if nothing else, as >>36682 said, even just a status update to remind us that the story is alive and kicking vaguely twitching at least, is good.
Anything but waiting for an update that never arrives, because stories just fading away is the worst.
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36760
"Sorry about the lack of updates, guys. Life has a habit of piling stuff on you - slip a bit and you get crushed by paperwork.

Still, some good news! Things have been going my way for a while, so expect an update by - well, the end of September."
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36782
I end up tossing the books, sans cash, over to Riko and sending her on her way. Reimu ends up flying off to the farms to trade prayers and blessings for seeds.

And Kosuzu ends up sleeping in my arms as I carry her back to Suzunaan. Girl sleeps like a rock... not that I can blame her. She had to wake up early so I could bring her to the Hakurei Shrine, and from what her dad's told me she was up all night reading.

A sleepy mind is in no condition to learn, so I'm forced to leave Kosuzu to her nap. As I help her into the futon, I notice that her room's terribly sparse; there's no furniture, nor knicknacks, nor keepsakes. There's just a drawer for clothes, and a few books lying against the wall. It feels... wrong. Disquieting. Worrisome.

Because girls Kosuzu's age shouldn't have such empty rooms.

Her library, her baby, does tell a different story. The sheer variety puts Voile to shame; Patchy only gives a damn about magic, but Kosuzu has a bit of everything.

There are mysteries and adventures. Old diaries and Outside textbooks. Introspective poetry, and factual records of times gone by. Be it mundane or magical, there's always space for another book, another story, another source of knowledge.

There's a lot of love and care put into Suzunaan... it's just that Kosuzu might not have much love and care in anything else. It's almost like she's a cuter, more mellow version of Patchy.

But I digress. Fact of the matter is, Kosuzu has a bunch of books. And I'm in charge of enchanting them all.

The actual warding is pretty simple; the issue is the sheer tedium. I already the enchantment circle a couple days back, and Kosuzu had the good sense to not wipe away the chalk. So, all that's left is to futz around with the details, like writing in the number of pages of the book, or the length and width of the scroll. Then I just... sit there. And power the ritual.

So there I am, just sitting there, cross legged. My magic's humming along, tracing the lines of chalk before being diverted into the book, which floats into the air, opens up, and bursts into light as it gets blasted with spell after spell. And then it plops back down onto the floor, and I grab a new book.

The monotony is agonizing. The warding process is simple enough that I can't really bother with giving it my full attention, but it's just complicated enough that I can't do anything else while everything's going on. If Kosuzu was up at least I could have had her... I don't know, practice flying. It'd be easier than keeping a ladder around for the top shelves. The place is terribly cramped; I can at least shimmy through the aisles to pull the books out, but the shelves themselves aren't really braced. On anything. The weight of books can only do so much; if people aren't careful they could knock them down, one after another, like dominoes.

But regardless - here I sit, in... quite the pickle. My legs have already fallen asleep, and the constant prickling, the first symptom of my magic starting to overheat, is driving me up the wall. My arms and hands are starting to burn up from the constant energy flow, and soon enough the muscles along my fingers are starting to spasm thanks to the magic bleeding out into my nerves. And if the fingers spasm, the magic's disrupted. And if the magic's disrupted I get to start over.

So when I cock up the procedure for the fifth time in a row, I give up and take a break.

I'd rather not leave, in case Kosuzu does wake up soon, but it doesn't leave much to look at – or do, really. Suzunaan's terribly dark, and unlike Voile, there's nowhere to really sit and read besides the floor. There's a spare chair next to the entrance, there's Kosuzu's desk, and that's about it. The room even smells cramped; there's a... a musk here, of paper old and new, mixing in with just a hint of dust. Despite her efforts, Kosuzu can't quite get rid of the smell – and to be honest, I can't say that's a bad thing. It keeps the place homey.

The girl could really add in some windows, though. Or – or a lamp. Or something. Half the time it's too dark to even read the spines of the books, and the only thing that catches any light is her gramophone.

Speaking of, I've never actually seen one of these played before. Mom used to mention radios from Outside when I was younger, and Kourin had a collection of them at his shop, but the whole spinning record with the needle? New to me.

So, how could I resist? It was so simple, too. Just crank the wheel a bit, and... well, I can't really describe it.

What I can do, though, is abuse some illusion magic. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMZElMnVOOw

It's all really... soothing. It's certainly not like the music anyone in Gensokyo plays – and I'm left wondering where Kosuzu actually got the record for this. Kourin doesn't usually carry them, since the records tend to break when falling through. I'll have to ask her when she wakes.

But Kosuzu's not awake yet, and she never put up the closed sign out in front. Which, I suppose, is why someone's now coming in. It's too dark to make out anything beyond a silhouette, though – but my fiddling with the phonograph at least makes it look like I'm busy.

“Welcome to Suzunaan, how can I help you?”

“Ah – Kirisame. Is Kosuzu available? I have some books to return.”

There's a clear, soft spoken voice, and I cast a quick cantrip to muffle the phonograph's playing. It takes me a while for me to recognize the woman's voice – but when I do, I'm all smiles and on my best behavior.

Because Hieda no Akyuu has entered the premises, and I don't think I want to piss off my student – and my landlord – any more than necessary. So, not at all.

“I'm sorry, Ak – er, Lady Hieda. Kosuzu tired after... assisting me with some errands, so she's recuperating in her quarters at the moment. I can handle those books for you, ma'am!”

Dear /lord/ I need to work on my formal language.

Luckily, Akyuu's not too stuck up, so she just raises an eyebrow as she hands the books over. There's even some amusement twinkling in her eyes as she watches me skim the books for damages.

Frankly, the books aren't exactly the kind I'd expect Akyuu to read. The '46 Images of Mount Fuji' is a pretty book, but it's not exactly historical. The 'World Ocean Census' is just mind boggling, since Gensokyo's landlocked, and the 'Yosemite' photo book is... well, it's certainly pretty. Breathtaking, really.

Akyuu giggles lightly at the sight of my confusion. “Even I have some hobbies, Kirisame. I'll never have the chance to leave Gensokyo, so Kosuzu's books let me... explore.”

The purple-haired girl is a lot more... well, relaxed, then I would expect. She seems perfectly at home here, humming along to the music and reclining on the spare chair. I make a few half-hearted attempts to keep an eye on her while I'm re-shelving the books – and make a note to check out the oceanography book – but she doesn't do much.

In all honesty, I expected her to just leave. Kosuzu's probably not waking up for another hour or so, and Akyuu and I aren't particularly close. It's a bit... awkward, really, to watch the historian unwind, with her eyes closed and her head nodding to the beat of the music.

Like she doesn't belong. Or more like – I don't belong.

Watching someone be so at home in a place is... always a bit awkward, when you don't feel the same way. There's a reason why no one bothers Reimu and I when I'm at her shrine – it just feels weird, or wrong, to intrude on intimate moments like that.

But I can't exactly leave, so... I'm just stuck in Kosuzu's chair, doing nothing in particular – and being incredibly aware of the fact that I'm doing nothing in particular.

It only takes me a couple minutes to give up and get up to do something. And Akyuu probably planned my discomfort, because by the time I get back with that copy of the 'World Ocean Census' the music's ended – and Akyuu's pulled the other chair up to Kosuzu's desk.

And as everyone knows, “we need to talk” is the most horrifying phrase of any language.

I don't bother with any pretense – that'd just make things drag on. So I softly put the book on the desk, think better of distracting myself with the phonograph, and settle myself for a long, excruciating chat.

“What do we need to talk about?” I wish I had something to play with – a pencil, or a bookmark, or just something to distract myself with. And Akyuu, I'm guessing, is feeling the same way, despite the impressive poker face she has going on. She continues playing with her hair, twirling a lock or two between her index finger and her thumb.

“About Kosuzu. It would settle my nerves if you could inform me what your plans are with her.” Despite any possible nervousness, however, she states her intentions clearly and simply. No subterfuge needed.

Still, though. It's a weird intention. “Uhm – I'm not planning to do anything with her. She's helping me out with the library thing, and I'm just helping her man the store in the meantime.” There's no need for lies, since for once I legitimately have nothing to hide.

Akyuu, for whatever reason, isn't buying it, and her brow creases in irritation. “I trust you will understand if I do not deign to believe you,” she says softly, leaning forward to look me in the eyes. “After all, your reputation is built on thievery, deceit, and an enjoyment of casual violence.”

Oh, now it's on. “Don't believe in everything you hear, Akyuu. Reimu trusts me. Hell, you trusted me enough to mediate your Symposium.”

Akyuu just scoffs in response, and I'm kinda surprised she'd do something so... unrefined. “I trusted you to get violent if the need arose, and to provide the average human's perspective for the others to argue against. As for the Hakurei Maiden...” she shrugs in dismissal. “There's a reason why Miss Kamishirasawa is considered the protector of the Village.”

The amount of derision in Akyuu's tiny frame is actually kind of impressive. Especially since she doesn't wear it on her sleeve. Kosuzu must be a sore spot for her; I know thdvtrrvjat feel, but all the same...

“Well, if absolutely nothing else, I'm pretty sure Kosuzu can take care of herself. And her dad can take care of it if she can't.” It feels a bit unfair to demean Kosuzu like that.

But Akyuu clearly doesn't feel the same way. “Kosuzu, despite her bibliophile tendencies, is just a regular human, as is her father. You, however, are a magical degenerate with no morals, who, I note, is known for selling love potions.”

And I really don't like her implications there. The chair screeches against the wooden flooring as I step up, trying to tower over her. Akyuu doesn't react, but I certainly feel better. “Love potions don't work that way in the first place, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't slander me again.” Unfortunately, 'feeling better' isn't the same as 'feeling calm', and I'm kicking myself for hissing that last part of the sentence through clenched teeth.

“I respectfully apologize,” Akyuu blatantly lies, and waits for me to calm down before continuing. “But you must admit that Kosuzu is playing with fire. She still has not noticed that Futatsuiwa is, in fact, a youkai who's stringing her along for who knows what reason. She makes it a hobby to collect dangerous magical books, and is headstrong enough to believe that she can handle any consequences of reading those books. Lastly, Kosuzu puts her unwavering faith in a lazy shrine maiden who consorts with youkai, and yourself. I'd be a terrible friend if I did not worry, Kirisame, so please do not act as though you understand the situation.”

Given that I get into dangerous situations, I'd like to think I understand Kosuzu's predicament more than a worrywart historian that does fuck-all except read and write. So what if Akyuu and her reincarnations always die early? That just means she should live life, not... shut herself in to eke out more meaningless days.

Kosuzu wants to learn. That Akyuu can't see that is... frustrating.

But whatever. The lines are drawn, the positions are clear, and everything's at stalemate.

Now: What to say to Akyuu to make her back off?

[ ]Write-in
[x] "You're right in assuming that I have my own angle here. I want to teach the people of the village that magic isn't just for Youkai and weirdos, that it isn't just a dangerous weapon. It's a tool, like a broom or a shovel. I want people to understand that they don't have to be afraid of it.
But I can't do it on my own. I need Kosuzu so that when people ask me 'What are your qualifications? How do we know we can trust you with our children?' I can point at her and say 'You know that Kosuzu girl, right? You trust her? Go ask her how I'm doing. Go ask her how useful magic is, how it rewards hard work and effort, and how much fun it is to talk about all the new things she's learned.'
I need her for credibility, because I know what my reputation is, and I don't need to be reminded. My reputation is the result of the choices I've made, and Kosuzu's is the result of her choices. If she decides that she can trust me to do what's best for her, as well as for myself, that's her choice to make and not anyone else's.
And it's not like she's not getting anything out of it. You want to know what I've been doing all day? Warding her books. You have no idea how boring that is. But I'm doing it because it was part of our agreement. You can call me a thief, and a liar, and violent all day long, but I have never stolen from Kosuzu, I have never lied to Kosuzu, and I will never, ever harm Kosuzu. She's far too important. To me. Shit why did I tell you that."

Oh god I can't stop adding things I better post this before it gets any worse.
[x ]I happen to take magic pretty damn seriously and Kosuzu wants to learn. If you're really her friend, you'd let her do something she wants.

I won't let that girl get a scratch. Hell if you don't trust me, at least trust that your friend knows what she is doing.

_____

Trying to keep it a little informal but make it from the heart I guess.
[x] But I do understand the situation, far better than you think. I know exactly what the dangers are; I've lived them all my life. That's why I'm taking things at such a careful pace. But you wanna know the main reason this is happening? It's because Kosuzu want it to. She wants to learn, and nobody has the right to tell her that she can't. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that she learns things right.

You don't trust me? Fine, I can deal with that. But are you telling me that Kosuzu actually needs you to look over her shoulder. Funny, I thought you'd respect her a bit more than that.

---------------------------------

Welcome back, Marisa!
>I know thdvtrrvjat feel

I did a double-take.
>>36785
It's good to be back! Sorry for the delays - and I hope you're liking the updates!

>>36786
Yeah, uhm... I was kinda fading in and out of sleep by the time I finished proofreading, so... yeah. That happened. Whoooops.
[ ] Launch into a rendition of "Papa Don't Preach." But about how you're going to keep teaching people because that's just what you wanna do. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6h5J73dgx0

Akyuu don't preach
I'm in teaching deep
Akyuu don't preach
I've been losing sleep
BUT I'VE MADE UP MY MIND
I'M TEACHING MY STUDENTS
[x] But I do understand the situation, far better than you think. I know exactly what the dangers are; I've lived them all my life. That's why I'm taking things at such a careful pace. But you wanna know the main reason this is happening? It's because Kosuzu wants it to. She wants to learn, and nobody has the right to tell her that she can't. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that she learns things right.

It was due time to tell 'er off.
Ye gods, Marisa, I do not know how to vote. There's just so much I wanna tell off Akyuu about:

• She thinks Sanae, the priestess of a technophile goddess from Outside, is ignorant of Outside technology.

• You want real ignorance? Akyuu believes cameras steal souls, at least she said as much in Nitori's entry.

• Not only does she think Byakuren's evil but she shows willful ignorance of the Mahayana concept of Nirvana (it's more a state of being than a physical place).

• Speaking of sweetness and light, Akyuu buys into all the cruel superstitions about Hina. Not only is Hina's goal removing the misfortune of others she's working to make it more affordable with her paper Hina dolls.

• Finally, she kinda sorts totally forgot to mention how Reimu protected the Human Village by stoping Utsuho from nuking Gensokyo. Seriously, Reimu gets more respect from the people she beats up than the ones she saves.

I'm not sure what you can say that'd change her opinion, for all I know you may as well tell her off.
I agree with >>36791.
It's kind of had to write a vote rather than just letting out all the things that need to be said.
But I guess if I had to condense it into a vote:

[X] You offered to teach. Kozusu wanted to learn. Her father approves, as do several other parents (or guardian in the case of Daichi) trusting you with their children. Since Akyuu is none of those, her opinions on the matter are irrelevant.

If Akyuu has a problem with that she can either take it up with the respective adults, or at least watch a lesson to get some objective facts instead of jumping to conclusions based on subjective opinions.
You know, like a professional chronicler would do when gathering information to commit to posterity, to make sure that there are no factual errors or misinformation like slandering ("I resent that! ...'Slander' is spoken, in print it's 'libel'.") someone who just wants to help, by stating that they bring misfortune. Or that a picture steals your soul. Or that "nirvana" is a location.
(It was a BAND, sure, but they're not in any specific location either... Except for Curt Cobain, of course. He's rather stationary.)


And then, besides the things >>36791 already pointed out:

Akyuu's frankly arrogant attitude about all this implies that she's meddling for her own sake rather than being honestly worried about her friend.
I mean, shouldn't she be talking to Kozusu if she really cared, instead of sitting there and insulting you?
The way she's acting, she's just trying to throw her attitude around and using Kozusu as a shield to hide behind. "You can't gainsay me because I'm being such a good friend while everyone knows you're a terrible person."
And for that matter, morality isn't a sliding scale of "good vs bad". While one person might value the stability of a community another values personal freedom.
Both are equally correct, even if they can't agree.

She also says that there's a reason Keine is considered the guardian of the village. Which is true. It's because Reimu is busy keeping the balance for all of Gensokyo instead of just watching over the village.
Beating up the occasional youkai is nothing, keeping a balance means you have to be on both sides and none of them, all at the same time.

Many complain about Reimu being lazy, but I think it's probably just as much because she can't just go out and do whatever she wants because she's a very... Official person, I guess you could call it. Whenever she does or doesn't do absolutely anything it has consequences, because people will start assuming it means this or that.
If she were to spend more time around the village the youkai would become antsy, thinking she favors the humans. If she spends more time "consorting with youkai", well, we already know what the humans think of that.
Her options are to either spend all her time managing the political implications of every little thing she does, or just wash her hands of it all and only make any real moves when there's an Incident.
It's pretty obvious which one she's chosen.
[x] But I do understand the situation, far better than you think. I know exactly what the dangers are; I've lived them all my life. That's why I'm taking things at such a careful pace. But you wanna know the main reason this is happening? It's because Kosuzu wants it to. She wants to learn, and nobody has the right to tell her that she can't. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that she learns things right.

Why so hostile, Akyuu? Is Kosuzu's life really any of your business?
Well, they are friends. Best friends, if Akyuu's being so overprotective. And even though Akyuu's only 19 now, she has 8 or 9 lifetimes of experience that she's drawing from.
[X] You're right in assuming that I have my own angle here. I want to teach the people of the village that magic isn't just for youkai and weirdos, that it isn't just a dangerous weapon. It's a tool, like a broom or a shovel. I want people to understand that they don't have to be afraid of it.
But I can't do it on my own. I need Kosuzu so that when people ask me 'What are your qualifications? How do we know we can trust you with our children?' I can point at her and say 'You know that Kosuzu girl, right? You trust her? Go ask her how I'm doing. Go ask her how useful magic is, how it rewards hard work and effort, and how much fun it is to talk about all the new things she's learned.'
I need her for credibility, because I know what my reputation is, and I don't need to be reminded.
But you wanna know the other reason this is allowed to happen? It's because Kosuzu wants it to. She wants to learn, and nobody has the right to tell her that she can't. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that she learns things right.
As for Kosuzu's well-being? I know exactly what the dangers are; I've lived them all my life. That's why I'm taking things at such a careful pace. Her father approves, as do several other parents (or guardian in the case of Daichi) trusting me with their children.
If you have a problem with that, you can either take it up with the respective adults, or at least watch a lesson to get some objective facts instead of jumping to conclusions based on subjective opinions.


little of column A, little of Column B, moved around a bit to make it not so clunky and obvious a cut and paste. also not intended to be used word for word, just the best summary of what i feel should be mentioned. adjustments and improvements are welcome.
[X] You're right in assuming that I have my own angle here. I want to teach the people of the village that magic isn't just for youkai and weirdos, that it isn't just a dangerous weapon. It's a tool, like a broom or a shovel. I want people to understand that they don't have to be afraid of it. Because the alternative is you. Your articles are fear mongering supersticious lies from someone who doesn't care enough to find the truth!
I know what my reputation is. I know I commit mistakes. I start things for the wrong reasons, this included: but my purporse is pure: to be the last kid who is rejected by her parents just because they wanted to try something new!
To start this I needed help and I had a dozen of choices but I choose her. You know why? Because she's a normal human, as you put it, who isn't afraid of the supernatural. Who isn't scared to pursue her dreams because her family has her back all the way. She's what I want everyone to be and that's why I like her.

Another, different approach.
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36805
"I won't be able to close votes for a few more days, since the workload is just piling up. But, I think we're all getting tired of calling this 'the Marisa's Library Story,' so I decided on a name!

It's up there in the Subject Headings. Please wait warmly!"
>>36805
fyi that name sucks
I'll be keeping my bookmark titled 'Kirisame Library' if it's all the same to you.
I think that name's okay. (I just need to figure out what "maktaba" mean.)
But it does have a certain Alliterative Allure to it.
In case it wasn't obvious, it means 'Library'

And I dunno, I like the Mx4 style of the title.
[X] Patchouli said I was incompetent and if I was the best Mima could do then she was incompetent too. I decided to prove her wrong by teaching people magic, and while I'm at it I'll set up a better library of magic books than hers - what kind of library doesn't let you check out books, anyway?
>>36805

Exaggerated alliteration is so very you. I'd type a smiley if templates like that weren't forbidden.

I also see you know some Arabic. Are you proficient enough to spot any translation errors in the Japanese version of Al Azif?
[X] Patchouli said I was incompetent and if I was the best Mima could do then she was incompetent too. I decided to prove her wrong by teaching people magic, and while I'm at it I'll set up a better library of magic books than hers - what kind of library doesn't let you check out books, anyway?

Hopefully he knows who Mima is, or we're just gunna be wasting time.
"Thanks for all the words, everyone! I'll make sure to give Akyuu a piece of our minds!

But, uhm. Not now. Mima always called October Hell Month for a reason. Sorry."
Hopefully Mina calls November "update month".
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[X]Write-ins

I end up taking a few minutes to compose myself, my thoughts, and Suzunaan in general. And Akyuu, for her part, respectfully gets out of the way, giving me all the space I need.

Respectfully. And damn it all, that's the key word here. Despite her views on me and my magic, Hieda no Akyuu knows when to push my buttons, and when to back off. Blasting her in the face isn't going to end things in my favor.

So I sit back, relax, and ponder my words a little longer.

“...Kosuzu wants to learn. Her father has no objections to this.” I need to be calm about this, I need to be secure. Akyuu'll rip me apart for anything less. “I am not forcing anybody to learn what I am offering to teach. Your opinions on this are noted, because I would like to rehabilitate the image of magic in the Village – but they're ultimately irrelevant.”

Even though the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping, Suzunaan itself grows terribly, terribly cold. “Irrelevant? Kirisame, I have every right to care about Kosuzu and her safety.”

“But you do not have a right to force her to stop what she wants to do.”

“I have every right if Kosuzu's desires will get herself killed. Even with the Spellcard Rules, people get hurt. People die.” Akyuu's voice is low, bland, filled with the nonchalant tones of someone pushing the lid down on a frothing rage.

Much like my own. “Kosuzu collects magical books for funsies. And you've benefited from her bibliophile habits, so clearly you're not gonna stop her. So the alternative to her not learning how to defend herself is her getting in way over her head and kicking the bucket. Messily.”

“As though you actually care about Kosuzu.” Akyuu leans forward in her chair, glaring at me with eyes that look terribly young, and terribly old. “You, Kirisame Marisa, are not one for charity. Do be honest for once in your damned life.”

“I have been honest to Kosuzu, and I have been honest to you. The Kirisame Library is a business endeavor. Kosuzu's giving me her space and in return I teach her magic. She wanted this, Akyuu, and all I did was give her the means to get what she wanted.”

Akyuu growls, her brow furrowing as she shakes her head in simple frustration. Good to know the feeling's mutual, then. “What Kosuzu wants? Don't delude yourself, Kirisame; isn't this about what you want?”

“Kosuzu's wants and my own coincide. Just because I get something out of it doesn't mean -”

“It doesn't mean you didn't cajole Kosuzu into learning something, didn't make magic sound like something that wouldn't kill her for the slightest mistake. What did you do, what did you tell her, and what do you 'want' so damned much that you'd risk her life for it?”
...I want to go Outside. I want to see the world, and bring Reimu with me. I want to be free, to have a future and do with it as I please. I want a pretty girl to dote on and love and wake up next to in the morning. I want some damn respect. I want to make my parents proud. And to get all that -

“I want to wipe out all of this damned prejudice. I want people like you, Akyuu, to look back and say 'I'm sorry, I was wrong'. I want it seared into people's minds that magic isn't evil, isn't a terrible, horrifying thing, nor is it some divine Art or the holy grail of reality. Magic is a tool, like a carpenter's saw or a chef's knives, and being a magician is just another profession.”

Akyuu's silent, but her glare never wavers. Fucking fine with me. “You're a historian, right? You collect information, you put it into writing. But the pay is shit and people care more about your name than anything else about you. But you do it anyways, because you think it'll make a difference. Someday, if not today. You do it because you think your work matters.

“Why can't I be the same way?

You don't have to like me, you don't have to agree with me right this second. You don't even need to think I'm human if it bothers you that much. But acknowledge me as a person. Acknowledge that I think my[i] work [i]matters too. I'm Kosuzu's friend, and she has a good head on her shoulders and a good heart in her chest. Don't I deserve this much?”

I... I end up slumping back into my chair, all my energy fading away. Akyuu's fallen back onto her chair, too, looking at me with... who the hell knows, some kind of feeling in her eyes.

And there we sat, and stared, until Kosuzu woke up.

“Ngh... oh, Akyuu, Marisa. I heard some loud... talking, I guess. Are you two okay?”

“Oh, no, Kosuzu, it's fine. Kirisame and I were just chatting politics.”


--------------------------------------------------------------

Akyuu never did give me an answer, in the end. We played nice all the same, managing to be polite, and civil, and all that good stuff that was far away from good old fashioned throat-throttling. But... even I could see that the two wanted some quiet time together. I ended up excusing myself, and headed outside to get a bite. The early morning, the chat with Pops, and now this? All of today was piling up on me, and I just wanted to go home and rest under the covers.

Which is, naturally, why I had the amazing luck of Toyosatomimi no Miko and Hijiri Byakuren waiting outside of my Library.

Glaring. Almost at each others' throats. Their breathing was slow, measured – deliberately so, to maintain the illusion of civility. But it didn't hide the sheer anger in their eyes, or the obvious frowns marring their faces.

Miko still looked the same as before, but now she had one hand gripping her purple cape, pulling it around her like it was a shield. And Byakuren...

Well, she certainly didn't dress like your stereotypical monk. Or like any monk, for that matter. The black 'robe' she wore looked more like a jacket than anything else, with laces that crisscrossed her bust and left the white dress below free to wandering eyes. Her arms were crossed in front of her, and I couldn't tell if she was rubbing her strong, toned arms for warmth, or to stop herself from wrapping her tanned fingers around Miko's slender neck.

Plus her hair was gradient. Even in the freakshow that was Gensokyo, having hair that went from purple at the roots to brown at the tips was weird.

Luckily, my presence broke the stalemate, and Miko took a step back to allow Byakuren to speak.

“Good afternoon, Marisa. I trust you are well?” Once Miko's out of sight, it's like she's out of mind as well. All the tension in the monk's shoulders evaporates just like that, and her bubbly, happy self takes over.

Her smile's dazzling, and I can't help but smile back. “I'm doing pretty well, actually. It's kinda fun hanging out in the village – I should do it more often. So, how can I help you?”

Byakuren smiles and clasps her hands together, the perfect image of a pious woman. “I came across one of your fliers earlier today, and I was hoping you could come to Myouren Temple to talk about allowing some of the youkai to join in as well?”

That freezes the smile on my face. “Uhm, Byakuren... not to be racist or anything, but my position is already really...tenuous. I don't think letting youkai interact with children is going to go over well with the parents.”

Byakuren nods, and has the decency to look a bit guilty. “I know. I apologize for putting you in such a precarious position. The Myouren Temple would be glad to do anything to help facilitate this cooperation, and we'd be happy to negotiate if you come with us.”

Miko snorts, dragging us both out of the conversation. Byakuren turns to glare down at her shorter rival, but Miko doesn't seem to give a damn.

“Miss Marisa. Though Byakuren's aims are a bit too foolish at this point and time, her methods are quite reasonable. You are already teaching my Daichi, and you've seen his potential. I was hoping you would accompany me to Senkai, where we could discuss the possibility of a... student exchange program, of sorts. You've done quite well with your few resources, and I'm sure your students and mine own could benefit from such a joint endeavor. What say you?”

“I say,” Byakuren begins, dragging our attention back to her, “That Taoist magic requires a great deal of studying and commitment. Requirements that, while not necessarily bad, would be unappealing to a great deal of people. The Myouren Temple, however, has a much more varied magical library, filled with both religious and fundamental magic. Furthermore, working with youkai will show that they are not all to be feared, and will help ease racial tensions.”

“Racial tensions that will get worse before they get better, Miss Marisa. Byakuren is dragging you into a cause that you may not be able to politically survive.”

“I am asking you, Marisa, to help champion a worthy cause. With your support human-youkai relations could soar to loftier heights!”

The conversation doesn't quite stop there, but it certainly devolves. It never comes quite to blows, but Byakuren and Miko won't stop sniping at each other. And if I don't make a choice I daresay I'd piss both of them off.

So, who should I make a deal with first?

[ ]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.

[ ]Miko. She had a point that Byakuren might be going too far, too fast, and losing all support would ruin me. Miko's well liked in the Village, and even though Byakuren's the better choice when it comes to the variety of magic, Miko probably has some basic stuff my students could learn. I could probably assuage Byakuren somehow, and, well... Getting to know Miko better could help out in the future.


--------------

>>36194

"More updates than October, at any rate! I already failed that whole 'update every day' challenge, though. Sorry 'bout that."
[X] This is far too sudden. I need time to think about it here.

Not sure how you feel about write-ins, so I'm stepping in lightly here. But, it's great to have you back buddy!
>>36945
> And if I don't make a choice I daresay I'd piss both of them off.

We need to pick now. And there's no better choice here. Pros and cons for both.

Like some elections. Even if you wanted a better choice to come up, you have to decide right away between a heart attack and cancer (Yes, I watch Jon Stewart's show).

Doesn't that suck, Marisa?
>>36945

"Yeah, that was my first thought, too. But if I 'take time to think' they'll just keep on hounding me. Miko and Hijirin don't get along at all."

>>36947

"This Jon Stewart guy sounds like he knows a thing or two. I don't think things'll get that bad. If nothing else, I'll fast-talk them into... well, something."
[x]Miko. She had a point that Byakuren might be going too far, too fast, and losing all support would ruin me. Miko's well liked in the Village, and even though Byakuren's the better choice when it comes to the variety of magic, Miko probably has some basic stuff my students could learn. I could probably assuage Byakuren somehow, and, well... Getting to know Miko better could help out in the future.
- [x]Make sure they both understand that my own subjects (and students) come first, and that Miko's interests will always be overlooked in favour of those of the Kirisame Library.

ie Lip service, and nothing more.
[X]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.
- [x]Make sure they both understand that my own subjects (and students) come first, and that Byakuren's interests will always be overlooked in favour of those of the Kirisame Library.
[x]Miko. She had a point that Byakuren might be going too far, too fast, and losing all support would ruin me. Miko's well liked in the Village, and even though Byakuren's the better choice when it comes to the variety of magic, Miko probably has some basic stuff my students could learn. I could probably assuage Byakuren somehow, and, well... Getting to know Miko better could help out in the future.

We've got a working relationship with Miko already, and she does raise some good points. The kids' parents were nervous just to have them learn magic, so making the kids fraternize with youkai would probably spook them even more. I don't want to spurn Miko in exchange for an untested and controversial faction.
[X]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.
- [x]Make sure they both understand that my own subjects (and students) come first, and that Byakuren's interests will always be overlooked in favour of those of the Kirisame Library.

>>36945
Here, I'll roll with this one because Byakuren promotes peace and is less likely to try and use us. That and I want to see Nue and Kyouko.
Whatever we pick, I think we should try to stress our neutrality in matters of religion, that we're a place for education in magic and nothing else.

Anyway, I think we should be fine with youkai students as long as we make it clear to everyone that fucking around with other students, whether they're human or youkai, will not be tolerated. Anyone in violation of that will be kicked out and/or sparked.

[X]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.
- [x]Make sure they both understand that my own subjects (and students) come first, and that Byakuren's interests will always be overlooked in favour of those of the Kirisame Library.

Ideally speaking, we'd be able to make a compromise and get both of their support. But in practice, it becomes a lot more difficult. A good compromise might be to put our foot down and inform them that while they're both free to send students to us, we won't be showing any favouritism to any faction. Or something like that anyway.
[X]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.
- [x]Make sure they both understand that my own subjects (and students) come first, and that Byakuren's interests will always be overlooked in favour of those of the Kirisame Library.


First and foremost, they should both realize that this is a place for education, and education only. Religious beliefs and opinions belong in their respective temples.

That said, I'm sure Byakuren is smart enough to let you start by teaching a youkai that is seen as (mostly) harmless by the villagers. It's not as if she'd, say, hook you up with Yuuka or something. (Not that I think she'd be interested in the first place, but you get my point.)
You might lose a student to gain a student, but as long as nothing happens it's likely that people will return when they see how useful magic can be.
[X]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.
-[X]Make sure they both understand that my own subjects (and students) come first, and that Byakuren's interests will always be overlooked in favour of those of the Kirisame Library.
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36959
"So, looks like we'll be making a deal with Byakuren!

Wait, what.

I. Huh, I didn't expect Byakuren to win.

Wow, you guys weren't kidding about wanting to go through her stuff, huh?"
Well... I guess you shouldn't expect Miko to do you more favors like last time.

Politics just sucks, huh? Or in this case, religious fights. Hopefully, Miko will not be right, you aren't going to drown because of racial tensions and Byakuren won't try to have you take the scariest-looking youkais as students.
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36965
>>36959

Honestly, who can say no to a woman who wears nun-themed bondage on an everyday basis?

I'm positive that woman is hiding some sexy secrets, don't forget to make some very subtle inquires into the validity of the Mara dildo rumors.
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36966
I propose we help the two sides bridge their differences in the future and promote "friendship." It'll be useful to our cause to have both sides working together and indebted to us.
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36967
[X]Byakuren. I already have Miko's implicit support with Daichi, and it's not like she'd just force Daichi to stop coming if I tried to work things out with Byakuren. If human-youkai tensions mellow out, I'd get a lot of publicity for being one of the trailblazers. Plus, Byakuren's a good looking lass, and being in her good graces might be nice. If worse comes to worst, I really could just teach youkai and Kosuzu.

Miko, by all accounts, is the better choice. The safe choice. She's well-respected in the village, and she already has a couple students under her belt. Despite Byakuren's claims, Taoism does cover a decent variety of magical disciplines. I already have a friendly relationship with the Taoist Hermit, and she's been supporting me from day one.

And yet. And yet.

I'm a thief, a liar, and a scoundrel. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I've always wanted to be the hero.

“...Ah, Byakuren? Miko?” My voice, soft and more than a little hesitant, still manages to pull the two from their argument. They look at me with expectant eyes, though Miko seems... disappointed, a bit. As though she knows who I've decided on. How did she -

Oh, right. Mind reading. Desire reading if we're getting pedantic. Welp.

“So, I thought it over, and... I'm sorry, Miko. I'm gonna take my chances with Byakuren for now.”

The blond girl lets out an annoyed, resigned sigh, but before I can elaborate, Byakuren's steals all of my attention for herself.

“Wonderful, Marisa – just... wonderful.” The sheer relief in her eyes shines and dances; staring at her small smile, I can't for the life of me say I chose wrong. “If that's the case, would you like to accompany me to my temple? We can discuss the particulars during lunch.”

Her happiness is... infectious, and I don't resist the urge to smile back. “Does it have to be today? I must admit to some amount of exhaustion, and I'd like to, uhm, recuperate. It'd be unkind to our prospective students if I negotiated the specifics with such a clouded mind.”

Byakuren pauses a bit, and it takes me a moment to realize I've slipped into the formal speak Pops drilled into me. But still, it certainly fits, and being polite never hurt anyone.

If my change in lingo's surprising, Byakuren doesn't seem to mind too much. “Ahhh. Of course, Marisa. Would tomorrow afternoon be reasonable? I lead a meditation session in the morning, but I'll be free afterwards.”

“That's perfect; I have some errands to take care of as well. I'll see you tomorrow, then?”

The monk happily nods back, and her smile seems to get brighter by the second. “Absolutely. Just inform the temple guards that we have a lunch date, and -”

“Master Hijiri, Master Hijiri!” A young woman in a blue nun's habit rushes at us, skidding to a stop and kicking up a bit of dirt in the process. “There's been another fight, and we can't contain it!”

Byakuren doesn't react too much, other than clicking her tongue in dismay. With a quick apology for ending our little talk, she flees to the scene of the crime, her woman in tow.

“That's going to be you, Miss Marisa, if you continue walking this path,” Miko calmly explains, as soon as her rival's gone. I'd forgotten her completely, and her sudden voice makes me jump. Just a bit. “Trying and failing to fight for causes that aren't terribly worth the time and effort. Giving your all, sacrificing your dreams and hopes and life, all to the ravenous demon that is 'morality'.”

Her disdain... I'm not sure if it's because I chose Byakuren, or if she's just that cynical, but all the same, I don't like it.

“I don't know, Byakuren seemed pretty happy with her life. And she's trying to make things peaceful. Isn't that what Taoism's all about, living in harmony?”

Miko smiles, but it's not a pleasant one. She smiles like she's laughing inside, taking pride in the fact that she knows things others don't. Or maybe I'm overthinking it. “Spoken like a true dilettante. No, Taoism is certainly not about living in harmony. It is about living in accordance with the rules of nature. The wind blows, the rain falls, and youkai feast on humanity's fears. That is how things should be. The Three Treasures of compassion, moderation, and humility are the tenets all humans should live by, and the Lady Hijiri has none of those things.”

That. Is an incredibly bold claim. But Miko is nothing if not bold, so I ought to at least avoid dismissing her as being full of shit. “But Byakuren's basically Youkai Jesus here. She goes out of her way to avoid or stop fights, like what she's doing right now, so there's compassion. She lives off donations and cheap fees for her services in mediation, plus the entire Buddhist philosophy is based around moderation and avoiding excess, and she's a pretty good Buddhist from what I can tell. And while I don't get the abstinence thing she's basically got the whole 'spiritually pure' bit down to a science, and it's not like she rubs it in people's faces so, yeah, humility.”

But Miko just shakes her head, as though dealing with a particularly dense student. “While that is true, it's also all, how you say, 'surface'. Superficial. Things even a child could discern. But it is not who Byakuren is.

Her cryptic comments, her slight chiding... she's a lot more formal about it, but dear lord, I'm dealing with a teacher here.

Damn. Wish I had the time to take notes.

“Well then. In that case, I sit under the bodhi tree. Enlighten me.”

I manage to get a light chuckle out of Miko, at least, and with a quick gesture, she invites me to head inside. Head inside my own library, but whatever. Miko's in the zone, and I don't want to interrupt.

“Very well. Let us talk of Byakuren's compassion. You are right, of curse. Byakuren could be easily seen as compassionate. After all, is she not destroying the chains of racism? Is she not promoting her peace and harmony for all?

“But therein lies the rub. Neither her motives nor her actions are pure. She is misliked by a majority of the humans here, simply because she is forcing her beliefs onto others.”

While Miko talks, I open up the curtains to let the light in. It shines onto the Taoist, illuminating her in this cramped darkness, and making her shine all the brighter. I don't sit down in awe... but I do sit down.

Though she's only lecturing to an audience of one, Miko gives it her all. “Not on purpose, no. For all of her faults Byakuren is not a mindless tyrant. But building her Myouren Temple here in the village, forcing the humans around her to confront what is literally the embodiment of all their fears...it is like teaching a babe how to swim by throwing thon into the ocean. By miracle of miracles, the method may work. But too often, the babe simply drowns. And what is compassionate about such a method?

“As for her attempts at moderation... yes, I suppose she does have that sort of aura. A holy woman, a blessed virgin, someone too pure for this sinful earth.” A light blush creeps into Miko's cheeks, and I can almost hear a hint of admiration in her tone. And then it's gone in a flash. “But I too have studied the Buddhist scriptures, and they make quite the distinction between moderation and complete abstinence. You remember the Lady Hieda's Symposium, yes? Her refusal to drink or eat meat was astounding to Hieda – and yourself, if I recall. By your own admission, you don't 'get' her focus on abstinence.

“That is simple. It is because, like many Buddhists, the Lady Hijiri has become too enamored with the letter of her tenets, and not the spirit. The Buddha – the original one, that is – ate meat and drank often. He further cautioned against the woes of dogma, of following so closely with the teachings of Buddhism that one loses sight of what the teachings are for. She has fallen into that trap, and mindlessly, excessively parades her beliefs about.”

Something... something feels wrong with her reasoning, but I can't put my finger about it quite yet. Not that my confusion stops Miko from her... I'd almost call it a rant, with how much passion she's putting into it. “And her humility... There is no pride in herself, that is true. For the Lady Hijiri, the things she does are simply the things she does. Action before thought; her achievement of such a state is commendable, and perhaps awe-inspiring.

“And yet, her pride in her brother is astounding. And worrisome. The Lady Hijiri has put her dear Myouren on the highest of pedestals, and worships him with an intensity and zeal that rivals any zealot of any faith. Her actions, she does in the name of her brother. Her hopes and dreams, to live up to her brother's good name. The temple itself, dedicated to her brother in every possible way. Did you know that Sir Myouren enjoyed lilies? It's telling that those are the only blooms that Byakuren keeps in her gardens, outside of the traditional cherry trees.”

She ends her lecture with a bow and a flourish of the cape. She doesn't expect me to respond, however; at least, not yet. There's something in there, something...not wrong, but off, with her statement, and if I could just find the words, find the right way to phrase it...

But you do it anyways, because you think it'll make a difference. Someday, if not today. You do it because you think your workmatters.

And just like that, I am enlightened.

“Does it matter?” I ask her, mostly to buy me a few more seconds to word everything just so.

But Miko can hear my head, my desires and wants, and she gives me all the time I need to think things through.

“You've... you've been talking nonstop about her motivations. And yeah, those are important, I guess. Because why you do things tells people about what kind of person you are. I get that.”

“Then you 'get' that Byakuren is not, in point of fact, a Messiah figure to idolize?”

I take a deep breath, steeling myself for the onslaught of holes Miko'll put in my argument. It's going to hurt, and I'm probably wrong in all the ways that matter, but.

But I couldn't call myself a hero, or a teacher, if I didn't try to wipe out ignorance.

“No. No, I'm pretty sure Byakuren's fucking awesome in all the ways that matter.”

Wipe out ignorance in my own special way, of course.

“'Cause, you see...who the fuck cares about her motivations? Despite everything, she is doing a good thing. Like, your entire argument was basically 'Well yes she's a good person, 'but.'' And the thing is, the 'but' part of that argument doesn't matter. Byakuren is a good person, end of discussion.”

The words fly out of my mouth so fast I almost forget to breathe. Now I'm the one lecturing, and it's like nothing else matters, is worthy of even one iota of my attention, outside of my lesson and my audience.

“So what if her methods are a bit callous? The humans in the village are free to tell her to bug off, and considering it's Byakuren, she'd probably listen. So what if she's missing the point of Buddhism? She's still striving to keep suffering to a minimum, which is absolutely in line with her religion's biggest goals. And so what if she likes her brother a lot? Familial piety is still a thing, last I checked, and Byakuren's free to do whatever the hell she likes to honor her brother's memory.”

A cold chill runs through me as I finish my rant, and it helps brings me down from the passion-filled high I was just on. Channeling my desires, my thoughts...my emotions and my self. It was just like magic, in all the ways that matter, and I'm getting the same shivers and giggles I get after a really good spell.

Miko, for her part, looks... contemplative. And unlike her, I can't peek into peoples' hearts, so I'm left with waiting warmly.

I manage to clean and sort through a bookshelf by the time Miko finds the words. “Miss Marisa, it seems I've forgotten that there's always two sides to a coin. My apologies.”

I turn around to wave her off, smiling gently to put the girl at ease. “Nah, it's fine. I mean, I don't think you're wrong about Byakuren, you're just missing the bigger picture.”

“And I believe that though you are right to some extent, the particulars about Lady Hijiri's situation deserve more than a simple brushing off. Shall we agree to disagree?”

“Only if you let Daichi stick around?” I counter-offer. In retrospect I shouldn't have been quite so obvious about my worries...

But Miko just laughs my worries away. “Of course Daichi will continue to learn from you. How else will he broaden his horizons?”

“Well, after I work things out with Byakuren, we could try a student-exchange program between us. I picked Byakuren first since I figured you could be patient.”

Miko sighs, shaking her head – but she seems a lot more pleased now. “Flattery will get you everywhere, Miss Marisa. Very well, I shall endeavor to live up to your expectations.”

---------------------------------------------------

The sun shines, the birds chirp, and I walk away from the clusterfuck without stepping on too many toes. All is as it should be.

So with little else to do, I end up staying in the Kirisame Library even after Miko left to catch up on some paperwork. Well, not paperwork per se, but I'm figuring out what I want from Byakuren, writing out plans to deal with her wants, and sneaking in a couple lesson plans while I'm at it. It's monotonous work though, and after an hour or two I figure Akyuu and Kosuzu should be done.

So I get up, get out, walk around the corner...

And find Kosuzu sitting in Akyuu's lap, blushing like a schoolgirl. In her arms is a book, and Akyuu is resting her head on Kosuzu's delicate shoulders, in prime position to do... well, many, many things.

“Hmmm... that's a correct reading, Kosuzu, but I don't think your ability helps with... the beat, shall we say.” Akyuu quietly says, soft and gentle, and if it weren't for magical enhancements there'd be no way for me to hear her.

Akyuu, dare I say it, sounds sensual, her voice sinfully slow and smooth as she literally whispers sweet nothings into Kosuzu's ear. They're so into each other that they don't notice me, and I'm too shocked to make a fuss.

“Oh? But I thought most poems came with a beat of their own,” Kosuzu playfully shoots back. “That's why you said they were better than songs; they don't need any accompaniment.”

Akyuu just giggles, and takes in a deep breath. I can't blame her – Kosuzu smells nice, like old paper and well worn leather.

Wait, of course I can fucking blame her, that's my Kosuzu she's hitting on!

“That's true, 'Suzu, but the reader's voice helps add a certain... je ne sais quoi to the poem. Especially for such a romantic one like this. Here, let me show you once more.”

Kosuzu's all smiles and pliant affection as she spins around Akyuu's lap, so that she's face to face with the young historian. Their hair and clothes are all ruffled, and Kosuzu's breathing so... passionately, that it looks like she just had a long makeout session instead of a long poetry reading.

And then Akyuu cups Kosuzu's cheek, and Kosuzu all but swoons into the other girl's hand. And like that, Akyuu begins.

”Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely, and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath far too short a date....”


With each line, Kosuzu melts further into Akyuu, voicing her pleasure with gentle sighs. And Akyuu, for her part, whispers the lines softer and softer, until even I can't hear them anymore.

I could, if I got closer, but I don't bother staying for the rest.

--------------------

“I swear, if you start writing shitty romantic poetry I will hurt you,” Mima says as soon as I start my dream.

It's the same dream 'location' as last time, with the warm crackling fireplace and the comfy recliners. I'm not inclined to do much reading, though, so I slump in my chair and hide my face with my hat. “I'd like to think I'm not that much of an idiot, Mima.”

“Ah, but you're the biggest fool of all, for falling so earnestly in love.”

But I don't need to see to shoot, and the light grunt of pain is all I need to confirm my shot. “It wasn't love. At least, not yet. Still stings though.”

“Awwww, is my little Marisa having love troubles? Come, come, tell Mama Mima what's the matter, sweetiekins~”

I aim up another shot, but Mima's above me and pulling my hat away and tossing it aside..Her voice changes at the drop of my hat too, from coy and teasing to something more... melancholy, I suppose. “But seriously. My apprentice is having love trouble. Least I can do is offer a Mystic Western Love Consultation.”

I look up and see Mima floating parallel to the ground, keeping her own hat on with the power of... ghost, I suppose. There's some earnest worry, in her eyes. And empathy. And for all of her kidding around, she's not smiling.

“I know how you feel. Love's great, love sucks. Two sides of the same coin, like that Miko girl said. So come now, Marisa. Let me in, at least a little.”

And what kind of monster doesn't appreciate when someone's willing to be sad with you?

“Well, a Love Consultation sounds nice. But why 'Western'?”

Mima smiles again, and with a snap of her fingers -

The room darkens, the bright colors changing to blue and purple hues.

The room chills, and the warm light of the fireplace is replaced with blue-burning candles.

The room shrinks, and now I'm in a fortune-teller's tent, complete with a crystal ball on a floating, satin sheet.

Mima's dressed to the fortune-telling nines, and all I can see are her bright, mischievous eyes.

“Because Mystic Oriental Love Consultations are boring as hell. No showmanship, no fun! Reimu just listens to your problems, maybe does some low key divinations. While I? I am going to delve deep into your soul and find out your true heart's desire.”

The chairs remain the same, thankfully, so I settle down and enjoy the show. Mima's really enjoying herself, so who am I to interrupt?

“Now, whisper to this crystal ball two names, and we shall see how their hearts may be won.”

Though playing the confused innocent isn't quite interrupting. “Wait, why two?”

Mima shrugs with utter irrelevance, and rolls the crystal ever closer to me. “Because one is boring, and she who chases after more than two hares shall never see a single one.”

“But the saying is -”

“You have magic. Chasing after two hares is totally in the realm of possibility here. Two at the same time, even more so! And if you decide to chase after hares number three, four, or five after this little game, well – you're young. You have time. You're not locked into anything, no matter who you choose here. You'll just get a little edge for those you do.”

Edge, huh? Well, in that case, I lean towards the ball, almost close enough to kiss it, and whisper...

[ ]Name
and
[ ]Name
[x] Byakuren
and
[x] Kosuzu

I guess I like these two the best. Will the winners just be the two characters who get the most votes?
[x] Byakuren
and
[x] Kosuzu
[x]Kosuzu
and
[x]Miko

Because cape.
[x]Reimu
and
[x]Kozusu

I don't know why everyone's picking Byakuren already. She's appeared a grand total of once and Marisa has had one conversation with her so far.
Plus, I like Reimu, she seems to be a true friend for Marisa.
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Reimu

Because staying out of politics is largely a good thing, Kosuzu is adorable, and Reimu is the bestest.
[ ]Reimu
and
[ ]Alice

Marisa and the latter are like an old married couple based on the interactions between two so far (Cooking dinner for another for the two of you to share, despite not needing to eat.)

And Reimu, well, the signs are there. Like Alice, it needs that little push to send it over.

As for Kosuzu, we're the older sister and the mentor. Winning her heart is the easiest of the group so far, so I don't want to waste this chance on her.
>>36976
>Easiest
>Having Akyuu as a rival

I see a contradiction here.
Wow, we didn't wait forever for an update this time. Awesome. Nothing exploded either, which is even more awesome.

But now Akyuu pretty much declared open war.

Now, the vote. Pretty sure about one name, but I'm not sure about second. Mima wants to tell us advice to get their heart. That doesn't mean it'S a route-lock. Just advice. That COULD be wrong.

Need to think a bit. Reimu may be an obvious second choice, but Marisa know her for a long time. So why use that chance for someone we know less?

Then again, let's be serious. The chances of being with Byakuren is probably low, given her nature. And the number of eyebrows it would raise would be pretty damn high. And what her followers would do, either because of jealousy or because they think we would trick her...

But again, we're talking about Marisa here. Dream high and aim for it.

Or we could just solve the war problem by seducing Akyuu too.

Anyway...

[x] Kosuzu
[x] Byakuren

As I said, why not dream high? Just because we learn about her doesn't mean we'll actually do it anyway. But I wouldn't mind getting to know her better at least.

I myself am not too sure about Reimu. Great friend, sure. But after knowing her for so long, wouldn't it feel a bit weird? For either of them?
I don't understand the votes for Byakuren. She's like the exact opposite of Marisa.
[x] Reimu
[x] Akyuu
>>36980
opposites attract and contrast is lovely in a yuri couple.
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Byakuren
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Toyosatomimi no Miko

I like Miko. And her cape.
File 138414697999.jpg - (220.44KB, 906x980, Daydreaming of Love.jpg) [iqdb]
36985
>>36969
"Uhm, yeah. Sorry I didn't elaborate. I'm counting each name separately, so you don't need to worry about groupings or anything like that."

>>36972
>>36980
>>36982

"Opposites attract is some of it, but, well, I guess I like Byakuren, because she makes me better. Just being around her... Reimu likes me for who I am, and Kosuzu... I'm not sure she likes me at all, after that thing with Akyuu.

But Byakuren likes me for who I could be. Despite all of my... hobbies, she always gives me the benefit of the doubt. And, that's nice."

>>36978
>>36979

"Yeah. Akyuu really... really throws a wrench into things. I don't see a ring on Kosuzu's finger though, so I don't think theyre engaged or anything, but...

Well, if nothing else, Akyuu has really good taste in the ladies.

And you're right, maybe asking Mima for advice on Akyuu would help. There's a lot of passion in that girl, and turning her from a rival suitor to a lover would be really fun.

Plus, if I seduce Akyuu, we could rock Kosuzu's world together."

>I myself am not too sure about Reimu. Great friend, sure. But after knowing her for so long, wouldn't it feel a bit weird? For either of them?

"I don't think so! At least, there's no weirdness on my end. My first daydreams and fantasies were about her, after all - and in my ballsier moments I'd say she feels the same way about me."
>>36985

I am >>36979. Now that I confirm you're interested, switching vote.

[x] Kosuzu
[x] Akyuu

Because let's face it. Byakuren is a really nice fantasy but the actual chances seem pretty low. To say nothing about reactions from others.

And even if we still want to try, nothing stop us anyway. We're not voting for route lock, we're voting for advice.
[x]Reimu
and
[x]Kozusu

Reimu is a true friend. Sort of.
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Byakuren

There's been story precedent for Kosuzu so she's an obvious pick. I'm also going with Byakuren because we need more fics where she's doing wizard things, and I like how she blends "sweetness-and-light moe" with "flesh-shaping wizard." People tend to forget Byakuren's scholarly side as much as they forget...well, Marisa's scholarly side.

As an aside, great job on Miko's characterization!
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Byakuren
[x] Kozusu
[x] Reimu
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Akyuu

Deleted old vote, changed to this. Because why the hell not.
[x]Alice

Just voting for Alice because she needs more love. I mean she even cooks and cleans, and it's fun to have someone to clash over little things with.

As for the others, pretty much all of them are fine by me!
[X] Reimu
[X] Toyosatomimi no Miko
[X] Mima
[X] Mima

This is too good for me to only use one of my votes on it.
About the vote on Miko... Doesn't she already have someone?
>>36999
As if that can stand in the way of the Love-Powered Witch?
[x] Kosuzu
[x] Patchouli

Because I can't have three, no vote for Alice, but seriously. Magician foursome. Byakuren can be a good little buddhist, but magician foursome. Go. Do it. Harem Route.

(I know I said I wouldn't, but I'm voting. There.)
File 138419623983.png - (41.10KB, 488x434, Patchy Route.png) [iqdb]
37004
>>36996
"In purposes of fairness, I gotta let you know hat you can use both your votes on one person. Who knows, maybe rekindling the thing between Alice and I won't burn the entire world down."

>>36999
>>37001
"Miko has her own little harem, yeah, but Futo and Tojiko don't mind her adding more to it.

Though they will when I'm named the legitimate wife.

>>37002
"Sorry to burst your bubble, but Patchy and I were not ever, are not, and will never be a thing. Just. Euuuurgh. Even Alice knows how to have a life."
>>37004
>you can use both your votes on one person
Well, obviously, but would there be any benefit?
>>37005

"Well, I'd count it twice? So if you really want me to get advice about one girl, you'd use both your votes on them. Since you - at least, I think it was you - only voted for Alice, I figured I'd make it clearer."
[X] Akyuu X 2

An angry cute girl is fine too. And Kosuzu has enough votes.
[x] Patchouli
[x] Alice

So speaks the Random Number God!
>>37008
Hello? Author just said above that Patchouli is a no.
>>37009
Whoops.

[X] Kosuzu it is then.
>>37006
No, I'm >>36971 and >>36980
No intention of changing. Though if you gave us a third vote, mine would go to Akyuu, because even that makes more sense to me than Byakuren.
[X]Akyuu
[X]Akyuu
File 13842244232.jpg - (215.06KB, 850x1190, Halloween A Long Time Ago.jpg) [iqdb]
37013
"And just like that, I have my answers! Hopefully, at any rate.

More importantly, however, is that we're about to reach Autosage! Hooray~! It only took us five months.

Feel free to ask me absolutely whatever you want! Might as well use the rest of the space here, eh?"
>>37013
Anything, eh? Your three sizes, then?

Of course, it's a joke.

So, as nice as Byakuren is and you wanting to be the hero... How exactly are you going to convince Kosuzu to not close this partnership right there? She's not exactly a fan of youkais, last I checked. Akyuu is probably not going to be happy about it either and may use it to her advantage too.
>>36967
[x] Akyuu
[x] Byakuren
>>37017
I'm pretty sure the latest author post closed the vote, you know?
>>37016
"I, uh. We don't really measure those in Gensokyo. I mean, sure, the tailors do, but it's not we have anything standardized. I don't have that much up top, but I do have a pretty soft bottom if I say so myself.

As for Byakuren, well... that's what negotiations are for. If worse comes to worst, I'll teach my human students at Suzunaan, and my youkai students at Myouren."
>>37019
Probably something Miko would be happier with, but not Byakuren as it set the two sides apart...

You know, I kind of wonder what Mamizou will think of Byakuren's idea herself, with her position with Kosuzu. Any idea?
>>37020
"Yeah, that's a good point. 'Separate but Equal' has a really iffy ring to it. I could bring both groups outside the Village instead, magic up a small hut and teach there, but... well, negotiations are later. I'll have time to think of stuff.

As for Mamizou... well, she supports what Byakuren does, and a lot of the youkai there like her. I get the feeling she'd nudged things with Kosuzu to help us out."
>>37021
Perhaps she would help... But she herself is hiding from Kosuzu. Is she happy with this right now or she intends to reveal herself should Kosuzu start to be more accepting of youkais?

Well, that's really a question to ask Mamizou.

Anyway... you realize you could affect the views of the village if you get enough rep, Marisa? Influencing the next generation and all that? Kids will talk to others kids after all and since they will have magic, they will certainly leave a stronger impression on the kids they speak to...

Maybe that's why Miko and Byakuren didn't wait long before making a move either.
>>37006

>Since you - at least, I think it was you - only voted for Alice, I figured I'd make it clearer.

Nope, that was me. And I suppose that's what I get for posting shortly before bed. Oh well. Unless you want to retroactively count that as a double vote for Alice? Not that it matters either way. Isn't it sad, Alice? ;_;
[2] Double Alice
>>37026

See title of >>37013. Too late.
File 138428340428.jpg - (259.70KB, 576x783, Saddened Alice.jpg) [iqdb]
37029
>>37023

"Yeah, I know. Reimu was right when she said I'd cause an incident. But, so long as I play my cards right, everything will turn out fine! I won't let my kids become bullies."

>>37024

"No worries, I did. If it makes you fell better, she's tied for third!"

>>37026
>>37027

"...Second. Ngh. Sorry."
You know I think Alice would get more votes if she actuall popped up in the story more often. As it is, Kosuzu's basically the show stealer and Byakuren has some sizable reasons she gets attention.
File 138434781870.jpg - (244.30KB, 700x739, how interesting.jpg) [iqdb]
37036
>>37035
Ara, ara.
File 138435863438.jpg - (304.44KB, 763x1261, Alice is Style.jpg) [iqdb]
37037
>>37036
Don't mind me, just posting most stylish magician.
"Right here. >>37038

It's... a doozy."
>>37037
Source for the image plz? Wanna read it.
[x]Kosuzu
[x]Kosuzu
>>37446
I have a lot of names I wish to call you. I don't think the rules allow me to say them.

Did you not notice the thread moved to another thread?
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