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[X] “A girl, duh!”
She pokes her bottom lip and twists her eyebrows.
“You’re not too girlish, are you?”
I grumble. I don’t like that.
“I can’t help that...” I say quietly. I crawl ahead, and hear her sliding along behind me.
“Why must we crawl?”
“Do we have to crawl through here?”
“Oh, ahm... no, I just wanted to sneak around, and eventually we’ll have to crawl through something anyway.”
“... Well fair enough. I can appreciate that sort of play.”
The red-haired girl is rude, but kinda cool, I guess...
While we’ve been getting farther and farther away from the noise of anyone else, she’s been asking me a lot of questions, and saying stuff about herself too.
What’s your name?—Hitomi.
How old are you?—Eight.
I’m Sekibanki... I’m fourteen—no, sixteen.
Where do you live?
... In the human village. And she said, like proudly, “Me too!”
I didn’t say where I really live, even if it was the first thing to come to my head.
“Is that what we have to crawl through?” she asks from behind me. Yeah, a little out in front of us is a wooden fence that got broken near the bottom. Cats and kids like to sneak through here. Cats since there’s a lady around here who feeds them. Kids since it’s just fun doing that. I move past the splinters and planks and Sekibanki hits her head on the way.
I look back to see her holding the top/back of her head, but...
It looks... funny. I guess I’m tired, ‘cause it’s like her head’s too far away from the rest of her body... but just a little. Like juuuust a little, so I’m not sure. I don’t ask about it though ‘cause—
“Are you okay, Big Sis?” I ask, turning around and putting my head on where she hurt herself. I try to make it feel better.
“Eh!? Ah... ah, yeah.” She pushes down on her scalp and makes the rest of the way through the hole, stepping ahead and standing up in front of me. I stay down on my knees, my hand still up. “Thanks, girl,” she tells me.
I shake my head and stand up too. “Mm-mm, it’s my fault you hit your head.”
“But it’s thanks to you...” she says, putting her arms in her sleeves and looking past me, “it’s quiet now.”
I turn my head and look down the alley we’re in now, to another village street without lights, and up in a sky full of stars. I hear something whistling far behind us, and there’s a faraway “boom” from above. We both look back for a sec, then at each other.
“I guess we missed the fireworks,” she says.
I shrug. “They shoot fireworks every day: every morning and every night.”
She smirks, and “hmph”s.
... So we’re alone now, I guess.
I walk toward the empty street, and after a few steps hear the older girl walking behind me. “Um...” I mutter, raising my shoulders a bit, “i-if you don’t know it too well, I can show you other cool places in the villa—”
“Yep! It’s Hitotsume!”
I lift my eye and see Yuuta, Nae, and Ryuhei just at the start of the alleyway. I take a step back, and hold the bangs over the right side of my face, tugging lightly.
“‘Hitotsume’? Hm? Could you be—?”
I don’t hear her over them shouting, “—youkai!”
I flinch again, and pull my hair some more.
“You know, youkai are allowed in the village, so why’d you come here instead of staying at the festival?” Nae asks, and she cocks her head like she’s being honest.
“I’m not a youkai,” I say.
“No way!” Ryuhei yells. He points at my face. “Look! You’ve only got one eye!”
“I have two eyes...”
“I only see one,” Yuuta says. He steps toward me, I step back. He reaches for my bangs. “If you have two,” he continues, “then show us!”
I try to wave his hand away and close my eyes. I can’t really do anything else. I don’t know what I was thinking... I should’ve just stayed back in the home...
“...?” I open my eyes, and see them scurrying off through my left one. I immediately get freaked out. If they ran away that’s got to mean—
“Y-Youkai...?” I whisper under my breath, There’s a monster behind me. I-I’ve gotta run—
“Wait.” I feel a hand on my shoulder and jump under it. “The source of fear is gone.”
I think for a sec and... This is Sekibanki, right? I nervously turn to look up over my shoulder.
Sekibanki is looking over to the kids who’re running off. She thumbs her neck and I notice there’s a jagged scar circling around it. I look away, fast.
“Hm? What’s wrong?” she asks me. I shake my head, and from the pressure on my shoulder I guess she shrugged. “... So you have two eyes, hm?”
“I see... Well, come on.”
I look at her again. Um, what?
“Weren’t you going to show me other things in the village?” she asks.
“...? You want to see? But there’s a youkai around here.”
Sekibanki smirks again. Her lips part and she says, “The other girl just now was wrong about you, but right about youkai being in the village. It’s just something you get used to... right?”
I don’t know. I don’t think I ever will, really.
“Come, now: show me, show me!” she pushes at my back and I skid on the heels of my sandals. I blush. I want to tell her, “what if I’m a youkai? Is that okay?” but...
She’s not treating me like one, so...
It’s okay... Let’s forget it.
There isn’t much unused space in the Human Village. This land called Gensokyo leaves most of its free space to the non-humans. Fairies, youkai, divine spirits and phantoms, ghosts and monsters live in the forests, in the mountains, near the lake. We can go wherever we want, but it’s dangerous... so there isn’t a lot of space we don’t use. That’s what makes me look for empty spots closely.
A house burned down years ago and took out a row of other houses with it. There were like these freak lightning strikes happening, and people got scared so they left the area. Now, in this one part nearer to the city walls, there’s a stretch of vacant land: a long lot that I like to play in.
“I keep some of my toys here,” I tell Sekibanki, drawing on the ground with a stick. “I lost the ball that I played with at the festival, but I’ve got other ones. I’ve got dice and a hoop too. Wanna see?”
She nods while she’s bent down, knees up nearer to the road. Great! I go over to some of the rubble that hasn’t been cleared up and start going through it. I take out a sparkling glass bottle, some marbles, the dice and another ball. I reach for a hoop that’s half as tall as I am, brown and made of something hard. I set it on the ground and start pushing it with my stick. I roll it toward Sekibanki, then turn and move parallel with the street. She claps. I smile with my eyes closed. How’s that?
“I’ve seen that before. That’s quite impressive.”
“Y-Yeah!” I tell her, and I look down at the hoop, holding my stick out to maneuver it. I miss, though, and accidentally knock it over in my surprise. “... Uh, oh—oh! Look at these bottles!” I point to my treasures with a grin.
“There’s a nice sparkle to them. I know another grown up who would like to see them all, but can’t.”
I tilt my head while stepping over to the bottles. “Why not?”
“The girl cannot walk,” she says. Oh...
“That’s too bad,” I tell her, and I reach for the bottle I put down before... but it’s a little further than I thought. I stretch out, pick it up, and frown.
“So it’s true”, Sekibanki says, looking at me, “with only one eye, you lose your perception of depth.”
“My what of what?” She smiles at me for saying this.
“You can’t tell exactly how far away things are from you, right?”
I freeze up, cradling the bottle between my hands and frowning, like I’m deflating. “Don’t worry,” says Sekibanki, “I don’t care.”
I smile at the ground, and she stands up, looking over the dirt neighborhood, at the charred frames and piles of junk.
I watch her and wonder if I’m seeing things again. Again, it’s just a little but there’s something weird about the way she turns to look everything over. It’s kind of like... almost like an owl? “You’re really flexible,” I tell her.
“That’s one way to put it,” she admits. She then turns her eyes on me and my bottles. I blush again while she walks over. “Do you play here by yourself? Do any other hyu—people ever come here?”
“Sometimes drunk people sleep here.”
She frowns at that, crouching next to me.
“You should be a good girl and stay home when drunk people are out in the streets. What would your mother and father say if they heard you say that?”
She picks up a bottle from the debris, rolling it over in her hand. Now, I frown. I wince.
“... ‘Don’t do that, Hitomi’... maybe,” I say, feeling worse.
“Yes, and pretty girls get harassed for all sorts of reasons, so keep your head about you.”
“‘Pretty’...? You thought I was a boy.” I screw up my mouth and eyebrows.
“A pretty boy,” she tells me. I don’t feel good about that. She stands up and walks over to the hoop I left behind. I hear it rolling along the ground, and stopping to the right of me, where I can’t see.
We don’t say anything for a minute, and then, suddenly—
I shiver, a warm wave shimmering through my skin. Her fingers touched my right cheek on accident while she moved my longer hair away. I think to shut my lids, but... I decide not to. With my face burning up, I let her look at my blind eye.
When the human Medicine Seller came around from the Bamboo Forest, she looked at each of us, asking our caretaker if she wanted “Eientei’s” help. She wasn’t sure, but let the Seller look. When she saw that I had one green eye and one white eye (which I hide under my white hair), she said “Ah, a cataract”.
I’ve had this since I was born, everyone says. It looks like a cloudy sky pretty much all the time from there and that’s it. The Medicine Seller said her Master could fix me, but it wouldn’t just be medicine to do it. That, and it wouldn’t be cheap either.
“I see... your right eye is clouded.” Sekibanki takes her hand away, then drops it on my head and I blink. “Sorry, uh.... I checked without asking. You see, surprising is a... habit of mine.”
“It’s okay,” I tell her, “I don’t mind, as long as you don’t make fun of me.”
“I will not,” she says, and the way she says it it sounds like she means it. “I don’t taunt new friends.”
“Y-You’re kidding, right? Lying while I can’t look at you...” I say. “It’s fine. I know it’s creepy-looking. You don’t have to pretend you’re alright with it.”
“Look at me,” I hear from my left. I look to see the older girl looking at me with her brow down, her mouth turned down like she’s being really serious. She says, emphatically, “I’m not joking.”
But all I can think about is how I can still feel her like she’s sitting on my right side. I shake my head until that feeling is gone and I say, “... Are you sure? Even without the eye thing I’m... not really cool.”
“A person is only as cool as they want to be,” she says in a kinda wise way. I feel her hands plant on my shoulders, but still see her looking pretty smug at my left. I’m confused, but she starts to lift me up, and her head gets out of my sight. She tells me, “I, Sekibanki, am very cool, right? And you haven’t even seen my cool everyday clothes.”
Everyday clothes? How many outfits does she have? I—... I wonder if I can try them on...
“You seem intrigued. Well then, Hitomi, I’d say we are friends. Does that please you?”
She pats my head twice.
“... Please don’t be lying.” I ask her.
She doesn’t wait to answer. “I’m not,” she swears. “Thank you for showing me this place, Hitomi. I think I’ll be coming here more often in the future, hopefully not seeing you at night.”
“...? Are you going to get drunk out here?”
“I’m going to get drunks,” she says, and laughs. She says, “Never mind,” and I’m just lost. Huh? What?
She takes her hands from me, and I spin around to see her turning flashily. She stands proudly and declares, “Now let me be the good Older Sister and show you back to your home, Young Lady.”
The corners of my mouth perk up. I don’t get called that a lot... Sekibanki starts walking ahead, and I follow her closely behind, almost at her side.
“Yeah... I can walk the rest of the way myself.”
I smile at my new older friend. She doesn’t smile back, instead nodding at me once with a kind of hard face. She already knows how I’m half-blind... I don’t need her knowing anything else more embarrassing... shameful.
I walk down the street toward the home and turn back to see Sekibanki one more time. “U-Um,” I stutter; my heart’s beating really hard and messing with my teeth, “c-can I call you Banki-chan?”
She answers fast. The words hit me and I shudder. A cold feeling runs through my heart, my head falls, and I frown without wanting to.
“... No, it’s fine, call me what you like.” I lift my head back up so fast I show my right eye for a second. “Sleep well, Hitomi. I’ll see you.” She lifts her hand to say goodbye.
“S-See you, Banki-chan!” I yell, almost laughing. I spin on one foot and run to our front door.
“‘Hitotsume’... Sad, no?
... Hm? Wait... isn’t that... the...”
I close the door to Marigold Children’s Home, grinning too much.
My first friend... a cool older girl!
I rush to the back to get the bath ready, looking forward to tomorrow, or next week, or... whenever!
I’m just really excited, maybe the most ever. I run through the empty halls, dark as night, feeling totally happy.
... Mm; maybe things can look up...
Which is more important? That the girl
 anticipates the coming days in bliss.
Or that her new friend
 regrets this decision immediately.