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And in the backshine of departing stars, the rabbits fancied they had an understanding.

The veil fell.

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“Me? Simple, girl,” said Ringo. “I want to live.”

The declaration was issued swiftly, firmly, from a mouth gluey with dango.

Seiran sighed. And in her heart of hearts she thought: Of course. Of course the radio jockey had it all dialled in. The unpretty sentiment it was, it kinked her lips quite likewise; an end Seiran schooled just as soon, not to too much notice. Scowling at Ringo was akin to mind-scrambling a fairy. It seldom registered.

Around them, the Hakurei festival, the dozenth only this Spring, did as these did, with all the hubbub, susurrus and hurly-burly endemic. The dusking hour hadn’t dissuaded the humans of their unimaginatively-named town from milling around the stalls lining the shrine’s flagstone approach nor lugging behind them their spouses, children, elders or, in cases, all at once with a sprinkling of festive purchases. Somewhere toward the Toori, somebody was engaging in a hopeful impression of musical talent. Occasionally, the shrine’s proprietress could be seen or, anyway, heard jingling about, peddling prayer slips to whoever listened and especially those who didn’t. There were, after all, youkai about; yes, youkai, but no, never mind those manning the stalls. Those had paid the fee, hunky-dory.

Seiran turned the dango atop her charcoal box, adding a series of sizzles to the carnival potpourri of noise. They were glazing nicely, courtesy of love, practice and the vacuum-tube timer secreted under the counter. Her stall and Ringo’s, side by side for the first time in months, roughly since they could last afford the Hakurei’s stratospheric rent, had seen prime business tonight. Seiran could barely keep her dango coming up; Ringo could barely scarf down those of hers which hadn’t vanished while still warm. They’d made good of their ageing supplies, a lot of mouths happy and, last yet not least, good enough proceeds to do it all over again.

Seiran was ill at ease.

There was no particular why to it. There wasn’t. She just was, there’d been a lull, and it had caused her to speak.

Something Ringo was unlike to let go. Her snoopy sister-in-arms fanned herself with her beret, rabbit ears half-agog on her honey-blond head.

“Well, that’s ol’ me. You know ol’ me,” Ringo assured. “And what about you? Anything you want out of life? Not to wax philosophical about it, I never figured. That’s more… well, no one’s speed now. Seiran?”

“I’m ol’ Seiran,” vouchsafed Seiran. “No. There’s nothing philosophical. Just…”

“Just.” Ringo nodded. “Uh-huh?”

Seiran peeked speculatively at who, not too long ago, had been her in-chief by proxy. A second and third thoughts hitched on the tail of the first. Not anymore. Never again.

She ignored the minute drying in her mouth.

“… I,” Seiran confessed with a hem, “I believe… I assume I’m being courted.”

And peek. But the news which should have cracked the Earth beneath their tired feet had left Ringo’s face without a scathe. A small, teeth-backed grin was everything which’d opened between her cheeks.

“Wowie,” said the whilom lifeline of the stranded Moon elite. She replaced her beret and leaned Seiran-wise by the counter of her stall. “I’ll be. Human, I take it? That’s nice, isn’t it? Who is he? Ah. Yes, yes, they’re real, and if you pull them, I’ll squeal.”

That ultimate remark had been aimed sidelong at a pair of human striplings standing and gawping in front of the stall or, more accurately, at their accompanying elder brother, who blushed and hurried the group along. Seiran grimaced. The Eagle Ravi, being the pick of the litter or certainly the push and shove of it, were supposed by standard to hold themselves above the mental gutter. On the flip side, it was perhaps Ringo’s indiscrimination which’d plunked her in the backseat of every operation where she could sieve out all the information too offensive for other rabbits’ ears. It’d made her invaluable, if difficult to talk to in uncontrolled conditions.

And, loathe it though Seiran might, the best source of counsel often available. Now more than ever.

She sucked in what was identifiably air, but felt a lungful of water.

“It’s… a customer,” she croaked, fiddling with a hand of messy skewers. “He comes by, well, every day, seems like. Sometimes, we chat a bit about nothing. Been – a while. Though, he does check that he doesn’t encroach on my time. And then, one day, he told me he’d really – really – enjoy going on a date with me. Just told. Nothing pushy. Mentioned it on and off since, but it’s just… that.”

“And you haven’t gone?” Ringo wanted to know.

Seiran bristled. “No!”

The erstwhile Eagle Ravi intelligence officer switched the rabbit-ear-themed skewer she’d absently stuck in her unfiltered mouth from corner to corner. Then, breaking no stride, she plucked a maturing dango from Seiran’s charcoal box and spiked it on the end. A broker’s fee – she might’ve said, had she not been occupied flicking her near-burnt fingers.

“He at least a looker?” she asked by way of distraction.

Seiran ground out a sigh. “How would I know if he was?”

Ringo quit flapping her hand. Ringo resumed flapping her hand.

“Girl, let’s not, ow, pound around the mochi bowl,” she said with every signage of someone who didn’t pick up piping-hot dango with their naked fingers. “The ear situation’s a Lu— a female dog to get used to, I’ll warrant, boy I will, but that aside what do you reckon’s so different between these—” she waved the frantic hand over the counter at a momentarily confused passer-by, “—and the bucks back on the home-world? Got all the same bits otherwise… I’ll warrant.”

Sensing Seiran’s welding torch of a glare, she forwent an explication.

“… I’m saying,” explained Ringo, “none’re liable to swoop on down else than to put you in ropes. So can those scruples. Traitors make do. As we have. Haven’t we?”

“That’s your advice?”

“It’s my conclusion.”

Seiran watched she whom, even now, years in, she was hesitant to call her friend out loud, plop the barely cooled dango in her mouth as though it was done deal. It wasn’t, maintained Seiran’s mother wit. But if Ringo of everyone had nothing to add, perhaps the problem was beyond them all. And all Seiran’s.

The ultrasonic chime of the timer twitched her ears. Seiran stuck the steaming dango and exhibited them in a stand on the counter. She’d gone up half the night whittling little wood-pieces into eye-grabbing shapes for herself and her – well, she was, wasn’t she? – business rival as a tiny nicety for their first common venture in seeming forever but, save a guarded few, these had run out before long. And Seiran – the Seiran who would’ve considered her off-time as belonging to her squad mates – was briefly grateful for the psy-damping clip on her ear when Ringo wiped a remaining one on her shorts ahead handing it to a luridly delighted, human child.

Good job she did have a hidden couple.

“So-o,” Ringo cooed as Seiran extracted some select, raw dango to put on the burner box next. “He been by tonight?”

“No,” admitted Seiran. “Not yet.”

“That sounds fairly confident.”

“Comes to each and every Hakurei fair, to hear him tell,” she clarified, shaking her mental tail at that slip. “The food’s apparently a big draw, what with the youkai and their inventiveness with ingredients.”

“A gourmet, have we?”

“Something like that. Look, I’ll pulse you if and when he does, fine? Then you can tell me if he’s a looker, since plainly I can’t.”

Ringo’s expression went odd for a moment. After which it evanesced straight back into Ringo-ness.

“Roger that,” she agreed. “But one thing. Keep out of the aether. I’ll guess.”

“You probably—” Seiran began.

“Won’t have to,” finished Ringo.

Seiran poked the dango on the box.

Somehow, somewise, she didn’t hate herself for having selected them very meticulously. Ringo’s knowing smile be Earthed.
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Rather not a lot of guessing would be needed, Seiran had to concede, because no sooner the dango had been about done than a familiar silhouette swam out of the faceless tides and caused her shoulders to draw. Even then he perused the intervening stalls with leisure bordering on the deliberate, birthing in Seiran’s head an insidious hope that he would eat his heart out to satisfaction before reaching hers, get a bellyache, or – and here the hope lay thick as Moondust – simply fail to scent the joint Seiran/Ringo operation not a toothpick’s toss away.

The hope was dashed against the human’s face turning from an idle examination of an ice-shaving contraption to the place whence his almost-everyday snack beckoned the unerring nose. Seiran pretended she hadn’t been staring – then didn’t. Instead, she stared in earnest.

The man, ambling over, appeared as though he’d tried, like any self-respecting fair-goer, to dress up, but owing to some basic deficiency in the male brain it’d turned out scantly distinct from his casual wear. A thin laugh-line came down from the inner corner of either eye to make a detour around his cheekbones, giving off, what could on one of the perfectly-sculpted Lunar Lords have been meant as, an intimation of the wisdom of years. A patch of light scrub, trimmed out of a sense of duty over any real need, resided on his chin. Above it, a faint, unaffected smile of some constant, personal bemusement, as always – and Seiran slapped this “always” with an imaginary palm – played around his lips. The worst playground for her imagination – never mind the nerves.

The man sailed on past Ringo’s stall to come to port in front of Seiran’s without a second glance. Which was to say, he hadn’t graced either of the Eagle-Ravi-turned-peddlers with a first one ahead getting an eyeful of the goods atop Seiran’s charcoal box. Then and only then, with a righting of the back, the man met Seiran’s petulant scrutiny.

And coolly spoke around it.

“Good day, Miss Seiran,” he said mellowly, as though she were but a fellow human in the street and not… what she was. “It does find you good, doesn’t it? The business, if I hear, is decent all around this evening. The shrine maiden’s over the Moon.”

Seiran breathed. Which was a welcome change, even if she could now sense all of Ringo craning as one, big neck off to the side. A fat, purple dango popped, with a keen sense of the dramatic, over the embers.

The man waited her response, unconcerned of attitude, a figure of such infinite tolerance for anything and everything the day had and had yet to offer the Hakurei would’ve given up in seconds. Seiran’s ear tingled, even under the damper-clip, from the concerted pulses. Or perhaps her own heartbeat.

Staying noncommittally silent might’ve done if she’d been alone with the man, but Ringo would have her for stew now the proverbial human was out of the bag.

( ) She handled him affably.

( ) No. Professionally!
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(x) No. Professionally!
Cute so far, looking forward to more.
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(x) She handled him affably.
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(x) No. Professionally!

Looking forward to this story.
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The madlad has gone and done it. I've been waiting for another one of these since the end of KuroYammy's Black Satin Jammies.

I'm already liking the subtle little bits of info dropped here and there. What I'm getting is that the two buns consider themselves basically exiles and are making the best of things on Earth — though Seiran might be a little more troubled about it than her former commanding officer. Ringo seems to have been taking advantage of this situation in more ways than one; I wonder if she's already made acquaintances with that young man she was teasing. The blue bun is less apt to take such a casual line towards things, but maybe the cracks are starting to show.

And, though it took me a minute, I saw what the writer did in his selection of Seiran's new beau. I actually had myself a little chuckle in spite of myself when I realised. All of the small bits of chatter finally came true, I suppose. Splendid, really.

Well, let's examine the vote, shall we? (You with your parentheses, always.)

>[ ] She handled him affably.

With everything displayed by Seiran leading up to the choice, I imagine this one involving her attempting to keep a degree of composure but slipping up and letting her true blue show. Ringo will, of course, undoubtedly tease her later. Seiran will at least face this indignity as an honest woman.

>[ ] No. Professionally!

More in character with how she deals with her former commanding officer. Certainly, there is a dutifulness — if not a servility — to Seiran's personality that makes this option feasible and tempting... but it does ring just a little bit 'typical' to my sensibilities.

No, let's not have Seiran be a template tsundere.

[x] She handled him affably.

This story is now one of two I'm following.
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(x) She handled him affably
Professionalism is not a path to wholesomeness
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This story has me listening to Seiran's theme on loop again. I literally haven't done that since 2015, shortly after the LoLK demo came out; I used to listen to it for literally hours at work. I didn't even think that much of Seiran at the time.

But, honestly, Seiran is cute. Thanks for waking me up to that, I guess.
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(x) She handled him affably.

Looking forward to seeing where this goes.
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>“He at least a looker?” she asked by way of distraction.

>Seiran ground out a sigh. “How would I know if he was?”

>Ringo quit flapping her hand. Ringo resumed flapping her hand.

>“Girl, let’s not, ow, pound around the mochi bowl,” she said with every signage of someone who didn’t pick up piping-hot dango with their naked fingers. “The ear situation’s a Lu— a female dog to get used to, I’ll warrant, boy I will, but that aside what do you reckon’s so different between these—” she waved the frantic hand over the counter at a momentarily confused passer-by, “—and the bucks back on the home-world? Got all the same bits otherwise… I’ll warrant.”

>Sensing Seiran’s welding torch of a glare, she forwent an explication.

>“… I’m saying,” explained Ringo, “none’re liable to swoop on down else than to put you in ropes. So can those scruples. Traitors make do. As we have. Haven’t we?”

>“That’s your advice?”

>“It’s my conclusion.”

It took me like 10 minutes of puzzling it out and multiple rereadings to understand what they were even talking about in this bit, and I still don't get all of it.
"So can these scruples"? So can they what? swoop down? put you in ropes? In what sense? What scruples, ones regarding appearance?
Reduce YAFisms please.

(x) No. Professionally!
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>can verb [T] (STOP)
mainly US informal
to stop doing something or making noise:
Hey, can it, would you? I'm trying to sleep.

While Yaf is indeed guilty of purpleisms, this time it was in fact the opposite of that.
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[x] No. Professionally!

Wholesomeness is not a path to professionalism.
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I picked up on the intended sense of 'can' reasonably quickly, but I will admit that it took me a couple of passes. If there had been a comma (i.e., So, can those scruples.) the meaning would have been more immediately clear, I feel.
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Maybe, on the off-chance, she meant that such scruples could put you in metaphorical ropes? No, my bad. It was the rare Americanism I decided to throw in there; even ran it through a native speaker beforehand and he didn’t, how do the Brits say, wiggle-waggle the eye-clapper? Sorry for that one.

In addition, I’m going to call it for the affable option, since it reached 4 votes first and I want to get started tonight. Sorry to snub you. Again. Getting off on the wrong foot here…
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That's not what we say at all, now stop stealing our jobs. And maybe don't get him off on either foot, this is hardly the board for it you lech.
(He did have a point though, that line in particular was a bit arcane.)
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What was arcane about it? Ringo was talking about Seiran's reluctance to get on or off haw haw with filthy humies out of a sense of misplaced duty, and maybe just a little bit of stuck-up-ness as an 'elite' soldier of La Luna, now very much fallen from grace and in no position to be relying on their former homeland's sense of values.
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(X) She handled him affably.

“I—It’s been good,” eked out Seiran with not a stutter, nuh-uh, not a one. “We’ve broken more than even – even accounting the rent. Thank you.”

The man inclined his head gravely, as though he understood and gave a fig on top. Seiran quit eyeballing holes in his countenance. The least adumbrative question Ringo had posed, and she couldn’t make ears or tails of it. Talk about basic deficiencies.

She shunted on leave the question of the man’s looker-itude and fell back on what they, at least, enjoyed in common. This suited the dango, which complemented Seiran’s timeliness by sliding smoothly onto one of the cuter skewers she’d purposely sheltered from charity. On a second’s deliberation, she overturned the customary rule of four and, by a whisker, managed to stack a fifth on the tippy tip. The purple pagoda teetered in her hand as she extended it over the counter.

Seiran plastered on a face she would later punch in a mirror. “Here you are!” she put forward helpfully. “Your fa— um, regular, yes, pickled-plum mitarashi dango, lightly browned, no sauce. Is that about right, mister, er…?”

The man gently relieved the skewer from her tenuous grip with, as tradition demanded, awkwardly minimised skin contact.

“… Sir?” Seiran finished lamely.

And felt a moony fool. Months upon months the man had been leaving his savings at her modest if not meek establishment; somewhen in there, she was all but positive, he must have included his name. It was one of the things which quietly stunned you about Earthlings: every-confounded-one parting with their private moniker as if you were liable to stand together at muster tomorrow and need to get them to fake a cough while you redo your laces. Or likely to ever hear from again off the aether.

Clearly, either Seiran or her stall’s signboard had covered that contingency for the man. Clearly, Seiran would’ve been caught with her butt up and laces down. And for nobody’s fault but her own overcrowded head’s. Well, why not? He was background; between rationing supplies, managing expenses, tussling for produce with elderly ladies and screaming her throat raw about dango, dango, come get yours each day, she’d simply slotted him into the routine. This was life now. He was part of it – just as a tick on the list.

A tick which had, treading on convention, voiced a desire to be shifted farther up Seiran’s agenda.

It was unfair. Ticks weren’t supposed to do that. It muddied everything.

“It’s right about right,” said the tick, glossing over the unintended slight as if greased by existence itself. He held the surplus dango safely out and delved into the pockets of his slapdash… no, it wasn’t, was it; it was only comparatively understated… robe. “Have some smaller change in here somewhere,” he promised, rummaging. “You’ll not want to pester the shadier vendors if you run out. I know how it gets at these.”

Seiran, who had been doing the end of one of her braids no favours, startled alert. “Oh. Oh! No. No, no, no,” she machinegunned out with as much nonchalance as she could counterfeit. “Come on! It’s on the house. Told you: we’ve done well for ourselves today. Yes? The least I can do. Come on.”

The man’s endeavours congealed in a pose which would’ve been silly had his gaze all of a sudden not turned penetrating.

“… Money is no problem, Miss Seiran,” he said at length.

“It’s not about money,” Seiran insisted. “You’re a patron. Constant. Those plums were as like bought by your coin anyway. Come on. My treat. Yes? Please.”

For a moment, the man appeared one with something on his mind. Then, that slightly nonplussed smile autochthonous to his face-scape reasserted itself on its native soil. He considered the dango, then the Seiran.

“In that case,” he decided, “very nice. Thank you.”

Seiran scrambled to bow. “No, no! Thank you. For your, um, support. All this while.”

The man bowed courteously back. “Any time, Miss Seiran. Well, I would’ve liked it to be,” he corrected, humour twice underlined. “Some days you aren’t there.”

To her surprise, a snicker bubbled out between her own, involuntarily pursed lips. “Um. Yes. Well. You know,” she said, squaring up to verticality and knocking the errant braid behind a shoulder. “These things. Got to make them. Closer or farther from the flour up. I’m pretty well black on everything after today, so I’ll need to run the MSR and take a bit of knee to prep another batch. Be back in a solar or two. No worries.”

“Ah. Understandable,” conceded the man, and it wouldn’t be until after extensive retrospection that Seiran would realise there were degrees to his customary expression.

It was as she was coming down from the flash of purpose and toeing a precariously empty magazine of things left to say that relief made landfall from planet Ringo.

“Aaa—” Seiran’s rescue drawled from the flank. “Since we’re givin’. How about some of mine for contrast?”

The man and the deflating rabbit peered aside in tandem at the adjacent stall, where Ringo was sticking a number of varying dango for a smorgasbord of a skewer. This she then presented to the human of the two – over Seiran’s counter.

“The Ringo-ya recipe’s a tittle-touch different,” she enticed, tapping a conspiratorial finger on her cheek; “you wouldn’t notice, really, except side-by-side, but it is there. Variety’s the spice, isn’t it? Ol’ Seiran here weren’t lying, besides. We’re going to jingle the whole flight home. Take it. On me.”

The man gave the treat a once-over that went a tic beyond culinary apprehension. And, with unchanging frontage, took it in the free hand.

“Obliged,” he said – jogged his laden arms in mischief – reflected, “like I haven’t been since boyhood,” and then, no later than the joke had glanced off of the rabbits’ sensibilities, followed, “Speaking of. Will you need any help hauling all this home?”

Seiran, on whom the attention had been trained, let go of her hair. “Um. No. Me and Ringo, we…” She looked to the idea’s originator and received a shrug. “We chipped in with a couple of other towners and had the stalls delivered. They’re going to break them down again and cart them back overnight. It’s a service, apparently. I’m just going to have to put it together tomorrow. It’s made for that, no sweat.”

“Sorry,” added Ringo.

They looked at him looking at them a shade blankly. Then, he rallied. “If so,” he said, “I’ll leave you to it. There are a few sellers I meant to annoy yet tonight, so—”

“Good evening!” Seiran burst out, bowed and regretted it in the span of a pulse.

The man merely nodded. “Obliged, once again, for… the spice. Good evening, Miss Seiran. Miss Ringo.”

“Aloha~” Ringo humoured protocol, and the man moseyed away while Seiran contemplated doing the same to her career choice.

Ultimately, she hadn’t resolved whether the tips of her shoes would have been better off in her mouth when the former Eagle Ravi case officer offered her assessment.

“Sharp cookie, that man.”

The tiny part of Seiran’s brain geared toward coherency dragged her upright to blink at her manifest senior. Ringo perambulated her stare whence the man had dipped back into the crowd to her fellow expatriate. Then narrowed her eyes.

“Gunner Seiran,” she opined, “you can’t shoot the shit for shit, can you?”

Seiran beat back the instinct to ten-hut like rabbit fresh in her jacket. Bootstrapping her in no small measure was the familiar thrum in Ringo’s voice. The long, reliable leg-puller which had tied bells on rabbit and Lunarian alike.

Seiran exhaled. “… I tried,” she said. “I tried, didn’t I?”

“Could read you trying down to the roots of your ears,” agreed Ringo, a soul of no affinity for kid gloves. “This how these rendezvous go as a rule?”

“Mm. No,” granted Seiran, thinking, I don’t get graded as a rule.

Something of it must’ve all the same filtered through her clip. “Right. I’ll wager my wages there’s usually no audience. Sharp, sharp cookie. Hmm? Oh, I was about to hoover those up myself, so how about twenty per?”

Seiran, whose gloom must have deflected the now happily en-dango-ed couple from her stall to Ringo’s, availed herself of the opportunity to restock and re-fire her charcoal box, array a new set of non-pickled-plum dango on the grille and generally re-enter the time-honoured storekeeper’s zen where the lyrics of the song being profaned at volume nearby remain inscrutable even if you focus. Ringo waved the customers (or, anyway, the dango) good-bye and, catching on, adopted the example.

The end of the minute saw one more, desperate line cast.

“… Why me?” asked Seiran, touch-pulsing a new integer to the timer.

Ringo dumped the ash drawer from her box into the communal bin. That, too, was somebody’s livelihood in a realm where life fed endlessly on death. “Who can tell?” she wondered aloud, wiping her palms on a rag. “You’ve more curves on you than your name, girl. That’s more than enough to turn, aha, heads.”

Seiran analysed that. “… But that’s not it, is it?”

The rag smacked her on the calf. “So what if it is anyhow? Doubly fine he is a looker. Got a catch in your snares, Eagle Ravi.” Then, ostensibly by way of prior speculation, Ringo gave her junior a pointed going-over, terminating in the most apposite area. “… Have you been snacking on your leftover MREs, by chance?”

Seiran flushed. “It’s the crunchy lumps in the mealll!” she wailed. “I can’t help it!”

Ringo didn’t reply at first. “… It’s just starch and aspartame,” she ultimately said. “You should try chocolate; they have the real deal here.” She reinstalled the box under the counter and picked up a number of fresh coals with the rag. “I’m not going to tell you how to live or not to live, girl,” she said, arranging them inside the circle of lingering embers. “It’s not my prerogative. Never was. Never will be. You’re your own rabbit. But I’d like you to keep in mind one thing for me. There is nothing wrong with wanting.”

The embers flared, lighting up Ringo’s face.

“Nothing wrong,” she murmured.
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Rabbits are cute. I look forward to the next update.
Its the canned scruples line really, thats it. It just doesn't read as a sentence to me, even knowing what it means in advance.
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Loving this so far. Seiran is adorable and I want to play with her ears
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she's too cute
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Very pleased to see a new Yaf story NOT in /at/ after the whining I did in various comment sections. Much as I love his smut, I really enjoy his long form stuff.
That is to say, I'm looking forward to this and will be keeping an eye on it. Seiran and Ringo are pretty underutilised, so that's already a bonus in my eyes.
Is there a particular accent I'm meant to read Ringo's dialogue in? It's different enough to get me curious.
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Later, much later – in fact, later still – Seiran levered herself out of the hip bath she’d circumspectly drawn and dragged up to her meagre accommodations ahead setting out for the day-long fair. She towelled down what she could, vigorously shook what she couldn’t, fished the still-warm micro-furnace out of the sudsed water and flumped onto the single, raised bed which had been her only exemption of the thrift otherwise embedded in her bones. An inflected pulse saw the standard issue glow-globe Seiran had hung in an old fishing net from a loose board in the ceiling brighten from sedate sundown to radiant moonlight. She thumbed a manual exhaust panel on the nonagonal face of the furnace, eliciting a tame jet of tepid air. This she then took with sagging efficiency to her damp, de-braided hair.

She was, in a word, Earthed.

The micro-furnace purred in her hand, almost soothing as she orbited it round her head. She’d spared half a thought for combing, but wrote it off for a future wherein she hadn’t aches in her knuckles from scrubbing burnt ricemeal off a sticky grille. If nothing else, the nonstop treadmill of sales had ushered the evening toward an earlier close than apprehended; and even Seiran had been pardoned further probing by her ex-XO. The occasional off-the-cuff comment had indicated Ringo was as intrigued by the man as anything else equally misfortunate, but Seiran’s indisposition (or, rather, incapacity) to respond satisfactorily had put a muzzle on that fancy. If only the object of contention could himself be muzzled along…

Seiran glanced, wilfully if fecklessly, at the sheet of polished copper which’d served as her mirror since the silvered, purifying one from her kit had shattered after inopportunely reflecting a gaggle of fairies swooping outside the window.

Ringo hadn’t been… grossly wrong. Seiran had a figure. Seiran had, actually, enough figure to cramp a quartermaster’s report; it may not have been as attracting as Ringo’s, whose presence had overall more gravity, but it was unmistakably a figure. She had curves to burn; in practice and in places, more urgently (and impossibly) than Ringo. The reeve-conscripter who’d marked her down as Eagle Ravi material a lifetime ago had cited “form aesthetics” as something the Lunar Lords put stock in right beneath psychic acuity, but… why these same aesthetics should be supposedly coveted by an impure human was a question with more treason in than Ringo’s ink stick. Most human females were, anyway, more vertically-aligned; it’d been the joke of the hour during the crawler operation that their bodies were instinctively distancing their noses from the Earthen filth. Many laughs conspicuously nearer said filth had been had.

Seiran set aside the sputtering furnace and negotiated a trip to the monofilament rope-bound trunk at the foot of the bed with her wilting knees. She picked out the least wrinkled nightgown and, relishing the cool, silken fabric, wriggled inside. Her hair was freed and then shaken loose with nominal tangling.

Seiran sat on the edge of the bed. The micro-furnace had whirred to a stop. It was lukewarm to the touch. And easier to lift, now the gyroscopic core-cage wasn’t oscillating.

Seiran breathed in. After a longer while than comfortable, she breathed out.

And pulsed.

The crystalline psy-Lattice inside the device woke to her query. Luminous rune-work lapped the angular circumference, once, twice, transiently rousing the orichalcine core and its control components. Seiran felt the mechanism live in the palm of her hand for but an instant; and then, having completed the circuit, a readout inscribed itself in her mind’s eye. A number wrought of smoky, surreal light, hovering over the now-dormant piece of Lunarian technology.

Some hasty mathematics, and it was converted into a single, incontrovertible digit.


One Earth year.

The prognostic longest the core would last with current use.

Seiran’s fingers locked about the ribbed, heat-dissipating frame. The rustic-looking device, which had been meant to remain usable at best for a fortnight afield for all the rabbits had been briefed, had exceeded the runaway Eagle Ravis’ expectations by leaps and bounds. When not exerted repowering the crawler or Lunaforming landscape, each micro-furnace had gone weeks and months and – by this time – years doing the same, on a smaller scale, to essential pieces of their kit. It’d enlivened the glow-globes when their accumulators had gone dry; it’d kept their tools functioning and responsive to their personal Lattices. A circuit stress-test could be run, in which case the furnace may rapidly heat astounding volumes of air or water at minimally worrying expenditure. Two virgin cores had been left behind in the rabbits’ incomplete flight from Earth, an illusive aeon in the past. Two surrogate, beating hearts riven from the lost Moon.

And now, one of them had a year to live.

Seiran breathed in.

The dense, metallic device, which had been her comfort and subsistence in exile, weighed down her slim arm. The cardinal buoy in the black, turbulent sea of her reluctantly repossessed existence. The lifeblood of her refuge and its invaluable touches of familiarity. And it would be dead before Earth shed its next snow.

Seiran… breathed in.

She could make ends meet. She had. She’d earned money and gotten by as any Earthling; she’d lived as they had with every blessing and bane… for a try. But there were hungers insatiable by warmth and feed, or even starch and aspartame. She could not feel a fireplace or a stove. She could not talk to a carved chunk of tree as she did to those things which had, in the absence of other rabbits in the Lattice, become her sanity’s anchors.

The things which would, in a year, be all dead weight. As dead and deaf as she.

One year.

And then what will you do?

Seiran breathed…

There is no going home.

She wasn’t breathing.

The void descended as a blanket.

She’d known it would. She had coaxed it. It’d done nothing to prevent it slugging into her bowels like the butt of a drill sergeant’s rifle. Terror gripped her; and it was more than a vapid witticism. It was near-physical: an ice-cold vice around her guts.

Seiran’s heart hammered in her seized throat. She had let the furnace slip her hold, possibly dented the floor in yet another spot, but that made goose-egg matter now. The room was too tight. Too low. A noose of wood and lacquered straw. The little, insignificant rabbit in the hind of Seiran’s brain wanted to bolt. To do something; to be out of here, right then and there, wherever the “here” was. And it was in primacy.

Seiran scrabbled on all-fours, unaware when she’d tumbled off the bed, dazed and suffocating. The lucid, interior voice which should’ve told her this would pass, that it would be situation normal, all sticks and dango in the morning, couldn’t get a word in edgeways over the staggering, muscle-tearing need to open a window and fly. To perish, if she must, at least on her own terms. With moonlight in her eyes.

It was futile. Her lungs would not listen. The attack was too strong. Seiran’s vision frayed at the peripheries, darkening from outside in. She clawed at her neck. She was sweating, palpitating and, with that eye-of-the-storm clarity, dying.

Like this. In this tiny, foreign room. Seiran, the Eagle Ravi, Moon’s elite, would die.

Die, die, die. Like a filthy rabbit.


( ) Never say that.
( ) +Help!+
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(X) +Help!+
Friends don't let friends suffer PTSD attacks alone.
Funnily enough, I don't think I've ever seen someone give Seiran this sort of treatment. It's usually a Reisen thing.
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Not PTSD. PTSD comes from some past trauma event. From the narration this is, what, severe anxiety over being in an entirely different world? With the aggravating factor that it was basically a forced relocation.
That sounds right. Like someone who moves to a drastically different country all alone. Don't know the technical term for it, if there is one.

(X) Never say that.
I'm picking this because I expect the writer doesn't think it will win.
Plus it seems like she's gone through it before, so I wanna see what form her rituals and coping take.
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(X) Never say that.

I think Seiran's the type of bunny who is too proud to ask for help at first, especially to a former comrade-cum-dango rival
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(X) Never say that.
It's a difficult choice I'll admit. I would like to see her call for help, maybe Ringo answers, maybe someone else does, maybe nobody does.
On the other hand however...
It hardly seems like something likely for someone to do.
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I wasn't sure. I thought it could potentially be PTSD over some traumatic military event on the moon (though I'm not sure where OP stands on the 'was the luna invasion an actual thing?' question), given the lines about dying like a filthy rabbit. Then again, the line before it specifically pointed out that it was a foreign room, so I'm still uncertain.
Either way, I still think she should have someone there for her.
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Gonna respond to both this update and >>43572 since I was a little slow in writing up my impressions.

So, it looks like we've got a look at two kinda different Seirans in this pair of complementary posts. In the first, we saw an (adorably) awkward and fidgety Seiran. In the second, we unfortunately witnessed a Seiran oppressed by her castaway status, in the grips of an attack. It's interesting to see how earthbound and in the moment she is in the post before, followed by how deeply wedged into her lunar origins she is in the next. We did see in the very first update that she has a hard time with the Earth still, and it appears it's going to be a struggle to change that. Poor bun.

As to the lad — if he really is a lad, considering he makes a joke that makes it sound like he has a few years on him — funny to see how straightfaced he seems to be at most things. That said, it seems to be more of a poker face, considering his seriousness at points. Not enough to fool Ringo, of course. Speaking of which, she seems pretty impressed with him. If anything, she seems to be egging her junior on. I wonder what the seriousness is about in her comment about there being 'nothing wrong with wanting', though. More to it than meets the eye, methinks.

The magi-technology in the second post is, whilst not my usual cup of tea, fun to have a peek at. Nonagonal mini-furnaces, eh? Sounds familiar. If I'm reading things right, though, it seems like they might be semi-sentient? Able to communicate in a limited way? Given that Seiran seems to have leant on one or more as something to talk to, that seems like it might be the case to me. Correct me if I'm wrong.

A lot of interesting vocabulary and usages thereof this time around. I'm not sure it was entirely intentional, but I found out that a 'muster' can regionally refer to a roundup of livestock for inspection. Perfect for referring to moon buns assembling, no? Similarly, as with most military lingo, I wasn't familiar with the term 'XO', so it's very illuminating to look that up and see that Ringo was, in fact, a second-in-command; that begs the question of who the first was. That said, flogged if I know what the hell an 'MSR' is unless we're actually talking about nuclear power. That particular extract was a little odd to me, but I expect the slightly not-quite-techno-babble-y nature of it was intended. Or I'm just particularly thick today and unable to research properly.

Anyway, let's look over the votes, shall we?

>[ ] Never say that.

'Never say die.' Seiran's going to probably try to get a grip on herself. Maybe she calls on her soldierly past as an 'elite' and channels a force of will to snap herself out of panic. Or maybe she passes out and has some kind of hallucinatory dream-recollection where someone yells at her. Can't really say where it's likely to go. Either way, this reads like the first true step to rooting an moon bun on Earth.

>[ ] +Help!+

Interesting formatting on the 'psychic' bits. Well, not much to think about here. She beams out a psychic SOS to someone. Maybe out into an open channel? Will someone answer? Will it fall on deaf mind-ears? Either one could be likely. This reads like the 'stay mooned' option to me.

I suppose there's two schools of thought on votes like this. On the one hand, there's the 'what the vote is actually about' school. On the other, there's the 'what someone would likely do' school. Neither seems to be inherently right — as much as they can be 'right' in these sorts of stories — so I guess it's down to what the personal draw is.

I lean more for the former school, and it's the former vote that rings to that tune. Makes things easy.

[x] Never say that.

As Ringo was so kind to say, there's nothing wrong with wanting. That extends to wanting to find that foothold in living on Earth. Has to start with some kind of determination first, though. If Seiran can't power through this, she'll probably never get there.

Dunno what to say, my dude. As a native speaker of North American English, it was pretty clear to me, so I guess regionalisms are a bitch, innit?

>Ringo accent
Eh? Not really an accent to my eyes. S'just colloquialisms.

Well, there was Shoot for the Moon, which had a panic-attack-y Seiran; she was even worse there, from what I remember, what with having to constantly hold back interdimensional boolets or something. Also, I can't remember very many 'traumatised' treatments of Reisen on THP, honestly. Probably more of an 'other sites' kinda thing. Could be that my old man memory is failing, of course.

Comes across like a panic attack to me.

>I expect the writer doesn't think it will win.
Dunno, pretty sure YAF only gives choices he actualy intends to write.

>too proud to ask for help from Ringo
First update makes it pretty clear her attitude is that the Ringus is a good bet for advice, even if she's not wild about her former officer's laxness/lack of tact.

It's the mooninite way to associate impurity (i.e., filth) with the Earth. So, 'die like an earth rabbit' — in other words, like a lowly, non-'elite' rabbit in an impure land, an ignoble way to go out for someone like Seiran who clings to her pride as a moon rabbit and status as a former Eagle Ravi.
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I really like this interpretation of the moon rabbit network thing
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(X) Never say that.

No. You didn’t say that. You never said that. The choice was not hers.

She was of the Moon. Death was anathema.

Seiran thrashed onto her back. The glow-globe’s pale, familiar shine knifed through the encroaching darkness. She reached out a yearning, grasping hand.

… And pulsed from the depths of her desolate heart.

The globe blazed in psychic reply, cycling rapidly through spectra visible and invisible, light and un-light, a range of radiation previously unrecorded on Earth – until, unable to comply with the frantic feed, guttered out, its charge violently spent, plunging the room headlong into the belated night. Somebody hypothetically staking out Seiran’s window would’ve gotten all the confirmation they might desire, never mind the squeaky new chromosomes, but she cared not an Earthen whit. Not in the moment.

Just that. Just that much. Just that bit of feedback in the Lattice – however crude, however artificial – made the estranged Moon rabbit feel like herself again.

A measure of control reinstated itself over the bottomless, roiling panic. Seiran clambered half onto the bed, wheezing for the blessed, ozone-tinged air. Tears, thick and hot, were trickling down her cheeks: not of despair, but of desperation. The raw, emotive appreciation of being alive. Had to be. Seiran breathed, grateful, for now, for the ability to stay still.

But she was not out of the crater yet. The panic was at bay, yes, but tided against the defensive skin of her psyche. Seiran bit down on a lock of her hair, teeth chattering. The readiest safety belt staved off only the remaining days she hadn’t to wash it again.

She could have meshed with Ringo. Yes. Could have. The possibility had occurred to her somewhere in the rush for something to acknowledge her presence in the universe, but caution, the eldest of reflexes, had won out that tug-of-war. Least of all was the trouble of not knowing where it was that Ringo had shacked up; both the rabbits had agreed upon their exile, for reasons of security, to keep the whereabouts of their dwellings bilaterally obscured. To reach her once-commander omitting such directional foci would have meant to cry sightlessly into the aether; and then, who asked, who told who was listening? The fugitive Sage in the Bamboo Forest? Her cohort? Some other ineffable party? It would have been punching a new star in the firmament.

That wasn’t all. Not even the pertinent part. The well-worn clip on Seiran’s ear was. Originally devised and mass-circulated to forestall recumbent rabbits inundating the local Lattice with subconscious babble, the dampers had since pulled double duty to contain the runaways’ psychic report to an intimate, personal bubble. Within it, true self reigned; without was the silence of dull minds.

It had been Ringo’s final, last-ever order to wear these at all times. To avoid an accidental… or purposeful… triangulation by the home-world they had betrayed. A bid for mutual safety between the sole friends left.

To beg Ringo’s help now… would have been selfishly betraying that as well.

Seiran squeezed her wet eyes shut, which made hardly a difference at this stage.

The Earth way, then. The filthy, lowly, practical and effective way.

Seiran swayed to her feet, scanning about the dark, gloomy room for something, anything to do. To busy her hands and faculties. This was how you dealt. Step by step. Task by task. Day to day. The only way to tackle inevitability.

The cooling hip bath hooked her need like a drowning and, well, not too fussy-about-it rabbit. She was going to take it out to the gutter tomorrow, once her knees weren’t made of mochi, but needs, as they did, must. She slipped on a pair of sandals, eased wide the exiting door, swallowed down of the chill, night air and prepared to suffer.

She’d only bruised all two of her knees by the time the hip bath was purling down the sewage channel just outside the walled yard of the workers’ dosshouse where she rented her room. Tools of various and indiscriminate trades, including her own, attended her huffing efforts from the shadows. Grasshoppers fiddled their mating songs. A man up the street loudly lamented a woman’s disaffection. The night was late, but even now, the world was furtively abuzz with life.

Seiran wasn’t. The paltry few minutes of lugging, emptying and storing back the heavy, ceramic bath had drained her of everything even a Lunar Lord might have wrung out of her on a less fraught night. She locked close the door of her room, banged an elbow on some unseen furniture, didn’t as much as flinch, located her bed and fell asleep in the most literal of the senses.

She dreamt of the Moon, guns and, oddly, plums.
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She was pitched out of bed, hours subsequently, by the least cultured of the three. At least, this was what her brain muzzily expostulated until well after Seiran had dive-rolled on her abused limbs to somewhat of a combat crouch.

The morning was well in swing, not to mention her pastoral safehouse. A striving, springtime Sun was creeping over the straw-mat floor through a window which could have done with but had, in practice, done without blinds since Seiran had first scrimped on acquiring some. The yesterday clothes lay where she’d backed out of them, attempting to evade too much mention.

The percussive, bang-bang-bang noise outside continued to rattle Seiran’s ears, if not the window-glass. Not of gunfire, as the umpteen midnight drills would’ve had her believe till her own wake, but conceivably of something hard striking, not to overstimulate the imagination, something else out in the yard. Seiran rose on sleep-heavy hips, clarity seeping in by degrees from some grandly distant reservoir. The neighbours would have been all and sundry out working by this time; Seiran had exchanged enough numb, pre-caffeinated well-wishes with each of her unselective co-renters to learn their schedules dependably stole a march upon the Sun’s. The land wasn’t predisposed to wait; neither, by the sound of it, was the town’s gentility. The building should have been a temporary waste of urban space by now.

And yet, bang-bang-bang the something went.

Seiran crept, inasmuch as the term applied, for the comfortingly locked door. There, on a short, elastic lanyard looped around a nail in the flaking wall, hung an Eagle Ravi’s best companion. Seiran feelingly wrapped her fingers around the profiled handle.

Sleek and stark, the weapon appeared little beyond a horizontal tube welded to an angled grip. None of the antiquarian flourish of the Moon’s domestic defence force and their kinetic throwers – or the honour guard’s flamboyant, leporine affectations – was to be had here; the lone ostentation present was the name-rune etched in the opalescent, black enamel on the gun’s barrel. Seiran’s was a pair of parallel, slanting lines with a dot between. Which, as well, was a pragmatism. Called, all too often affectionately, the ahp, the Amplifier Handheld Projector housed a crystal-grown facsimile of the organ which made Moon rabbits what they were; a more involved version of their off-the-rack tools’; each was modelled after the individual Eagle Ravi’s personal Lattice and tended toward general amusement if meshed with by somebody else than the owner.

It was not, per se, a gun. It didn’t launch a tungsten slug or a fatally unstable gob of plasma at the Moon’s enemies; rather, it replicated the operator’s psychic emissions over and over in a closed gyre till the result was dense enough to impact a sentient creature’s subtle body. The Eagle Ravi Earth Recon Unit, more beholden to Lunarian dogma than the dust-slogging grunts, did not kill. To do so would have been an affront to their superiors. But they dislodged pieces of the soul from whoever countermined the sanctity of the home-world to the point of incapacitation. The Earth took its own soon enough anyway once they were rendered discorporate.

Seiran pulsed the psy-lock off the – ugh – ahp, querying its charge level purely out of usance. The reply, being largely her own sans the morning torpor, reported ninety-nine to full. She hadn’t had to fire a real shot since disembarking her veil. The wagers she would have lost…

Seiran, still quivering from being anywhere near vertical, pulled the bolt and gingerly inched open the door. The ahp’s nasty end presaged her in the bright world outside.

The noise went bang-bang-bang, bang… and stopped.

A small, circumspect and hitherto asleep piece of Seiran’s mind instantly jerked the gun out of sight behind her back.

Out in the Sun-bathed yard, ridden for the while of most of the labourer paraphernalia, hammering away at a half-assembled dango stall, was her eternally flummoxed adorer. The sleeves of his informal robe were tucked up, showboating a set of decidedly more purpose-built and masculine forearms; a smooth-faced, wooden mallet was twirled in a raised hand in, she guessed, a whimsical greeting. The man brought it down punitively on an ill-fitting dovetail as though it hadn’t been his own idea.

Slowly, Seiran replaced the gun on the lanyard and the nail. She hopped into her sandals and strode out determinedly at the man, arms folded under her bust, electing not to speak lest she reveal herself less outraged than was surely apt. The man had another redressive bang at the stubborn joinery before turning his forever stumped smile at the Moon rabbit tentatively standing by.

“Am amusing myself,” he declared, sure as shooting to make her question whether he’d read the inadvertent Morse from her blinking, a universal trick of males everywhere. Oh joy.

Seiran surveyed his environs, which was to say the yet unassembled parts and knickknacks of her stall. Those porters Ringo had so toadied to must have brought it in sometime between her crack at tiring herself out cold and the pleximetric wake-up call. The blithe man had the half-wheeled platform all but together with the counter by now; accordingly, the tolerances of Seiran’s psychometry-aided carpentry were flashing their paws. She touched a thought to the vacuum-burst pneuma-driver she’d had to employ a few times last she’d remodelled the stall. But the man was amusing himself well alone. He’d said so. Where he had found that battered old mallet was an ongoing inquiry, but the yard had on its tidiest days enough loose tools strewn about to open a vehicle depot.

Seiran put that out of her mind. To the ever-present mystification of her – she reminded herself – best customer she then added this germane question:

“… Are you tailing me?”

The man’s studiously levelled stare threatened to make an innuendo of it. “Tempting prospect,” he admitted, upturning his gaze back to the Moon rabbit’s face, “but no. I was walking out to pick up some breakfast. Happened to rubberneck down this gate. And there you were.”

He thrust his bristly chin at the stall’s detached signboard, with its prominent DANGO SEIRAN-YA splashed on in blue paint in a faltering, Gensokyan script.

“If I’d known,” the man delivered his ultimate argument, “I would have bought flowers. So don’t fret.”

Seiran, who couldn’t work out whether she’d just been funned with by that comment, stopped her fidgety fingers midway to her hair.

“… You shouldn’t be doing this,” she contended.

“Not for free, no,” agreed the man.

“No! You don’t understand!” Seiran groaned. “You shouldn’t… my job… my stall…”

The man looked at her as though she was slightly stupid. Which, might be, wasn’t to be dismissed out of hand.

“… Not for free,” he repeated, evenly. Seiran gave up, while he gave it another mull-over. “But yes,” he yielded. “Maybe I oughtn’t have, and indeed I owe you for the entertainment. Why do you not let me take you out to breakfast, Miss Seiran? That’ll cover it nicely, I divine. You don’t look to have been watered or fed yet, either. With regard.”

A heretofore unregarded area of Seiran’s physiology called home at the prod.

“A friend has a place,” the man struck on, oblivious – or perhaps not, “not far, where he caters for the big lads afore they march out to the fields and such. Sells what’s left and not crusted over to late risers like yours truly. It’s filling stuff, lots of healthy what-have-yous and, I am not ashamed to endorse, cheap. Was away there myself before, well, this.”

He slapped a palm on the stall as if to suggest it was an accident in search of someone to happen to and he’d been fortuitously there to thwart it. Seiran forbore speculating to whom and/or whether the would-be victim needed the babyminding.

She was hungry, at any rate. It’d been only too easily glossed over that she hadn’t had a proper spread since departing for the fair the previous day with other issues on (and with) her mind, but the wan, mounting Sun above was a more inexorable clock than Seiran’s internal one. Truthfully, she would’ve eaten soon or late; most likely, she would have downed a bowl of watered oats with a pinch of the good stuff from the surplus MREs not a one of her squad mates had as much as sniffed at after Ringo had introduced them to Earth foods, and been slaked for a supply run or two around town. The added taste would have made the bowl by itself go down fine. Which was why she’d rationed those MREs so stringently.

… Then again, Ringo had said to cut down on the native sweets, and most of what Ringo said had a point. That was really the main trouble with it.

Seiran faced off with what seemed by the minute a less and less objectionable future, and it smiled at her guilelessly. The mallet went down, and the dovetails, at last, snapped flush.

( ) “It won’t be a date, will it?”
( ) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.
( ) No dice. Not on this planet. Come on, it’s free food. Ringo will twist your ears off.
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(x) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.
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>Truthfully, she would’ve eaten soon or late; most likely, she would have downed a bowl of watered oats with a pinch of the good stuff from the surplus MREs not a one of her squad mates had as much as sniffed at after Ringo had introduced them to Earth foods, and been slaked for a supply run or two around town.
Is this implying Seiran and Ringo weren't the only bunnies who went rogue and stayed in Gensokyo after the invasion?

(X) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.

I figure it's still too early in the late-day for Seiran to articulate anything before breakfast. Or perhaps she's actually the type who forgets to put a filter on her thoughts early in the morning?
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(X) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked
Seiran belongs in a wedding dress, so we must follow the path that makes that happen
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It means, obliquely, that Ringo had been subverting the rabbits’ taste buds from the start, thus leaving Seiran with a lot of leftover goon food.
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(X) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.

Good taste
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Seiran's absolutely adorable, enjoying this a bunch so far.

(X) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.
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Once again, I am incredibly slow to respond, so it'll be a double. I make so much work for myself sometimes.

Lots of mooniness in this pair of updates. The idea of psychic radiation seems rather scary, as do the operating principles of their shooty-bangs. That said, I'm still very lost on what the bloody a 'Lattice' even is, much less its meaning to our lagomorphic ladies. Obviously, 'some kinda psychic thing', but that's as far as I get in consideration. The fact that the not-gun is said to house a 'facsimile of the organ which [makes] Moon rabbits what they [are]' is a chin-stroker as well.

Very amusing how combat-ready Seiran is first thing in the morning. Elite of the Moon, indeed. Then again, I guess sharing flop-house lodgings with folks you don't know from Tsukuyomi would put one on alert as it is. Quite unfortunate that it is somewhat out of necessity, being a fugitive in a foreign land. Bet that does wonders for a proud bun's self-esteem. Hang in there, Seiran.

Also, you really go out of your way to underscore that Seiran is a low-key glutton and bearer of kickin' curves, don't you? Guess a lack of being wrung out by Lunar Lords lately will do that. Just gotta follow Ringo's example, I guess, eh? Seems to be making progress without realising, going by the famished fam's 'studiously levelled stare'.

Oh, but less glibly, I like how the exchange between them begins and ends with a reference to the joinery. Maybe things will snap into place for Seiran as well?

>[ ] “It won’t be a date, will it?”

Playing it a bit coy, though perhaps a bit genuinely clueless. Indeed, Seiran seems to be perceptive and yet somehow always a little off the mark. She doesn't mind the hungry lad being there, and yet she's equally bewildered at his presence. Isn't too much of a stretch that she might not get it.

This could also be taken as a statement that she thinks a 'date' has to be something a bit more involved — which we don't really have a good sense of right now, now that I think of it, do we?

>[ ] Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.

I wonder if this really leads where it hints. He certainly intends to take Seiran out to eat, but it sure seems a shift in apparent strategy. Before, he was only hinting, and now he's shifted to meeting Seiran on her turf. I think I'd be a little sketched out, personally. But, honestly, I still think she's just a little dense, so perhaps that's not the issue here.

>[ ] No dice. Not on this planet. Come on, it’s free food. Ringo will twist your ears off.

Don't tempt me. I'll do it just because you've put that big red button there.

[x] "It won't be a date, will it?"

Pissing against the tide, but I've always enjoyed a bit of that. I do hope our hungry boy drops the pretenses fairly soon.

Personally would like to OL Seiran. Mmh, buns in pencil skirts...
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>I'm still very lost on what the bloody a 'Lattice' even is

The terms seems to be used in two ways, a "personal Lattice" and a "local Lattice", which appear to function as a psionic analogue to a simple computer network. Each rabbit uses their personal Lattice to interface with their technology, and they can telepathically communicate with each other.
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(X) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.
Bit off putting to have him just show up at the door. I'd have held onto the piece personally.
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Sure, but that doesn't say much about what it is, which is what I'm more curious about. Moon buns certainly seem different.
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(X) Silently acquiesce. He may figure what he liked.

There was an allegory to be had in there somewhere. But you couldn’t endure on those alone. Seiran had tried.

Therefore, she gave a nod. And it was a long, ponderous nod, one involving the shoulders as well as the head, which might’ve been taken by a sniffy officer to be a dopey recruit going for broke at an upright nap. The dango addict before her must not have seen silly o’ clock on his life; he bobbed his scrabbly chin in acceptance, topped by a smile, Seiran thought, no more nor less pleased than those thus far. This was wobbled – but only by his renewed inspection of his work.

Somewise, she found herself irked into speaking, against antecedent plans.

“… It is not far, is it?” she questioned.

The man, caught afoul of nudging the joint as though sceptical it should hold precluding catastrophic stresses, glanced the Moon rabbit’s doubting way. “… No. Not far,” he assured, edging back, presumably, to the side of caution. “Two corners down to the southern gate. Could have tossed a fairy from here to there in a better time.”

Seiran frowned. “There was a place like that so close?”

“Small, family business,” the man explained and put the mallet down where it wouldn’t rocket to the Moon if his fears were realised. “Might not have noticed. Actually, wouldn’t have myself if not for this big nose. Isn’t a restaurant as such, anyhow. Jirou – that is, the owner – has a pledge to the clans firstly. The clearance sales are a perk.”

“And it is cheap?” Seiran clutched the important bit.

“Won’t slit your purse,” he promised.

And, once more, Seiran nodded, upper body coming along for the essay, validated on the upswing by the man’s smile widening a fraction upon visual reengagement. He, in good truth, shocked her further by subsequently grinning like the aforementioned officer later on in the canteen.

“Ahh, and, Miss Seiran?” he benignantly proposed. “You do cut quite a dash, no saying otherwise, but I’d urge against nightwear outside the bedroom. The lads hereabouts can get rowdy afterwise a day out in the Sun. Only natural. You oughtn’t to hold it against them. You do, as I said, cut a dash. Just watch where you do.”

Something in Seiran, another oversleeping component, jolted her stiff up to the tips of her ears.

But the man hadn’t even the slightest will to wait for her to splutter. He was instead casting about the yard with his palms up in another pan-Solar, male affectation for, “These have been places, sorry, ma’am. Help?” Seiran waved one of hers vaguely toward the well then quick-timed herself indoors at a virile stomp. The door slammed on whatever thanks may have been arcing in her direction.

There in sacrosanct privacy, Seiran pulsed a choice blasphemy into the aether. The unsecured ahp, nearby on its hook and inside the pocket afforded by her psy-damper, hiccoughed back its synthetic incomprehension. Seiran locked it up with the crack of a thought.

She bestowed a baleful look on her copper-plate mirror and positively dove into her trunk, a brief ransacking of which relinquished the plainest of a refugee Moon rabbit’s provincial clothes. A clean set of undergarments (also plain) in addition, and, within the minute, Seiran was indistinguishable from any industrious housewife trotting down the town’s cobbled streets, provided whoever was gauging kept their gaze at an accommodating minus forty-five… sixty-five degrees vertical. To braid her hair would’ve been an hour-long operation employing a hit-squad of brushes and combs, so she put it up in a perfunctory bubble ponytail with a fistful of mono-fil compression bands.

For a second, her training filled the looming destination with hostiles – or, particularly, one hostile – and Seiran’s eyes clamped on the ahp dangling by the door. The gun would’ve been favourite, yes, but the town’s textile vogues, in lately seasons exceedingly, hadn’t been near as accounting for utility as they were for floppy lace and spideresque embroidery. Short of a belly-strap, there would’ve been no concealing the weapon in a civilian getup. Not if she wanted to walk straight. And Seiran categorically didn’t want to belt one on.

She could still floor a human if need be, anyway, armed or else; even though, her experiences were telling, the tattle-tale ears averted most violence-adjacent necessities. The Sage’s tacit pharmaceutical enterprise in town had its boons for those outside the circle as well. Another small dishonesty. Another collateral treason…

Seiran shook her head, coincidental ears and all. No use disseminating degrees of treachery. She slapped her cheeks, slapped the ahp with a safety double-check, slapped the sandals back on and, finally, didn’t let the door slap her on the step out. She pulled it shut, wrapped her mind around the bolt on the inside and slid the contraption locked. Telekine aptitudes weren’t too buoyantly exercised, not even by the iron-stomached rabbits, but Seiran’s empty one weathered the vertiginous pushback with unintentional dignity. The dosshouse’s landlady, a reliably reticent woman with a glare like a double-tap, had recommended early on that Seiran see a locksmith in the district over. What she’d failed to fathom was that a door with no keyhole was naturally more impregnable to picking than one with.

The dango-slash-Moon-rabbit aficionado beckoned her from beside the well, where he had drawn a pail of water big enough to float a watermelon. Seiran splashed her face and preened her ears, grasping only after the invigorating coolness had gone that she’d done so, and looked to the smiling, complaisant man she was, according to her friend, lucky to have enmeshed. The responding nod was, in the drought of more colourful impressions, recurring.

“Shall we?” he asked her expansively.

Seiran, who still didn’t know if they should, nonetheless acquiesced. Silently. The man may never – could never – perceive or partake in her Lattice, but, for the present, didn’t seem to need to. He turned and took the lead.

She followed him out of the yard on the guarantee of cheap food and, she was aghast to find, a clinging, hungry trust.
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My initial impression of the esurient humanoid were that he was either quite confident in having captured the blue bun's attentions, or he was capable of patience that would turn a boddhisatva smelly and cave-dwelling. There are subtle hints to me, however, that this belief may have been mistaken. I can't help seeing parallels here between being bothered about the joinery and him showing up to escort his currently favoured dish to breakfast. 'Yes, there's probably nothing wrong, but perhaps just a little bit more fiddling.' That sort of mindset.

And, well, I suppose it's a little hard to blame him, what with the mixed messages he's received from Seiran. Realising this discordance in attitude might be a little beyond the present Seiran, of course. After all, she's struggling with non-soldierly life in general, by all indications. Hard to shake off training around hostiles and gunfire in the night and all that. Well, and there's still the insidious thread of Mooninite arrogance sewn into the hem of her thoughts. Hungry Boy here would do well to invest in a set of ears as an aid in his efforts, I guess; even the Ringus grapples with that key omission.

Still, slow progress is still progress. Our long-eared not-trencher(wo)man, in spite of her hangups, at least is willing to set aside some apprehensions at the end in favour of going with the impure humie. She might be ready to knock him out at a moment's notice, but they'll work through that, I'm sure. Would be a shame if the bun were to crack our snacking lad's neck out of paranoia. Certainly wouldn't help business in future. Setting that amusing what-if aside, there is still work to be done. After all, Seiran has clearly gone out of her way to not 'cut [as much of] a dash' in her plainclothes. Even if she doesn't outright question it, she plainly (hee) wants — either consciously or subconsciously — to signal that this outing is merely, well, an outing. No raisins much less dates here, no siree.

Speaking of which, the mention of Eientei's lot in passing did prompt me to ponder the ex-Eagle Ravi's relationship with the other Moon-derived 'hus. I don't look much into Moon things myself, so the details of these things often slip past me, but I suppose I never considered that they might view Eientei adversarially. It does make sense, of course, with Eirin being Eirin, Kaguya being a Mooninite-non-grata, and the dried fruit-y bun being a verified turncoat deserter. Granted, it's hard to say at this juncture what Seiran's ex-superior thinks on the matter, but I don't guess the orchidaceous rabbit is going to throw off all vestiges of her Moony brainwashing just yet.

Still loving the little hints at all things Moon as far as their psycho-magic machinery goes. Every little exchange with the gadgetry adds more to my opinion that it's all at least semi-sentient; sure, they're in essence computers, but they're still magical and display communicative capabilities that a simple Bash shell wouldn't. The essentiality of these telepathic/telekinetic functions of Moon buns to their lives and how that effects their outlook is something interesting to consider.
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They moved out down the street at what might have been lockstep had Seiran geared up in a pair of stilts. As it was, she tuned the staccato of her sandals to keep her fixedly at the man’s flank and out the periphery of his sight. Whether spurred on by the expectation of a full (and affordable) trough or a woeful lack of team training, he bulled on down the block, any opposing walkers diverted aside for fear of causing an unbreakable shield situation. And Seiran was forced all anew to revise one or two experimental opinions.

As for the town itself… it was just the town now. Seiran had spotted it often enough throughout their intitial forays: a terracotta-brown grid amid the tea-stains of agricultural fields, far off in the valley below their landing. It’d been hardly of note then: a future tally on the crawler, should the skittish Lunar Lords please it; but, as the fortnight’s agenda had crossed the deadline, and no communique had come down from the hallowed home-world, let alone relief, rudderless heads had begun to wander. The prime among these had been Ringo’s, who, via her lax position as an XO with no orders to relay, had been the first to steal into the town and extract from it its piquant temptations. Upon which the idle Eagle Ravi had fallen as one rabbit. Time and time, in transient freedom – until the outlaw Sage had sent in her pet fixer.

All except Gunner Seiran. Zealous, Moon-eyed Gunner Seiran, who’d go off to pound mochi when told to pound sand.

Ironic, then, it’d be this Seiran alone who would, once all had been said and done, have to grapple with the town’s uncanny semblance of the Lunar Capital’s more ancient precincts. The roads here were rough and scuffed andesite, rather than polished moonstone you may assess your undercarriage in, and glass might be sparser than Lady Sagume’s voice; and yet, it was evident, in a subversive, heretical way, whence it was Lord Tsukuyomi and His companions had traced their architectural proclivities. A Lunar Lord might saunter out of any house she loped by, and Seiran wouldn’t know till her knees were buckled beneath her. If, anyhow, the surprise Lord didn’t buckle first from the Earthen filth.

It was a small comfort. Still bigger than stopping an inch short of ramming her nose between the man’s ribs when he cast anchor before a building Seiran wouldn’t have taken for an eatery in the midst of the worst munchies. That snap-evaluation was rectified by his racking the nondescript door aside and motioning Seiran through.

The ground floor was wide open, if not too spacious for all that. It showed some waist-high tables laid siege to by chairs; their purpose was beyond doubt, but possibly beyond service life. The air had a faint whiff of tobacco adhering to it, the same way the Sun had a faint glow attached. In the rear, backed by a doorway with a grimy flap, was ostensibly the yet newest addition to the premises, consisting of a decently scrubbed bar, a trio of acrophobia-inducingly tall stools, and a large man on the wrong end of a coffee break, built like an ox and watching the top for rogue stains.

Seeing two liable sources of such sidling in out of daylight, his massive shoulders rolled over from a state of squared somewhere into the geometrical realm of cubed.

“Lady Minoriko’s arse, Hito!” he foghorned. “Would’ve bloody got a dog if I needed the pots licked clean! Get! Get, you!”

“Like a dog would glance twice at the slop!” cannoned the six o’ clock riposte.

Seiran, not a little absolutely petrified, stood rooted to the welcome mat as her guide squeezed past and charged the proprietor with sleeves rolled up. Thunder clapped. Stools clattered against the bar. And, once Seiran had dared open her startled eyes, the men disengaged, beaming and shaking the pain from their right hands. The Moon rabbit gawped while they sized each other up like sumo rivals who hadn’t smacked bellies – or, for now, palms – in years.

“Thought you’d come down with the gripes,” joshed, yes, joshed the barman. “The wise you carried yourself yesterday... the wife was afeared you’d croak afore dawn.”

“I’ll save the gripes for when I’m dead,” returned Seiran’s smiling acquaintance. “The noise’ll spook away the kasha.”

“And what smattering of friends you have,” the barman added somatically.

Seiran shuddered off the shellshock with vengeance. There’d been something important there, hadn’t it? A name. Hito. Hito. Hitohitohitohito; she rolled it around her brain like dough until it solidified. Hito, Earth it!

It’d left her stationary enough for the bulkier of the humans to lock his sights.

“And now here—” The sights zeroed in with suspicion. “… A rabbit from the Clinic, have we?”

Seiran had no sooner begun to nod her white lie of years when Hito – right? – when Hito retrained his stoic’s smile on her for a veritable crossfire of male attention. Earth it. The indeterminate tenure as a food peddler had inured her to contact with short-ears, but two at once and both of the brusquer persuasion was overegging it. She didn’t quite quail, but it was a rare bird.

“This? Oh, this,” said Hito, and did she imagine it, or had that smile softened around the edges? “This is Miss Seiran. The dangonista.”

The barman’s face was a low-yield explosion of incredulity. “This is the Miss Seiran?” Then, behind his slit-narrow eyes, gears did a skip. “Hold your horses. Is that a word? Dangonista?”

“Isn’t it, though?” Hito about-faced as if to encompass her in the investigation. “What else do you call somebody who makes excellent dango?”

Seiran hesitated. Then, something sloughed off of her spring-taut shoulders.

“… I’m Seiran,” she offered, vowing inside to tie her ears into a double fisherman’s the instant there weren’t witnesses.

The men stared.

At least, so they did ahead one of them made a sudden noise like ripping wallpaper, whereupon the other guffawed somewhat urgently into his elbow. Seiran hazarded a sheepish smile. Maybe Ringo hadn’t the entire right. Maybe she wasn’t utterly hopeless.

“And humble about it, too!” boomed the barman. “Well, Miss Seiran, as a fellow restaurateur I share your torment. Please, seat yourself. I’ll have the slop whipped up afore you can say save me, Hakurei miko.

Vaunting which, he ducked the flap at his back and vanished into what, Seiran conjectured, was what passed for the establishment’s kitchen. Crockery could be heard emerging from, assumedly, dark and dank recesses. A mortar and a pestle donked into each other with stony tintinnabulation. Something dry crackled in a bowl.

Seiran waded through the smoky air to the outmost of the mountainous stools, which she climbed with the proffered aid of what she would much later begrudgingly recall to be a tough, steady and reassuringly strong arm. The time spent wrangling the short-ears’ predilections might not have been too fruitful, true. But she knew, in a contingency, what to expect from their food.

Hito saddled up beside her, wearing his interminable smile at a satisfied angle. He didn’t speak, and so neither did she, although who had revolutionised the idea of a conversation by substituting silence remained an academic discussion. Seiran didn’t complain. She could wait, eat and turn the dishes in with silence for a bib.

The barman resurfaced in some moments to deposit two bowls of small-grained contents in front of the wordlessly hungering customers then retreated again. Seiran had just the opportunity to perplex at the sight of flaked oats, rye, cranberries, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple and what most resolutely identified as chocolate chips in one shambles, ahead a hot saucepan was brought out and poured out over the motley mix.

Seiran twinged. She was currently in dispute with “cowmilk,” having previously enjoyed the fatty sweetness and then learnt whence on the markedly unmetaphorical cow it came out of. But the vision of melted chocolate and milk-puffy grains wasn’t to be trifled with. Seiran snatched up the provisioned, wooden spoon – and all but staved it through the top of Hito’s barring palm.

“Best if you let it soak a minute,” he advised, retracting the nearly staked appendage. “Better that way. Trust me.”

Seiran glowered, growled (below), but settled back. You could argue with experience. Sure. But then you ended up trounced more often than not and told you’d been told so. What was the gain?

Hito leaned on the spotless bar, conversationally paddling the thick air with the free hand.

“Old Itou been by with the lads?”

The barman scoffed at the acute detective work. “Too right. The man’s been smoking like a charcoal kiln since the Toorima ousted him from the peppers and tomatoes market. Says it’s witchery, the sore sack. Sorry for that. Was chewing the cud about taking the walls out to air out when yous twos trundled in. Couldn’t get off my arse.”

Hito gave a smile to that – forasmuch as he hadn’t been doing prior. “Can’t tell him to play with smoke-sticks outside? Help you with those walls, by the way, iffen you want.”

The barman shrugged, achieving an eerily tectonic effect. “It’s his boys drag in the most business. Yet. See about it once the season’s out. Maybe the Toorima’ll look favourably upon turncoats. Thanks, but no, thanks, by the way. Got the wife. Got the kids, the lazybones. You mind yours.”

“Holy through Yasaka be the day I must,” Hito intoned, so mock-piously that Seiran winced from second-hand shame. “Anything else interesting happen? You’re bound to hear a lot at those fairs: Jirou, the nice chap with the full galley.”

“Up yours. What do I run here? The rumour mill?” The barman – Jirou, it was, wasn’t it? – barked off a laugh like psychic whiplash. Then, eyes out of nowhere twinkling with knavery, he stooped forward to conspiracy. “The young Hieda lady,” he whispered, “is getting hitched, believe it or not!”

“I don’t.”

“You’d best!” cackled Jirou. “Caught in bed with the help, no less. Old man Hieda thrashed the lad seven ways to sunbreak. Had a gibbet put up on the grounds and everything. Scared the toss out of him all right. Well, the Hieda lady wouldn’t’ve had it, since she’d been sweet on the young man for as long as she’d been that lady, and, the maids natter, may’ve organised for the sour walk-in herself. For cause, the lad’d been seen traipsing with other women, see…?”

“That’s a right caught lad,” opined Hito.

“Married into nobility,” Jirou reminded. “How about that?”

“I can feature no more touch-and-go fate.”

“This,” jeered Jirou, “from a chap who trod over a hunger god for a jar of Kappa pickles and yakitori?”

Seiran’s ears pricked up.

Hito waved it off. “They stick herbs in you can’t grow in lowlands. Can’t be sure when they’ll be down again, either. Cagey things, the Kappa.”

“And the yakitori?”

“Cheap. Spicy. Cheap.”

Jirou sighed. “The priorities on display here…”

( ) What was that about treading on a god?
( ) What was that about a shotgun wedding?
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No, damnit no!
>( ) What was that about treading on a god?
>( ) What was that about a shotgun wedding?
You can't just give options like these and make me choose! You monster!
(X) What was that about treading on a god?
You'll have your reckoning for this I swear it.
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>(X) What was that about treading on a god?
Seems like something you ought to know about your (de facto) date. Then again, Seiran forgot the poor guy's name despite encountering him several times beforehand. Moonies must not be big on the whole 'courtship' thing.

>Captcha 8RINGO
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(X) What was that about treading on a god?

Disregard town bicycles, acquire second breakfasts.
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Don't have a lot clever to say this time. It was, with some double-looking, obvious enough that Ringus had tainted the batch with the Eagle Ravi. Interesting to note that Reisen engaged them at one point, though. Wonder what her current disposition towards them is?

I don't even have to do an analysis of the choices here.

[x] What was that about a shotgun wedding?

I already know your munchie man's deal because I read things, so I don't care about that. Also, you can't dangle gossip about AQN in front of me and not expect me to hammer that button.

Frankly, it's difficult for me to believe Akyuu's papa has much weight in any of these matters; she introduces herself as the head of the Hieda family in that one thing by that one artist our humble Author-san hates. Then again, seems to be a little beside the point. Guy got in a little too deep (haw haw), by all word-appearances.

C'mon, y'all. Not going to spoil anything out of respect for the writer's stated wishes, but read Wild and Horned Hermit. All I'm gonna say.
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Likewise, those who have read Yaf's more racy literature are already in the know about the nature of the Hieda's beau's "trading", so to speak. Hence why I'd rather see the author's take on a canon event in his own universe.
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tbf, when your name — or the part spoken, anyway, I'm guessing — sounds exactly like 'person' in Japanese, it might be a bit easy to forget.

Eh. I'd like a little closure on that, personally, since the YAFman isn't going to ever continue with it.
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(X) What was that about treading on a god?

I understand what this is referencing now, but I do think it would be good to actually describe this in the story, since casual readers might not get it. Plus, since that event is literally all the canon information that exists for the character, he's gonna end up telling Seiran about it at some point anyway.

Also, I think that for someone like Seiran who is not immersed in the "village culture", something about gods would be more interesting than some local gossip.
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But Kasen is so boring!
I don't wanna read about her lecture of the week and high turnover rate for new animal sidekicks!
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My man, spouting off fanon bullshit only shows a greater need to read.
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(x) What was that about treading on a god?
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(x) What was that about treading on a god?
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I like pickles, but I like Akyuu too. Hmm.
(X) What was that about a shotgun wedding?
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(X) What was that about a shotgun wedding?
Always vote for AQN
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That's the impression I got fro. the parts of WaHH I did read! She just lectures, and solves problems frequently using her knowledge of youkai animals.
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You obviously didn't read much, but whatever. That's not the point.

I know there's at least one person that thinks the 'god' vote is about Shion, and that's entirely incorrect; the actual episode that occurred is much less interesting and pivotal than whatever half of the people voting for it are imagining.
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(X) What was that about treading on a god?
Regardless of who it is, it'll definitely be more interesting than someone spreading their legs and getting burnt for it
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>random having an attack of the munchies and crawling up the shrine stairs
>more interesting than a figure central to human politics

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Unironically yes.
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(X) What was that about treading on a god?

Seiran vacillated. It never ceased to stun her, the elisions human conversation made. Coition in one sentence; gods in the next. A stream of consciousness with a whirlpool in it. Or some other hole…

Seiran knew of gods, at least. The Moon was a haven for untold myriads. Those shepherded by Lord Tsukuyomi, having renounced the filth of Earth. Seiran had heard also of General (younger) Watatsuki, half-chief of the domestic defence force, she whose body had been fashioned into a temple for said gods to call upon in battle. Although, who was really calling upon whom then was a theological conundrum reserved for the blandest mid-rats and slowest watches.

And, because Ringo’s was a planetoid-sized mouth where it concerned (and it did concern) other formations, Seiran had been made privy to an incident wherein a human capable of much the same had caused the General an undue case of the behind. It therefore stood to reason (or, anyway, the scuttlebutt) that the crumb of the divine smothered in humanity could yet be roused within its exceptional specimen. To pray those divine spirits yet Earth-borne toward the purest of communions. They would be native gods, Earth-gods, of course, thusly filth manifest, but still…

… But still, something as that wasn’t to be glossed over for talk of food! Right? Right!

“Anywise,” went on Jirou, not tuned into radio inner Seiran, “dits on the grapevine are the young lady’s drawing up nuptials to end all nuptials. Guests a hundred, courses a dozen, the shebang. The trading agency she begot’s doing the family well, so like as not she wants to toot her horn. And the groom’s. Old man Hieda can’t get a say sidewise. Still a few moons off, mind, but they’re petitioning cooks from all over town already.”

“Oh?” said Hito. He had a look on his face. “Sounds like nobs all right. Sticking out the backside for scratches.”

Jirou paused. Then, in the same undeterred tone, said, “There’s an open invite for… any neglected talents, too. Matter of negotiation. Good outlook, though, good promise of good money, publicity—”

“Good chance for up-and-coming culinarians,” Hito filled in, nodding sagely. “That it is.”

The men held a stare. Which proved a contest Hito must have warmed up for beforehand.

The barman sagged from the hackles down – something he, in turn, was better-furnished for.

“... Tell me,” he pled, “why I try.”

Hito’s was the smile of a merciful god. “Makes you feel human, doesn’t it?”

Jirou shook his head, not too ill-humouredly. “You surely do, old boy.”

“Um,” Seiran put in.

And tardily recognised she’d poked her fingers up in a querying, V-sign salute as she would’ve in basic training. Whether the men recognised it as well – or its condemningly hasty lowering – they needn’t show. Their intensely polite attention – Hito’s go-ahead smile in the vast main – portended rabbit stew if she retracted now.

So, she didn’t, and rode the dregs of outrage onto a wave of boldness.

“What was that about… treading on a god?”

They held another stare, albeit this one was hefted jointly rather than jostled.

“You’ll tell it better,” judged Hito.

To the reception of a look even Seiran decoded as “critical.”

“I weren’t there,” Jirou said meaningfully. “The Miss asked you, besides.”

“The Miss is only curious,” disagreed Hito. “And not being there hasn’t wet your blanket before. You’ll tell it better. Tell it. I’ll re-evaluate with the Miss later where you’ve embellished.”

“Yes, please,” said Seiran, consolidating without thinking. “Sir.”

That turned the trick. The barman sighed and shrugged again, a man purpose-built to do so.

“Well, Miss, it were some seasons ago—” he began.

Out the corner of her weather-eye, not that she’d been keeping much of one, Seiran saw Hito plunk his spoon into his bowl and stir. She peeked at the barman, who gestured not to be shy, and the ravenous rabbit followed suit. Grains and berries pocked the milk’s surface, while the latter browned with chocolate and the spoon dredged up the rye sediment.

“Some seasons ago, as we were,” Jirou went on, voice twanging with relish. “Another of those crowed-about Hakurei fairs was then in the offing, with all the Kappa pickles, Miss, essential. Now the Pilgrim’s Way is no Sunday stroll on the best of those; a proper hour’s plod to the shrine if you don’t take the rickshaw. Meanin’ mouths dry and bellies cravin’ by the while as they get there, which may as good’ve been deliberate by the miko. Anywise the day we speak of was different, for folks were turning tail by the midway: lads groanin’ and lasses swooning with hunger, rickshaws circling round forgoing fare. All but for one had foundered afore reaching the shrine, one indefatigable man—”

Seiran spooned up the mushy blend, shooing away the cow of her imagination. She felt Hito’s observance practically stuck to the rising scoop. A temperature-conscious sup, and Seiran dumped the fluffy, warm concoction into her mouth.

“—who thereupon, having the stair climbed, collapsed slack as a sack of rice. Now the Hakurei miko swith came to his aid, surmising some nefarious attack, but the man scant besought a cup of water afore attending the fair in its emptiness as if never aught was awry.”

“It was right nice water,” Hito chimed in, laser-focused on the chewing Seiran. “The Kappa had an ice-box. Clear stuff from upriver.”

“And but one customer to inveigle wherewith,” noted Jirou.

“So it was,” Hito concurred. “And that there’s a right nice vocabulary. You’ve been reading?”

The barman batted off the friendly gibe. “That bard wot comes here once or twice yearly – you know him? Tall chap, noggin like a library, tongue like a corkscrew? Had a book penned of his tales. The Suzunaan lends out copies. Got one for the little ones; couldn’t part with it meself. Insidious stuff.” He harrumphed with what could have been flair earlier in the morning. “Now our Hakurei miko, scenting evilry, took flight immediate upon the Pilgrim’s Way, doom bespoke in her colour, but, alas—”

Seiran swallowed. And was flabbergasted. The so-called “slop” hadn’t the right to taste any better than it looked, and yet there her taste buds were, gleefully serenading her palate. The cow she could have done without, but she saw how the milk brought everything together how water might never, not even with starch and aspartame liberally churned in. The sweetness of chocolate and the bitterness of rye were as one in the greasy, filthy, white emulsifier. Seiran was in tragic love.

And then there were the berries and apples…

Hito caught her conflicted eye. And nodded something in his private, non-verbal vernacular.

“—alas, even she of power was overcome by the eerie hunger – nay – laid low by it as her friends swith found. Comestibles were brought to bear, and the miko to strength restored, conclusion pellucid in her view. For yes indeed a hunger god had been born on the road, and you two aren’t appreciative of this anywise, so why the bloody hell do I bother?” The barman swept a glare between the two busy at their bowls. “Not a care for the finer things, this pair. The short of the rest is, Miss Seiran, the miko baited the god and exterminated it. Then this blighter commissioned a score of new fair flyers for the girl and shoved them out around town. Free of charge, too, I reckon.”

“Only just I did,” mumbled Hito, spoon milling. “Got the water free, didn’t I?”

Seiran lowered hers, cutting off the repartee. “… Exterminated? A god?”

Hito pondered the answer. Or perhaps delayed for the mouthful to go down. “Hmm. No. Not as such,” he admitted. “There was an offering of foodstuffs, shimenawa and everything. Miss Hakurei’s speciality is extermination, however, so she put that kind of shine on it. But then the report wouldn’t have been as readable, would it?”

“Now, now,” said Jirou, defensively. “Miss Bunbunmaru may’ve a colourful memory, but her heart’s in it.”

“Her heart’s in getting you to subscribe, friend.”

“As well it is. It’s a job. You’re the one who were standin’ there side-by-side with fairies and youkai whilst a god got the works. You’re the evil one.”

Hito’s eyes described the ceiling in preoccupied sardonicism. This prompted the barman to take his well-deserved win and concede a moment of silence for perished divinities. Not so Seiran. The Moon rabbit poured her gaze at the villain with the fast-emptying bowl.

“… You took a god inside you,” she wished to be consummate about this, “then expelled it?”

And then, for the first instance since… well, not learning his name, but conjecturally having it presented to her and consigning it to no matter, Seiran witnessed her best customer’s laugh-lined face film over with the mildest of tirednesses. It hadn’t rid of his unrelenting smile and was gone ahead of Seiran’s next, skipped heartbeat, but it’d been there.

“… No, Miss Seiran,” he humoured her nonetheless. “Would’ve well been told by Miss Hakurei had that been the case. I have no truck with gods that I can help. Went there for the pickles; I didn’t run from the youkai; I did what was right. That is the heart and soul of it.”

Seiran needed no resonance in the Lattice to understand the words, “And I should be gladder for no heed paid to it” were swirling in whatever stunted analogue comprised the internal world of a human. She inclined her head, remembering with care aforethought he couldn’t read hers, either.

It wasn’t what she’d envisioned, anyway. She wasn’t in turn sure what that had been, but for sure as the dust this wasn’t it. Hito was – his inhuman stomach and smile and patience notwithstanding – nobody special. Just a human. A rank-and-file participant of his species’ day-to-day struggle on life-tainted Earth. As Seiran was now… in supposition if not practice.

She couldn’t untangle whether that was to the good or something else.

“The pointy bit’s, Miss,” Jirou jabbed the final neighbourly jab, “don’t send gods after this chap. He’ll walk over them and that’ll be the fat lady’s gig.”

Seiran, she who knew gods by name and station, did not speak.

What a blithely profane existence these short-eared humans led. You did not entreat the gods. You did not send for them. To do so was impertinence. They sent for you. Always. That was how it was.

They owned you. They played you. And then they left you behind when divine memory slipped.

This was the prosaic it. The Moon’s truth.

The truth was filth.
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Glad to see our lad Garion is moving up in the world (down in the Underground?), even if it's at the expense of newfound, out-of-place eloquence in random barmen.
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I wonder how Seiran would feel if she knew Reimu and Marisa beat up gods on a (semi) regular basis? Given how ridgid and strict they are over there on the moon, it's no surprise hearing something like that is anathema to her.
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It could not have been two minutes afterwards that Hito’s bowl had been ladled clean of grainy debris and handed off, sans contents, to the formal owner. Who consequently ferried it past the flap to stash it, hopefully not preceding at least a rinse, back in the deep kitcheny alcoves charted, as in so many eateries, by the proprietor alone. There was a far and diffident splash of water, and Seiran exhaled, the laden spoon completing its bowl-mouth roundtrip with understated zest.

That done, she deigned to acknowledge with an askance look the resumed vigilance of her difficultly best patron and self-avowed Seiran admirer. The man joined the contest by propping his chin on a forearm in the attitude of homespun thinkers. And watched on.

“… What?” Seiran blurted at length, spoon-arm thrumming with tension.

Hito appeared fleetingly puzzled. Insofar as his brows bowed like stretching rabbits.

“… Observing you, Miss Seiran,” he eventually confessed, straight and narrow as an ahp’s shot, “puts me awfully at ease. Simple as. If it discomfits you, please say.”

Seiran, who cherished the breakfast ever further for occupying her trigger- and other fingers away her ponytail, strove not to let it show. “It doesn’t… discomfit me. Silence. Silence sets me on edge. Silence and loud noises,” she expounded, feeling silly. “I’m a sol— rabbit, yes? So both are bugbears.”

“Should I talk?” asked Hito, sounding more bemused by the moment.

“It would be…”

“… The lesser evil?”

She bored a chagrined stare into her food. And was bemused herself to hear a pithy “Hmf” blow through the awkwardness.

“We’ve established I can be that,” accepted Hito. “So why not. You said yesterday, Miss Seiran, that you wanted to run something...?”

Seiran bit the spoon and blinked. “... Emesharr? Um. Meanf main shupply route,” she slurred. “Ingregients. The likesh.” She cleared her mouth and some headspace together with. “... Come to it, I sacked out pretty bad. Might not be worth it to gaggle-harch to the market by now. There’s always such an Earthed push after festivals.”

“Too right, with every huckster sold clear out,” Hito agreed, parabolaing round the planetary condemnations. “But that sidelight earlier gave me this to think. Why do you not sign up with the trading service? Have the ingredients and whatever likes delivered? The Hieda get the pick of the goods in any event if I’ve known the nobs. Could loosen up the schedule for... sacking out or a proper breakfast. A one-woman operation can still delegate, Miss Seiran.”

Seiran made a face. She wagged the spoon, uncertainly. “Could I afford that...?”

“Last I saw the numbers their rates weren’t far off the market price. The estimates’ll be out of date sometimes, but then they’ll even it out with you on delivery to flat with the current. No fleecing; the clan name’s in the balance.”

Something wasn’t checking out. “How’s that ever turn a profit?” questioned Seiran. “If they buy and sell at the same rate?”

Hito shut his eyes in speciously self-inflicted pain. “... Scratching of the backs, Miss Seiran,” he explained. “The landed clans sell at a rebate because the Hieda buy in guaranteed bulk and regularly. Then there are the reductions on labour, since the service hires its own porters. Make no mistake; our young Hieda lady slept with an abacus as a babe. If she does run a hustle, it’s one you’ve no hope to notice anyhow. Out of sight – and all that, right?”


Hito switched support arms around. “It’s decent help. That's what I’m skirting around saying. Give it a go, Miss Seiran. You’re ill like to regret it. And, well, if you do... ought to be I’ve got a hide to spare.”

“Iffen you can weasel past their waiting list,” said a prodigious voice, and the barman followed it promptly out of the kitchen. “Not to widdle in your muesli, Miss,” he continued, “but the service’s as thronged as the market on Monday dawn these days. Less’n you offer to buy out the whole apple harvest or are compeers with the lady, the two bein’ perforce synonymous, it’s good luck and in the line with you. Sure was for us.”

Seiran, who hadn’t ever put widdling and food in the same sentence, let alone bowl, endeavoured diligently not to choke.

Hito wasn’t impressed either. “How’d you tunnel under yours?”

Jirou the giant dwarf winked. “Got the Itou clan on my shoulder,” he said, which would go far to explain some things, and shrugged. “Old man shook some hands, and here I am. And afore you occur of it, no. Can’t put in an order for Miss mochi-pound here. Old Itou would smoke me out of my hide if I were suddenly billin’ his treasury with mochi-ko by the sack and no dessert to show for it. Sorry.”

“She’d pay for it. I’d pay for it.”

“It’d still go in the books, and there goes that hide.”

Hito’s smile curdled at the rims. “... That’s a widdler, isn’t it?”

“Tax, my unwaged man,” snorted Jirou. “The oldest bloody youkai. And the Hakurei’ll not lift a stick to stamp it out.”

“... Stamp, huh.”

“Should’ve got round to it when they was startin’ out. Might be then you’d’ve been the one getting walked in on— Hito?”

Hito dropped off the stool – a future feat of courage for Seiran. He gutted his pockets, and a string of coins sailed over the counter into the barman’s readied hands.

“For two and a tip,” said Hito, teeming with unexpected purpose. “Get the little ones a thinner book. Miss Seiran?”

“Ye—Yesh?” Seiran complied through a mouthful of mush.

The man gave her manners a pass. “You’re right. The market will have been plundered by this hour. Can I meet you at your place in… two, three? You may just have your… MSR… done for you by tomorrow dusk. Please?” he added – and bowed.

Wrongfooted by that finishing touch, Seiran’s inner squad mother couldn’t butt it ahead the Moon rabbit’s ears were bobbing her dazed assent. “Co—Copy,” she swallowed and said. “Got to scour the baking board, and… the stall’s still in pieces, so… enough to do, anyway. I’ll be in the wire.”

A proportion of bunny-buck-like vim Seiran hadn’t witnessed since boot camp could be appreciated in his righting up.

“Glad,” he said, succinctly. “Then I’ll be there. Thinner book, Jirou.”

“Sit on it,” quipped the barman.

And, with that friendly dagger stuck under his ribs, the man Seiran hadn’t known for half an hour was called Hito sallied out of the crummy eatery with such exigency it was a wonder he hadn’t left his smile hanging confusedly in the air. The turbulences of his launch hadn’t hardly settled when Seiran’s ears were jarred afresh from the opposite front.

“Lo and hearken!” intoned Jirou, vindictively but not unfeelingly. “To the tale of a man in eld determined not to let life stand in the way, e’er again.”

Seiran turned, age certainly making itself impend.

The bulking barman tried for a Hito-esque smile. With scant success else than emphatically straining his cheek muscles. She was relieved to see him stop – and so apparently was he.

“Now, Miss bunny,” he said, loaflike arms crossing in a protective barrier at his chest. “You aren’t one for chinwag if I’ve my acuities, and that’s fine. I’ll leave you be. Got my own cleaning, anywise. But afore I do, heed me on two things. Will you? One,” he went on, quite barring Seiran’s reply, “we’re restaurateurs fellows, so you’re free to come in whenever, even if the Itou lads are in. Hito insists not to, but that’s him. Wholesale rates, the usual. That’s my offer. Deal?”

Seiran nodded – warily. The barman, thankfully, patterned himself after her example and abstained from spitting in his palm. She’d had that happen. It’d been a gob in the sea of culture shock.

“Secondly then,” the barman reopened. “Gossip that I am, I’ll clip my tongue this once and mention this only. Hito is a friend. He may be… how he is now, but he does have folks looking out for him. We like to play callous here, the world bein’ what it is, but it’s not all that. We squib and squabble, but that’s the mountain air talkin’. Nobody is alone. Not even Hito. Harm him, and we’ll have the Hakurei slipped on you afore the blood’s cooled. This is a vow, on my Lady.”

Seiran felt as though the smoke had gone solid in her face. “I—I’m not—”

“Not dangerous? A rabbit youkai like you? No? Then pardon me,” he relented. “But facts is facts, Miss. Accidents hang upon the red string.”

“I haven’t come here to harm anybody,” Seiran lied. “I’m not… going to. I just want to—” What? Live? “—to sell dango. That’s all. It really is.”

“And Lady Minoriko bless you for arsing,” conceded Jirou, breathing out so hugely his own hugeness turned out collateral. “Still welcome here, Miss bunny. Any day, any time. I’m jus’ worried for a friend, and believe me rightly. He is after you, confound him. No gossip, but those kinds of eyes – they are made by boys, not men of his track. Good grief, that one.”

He abruptly and sharply looked to the door wherethrough Hito had decamped – and then once more, shakily, to Seiran.

“… You were aware of that,” he asked, unease beading out like sweat, “were you, Miss?”

( ) “I suspected.”
( ) “I know. He’s said.”
( ) “No. What?” Come, don’t do that. He’s in the Earthed right, here.
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(x) “I know. He’s said.”
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(X) “I know. He’s said.”
He did ask her out, offhanded or otherwise.
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>The man gave her manners a pass. “You’re right. The market will have been plundered by this hour. Can I meet you at your place in… two, three? You may just have your… MSR… done for you by tomorrow dusk. Please?”
Now that's mighty curious. Where did our lovable hungry man pick up on such military jargon? Has he been stalking Seiran for longer than he's admitted? Or is there some mysterious past to him?

>“I haven’t come here to harm anybody,” Seiran lied.

(x) “I suspected.”
Although I'd wager a moon rabbit on "enemy" territory would be suspicious of everything.
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To be clear, because Seiran wasn’t, she’d explained that one a couple of lines up. Somewhat.
They did invade Earth with malice purity aforethought, didn’t they?
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(x) “I know. He’s said.”
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(X) “I know. He’s said.”
It is quite obvious, you could see it with your ears in the way.
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(X) “I know. He’s said.”

Seiran administered Lady Sagume’s mercy. “I know,” she confirmed. “He’s said.”

The barman assumed the egg-walking facial ruggedness of one at risk of divine exasperation himself. “He’s… said. Said.

“Said,” sighed Seiran. “That he wouldn’t turn a deaf ear if I were inclined to sit down for a tea with him.”

“A tea.”

“And other such phraseologies. It happened on a couple of occasions.”

The barman appeared to excogitate this. You could have made a trench-line of it. “Well, that’s… delicate,” he said after a while. “Hito’d by and large walk over a god for a tea if it was a mugi-cha and maybe had a cracker on the side.” The joke was a dud, but male Earthlings never were given to noticing misfires in Seiran’s checked experience. “Oh, well. Countin’ that muesli unwiddled in, anyhow.” He went at ease. “Praise, praise to my Lady. And now, Miss bunny, as I betook, I shall do and make myself sparse. Leave the tableware ‘ere once you’re done. Good noon to you and thank you for Hito’s b’ness.”

And then, as he’d betaken, he did, making himself sparse in Seiran’s vicinity if not the kitchen, whence sounds of post-custom industry were soon forthcoming. Seiran eased out of the stranger alert-state herself, alone at last with the remainder of her breakfast. She tossed the spoon and lifted the bowl to her mouth.

It was good.

It really was good.

Good enough to turn a rabbit’s coat.

Then why have you been dumping oats in water and hailing it breakfast?

Seiran lowered the bowl, munching on the chocolate-milk-soaked grains. She couldn’t… no, could nebulously remember the last time she’d eaten out in town like this. Obviously, it’d been Ringo’s idea then too; obviously, Seiran had fallen in with the not-order against her better judgement. Her lackadaisical ex-XO had picked a popular dive in one of the outer districts, where the clientele wouldn’t hear of nutritional value if you could exchange it for mint and preoccupied itself instead with the varying decoctions of ethanol. However, upon a hugger-mugger word with Ringo, the comically-hatted (and even more comically busted) waitress had brought out something distinguishable as food beyond its salt and carbohydrate content. It had been, actually, digestible.

The rival rabbits had made what Ringo had called “a night of it,” chatting, by increasing necessity, through a tight beam between their Lattices, talking the usual shop of soldiers on leave and vendors after a jointly weathered rush. They’d been celebrating something, Seiran was almost positive, although what it was eluded her in the fretful mist of a memory of sitting in a rackety, Earthling-packed pub.

But there were places like this, too. Quiet – if stuffy – places sensible of your purse, with staff that spoke with you rather than at you. And, where real, palatable food needn’t be coaxed out via arm-round-shoulder chicanery.

Thinking of which, Seiran coaxed a gluey piece of apple out the bowl with a, bother it, unsanitary finger.

She’d been aware they were there. Like she’d known of pleasure outlets in the Lunar Capital which serviced rabbits even on active duty without flustering looks or questions.

She’d just never looked up either. There was no reason to it, now. She just, somehow, hadn’t thought to.

It’d taken an Earthling to flush her out of that unconscious safe zone. An Earthling. One, sure, possessed of a comparably supercilious antipathy for gods as Seiran’s deserter-commander, but an Earthling still. What could he do?

Take you out to breakfast, evidently.

Seiran slammed the bowl down, swiped as good as clean.

Well, if she was finally falling, then at least it tasted Earthed nice.
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She’d cuffed some coins on the bar, because Gunner Seiran was like that, and, for similar causes, exfiltrated the small, cosy eatery omitting additional, clumsy good-byes. The return route to her home compound may have taken twice longer in the absence of an adult, human male’s feeding frenzy to keep cadence with, but Seiran had wound up nevertheless with an abundance of upraised spirits to be tested by the sight of her unfinished stall and flour-caked implements of trade. Spirits undiscouraged, in the event, even so. Seiran had been in dumb awe.

Nothing for it, she’d resolved, changed out of the outing clothes, donned a potato paste-stained apron and, as it was said, got on the mallet. And then, since Ringo’s barbs were yet caught fast in her hair and no other motive, Seiran had made it the same mallet her human adorer had employed so well as a morning bugle.

The hard, Earthen way for a sweet-toothed Moon rabbit.

She was gratifyingly worked up, never mind sweaty, from suboptimal hammering and had been eyeing the crusty baking board with definite unfriendliness when support arrived, a second time in twice as many hours, at the gate. He came fitted with a recondite smile, a roll of papers and a bamboo drink tube dangling from a wrist on a cord.

On cue, because some things required patent visual confirmation, he bowed his inscrutably organised head.

“Good day, Miss Seiran,” he called.

Seiran steeled herself. “... Hello, Hito. Sir.”

The man hitched mid-stride, though did, apart from that, manage to keep a steady approach. Seiran spotted him throughout from the stall’s platform, discreetly de-stressing by means of ponytail, until, out of routine perhaps, he moored at the vendees’ side of the counter. The papers were summarily disbursed all across, and the drink – thrust considerately up in Seiran’s direction. She took it – out of reflex, really, most available attention on the flurried documents.

The paper was veiny and a yellowy-white; it was the same affordable, middling quality thing Seiran had come to accept from the town’s solitary and over-saddled mill. But the type was lusher than Ringo was: all flowing thicknesses and edge flourishes. Moneyedness bloomed from the page.

Seiran’s writing of the Gensokyan script may have been as indistinct as smoke signs in a gale, but her reading was nothing short of perfectly adequate in any weather. Not least because a savvy enough Moon rabbit may feign an inquiring mind and run a psychometry scan on an accommodating printer’s type-case for later, off-time study. The training of the wrist and developing all the little, necessary muscle tics subsequent were, of course, a whole another box of Earthlings – which Seiran had barely jimmied the hatch on.

Still, she absorbed at a leaf-through what turned out a diplomatically phrased mortgage of her immortal soul if she should fail to provide reimbursement (sensible), fail to receive a delivery of perishables within an agreed date (valid), fail to return the Family’s deliverer unperished (weird) or, conceivably, fail to sing the Family’s praises evermore proceeding the transaction (evident). It was nip and tuck with her trooper’s oath in terms of knottiness and, thus, just as simple to skip over.

Seiran didn’t need a broad, masculine hand roguishly covering it up to do so, but there it was quite regardless.

“You’re generally concerned with the blank section under. That is where the order goes,” Hito furnished the more or less obvious. “The rest is, shall we say, my neck?”

“Is it?” wondered Seiran.

“I’ll be signing if this is to work. So.”

So it was. Seiran had about patted herself down for an ink stick when she noticed anew the sloshy occupancy of her dominant hand. And it was slosh of some opulence, now she looked: with a sealed lid and inbuilt straw for spillage-free hydration on the go. A hiker’s lifesaver.

“Tea,” assured Hito, noting the holes being stared in the bamboo tube. “We didn’t get anything to drink at Jirou’s. Thought you’d be straight back in the harness here, too, so here. On me.”

Seiran paused unlatching the lid. “… Mugi-cha?

Hito’s permanent smile expanded. “Sure is. Well done.”

Figures. “Thanks.”

“No poison,” he promised.

“… I know. Thanks.” She fumbled the free hand around her apron. “Um. Have you got a pe— a stick? Mine’s with the rest of the kit someplace.”

Truthfully, Seiran had its coordinates down to the cubic inch, but would rather avert the techno-insensitive commentary endemic. Most every human in town reckoned on whittled charcoal sticks doing the office just fine, or a quill and inkwell where “stationery” and “stationary” coincided. She didn’t mind. Not rabidly. The former were deployed – optionally, should you pay out the nose – in quite cute and comfortable, hand-carved holders, quite cuter and more comfortable than even her microgravity-enabled, Eagle Ravi-issue ink stick. Seiran had never gotten one for herself.

What produced from the nadirs of Hito’s pockets belonged to neither category. Instead, the Moon rabbit was presented with a wonder in dark jade: a fountain pen, gold-nibbed, heavy and antique, the like an eccentric Lunar Lord may insist convey their inestimable name. Sans, guessing, the entropic absorber preventing the ink drying in hundreds of Lunar cycles of disuse. Seiran hefted the thing like a murder-weapon, amusing the metaphor.

“Careful,” warned Hito, in good sport. “This blaggard’s killed entire branch families. Take your time and list everything, Miss Seiran. I’ll hang about.”

“Thanks,” said Seiran, idly thumbing the fill lever. “Do.”

“Unless you wish I talk?”

She gave him a wry glance. “Not right this moment, thanks.”

Hito smiled, which was a thing he did, insouciant. Altogether overdue, although not overdue for his back to have been sparingly turned, Seiran recognised she was smiling back.

Nothing for it. She could wing chit-chat after all, if nothing else. Take that, huh, Ringo?

Fortified by a sip of, yes, it sure was a tea, from the bamboo canteen, Seiran levelled the killingly sharp nib of the pen at the creative space provided. Nitty-gritty first, she chided the rousing memory of breakfast. So, she wrote thusly:

m๏cɦi-ӄ๏ fɭ๏ur (1-ӄan sacӄ, pɭɛasɛ)

Then again, a repeat deliberation advanced, if I’m not going to have to tow it all to base myself…

m๏cɦi-ӄ๏ fɭ๏ur (1-ӄan sacӄ, pɭɛasɛ) (4-ӄan sacӄ)
– pɭums, picӄɭɛd (1 2 1-ӄin jars)

That did it for the basics. Seiran quit pressing the nib musingly to her lips, wiped the stray ink on a sleeve, and proceeded down the list, momentum endowing a respectable speed.

She really should’ve been a quartermaster. Or a spoon. Not even Lunarians expected those to do anything else than handle provisions and be fat. Maybe an ET, something rear echelon. She should never have been on recon. That was the trouble. She should never have been on the ground. None of this would ever have needed not to have been if they’d just let her at what she was better at.

“Um. Hito… er, sir?”

That, distinctly, not including talking.

Hito, who’d been pervading the cluttered yard with that ultra-conspicuous sort of unobtrusiveness only achievable by the truly hopeless, jumped to. To what it was he did, Seiran cautiously labelled as attention.

“Yes?” he volunteered, for all outward appearances having been riveted by a rusted, derelict sheep cage currently, and this was perhaps the philosophically intriguing part, lacking for any evincible sheep inside. “What-ho, Miss Seiran?”

Seiran wet her lips – and tasted ink. Earth it. “… Will they, that service,” she asked, “be able to procure chocolate, do you think?”

“Sure will,” warranted Hito, off-hand. “Just specify shavings for baking or bar for snacking, and ta-da.”

Seiran scrupulously did as advised. “… Then I should be done.”

Hito let the ostensive sheep be (or not be, whichever) and joined the Moon rabbit up on the stall’s platform, reinforcing in this due how it hadn’t been built for two or to a human – male – scale. He put forward a hand, palm up.

“The pen, Miss Seiran.”

She surrendered the only weapon of bloodshed in fifteen paces (the mochi-pounding mallet by her quarters’ door being the other), and the man put the nib to the bottom of the page and the bracket verbosely denoted, “Cmmsnr. Name.”

Seiran craned as it danced. Ink sank a strange truth into paper.

「 空腹の久人 」

Kuu-fuku, Seiran syllablised, “Hisa...?”

She felt colour forge up her cheeks as the gaffe dawned. The man pocketed the pen in exchange for an oblong, brass seal stamp his ilk occasionally staked to legitimise their interactions. There must’ve been a fresh pad on the inside of the cap, because the order had all at once a very red, very official signature. That the character stamped matched seemingly none comprising the underlying name almost hadn’t registered beside the analogous red flushing Seiran’s face.

The man scooped the papers up into a file. Then espied the blue Moon rabbit IED going live where she was liable to take off at least an arm.

“Oh,” said, apparently, one Hisahito of the Kuufuku family. “That.”

Seiran mimed an exotic, rabbit-eared fish. But Hisahito, Earth him literally, jumped aground in contempt of evolution. Then he raised a smile-shaped bar across the issue.

“It is nothing, Miss Seiran,” he reassured her fixed to the platform’s planks. “‘Hito’ is just what comes out of people unable to be butted into spelling the whole article. I believe ‘friends’ is what we call those. You may use your discretion; I’d rather you did. Though, if nothing goes pear-shaped, worry not – you won’t soon have to.”

Seiran lurched. “Wha—What?”

“I’ll hand these in and bring it on home.” Hisahito fanned the papers. “If it falls through, I’ll jog by to clue you in that it’s back to square one. If I don’t, assume that’s it. The young Hieda lady processes it some time today, and you ought to hear somebody knocking on your door tomorrow. What number room shall I put down, by the bye?”

“I—I’m in 3,” Seiran supplied. What did it matter now? “You’re… going home after?”

Hisahito bowed, somewhat finally. “Yes, ma’am. Miss. You’ll see me again, I don’t doubt, once you’re back in business.”

Up behind the counter, Seiran reeled from the suddenness of this double strike on her composure. She knew some reply was incumbent; the sore question was whether how silly she’d inevitably make it would fall outside the scope of what was expected from someone who’d merrily exercised a customer’s private pet name.

Somehow, Hisahito’s smile was imputing, she might as good try to hop over the Sea of Tranquillity.

( ) “You don’t want to stay and… observe?”
( ) Let him who’d done enough go.
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(x) “You don’t want to stay and… observe?”

Don't let your prey get away just yet
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(x) “You don’t want to stay and… observe?”
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(x) "You don't want to stay and... observe?"

Seiran stepping on verbal landmines is very cute, let's keep it going.
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(x) “You don’t want to stay and… observe?”

If only I knew moonrunes so that I could fully understand how hard Seiran screwed the pooch by shortening our hungry man's most surely illustrious name into the most generic name ever for a member of a species (discounting underground monkeys).
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Hisahito (久人) in full means something like "long-lived person". Kuufuku (空腹の), meanwhile, means... "hungry".
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[x] Let him who’d done enough go.

I've been having a bad time IRL, so I don't really have the time or inclination towards my full appraisal. So bloody behind...
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Don’t beat yourself up over it. I’ll appreciate it – and am sure others will as well – whenever it comes. It just means you might not get to pre-empt me. Ha!
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>might not get to pre-empt me
It wasn't like I was going out of my way to spoil anything.

All the same, fun to see stuff from the mangos make its way in.
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(X) “You don’t want to stay and… observe?”
There's only one way forward.
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(X) “You don’t want to stay and… observe?”

And, if she might as good try, she might as good do try.

Urged on by the foregoneness of the conclusion, Seiran cooked off the ammo she’d been purveyed.

“You don’t want to stay and, um… observe?”

To her merit he did give off a dim sense of surprise, complete with the minutest of head tilts. This lasted all four of Seiran’s heartbeats, really a flash on a self-esteem’s scale, the successor of which saw Hisahito fold his arms into an L-shape, elbow in palm, and sight down the papers’ longer edge as if taking aim at the overbold Moon rabbit.

“… Miss Seiran?” he said.

“Yes. Me. Good day,” she scraped up from the great jar of Seiran wits.

“Quite.” Hisahito’s bifurcated smile dignified the attempt. “But, Miss Seiran, the answer is yes, but no. A god-trampler I may be,” he granted, “but haven’t, luckily, been struck a blind one. I can see just fine. You’ve indulged me enough; and, I do dearly hope, you will in the future. Would, would so, love little more. Not this day, however, Miss Seiran. You have done plenty. Today, you’re off the Hito-hook.”

Seiran inflated for a heated reply, but whatever negligent discharge of folly it might have been fed back into the scramble of her synapses unvoiced. Wherever he’d learnt it, Hisahito’s was the innocent expression of a sergeant with a detail to dole out.

“… Now, Miss Seiran,” he concluded once she verifiably had not. “Since I’m leaning on you not seeing me again, it’ll be good day, good evening and good night to you. Have a good night, Miss Seiran. I won’t say you look like hell, for fear I still need a spot, but those bags don’t lie. You’re lovelier without them, anywise. I’ll check in in – whatsit? – two solars. Rest easy. Obliged.”

He aped her bunny-ears salute from the bar, no doubt to emphasise this was as well as military business and therefore superseded however they might’ve felt on it personally, and marched out to the street at a vaguely martial plod.

Seiran stared after his disappeared back, deaf to all but the thumping in her temples.

The next sound she heard was that of her forehead thumping the counter.


She made a note to keep in the forefront of her brain not to lose the forefront of her brain. However much it might appeal at the time. Wilted of ears and not too fairer of complexion, Seiran reconciled with dreaded verticality.

Well, she’d bet the bowl and gotten bowled over. There’d been, perhaps, nothing for it. The compliment may have been nice, but she hadn’t especially countenanced an afternoon of constant distraction in any case. She had chores enough to keep her athwart of the hairy position of time hanging heavily on her hands and, failing on that front, could both make and work make-work like the pettiest of officers. No bumbling, male touch required. Seiran was a bumble all of her own. The compliment had been nice, though. It had been nice.

She could almost, almost believe it.

Time. Time is hanging.

Seiran cast about the yard from her stall’s vantage to find herself menaced by the baking board proudly displaying what was, most surely by now, an armour plate of crusted flour. Any of the various purifiers from her personal maintenance and disposal kit and she could’ve made the job (and, if she wasn’t accurate, herself) a no-brainer, but none had lasted this long into her exile. It was hence down to Seiran, salt-water and a blunted, down-to-Earth knife.

An hour in, and she was well-nigh beholden to her admirer for hitting the dust against every otherwise suggestion. The board wasn’t even half-clean, there were flour rocks everywhere, and the knife’s handle bit. Oaths were strung a mile a minute.

And Seiran really, really, really didn’t want her only compliment to be rescinded.
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Frustrated. That was how she had felt about it all, Seiran unravelled later, once she’d retraced the conversation in her memory’s pathways. She’d just succeeded negotiating a mesh between the micro-furnace and her room’s spent glow-globe – and accorded herself the biggest bed-flop she wouldn’t cave in together with – when the assessment reared its ugly tail. An early Spring sundown was dousing her retreat in orange through the window. Her former XO could have sprawled prone on the floor with her beret over her ears and been virtually invisible.

But she wasn’t frustrated with Ringo. Not in this instance. She hadn’t even to deal with Ringo on a daily basis.

She did, however, deal with Hisahito. That was the dustiest thing, because neither had she ever to specifically ask for it. He’d drift by and dawdle at her stall unbidden; he’d indisputably not been invited to amuse himself with its pieces and a mallet this morning-noon; and even Seiran’s consent to be dragged along to breakfast had been, at its loudest, tacit. He’d always happened to her without once needing to be requested or requisitioned.

… Then, the one time she’d worked herself up to, he’d baulked at her like one priggish Eagle Ravi at Earthen food.


Seiran lolled about on the bed and pulsed the glow-globe with an inquiry. For which diligence she received a psychic prick in her Lattice from the re-charge transference underway between the devices. Fine, be like that, she thought its way. You’ll be Moon-white before I will.

The joke wasn’t whatsoever funny, and Seiran rubbed the pins and needles out of her ears rather put out at her own jaundice. She’d turned out a good day, after all. Hadn’t she? The stall was axle-checked and battle-ready, all fine to be trundled out to the bumpy streets; her merch-prep utilities were cleaned and oiled and hung out to dry where not too inconvenient. The victuals would, if her fancier’s absence of reappearance was to be interpreted positively, reach Seiran’s home-base on their own time, irrespective of her current restlessness. She had even, in the acquired leeway, had a good, Earthen dinner rather than a sugary biscuit or five from the forever diminishing stack of MREs.

A nice, beef-stock, Spring soup with onions and carrots and whatnot. Greasy, unwholesome, delicious whatnot.

And to feature that, fewer than a dozen cycles back, she wouldn’t have poked meat stew with the butt of her mochi mallet. These days she felt under the gun if her portable soup case rattled too hollowly when disturbed. And, where it may’ve begun in linguistic confusion (and, disturbingly, no straightaway retching) on another outing with Ringo, it hadn’t settled into a habit till Seiran had unearthed from the detritus of the outdoor, cooking area in the yard an old, wrinkled recipe book. The book had contained upon a time many an etching-resplendent and handily flammable page of Earthen wisdom; to Seiran, however, who had found it in its state of decline, the book had imparted primarily this: a yellowed formula for soup you may store in your pockets. And store it there, the author avowed, for “winters and winters and winters.”

Questionable retention solutions aside, Seiran’s professional doubt had been piqued; and so, not too long after, the Moon rabbit had been dumping discounted cuts of dead animal into a cauldron she had chained up on a hook over the weather-beaten, open-flame woodstove. There eventually she’d been discovered by a pair of homecoming neighbours, farmhands of closer or farther description, whose faintly nose-flicking tones, once they’d spoken, had been only too known to rookie Seiran.

“Whoa, Miss dango,” one had called right out, as it were, the gate. “Cooking for the whole fluffle, there?”

Veteran Seiran hadn’t risen to the bait. “Making portable soup, thanks.”

This’d caused a measure of hushed consternation in the rude pair. Ultimately, with a timid look of the miraculously converted and their straw hats held off in their hands, they had approached the bustling “Miss dango.

“… If we chipped in, Miss,” one had submitted for her kind consideration, “say, would you let us twos have some? The butcher hereabouts owes me a favour; we could be round with some choice bits in two shakes of, pardon me, a tail. Would be most thankful, Miss. Most thankful.”

“Hear, hear,” the other had agreed. “Bloody pain to make, portable soup. But bloody handy, too. Make a muggy right out afield if some’n but brings a kettle.”

More eager concurrence had ensued. “Too right, too right. Keeps you spry in the cold, a muggy. Well, Miss? Will you, nill you?”

Taken more than an inch aback, Seiran had acceded. And, a couple more shakes of the tail (hers) than two afterwards, a whole beef shank, several pig’s feet and about a fistful of condiments from another neighbour tipped off in the meanwhile had been floating in the cauldron. Later yet, Seiran had strained the done broth, put it back on the fire, picked clean the tender, savoury meat left over and, since she’d been Seiran even then, dispensed it among a number of small, clay bowls earmarked for the communal kitchen. It had been well dusking by when she’d wiped her hands on the apron and hollered, “Supper’s served! Come one, come all!” over her shoulder.

Curious faces had peered out the dosshouse’s seven occupied doors. They’d been soon pursued by the peckish rests of Seiran’s unsophisticated neighbours.

The spontaneous eat-together would last an hour or so into dark: men and women of various, inglorious walks eating and chatting in a cosy huddle, while Seiran had tended the fire in the wings, largely unbothered but for the odd, encomiastic remark. A strange and rare spell of night camaraderie from people who shared, as a rule, only their morning hopes and evening disillusionments.

It had been the safest and most comfortable Seiran had felt ahead or since in their presence.

Come sunrise, the Moon rabbit had cut the floppy, jellied essence out of the cooled cauldron – sliced it as neatly she could – laid the gelatinous pancakes out on a linen sheet and, because a Moon rabbit cook had her advantages over dated, Earthen texts, shut them in an atmospheric regulator box which would usually have housed unfinished rations to re-dehydrate. Four days hence, scraps of leathery, resin-like and, yes, perfectly pocketable soup had been parcelled out around the building.

And another Moon rabbit’s unbelief had been proven false.

Seiran sat up. She looked toward the mirror and found herself staring at a bronzed reflection of a muss-haired sulk who’d borrowed her face.

Frustrated, my fourth point of contact, the rightful Seiran grumbled inside. She was jealous, not frustrated. She was jealous because a psychically dull human had read she hadn’t been her best and acted on it with more tact than she herself had at first discerned. That was it. She wasn’t frustrated because he had denied her his company. No. She was ashamed to have been shown up. Shown up and patronised. And, by a human, no less. A ham-handed, human male.

What did that make her? What did that make Seiran, the Eagle Ravi? The Moon elite?

Frustrated in earnest, that was what.

Seiran tugged the compression bands out of her ponytail. There’d been no time earlier in the supposedly off-day’s un-leisurely rush, but perhaps now she could do her privately cherished asset justice. She crawled lengthwise the bed and slumped down the edge and into her trunk for the combs and brushes necessary. If she was to fritter the evening away, she’d if nothing else look the lovelier for the waste. Yes.

But, you know, she thought, slithering back up with her hygiene kit. You do know, right, Seiran? Maybe it needn’t be that. Ringo isn’t wrong. You and he aren’t as far apart. Not anymore. This is your common war, now. This life. You are here, aren’t you?

I am here.

Maybe, then. Maybe a man and Moon rabbit may struggle together. Treating and complimenting each other as peers, pride removed.


Then morning came and proved her false on that too.
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