The thin man leans over the table among the cluttered stacks of paper and tools. Stroking his chin with his thumb and forefinger, his eyes flicker an inch left and right, studying the information before him. His chest rises and falls once, a long, slow breath as his sorts his thoughts. With a curious hum, he nods his head and clears his throat. Despite being alone in the room, he speaks to himself.
"I don't understand."
Before him are several papers. Reports of happenings around the large village where he works at. At a glance, the reports don't seem related. A child's words about a snake. A woman who saw a youkai in the sky. A man who spotted a group of fish swimming through a river. Some events are more uncommon than others, but each of them aren't a cause for concern.
"No, each one isn't a problem."
But rather, it's all of them together that hints at something.
"When life is created, it creates others. When life fades, others fade as well. Therefore, when life moves, then others should move. A similar reaction, but I wouldn't say I know for certain."
That conclusion is already uncertain. But if we assume that to be true, then....
"If that's true, a movement of this degree would be...."
Yes. If this much can be noticed by someone like me, then something must have happened. Something large. But what?
"Hey. Kaiun. Are you here?"
Hm. How long has it been since I've felt this much surprise? But that would be it. This would be what happened. Still with a degree of uncertainty, but it would be a good guess.
With a brief turn, the man named Kaiun faces the woman who spoke at the entrance to his workplace. The clothes of a shrine maiden fit snug around her chest, all the way over her hips. Her foot taps, bare in the red sandal, impatient. Her arms stay crossed. She waits for the man to speak, as though her being there is a normal occurrence.
"Setsuri. It's been a while." Without a smile or a frown, Kaiun nods at the shrine maiden. "I hope you haven't brought unneeded attention to yourself on your way here."
Setsuri hangs her head while still staring at Kaiun, with what appears to be a glare in her eyes. "Depends who you're talking about. If you're talking about the villagers, they couldn't keep their eyes off me. Like I was dead.”
“I thought that was to be expected, though?”
The lids of the shrine maiden’s eyes lower a hair. But she continues.
”If you're talking about youkai, it still depends who you're talking about. Because I've sensed a bunch of 'em on the way here."
"And you haven't gone to see your daughter?"
"And you haven't seen yours?" The shrine maiden's forehead scrunches. "I see the Kirisame shop is has some different things from when I was here last."
"It's changed, for certain. I wouldn’t say any of the items have." Kaiun Kirisame looks around at the shop and cluster of items. "Though the Hakurei shrine has stayed the same since you've been gone."
"Yeah. Because I'm supposed to be dead.” Setsuri speaks without restraint. “And I haven't been there yet. Got some business to take care of."
"Oh? You resume your duties quickly."
"Don't play dumb, Kaiun." Setsuri huffs through her nose. "You know that I know you know something's up. And we both know something's wrong. I shouldn't be here. You know I shouldn't be here. I was relaxing until I fell asleep and found myself in Gensokyo again."
"And how is your husband?" Kaiun asked, as though the conversation is as normal as it isn't.
"Not here. And your wife?"
"She's doing well. I think she's forgiven me for letting Marisa go."
"Then it's just me, then." Setsuri concludes her suspicions. "Or at least, only on my side of the family. Should probably see Yukari and ask if she knows what's going on."
“Oh? You know where she lives?”
The shrine maiden's headache starts again. Dealing with this man was always a bit of a pain. You can’t underestimate him. Assume he’s thought things through, because he has. Then I always have to figure him out. Not that it's hard. I could do it back then, and I can still do it now. Good to see he's not any different. Her eyes look down and up, his attire consisting of a white and blue, various flowers embroidered along the cloth.
"Would you be able to meet with her?" Kaiun strokes his chin again.
"You'll be able to see her." The shrine maiden yawns, hand over her mouth. Her eyes stare at Kaiun, looking as though she were irritated. "Especially if I'm with you."
The male Kirisame walks back to the table of papers. Hmm. So Setsuri has a theory already. I suppose it would help to gather more information with her. I believe everyone would recognize her, seeing as she hasn't changed since she left. My hope is that she won’t let her impulses get away from her. Effective. Respectable. Much like her daughter. But she’ll likely find resistance with many of the newer youkai. And resistance may distort information.
Setsuri wraps her hands around the back of her head. She tightened the red band tying her ponytail, then fans her face with one hand.
As soon as she sees the man take a step forward, the shrine maiden turns and leaves. Kaiun pulls at the collar of his clothes as the sun’s rays warm his chest through the fabric. Outside, the two follow the path through the village.
"Are you sure you don't want to see Reimu?" Kaiun waves to two villagers passing by, who gawk at the person walking beside him.
"What for?" The shrine maiden sniffs, rubbing her nose. She raises an eyebrow at the two villagers. "It's not like she's involved."
"She will be, if it concerns you."
"Yeah, but that's a pain."
The irritation grinds inside the shrine maiden's mind.
It's not like I haven't thought of that. It just makes more sense to go to Yukari first. She better know what's going on, or she better tell me who to go to. Why waste time looking around when we could go straight to the god damned mother youkai in Gensokyo? On that note....
"By the way." Setsuri catches Kaiun's eye as she turns to him. "We could stop by your daughter's house. You know, ‘cause it's on the way. Forest of Magic?"
"I wasn't aware you knew." The male blinks wide. The shrine maiden rolls her eyes at the feigned surprise.
"You still hear things when you're dead. And I hear she's grown up."
"Then let's go see her."
"I thought you didn't want to involve other people?"
"Well, she won't be if you're seeing her."
Kaiun begins to think while staring straight forward.
True. Though it still won't change the fact that Marisa will be surprised to meet someone who's supposed to be dead. Which will involve her. Her curiosity is likely to see to that.
Still in thought, Kaiun thinks until the shrine maiden hisses in her throat.
"Fine, I got it. The shrine'll be fair game too. That okay with you? Let's just go somewhere and go from there. Though we'll probably be more productive heading to Yukari."
"That would be a good start."
Character select. Can be changed on occasion.
But thoughts can only focus on one.
As well as their actions.
 Setsuri Hakurei - The maiden of reality
 Kaiun Kirisame - The magician of truth
The destination is....
 Yukari's place
 Hakurei shrine
 Forest of Magic
[x] Setsuri Hakurei - The maiden of reality
[x] Hakurei Shrine
“Let’s go to the shrine, then.”
Setsuri holds her breath and freezes, but doesn’t argue with the man.
“This mean you’re going to fly?” She raises an eyebrow while both of them stop and turn the other way.
“Unfortunately, I still can’t.”
He doesn’t need to. He’s actually fine walking. But we’re going to do it like old times, then.
“Alright, stick close.”
Putting two of her fingers together, Setsuri raises then swipes them downward, all while her arm still hangs by her side. A subtle gesture. At the same time, she and Kaiun begin to hover off of the ground.
The shrine maiden’s eyes glance at the man’s posture, toward his feet. Well. He’s not unbalanced, or showing any signs of distress. So he’s not unused to this, even now. Setsuri flies off toward the shrine, Kaiun beside her.
“So what do you plan to say?”
The fingers on Setsuri’s fist twitch. She glances back at the man beside her, eyes narrowed.
“I said I didn’t want to go. Why do you think I’d have something prepared to say?”
“Because it’s Reimu.”
“Because she’s the shrine maiden?”
Kaiun stares straight ahead, not responding.
A puff of hot air blows out of Setsuri’s mouth. Great. Why did I ever allow us to go to the shrine as an option? Kaiun better not expect me to persuade her to do anything….
“I don’t know why you came to me first.” Kaiun speaks. “I’m sure Reimu would’ve been a better choice.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Setsuri doesn’t turn while answering. “It’s not a question of power, I’m sure you know. Not that you’re lacking there. I’d still rather have you than Reimu. If only because she’s like me.”
“I see. We don’t need to be concentrated, after all.”
“That,” The shrine maiden glances down at the youkai passing by below, “and she doesn’t need me around to babysit anymore. As I’m sure you’re aware of.”
“I’ve heard quite a bit of her adventures.”
With the shrine in the distance, Setsuri can already see the red and white figure sweeping the grounds. She could also see her daughter stare up at the two of them. Another sigh blew up against the hair over her forehead.
Time to do this. Flying over the shrine’s gate, she and Kaiun land on the stone path.
Reimu had long stopped sweeping. She blinks at Kaiun, then at her mother.
“Hey.” Setsuri waves at her daughter.
She’s thinking. If I wasn’t with Kaiun, she probably wouldn’t have stood still. Even with him, I’m not expecting her to leap into my arms or anything.
“…Should I make tea?” Reimu props her broom on its head with one hand.
“Probably. I’m sure you have questions.”
“You bet I do.”
With a curt turn, Reimu heads inside the shrine. With a breath out, Setsuri looks around the shrine.
“Sure has changed.”
“Should it not have?” Kaiun looks around in the other direction. “Although I haven’t been here for a while, either. Quite interesting.”
“Yeah. Very.” Setsuri glances around at the presences nearby. “I don’t mind that more people have moved in. But it could do with a bit more cleaning.”
“She enjoys living life to its fullest.”
“Doesn’t mean you can’t do more for the things around you.” Setsuri tips her head toward the shrine. “Let’s go.”
At the very least, I didn’t come by while the shrine was destroyed. Or during a party. I wouldn’t like drawing that much attention that quickly. If anyone wants to come out, it’s fine. It’s just more of a pain when there’re more around.
Setsuri shakes off the urge to check the surroundings for the moment. Just before walking into the shrine, she peeks into the donation box.
“Oh?” Kaiun glances with her. “There are donations?”
“Nah. Just as much as I thought.” Setsuri stops after peering in for a second. “That of all things hasn’t changed.”
“She does well, at least.”
“She does well, with the help of others.” She extends the meaning for him. “The only aspect that should be achieved by herself. But it’s not easy, seeing as that’s a whole other matter of work.”
“And as you can see, she’s learned to be reserved.”
“Because it’s a very special case.” Setsuri’s voice lowers before sitting by the entrance. She sits facing the gate, legs over the edge, while Kaiun kneels beside her.
The older shrine maiden’s eyes shift as a tray clicks on wood to her left. On the other side of the tray, Reimu sits with her legs unfolded, just like her mother. Setsuri leans over to handle one cup of clear, green tea, handing it to Kaiun on her right. As Reimu takes a second, smaller cup, Setsuri takes the third. Blowing twice, the young shrine maiden talks, looking into her cup.
“So, what’s going on?”
Setsuri pinches her cup with her thumb and forefinger, leaning back and propping herself with her other hand.
“Ah, you know, probably that. An incident.”
The older shrine maiden could feel the moment her daughter’s eyebrows lowered.
“Ah, how troublesome. How annoying.” Reimu grumbles.
“You tell me. Are you going to get involved?”
With a burst of a sigh, the younger shrine maiden’s fingers rub against her cup.
“How can I not be?”
“If you do,” Kaiun finishes sipping from his, “I recommend checking around the human villages.”
“Why?” Setsuri says before drinking once.
The man sips once more before going on. “I simply have a feeling Reimu will run into things we may not. Also, it would help to spread out in our search, as the incident is fairly recent.”
“Hey.” Reimu leans over. “Isn’t that a death flag?”
“Oh?” Kaiun also leans over to meet her stare. “Did you want to come with us?”
Something settles inside of Setsuri’s stomach. He has a point. Besides Reimu complaining, it’s a matter of getting information quicker. Kaiun and I can handle everything that comes at us, so there’s no point. Still.
“I get it.” Reimu closes her eyes, sitting straight. She drinks again before speaking. “But I’m not comfortable with having my mom going around Gensokyo. I mean, what if you get into trouble with someone? Like I’d want to go saving her in case something happens.”
Somewhere, a fairy dies.
Just who do you think you’re talking about, brat.
Even Kaiun maintains his silence as a small gulp of a hiccup peeps from Reimu’s mouth. However, he speaks after the atmosphere changes.
“Regardless of what Setsuri decides to do,” He flicks his eyes in Reimu’s direction, “she’s bound to get attention sooner or later. After all, she’s your mother.”
Yeah, I get it. So if I do decide to throttle Reimu, I’m probably going to attract some people. That’ll spread as information through Gensokyo, some way or another. Good or bad, I can’t say. Kaiun’s taken that into consideration. But Reimu hasn’t caught on, yet.
“Th-That doesn’t mean she has to go anywhere. Won’t that attract more attention?” Reimu goes on. Setsuri can almost see the sweat that’s about to appear. “I mean, she’s my mom. I just don’t want to see her getting hurt.”
Setsuri continues looking forward as Reimu turns to her mother. Kaiun takes another sip of tea.
Putting things lightly. Or using threatening words. I’m not too great with those. Yeah, my daughter takes after me alright. We don’t try to pretty things up with flowery words. We don’t let people off easily if they do something wrong. Sure, we might have something to say. So she should know best that when one of us gets angry, we take action.
Setsuri raises her hand. Reimu watches. She flinches when the hand lowers, but instead feels the palm of her mother’s hand petting her head. The younger shrine maiden opens her eyes, the hairs in her vision shuffling left and right.
“Put your cup down first.”
Kaiun turns a blind eye for a moment, sipping from his cup again.
“I said,” Setsuri smiles at her daughter, “put your cup down.”
“Your cup. Down.”
After two stunned seconds, Reimu places her cup to her left without looking away from her mother. With the hand still petting her head. Left and right. Without letting go of her daughter, Setsuri stands.
“Could you stand up?”
With sealed lips, Reimu does what her mother asks. The fear shivers from the younger shrine maiden’s eyes.
“Do you know why we came here in the first place?”
Reimu doesn’t answer.
“Well?” The anger creeps into Setsuri’s smile.
“N-No. I do not know.”
“I actually didn’t want to come, because I didn’t want to get you involved.”
“But I did come. Because maybe it’d be a good thing to see my daughter after so many years.”
Someone’s watching. More than one. But I don’t care.
Behind her, Kaiun takes a sip of tea. Setsuri clenches her other hand into a fist, hidden from Reimu.
 Teach her a danmaku lesson.
 Let her off with a light punishment. A light punishment. Lightly.
The younger shrine maiden doesn’t ask, aware of what’s about to occur. Her body jittering in her retreat, Reimu flies back toward the shrine grounds. Facing her daughter, Setsuri does the same.
“So you don’t think I can defend myself, do you?” She rises level with Reimu in the air.
“That’s not what I—”
Reimu’s eyes widen as she ducks her head left. A sizzle rises from the side of her hair. The red danmaku ball whirs into the distance, and Setsuri lowers her outstretched palm.
“Fight, Reimu. You know how these rules work more than I do.”
“That doesn’t mean—”
Reimu shoots her body left. A line of bullets fire in succession.
The anger fuels Setsuri’s excitement. Warning shots. That’s what they are.
“Fight back, Reimu.” The older shrine maiden flicks the fingers of her hand with her thumb. “Or else I’m going to cause an incident right here.”
Reimu tightens her lips. After three seconds, she whips out her gohei and waves it twice in front of her. Two sigil-filled barriers float forward, each as large as the shrine maiden who created them.
“That’s the spirit.” Setsuri pushes forward with her foot against the air. “But spirit alone doesn’t make great barriers!”
Thrusting her foot forward, she sees Reimu open her eyes in surprise before moving to her right. One of the barriers bursts as her foot crashes through. Without looking at the other, Setsuri punches downward in its direction while keeping her eyes on Reimu. With a sound like cracking wood, the second barrier shatters despite the little attention it received before Setsuri destroyed it.
“Don’t go easy on me.” Raising a hand, two of her fingers come together and begin to move, as though drawing stars. “Show me how great it is to danmaku!”
Rearing that hand back, she punches into the symbols she drew.
A large, white colored fist extends. The flat side of the fist slams into Reimu, who tumbles backward before straightening herself. When she raises her head, her mother stands leaning forward in front of her. Reimu leans back to avoid the uppercut, swinging her gohei upwards. Dozens of square talismans spread out. Though firing in random directions, they home in on Setsuri from behind her.
Homing danmaku? That’s a lot of fun. But.
With that laugh, Setsuri swings her right leg behind her. Though her the back of her foot doesn’t touch any of the incoming talisman bullets, the force of the kick tears them into pieces. The older shrine maiden spins back forward. She spots Reimu farther back than she was before. Now above Kaiun sitting in the shrine, Setsuri grins at her daughter.
With a frustrated scowl, the younger shrine maiden whips out a piece of paper.
Hakurei Technique 「Complex Barrier」
An orb-like barrier surrounds Reimu. It grows larger, spreading out as the orb becomes many. Overlapping, they fire out from their point of origin. Laughing three times, Setsuri flies higher into the air. After taking a couple of seconds to observe, she flies downward. Zipping through the gaps of half a dozen barriers, the shrine maiden lunges toward the center. Reimu’s mouth drops in shock, then leaps to the side. A thunderous boom rings out as Setsuri passes by her daughter.
Setsuri flies backward. Reimu swings her gohei and fires several waves of danmaku, each more difficult than the last. The older shrine maiden flies over and around the shots. None of the danmaku graze her, despite not moving more than a few meters in her space.
The battle high runs through Setsuri’s limbs. Yeah, it’d be pretty hard to dodge if I was her age. Or someone in this generation.
“But if you’re really the shrine maiden of Gensokyo.” She clenches her fists.
Reality Sign 「Cruel Enlightenment」
“You need to be able to exert just as much power as you have!”
Bursting a small cry, Setsuri spreads her arms and spins several times. Rings of thin danmaku shoot in waves, firing from the back of her hands. Reimu leaps and flies under the rings. With each successive pass, the speed of the rings catches up to her movements. A few of the danmaku of one ring slams into her arm. The impact flips her backwards in place, just before a red blur flashes in front of her. The pale white of Setsuri’s fist slams down onto Reimu’s head.
Wincing, Reimu falls toward the ground. Setsuri laughs into a grin, chasing after her daughter. A body’s length before they reach the ground, Setsuri reaches out with both arms. A swift pull and a turn later, the older shrine maiden carries Reimu in her arms.
“Alright, alright!” Reimu rubs the top of her head.
Holding her daughter under her arms, Setsuri drops her daughter upright into the air. The young shrine maiden steadies herself, then lands on the ground. She wobbles for a moment, her rubbing hand falling down her cheek.
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way.” Reimu grumbles in defeat, glancing up at her mother. “But I did mean what I said. If you get hurt, I don’t know what I’d do.”
Setsuri puffs out a sigh.
Walking up to the younger shrine maiden, she drops her hand on her daughter’s head. “Just need to make sure you don’t get too crazy. If the Hakurei name gets disgraced because of one cocky person, we’d never hear the end of it.”
“Look who’s talking.” Reimu grumbles.
“What was that?”
Reimu’s eyes stare down at the ground.
Setsuri pats her daughter’s head two more times before she hears Kaiun walk behind her. She turns to face the man. Four fairies sit where she and Reimu had been drinking tea earlier, now drinking from said cups.
“Who’re they?” Setsuri’s eyes flick at the fairies behind Kaiun. The man rubs his chin, looking and turning back the other direction.
“Several fairies who live in the area. It seems they’ve noticed some oddities in Gensokyo as of late.”
If Kaiun says that, then it’s something to look out for.
“What is it, then?” Setsuri glances at Reimu, who passes by with an angry scowl as she walks over to the fairies.
“From what I believe, it appears that we have some other unintended residents in Gensokyo.”
“No, I believe they are. Or at least one, if not all.”
“What? Who are they, then?”
“That, I would not know. Not until we run into them.”
“But you have an idea of who they are?”
“Only that they have relations to actual residents of Gensokyo.” Kaiun glances over at Reimu as the shrine maiden shouts at the fairies. “At least, from where they were spotted at present.”
“’At present’, huh?”
So they’re moving around, too. But more importantly.
“If you know who they might be,” Setsuri crosses her arms, “mind telling me?”
Kaiun’s head bobs up and down, as though the idea had just struck him. “Of course. It might even be beneficial, as one of them is going where you had planned to go in the first place.”
“Yukari?” Setsuri raises an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware she had relatives.”
Setsuri snorts in laughter.
“In actuality, it seems so.” Setsuri could swear Kaiun was about to laugh. The man continues without doing so. “A boy. From what they told me, human. If anything, from the outside world. That may be a large cause of the events here. A contradiction, if anything.”
“You sure it’s not a girl? I mean, I heard rumors….”
“I don’t think it’s anyone I’ve heard of. That’s all I know. But with that said,” Kaiun goes on, “there is a woman headed toward the Scarlet Devil Mansion.”
“I heard about that place. What, the vampires’ mom?”
“In actuality, it seems there is another case. That of the maid, from what I suspect.”
“The maid. The maid.” Setsuri repeats. Then, she tilts her head and lowers her eyebrows. “Wait, really? You mean that girl? Sakura?”
“Sakuya.” Kaiun corrects her. “What her connection is with that person, I cannot be certain. But I have a hunch it may also be familial.”
A hunch, huh?
“The last and third sighting is another young boy.” Kaiun says. “Headed toward Moriya Shrine. Not just a branch or one of the statues. The actual shrine.”
“Ah, yeah. And I’m guessing it’s because of another person?”
“The fairies heard from others that he was searching for his sister.”
“So the other shrine maiden then.”
“It would be a good assumption.”
“Then this would be all. Unless you have some other daughter we don’t know of?”
“Ha, ha, ha.”
Setsuri’s breath holds inside of her. A very open laugh that means I don’t want to go further. But without any more jokes. She breathes out.
“We could still head to Marisa.”
“Yes, I suppose we could.” The calm returns to Kaiun’s voice. “If anything, to let her know that Reimu will be investigating about this event.”
“Hm?” Setsuri blinks, then frowns. “Oh yeah. That would be the case now, wouldn’t it?”
“That would be like her.”
“Yeah, it would.”
No doubt about that. I don’t even need to ask. Setsuri looks over at Reimu, who floats to her and Kaiun.
“I’ll be headed out then, Mom.”
“Where to?” Setsuri smacks her tongue in her cheek.
“Remilia’s place. Closest place to get information from.”
Remilia’s. Ah, that mansion, then.
With that and a short bow to Kaiun, Reimu heads off into the sky. Setsuri turns back to the four fairies hovering toward her.
“So?” The shrine maiden raises an eyebrow. “Where’re you guys headed?”
“We’re.” Says Sunny Milk.
“Headed.” Says Luna Child.
“To.” Says Star Sapphire.
“Marisa’s.” Clownpiece flat pans.
Kaiun’s eyes blink wider. “Oh? You have business with my daughter?”
“Nah.” Clownpiece waves a hand forward. “I think these guys are just going to play their pranks.”
“I’ve got a good one today.” Sunny Milk hops in place mid-air.
Luna Child nods with her. “I think it’ll work out fine.”
“Probably.” Star Sapphire finishes.
“Have fun then.” Setsuri waves as well, twice with the back of her hand.
With their own nods, the four fly off toward the Forest of Magic. Flicking her fingers, Setsuri prepares to leave as well.
“Well then,” She turns to Kaiun, “where to?”
“Yes, that’s the question, isn’t it?” He chuckles twice.
 Setsuri Hakurei
 Kaiun Kirisame
 Yukari’s place
 Forest of Magic
 Scarlet Devil Mansion
 Youkai Mountain - Moriya Shrine
“It would be a good idea to go somewhere where one of the three people are going. You know, for answers.”
“Then,” Kaiun says, “allow me to ask if we can go to the mountain.”
The shrine maiden blinks. “Sure. Mind if I ask why?”
“I thought we needed someplace to go?”
Setsuri palms her forehead. The shrine maiden flicks her fingers upward, and Kaiun feels his body lift into the air alongside her.
Deliberation cycles around the Kirisame’s mind. From the descriptions of the fairies, it wouldn’t be a wild guess to say that the boy is that girl’s younger sibling. The more important detail of interest, however, would be the method in which he arrived here. If anything else, the reason behind that method’s success. It could well be that, no matter the likelihood, his coming was coincidence. It isn’t a bad idea to meet him, in any case. Unless he is like his sister.
“So if we run into the kid?” Setsuri asks in preparation.
“I wonder if it’s best to let him explain, after we ask what it is he’s looking for?”
“Then what do we do if we run into those women?”
Kaiun spots the mountain in the distance. “Are you assuming he’s already gotten past the foot of the mountain?”
“I’m more worried about who I’m asking about.”
“I see.” Kaiun takes a few seconds to consider the shrine maiden’s worry.
Not that she’s actually worrying. But none of the youkai of the mountain should be able to harm the boy. Not because they aren’t able to, but because of the repercussions of the actions they’ll take. Unless it’s not actually youkai of the mountain. But to Setsuri’s question.
“I think I’ll have something to say.”
In other words, I think I’ll be able to keep the situation from getting out of control. I also appreciate that Setsuri wishes to take responsibility when she can for my sake.
“Please.” Kaiun says before he sees Setsuri’s eyes narrow at something on the mountain’s path. “Did you spot him?”
“Yeah.” The shrine maiden scans the ground, flying toward the ground.
On a path below the trees, Kaiun’s eyes follow Setsuri’s.
His curiosity rises. Is it innocence or observation? The boy is certainly not as old as Marisa. More than half her age? Perhaps his motivation spurs him to walk forward as though taking a stroll. His clothes…not from Gensokyo. His legs and forearms are bare, prepared for a journey in the warm sun. He notices something below him…no, he’s bending over to tie his shoes. After a flick of the tongue, he wipes his brow, fixing the red hat over his black hair again. Maybe I’ll inquire about hair color another time, if he isn’t related to her.
“Excuse me.” Kaiun calls out.
First, the boy jumps in surprise, his arms bend to his waist. His head turns. Then, he sighs in relief.
“Y-You scared me.” He lowers his arms, raised in defense. “I thought a youkai was coming for me for a second.”
“How do you know we aren’t?” Setsuri lands, a hand on her hip.
The boy points at Setsuri’s chest. The shrine maiden raises an eyebrow for a moment before he speaks.
“I don’t think, unless you’re in disguise, a shrine maiden would be a youkai.”
“Fair enough.” Kaiun raises his hand closest to Setsuri. “We are also humans traveling around. Can I ask why you’re here? You don’t seem to be from Gensokyo.”
“Anyone can tell, can’t they?” The boy twists his mouth as he looks down at his clothes.
“If it were a bit longer ago,” Setsuri walks up to him, “you’d probably be food by now.”
With a quick puff of air through his nose, the boy looks up at the two. “Yeah, I’m from outside. I came to visit my sister.”
“I assume she’s a shrine maiden?” Kaiun strokes his chin, a quick glance in the shrine’s direction.
“May I ask what your name is?”
“Akikazu Kochiya.” The boy answers. “Everyone always calls me `Aki`.”
Kaiun notices Setsuri’s head jerk up at the path ahead.
“I assume it’s them?”
“Yeah.” Setsuri confirms for a second time.
But that would make sense.
Kaiun nods once, stepping beside Setsuri as two figures approach. Both fly just above the path ahead, and the green-haired shrine maiden in front lands first.
The boy rushes three steps before throwing himself into her embrace. Sanae puts her hands on his shoulders after the short hug, looking at his face. Landing just behind her is a shorter girl.
A goddess in disguise.
“Well.” Suwako presses her fists on her hips as she stares down at Akikazu, then at Setsuri and Kaiun. “This is awkward.”
At first, she glances over Setsuri to stare at Kaiun again. But her attention snaps back to Setsuri.
“Whoa. Reimu. You have boobs now.”
“Allow me to introduce you,” Kaiun can feel the frozen stare beside him, “this is Reimu’s parent, Setsuri.”
“Yeah, I kind of thought as much.” Suwako glances back at Akikazu and Sanae for a moment, who exchange words between each other. Then, she looks back at Kaiun. “So what’s going on?”
“That is what we wish to know.” Kaiun bows for a few seconds. “Although I would have wagered the other would have accompanied Sanae instead.”
Suwako snickers into her sleeve, before swiping her arm back at her side.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m taking care of the easy job. She’s the one running around trying to figure out the politics of what’s happening.”
“Would you be so kind as to inform us where?”
“Hmmm. I would have thought Reimu or Marisa would have gone to us first.”
“Reimu has started her investigation at the mansion. Unfortunately,” Kaiun smiles, bowing an inch, “I haven’t had the opportunity to visit my daughter.”
Suwako maintains her narrowed stare at Kaiun. After a few seconds, she frowns a hair’s length.
“Before anything else, I have to say. Marisa’s quite the interesting human. But I wouldn’t be able to connect the dots, to put it simply.”
That’s good to hear.
“I take it your kid’s going to be poking around too, then?” Setsuri’s voice barks beside Kaiun. Suwako’s eyes flick over to the shrine maiden, before she grins at Kaiun.
“Are you sure she’s not Reimu?”
“I take it she’s correct, though?” Kaiun follows through.
With a heavy sigh, Suwako glances back at Sanae and Akikazu, who turn to the three. “It’s a problem, all right. Sanae, will you be going out?”
“But what about Aki?” Sanae’s eyes cut to the boy, who looks around at everyone.
“Yes, what about him.” The grim tone hangs in the goddess’s voice. “Kanako and I will be busy contemplating and deliberating, while Sanae will be out. I don’t think having him in the shrine would be the best choice with how many unknowns there are in this situation. Unless, he can go along with someone?”
The logic solidifies inside of Kaiun. Ah. So that’s why she hasn’t given us her partner’s destination.
Sanae speaks first. “But if I bring Aki with me, won’t he be in danger?”
“I think he’ll be fine with you. But.” Suwako’s eyes turn to Kaiun. “I’m sure these two would be more than capable of taking care of him?”
Does she have an idea? It would be profitable, even if the boy is an unknowing tool. But that would not detract from our goals—
A high whistle rings through the sky. Everyone turns to the direction of the sound, followed by a large ray of light and stars flying in the distance. Even in the bright, blue sky, stars of every color could be seen twinkling in the distance.
“Looks like Marsa’s finally on the move. Or at least,” Setsuri laughs over at Kaiun, “she’s woken up.”
“It seems to be the case.”
“How about it?” Suwako turns her head back to the man. She then looks over at Sanae. “Before you ask, I do think it’ll be safe for little Aki to be with them. Much safer than being alone or with you, I’m guessing. Especially if you get into a fight.”
“Wait, can’t I just go home?” Akikazu glances at everyone again. Then, he thinks to himself with a fist to his chin. “Oh, wait….”
“You probably just got spirited, kid.” Setsuri says. “However you came through, it’s not here anymore.”
“That’s what I’m talking about.” The boy extends his palms outward. “I didn’t get spirited away. I did everything just like I did before….”
Kaiun blinks, while everyone else stares at the source of the words. Before the surprise completely sets in, Kaiun speaks first.
“I assume your offer stands?” He looks over at Suwako, whose eyes stuck open no matter how long she froze. She closes her eyes, then turns her head to Kaiun.
“…Yes, that would only be fair, wouldn’t it?”
“Wait, Aki, what did you mean—?”
“Leave it, Sanae.” Suwako interrupts the shrine maiden. “I think you should prepare to head out soon. Of course, that’ll still depend on whether or not Aki’s going with you, or with them.”
Setsuri grabs the man’s attention.
“We’re really going to take the kid? He’ll just slow us down, won’t he?”
“As practical as always.” Kaiun speaks out loud. “But so are information and people.”
With a relenting sigh, the older shrine maiden shrugs. “Whatever you say. I’ll trust you.”
Time passes as we deliberate on our course of action. Not that there is a strict limit on our time, but we must recognize that others move as we do. Whether others’ actions may have good or bad consequences is unknown. We must keep that in mind, as I’m sure Setsuri realizes by now. There may be obstacles to face after this point. Many humans and youkai may have noticed the incident by now. We’ll be spending more time at each location if so.
Kaiun looks over at Akikazu, who bows to the man.
“Nice to meet you, sir. If I’m going to go with you, I want to let you know I can’t fight. But…I’m sure I can help in other ways! And I’ll stay out of trouble!”
I don’t know if Setsuri knows, but this boy is more intelligent than he appears. If he indeed did find a way to come to Gensokyo on his own…that alone should speak for itself. But one thing I am certain Setsuri hasn’t thought of yet is the degree of Akikazu’s involvement with this incident. Not in terms of being a culprit or his existence being a factor, but rather if his being here is entirely coincidental. The truth may be simple. But that doesn’t mean there is more than one truth running concurrent to another. And to reiterate, the boy himself is quite shrewd. He may exhibit the traits of a young boy his age, but that does not subtract from his value as an individual.
“It would help out. If you took him with you guys.” Suwako says as Kaiun nods.
Let’s not forget about that, either. More than a matter of information are the repercussions of dealing with her. I don’t think it’s anything major. Setsuri may have sensed something abnormal, but I don’t think it will affect us during this incident or in the future. The more decisive variable is knowing where else we can go to investigate. If the people we are looking for are still moving around Gensokyo, it may help if we have another place to go for clues. We may even run into one of them. Though at this point, I don’t think that would be a likely case at all.
“I guess…if you two are as strong as you look,” Sanae takes a deep breath, “then it would be alright for Aki to go with you. He would be much safer than anything else, I admit.”
“I’ll try not to cause trouble!”
 Accept Suwako’s proposal and bring Aki with you.
 Decline Suwako’s proposal and leave Aki with Sanae.