You wake up once again to the same somewhat-bright shapelessness in a soft bed. Birds chirp from out the window and you can hear the faint sound of village chatter in the distance, as well as smell the tea that Keine is having for the morning.
You sit up, letting the sheets fall away and groping around the table you know to be beside the bed for your folded shirt. Your fingers brush against the familiar fabric and you pull it towards you, not expecting the weight that you didn’t know was on it give way and topple to the floor.
You wince, more because the curse was shouted so loudly than the impact sounded incredibly painful, and tentatively reach down, hoping that what you feared would happen would not happen.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
“Jesus!” You withdraw your hand, cradling your now-sore finger as Seki “hmph!”s and floats her way out with a creak of the door.
Putting on your shirt, you can’t help but sigh.
“Not this shite again…”
Neither you nor Akane really knew where you were going, but you didn’t run into your friend anymore after whatever it was that you went through after you asked her why people hated her.
Thankfully, your fruitless wandering paid-off when Rin, the Kasha you met before, nervously called out to you after responding to complaints from the maids-you-never-knew-were-there about a ‘scary shinigami-person’ wandering the halls.
It occurs to you that you’ve never thought to admit that you’re not really a shinigami to her (you still have no idea what the hell that’s supposed to be). You assumed that Satori would’ve told her.
In any case, she guided you from the lower levels of the palace to the main entrance again, stopping by Satori’s room at your request so that you can say goodbye before you leave.
“I’m terribly sorry that my sister put you through all that,” she said. “Take some time to acclimate yourself with your memories before you come back. It would be unfortunate if you were to suffer a mental breakdown during the next session.”
You would hate for that to happen as well.
Rin informed you that the two of you are in the main foyer. With Akane, you wouldn’t have any trouble seeing yourself out so you thank her and do just that. You tried not to react when she let out an audible sigh of relief as you leave. Better ask Keine or Seki what the hell a Shinigami’s supposed to be when you meet with them.
Speaking of which…
“I’m sorryyyy!!!” said Kagerou as she all but tackles you as you exit the palace.
“Really?” you blankly asked. This is, what, the second or third time she’s left you alone when she ran away.
She actually whimpered as you say this.
You didn’t have to be able to see to tell that she probably has an expression not unlike a kicked right now. You didn’t really need to see it to know what it looks like since you clearly remember what such as expression looks like not to have you sighing tiredly.
It’s really not, but you didn’t want to be a dick.
Something nudged the side of your arm. Kagerou stepped back as the unmistakable feeling of Sekibanki’s head suddenly shooting into your chest as you turned around.
“You’re an idiot.” she said. “What kind of grown man lets himself get kidnapped by a little girl?!”
You groaned She conveniently left out the fact that the little girl was a youkai who could apparently make you hallucinate.
And to think that the two of you had put that squabble aside the previous night at Sanae’s party.
You hear Keine begin to speak. “Good morning Seki—”
Only to be interrupted by Seki as she storms out of the house and slams the door.
You and Keine sigh at the same time.
“What happened?” she asks you. The accusatory tone is not lost on you and you narrow your eyes in the direction of her voice.
“I put my shirt on.”
The tap of a cup being set down on a table.
“Let me get this straight. Sekibanki just floated out here angry, took her body, stormed out of the house and slammed the door as she left because you put your shirt on?”
That was a mistake.
“After the two of you… Slept together?”
You nod again.
A huge mistake.
...a huge, painful mistake.
“IF YOU TWO ARE GONNA DO THAT THEN GET A ROOM IN THE DAMN INN!!!”
And with that, she—
—storms towards the direction of her room and slams the door.
God save you, she misunderstood.
...does God even have jurisdiction here?
Well, whoever does, then. Your head hurts too much to think about it.
“You better not still be there when I come out!”
But not enough to keep you from gritting your teeth and pushing yourself up. As you do, Akane slithers from wherever she was hiding and up your arm.
“Sure, now you show up,” you mutter as she extends to keep you from falling over again because you think your sense of balance might be scarred.
As you slowly and carefully make your way out of the house, Akane doing her best to support you as you try to affirm that you can, in fact, still walk, you think about what you can do while Keine cools down. Now that you think about it, though, you don’t particularly know how to get around now that both of the guides within reach of you are pissed at you. Perhaps a peace offering is in order? It could double as a Christmas gift (a little late it may be). You probably have enough coins for that?
Akane could probably help you navigate the village, but you don’t know how well she’d handle anything else other than Yuuka’s mansion. Weren’t you supposed to bring her back?
Your first thought is to buy a peace offering/christmas gift for [X]Sekibanki. Then you realize that, in spite of knowing her longer than anyone else you currently know in Gensokyo, you don’t know what sort of gift she’d appreciate. That and you doubt that the merchants here would let you lay your hands on and feel their merchandise so you can identify what it actually is before letting you buy it.
If there’s anything those faint memories of dealing with those merchants at the last port you’ve been to, before everything goes black, is that nobody in this part of the world treated you fairly when you had one eye, so there’s no way in hell they’d do that now that you’ve lost both.
That said, you decide to [X]visit Yuuka. You were supposed to be bringing Akane back to Elly anyway. Maybe she can help you find a gift?
“Guide me to Yuuka’s mansion, please?” you whisper to Akane, remembering that Yuuka had some sort of reputation in the village and that perhaps uttering her name out loud would cause something? You’re not sure. Either way, you’re unescorted and you don’t want to take any chances.
Akane vibrates a little in your hand. When she subtly pulls you forward, you conclude that it was something along the lines of “sure thing.”
It’s still fairly cold out and, since you left Keine’s house in a bit of a hurry, you don’t have your usual traveling cloak on, but the cold is something you don’t particularly mind.
You’re not too fond of the whispers, however. It’s disrespectful and annoying because they think you can’t hear them.
You’re blind. Not deaf. God save you if you were both.
As for the trip? Well, there’s not much to say. You didn’t really have anyone to talk to other than Akane and the fact that you can’t see any of her visual cues severely limits the ways that you two can communicate.
Makes you wonder how Elly does it, to be honest.
She guides you through the village, pulling you in the directions you have to turn until you feel the transition from the harder ground to a more loosely-packed path on your bare feet of a route that nobody walked very often.
Keine mentioned that anybody worth mentioning in this place can fly so you suppose that’s one reason.
Eventually, a familiar scent reaches you, though it’s not as strong as when you first arrived here. Akane guides you through the sunflowers and you walk through until you no longer feel them brushing against you. She taps against a stone step, warning you to watch yours, and she pushes for you to stop.
Slowly, you reach out and come into contact with a wooden door.
And suddenly Akane pushes back hard. You react by stepping back as fast as you can before something you feel something swing past your face—you actually felt the tip graze your nose a bit—and smash into the ground in front of you.
Unfortunately you don’t watch your step and fall after forgetting about the step behind you.
“Jesus!” you shout as you fall backwards and land painfully on your ass.
“Huh? Oh! Hi Wash! It’s Elly, remember? Not that other thing!”
You narrow your eyes at Elly, waiting for it to sink in just what exactly che tried to do to you.
“...O-Oh! Right. Sorry about that.”
Took her long enough.
“How is it that you have such a glare when you can’t even see what you’re glaring at?” she asks as she takes your free hand and helps you back up. You shrug. Even you don’t know how exactly it has that effect on people—the glare comes naturally to you, after all—but that’s not what you wanted to say.. “So why is it that you tried to cut me in half?” you ask, narrowing your eyes further.
“She’s sleeping right now,” Elly quickly adds, no doubt after seeing the confusion mar your glare. That’s about all she says though, as if that were enough to explain everything.
Then again… When you first met Yuuka the other shrine maiden came with complaints about collateral damage.
Out of curiosity, you ask “How bad?”
Wordlessly, Elly takes your hand and guides you to the right side of the entrance and puts your hand up against the wall. Nothing unusual there, just rough brickwork with a crew cracks, most likely from age. Then she moves your hand to the right and the wall disappeared entirely. Your hand through the hole and inside the house, you move around to the side, trying to gauge how wide the hole is. You give up after not hitting anything after seven steps.
You let out a sigh. “Why did I even? I’m going to assume that I’m not getting any seeds today.”
“How rude,” she replies, voice suddenly exaggerated. You have no doubt that she’s pouting. “Here I thought you came to visit me!”
You sigh. “It’s good to see you too, Elly. You look marvelous today.”
Something hard raps against your forehead lightly.
“Nice try, Wash.”
You shrug. It was worth a shot.
“In all seriousness,” you say, presenting Akane in your hand to her.
And Akane is snatched out of your hands without another word and the familiar feeling of your old staff is handed back to you in the same instance.
“Ah, Akane! It’s been too long!”
You hear light sounds of a struggle, as though something was putting up a token effort to wriggle out of a harsh grip.
“I can’t help it! Chasing away nosy Tengu and poisonous dolls just isn’t the same without you!”
The sound of struggles gradually slows to a stop.
“Of course! Do you have any idea how hard it is to hit a tengu with this thing? No stretching, no homing, quick stops by the apple tree without any of those!”
“And don’t get me started on that doll! I can’t exactly go all out knowing that my weapon is vulnerable to her poison now!”
You process that statement and promptly pinch the bridge of your nose.
“God dammit Elly…”
“Where did I go wrong?!” Elly weeps as you gently pat her on the back.
“I think it was the poisonous doll. It sounded like you don’t have a problem exposing her to deadly poisons at all when that sort of thing can’t be good for ordinary weapons. It was quite stupid, actually.”
Then again your words were far from so.
“I would have thought that spending a few years with nobody but each other in a mansion on a hill would foster understanding between its inhabitants,” you muse. “Clearly I was wrong.”
“What kind of encouragement is that supposed to be?!”
“The honest kind.”
“A-Although to be fair, you’ve done an excellent job taking care of my staff!” you quickly add (because it’s true, not because Elly’s about to cry!), feeling along the familiar implement to find that in spite of her supposed use of it to ward off tengu and poisonous dolls, it’s…
Hold on a minute.
“Elly? What’s this?” you ask, holding the staff out.
 You run your hand over a line separating one small segment of the staff from the rest. The staff itself feels hollow up to a certain length.
 You withdraw your finger as you accidentally slide it against the sharp edge at the tip.
 There’s some sort of cloth wrapped around the middle. The staff, now that you think about it, does not feel nearly as firm as it used to.
>Unfortunately you don’t Watch Your Step Thread 4 by V and fall after forgetting about the step behind you. >mfw
Elly's been busy with our staff, huh. [X] You run your hand over a line separating one small segment of the staff from the rest. The staff itself feels hollow up to a certain length.
First two are blade modifications, of the hidden and not-so-hidden variety. I have no idea what the third one is though. Also I've just realized that the Christmas special is canon to the story. Guess that's what I get for speed-reading updates, huh.
Holding the staff out in front of you, [X]you run your hand over a line separating one small segment of the staff from the rest. The staff itself feels hollow up to a certain length. No doubt that if you pull it will pull, something will come out.
“Fine, I should’ve told you,” she admits, “but look on the bright side! Now you’re not completely helpless and weak anymore!”
...a little blunt of her, ain’t it?
“I know that look, Wash. I’d say that makes us even.”
Ah, wait until Akane tells her what went down in the underground.
“In any case, Yuukarin is still sleeping but that doesn’t mean I can’t offer you some tea. Would you like some?”
You would, actually, so you nod. Elly takes your hand and guides you along, humming an indescribable tune as she does, until you both pause. You hear her opening a door and guiding you through a room before opening another door and going through a hall. This repeat several times.
“I don’t recall the tea being this far from the entrance,” you say, remembering the last time you were here.
“Oh, it’s not. We could go there if you wish but I doubt you’d appreciate all the construction sounds.”
You raise a brow in curiosity. Elly must’ve been looking back at you because all she said was “Kappa” as though that was the answer to your mental question regarding construction.
Eventually, after entering another room, Elly stops and the sound of a chair dragging against the floor registers. Reaching out, you grasp it, feeling around until you are able to safely sit while Elly’s footsteps grow farther.
“I won’t be long,” she says, “I’ll just fetch the tea.”
You hear her footsteps wander farther from you until a door opens somewhere and the footsteps fade after the sound of it shutting again and you are left in silence. Cautiously, you reach out, running a hand across the smooth tabletop in a circular motion over the smooth cloth until you brush against smooth ceramic. You reach further, tracing your finger inwards until you grasp the handle of a teacup.
Elly re-enters as you slowly drag the saucer closer to you and an herbal aroma reaches you.
Elly’s footsteps stop beside you. A steady trickle fills the cup in front of you as you follow the sound and smell of tea.
The sound of pouring stops. Elly’s footsteps move away and the pouring resumes farther, no doubt into her own cup.
“Enjoy,” she says, you hear her dragging a chair back for her to sit on.
The tea was, in fact, very good. As should be expected of tea taken from a garden maintained by a flower youkai with years (hundreds? Thousands? You’d rather not ask) of experience in all things plant-like to work with.
And then something explodes in the distance.
“Oh dear,” Elly said, swiftly putting her teacup down.
“Should I be worried?” Something crashes violently somewhere upstairs.
The sound on something else crashing upstairs makes you doubtful.
You prepare to stare—
“Yuuka woke up. She’s not a morning person,” Elly says suspiciously quickly.
You raise your brow.
“Don’t ask,” she says, her chair grinding as she stands. Her footsteps approach you much faster than earlier and you feel her urgently tugging on your arm. You stand—
And whip around towards the sound of the ceiling (at least you think it’s the ceiling) crashing down.
“Oh~?” A familiar-yet-sickeningly-sweet voice says, “An uninvited guest!”
You immediately feel an immense heat from the direction of the voice that you associate with the charging of a shot, but before you can dwell on it further, a sharp whistle pierces through from beside you and you’re suddenly yanked quite painfully aside.
Then, another ‘CRASH’ followed by a sensation that you determine could only be shards of glass bouncing off of you as the wind suddenly picks up and—
More heat? Followed by a sound. You’re not quite sure how to describe it, but you’d say melodious is something that you’d use. And familiar. The first day? That fight between Reisen and Mari—
Your physical state can be summed-up thusly.
To clarify, you’re in the dirt. That much you can tell. Your eyes, while unseeing, have dirt in them. That alone is a highly irritating sensation you have no desire to experience again if you can help it. There is also something soft—a familiar soft—keeping you between it and the ground, but it still hurts.
Oh, and your back feels like it’s been impaled. Several times. Again. That too.
“Yeah, a Master Spark will do that to you,” Elly says from above you. On top of you.
“Well, now we know who was on top last time!”
She says this way too cheerfully for you to comprehend.
“Don’t worry. The pain will be gone is about…….. Now.”
...Huh. That feels much better actually.
“Borders and boundaries sure are tricky, eh?” Elly says. “Lucky there’s such a thing as the boundary between lethal and non-lethal.”
Ah, you remember this. Keine’s history lesson on the border you supposedly crossed to get here.
“Apparently one of those screwed with my head so I wouldn’t know,” you answer, stumbling a bit as you rise until Elly helps by steadying you. “Thanks.”
After making sure you’re stabe, she makes it a point to dust off your shoulders and back. Then she pauses for a moment before you feel something pinch a strand of your hair. What worries you is that it is accompanied by a ‘hiss’ and the sudden loss of a heat you didn’t notice at the top of your head.
The revelation has you sighing.
“Where do you want me to start?” you dejectedly ask. “The part where Sekibanki tried to bite my fingers off, or the part where Keine kicked me out of her house?”
“...what did you do?”
“Why do you assume that it’s my fault?”
Then you hear the faintest of steps closer to you and the slight warmth of breath in front of you. It’s a move you’re not unfamiliar with as the amount of time she spends not doing anything and just staying there telegraphs what she’s trying to do to you. After all, you’ve been doing a lot of since you came to Gensokyo.
Elly’s trying to stare you into submission.
“Nice try,” you say, crossing your arms. “Don’t get too close to your target. They won’t take you seriously.”
The soft crunch of grass as she steps back, sighing.
“And to answer your question, she was sleeping on my shirt and fell off the table. Also, considering how the two of eloping was the first thing to pop into her mind that morning, I’m thinking—and I would never say this if I knew she was anywhere nearby—that Keine might be in heat.”
“She’s a were-cow-thingy, right? I figure that if it happens to Kagerou, it happens to her.”
“Why are you not saying anything?”
The grass crunches again and Elly takes your shoulders and steers you in a certain direction before guiding you forward.
“...Can you at least help me look for a gift for Seki?”
Elly sighs a sigh that you recognize as one you’ve used when the bullshit becomes too much, whether it’s right it front of you or being told to you and making you doubt your own logic.
On one hand, you don’t have any sunflower seeds to snack on as Elly guides you forth. On the other hand, this nets you many “free samples” from the local vendors once you reach the village. You suspect that their spike in Generosity comes from the fact that Elly’s accompanying you and they think that by showing pity, she’ll be more inclined to patronize their stands.
“Well, you’re not wrong,” she says as the two of you snack on some form of squishy dumpling with sweet sauce. “Yuuka likes to frequent the flower shop and frequents the market while she’s here.”
“I thought people were afraid of her for being bloodthirsty?”
“They are, sadly. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t pay for the things she buys though.”
You give her a nod and bite another dumpling off the stick (and damn, did it taste good!) as she guides you along by your shoulders. Initially, she had looped her arm around yours, but then you remembered that not only is Sekibanki likely to still be in the area, Keine lives nearby and you would hate for her to assume that you’ve a new fling on a date.
Now that you think about it, this situation reminds you vaguely of a story you heard from someone once. You can’t exactly remember yet the exact details, but you recall a man on a ship complaining about being locked out of his house until he returned with a gift that required him to take a job on a ship to pay it off.
And here you are, looking for a gift for Sekibanki. Hopefully you won’t end up spending all your coins in one place.
“Speaking of buying things, what did you plan on getting your girlfriend anyway?”
You calmly raise a brow at Elly.
“Well, I’ve only ever seen you before today with her around, so I’d assumed—”
“Elly. We only met once before I came back earlier,” you remind her.
You hear her sigh. “Fine, fine. You do know what to buy her, right?”
If there’s one thing that you have no doubt will always persist in your mind regardless of how fragmented your memories are, it’s that alcohol can solve many, many problems.
Except dehydration. God knows too much of that will do very bad things to a dehydrated man.
So, your mind is set after only a second’s pause to think of something.
You have to remind yourself to say that in a way that didn’t sound like a question, which means you answered roughly half a second after Elly posed the question.
“You only just came up with that, didn’t you?
...though apparently half a second is a very long time in Gensokyo.
“Regardless, know where I can buy some decent drink?” you say, knowing better than to allow her to remain on that train of thought.
“Decent drink that isn’t Sake?”
If the Christmas party was anything to go by the people here drink that stuff like it was water (and compared to some of the old captain’s personal stock, it might as well have been the one used to wash dishes).
“...There are a few places,” Elly says after a moment to think. “I must ask, though. Why alcohol?”
...Hell, that’s supposed to be all the explanation anyone needs! Why is she not indicating her understanding?
“Or part, at least.”
“Do you people know nothing about other countries?”
Again, Elly says nothing.
“...fine. Let’s just call it an inside joke between her and I,” you say.
“...well, I can think of a few places…
 I hear that the local vampires have a nice selection of wine
 I recall Marisa using her potion equipment to brew moonshine for a party once
 There’s this one shop. Lots of things from outside. The owner might have something.
“Well, [X]there’s this one shop. Lots of things from outside. The owner might have something,” Elly says. “Not many visitors, though.”
“...it’s not run by anyone dangerous, is it?”
“Counting the one time the owner tried to take over Gensokyo and create a harem with the most powerful females in the land? Not particularly, no.”
You blink. You don’t consciously have to, but you do it anyway.
“Oh, don’t worry. Apparently it’s because Marisa fed him a new potion she was testing, or so I’ve been told. He got better!”
“No, that’s not it.” It does remind you to never accept anything from Marisa ever again without having someone test it beforehand, so there’s that. “He tried to… that. Whatever you just said. That’s not considered dangerous?”
“M-Moving on!” she shouts in an unsuccessful attempt to steer the topic away from what’s considered dangerous in Gensokyo. “I’m sure we’ll find something nice for your girlfriend there!”
You stare at her.
“You know what I mean. Don’t be like that.”
Of course she does.
“Fine then. Where’s this store located?” you ask she she begins guiding you.
“Right on the edge of the Forest of Magic!”
You don’t know if there are any other forests in Gensokyo so you assume that it’s the same one you came from. The one you remember walking through.
Right before Sekibanki shouted at you for showing up at her door.
“So, feel like telling me about the “take over Gensokyo” phase?”
She doesn’t tell you about this shopkeeper’s “take over Gensokyo” phase and, honestly, at this point you don’t think you want to know lest it screw up your perception of whoever it may be just like how you were taken off-guard by Sekibanki’s admission that she’s eaten human before.
Not that you’d let her know that it bothers you still. After all, she’s proven to be much more than a man-eater and you dare say that she’s your closest friend at this point.
Huh… A dulahan who shouted at you and tried to slam the door in your face is your closest friend now. Something at the back of you mind is bothered by this.
“Aaaand here we are!” Elly says this mostly for you benefit.
“I’m surprised,” you say. “That wasn’t very far at all.”
“I’m surprised you could even tell how far from the village we are.” Well, you count your steps, you tell her. Helps when you rely on mentally mapping out areas you’re staying in.
Well, depending on one’s definition of close, that is. You’re confident that you’d be able to navigate your way here on your own, much like how you’re certain you could go to Seki’s house alone if you needed to since it’s not as far as, say, the bamboo forest or Yuuka’s mansion.
You take a step forward, then pause as you feel your staff tap against the door. You raise your hand to knock when Elly holds you back by your shoulder. You feel her lean forward and you assume that she did something with the door because a faint chime comes from behind it.
It starts off barely noticeable, but a series of footsteps make their way to the door, becoming progressively louder (to you, anyway). Finally, the door clicks open.
“Welcome to Kourindou— oh… It’s you.”
You can’t help but scowl at that statement.
“Do you greet all your customers like this?”
In addition to Elly’s quiet snickering, the new voice, noticeably male (My God! It’s a miracle!) and tired, lets out a tired sigh.
“My apologies. Only towards customers who’ve made things… difficult, for lack of a better word.”
You shoot a glare at Elly.
“In any case, my name is Rinnosuke. Please, come in,” he says to you.
You continue to send a bank stare at him for a few more seconds, just to let him know that his first outburst was not forgotten. To be fair though, it seems as though Elly was heavily involved in something that led to that, so you suppose you can let it go. After all, this isn’t the worst first impression you’ve had since coming here.
“Irving Washington,” you say as you step forward.
You hear him shuffle out of the way so you keep walking until you’re fairly sure you’ve passed him.
“I suppose you can join him as well,” you hear him say to Elly, whose footsteps follow not long after.
You roll your eyes at her. That’s something you’re quite sure you haven’t done in years.
You follow the sound of Rinnosuke’s footsteps after the sound of the door closing as he leads you into the shop with Elly beside you, still giggling if not as much as she did earlier.
“Your surname is ‘Washington’, yes? May I assume that you are an outsider? American, perhaps?”
“I am,” you say, knowing that you sure as hell are not Japanese even of the memories of your origins are hazy. You remember the ship, though. Most of the crew were Americans. Left unsaid is your mild disdain at how the term ‘outsider’ is casually used to describe you.
“Excellent!” Rinnosuke says, still somehow managing to sound tired despite his exclamation. “We have a variety of items from the outside world. Recently an… ‘employee’ was able to assist me in sorting our inventory. Indigenous products and Foreign products. What can I interest you in?”
You don’t really listen to the pitch and instead allow your nose to guide you to the one place in the shop you’re sure you’d be able to find, blind or not, amnesiac or not. It’s simply something that you recall was persistent in your amnesiac state and now, having some of your memories back, you’re glad it stayed with you.
You follow the smell of alcohol.
“Ah, another alcoholi— er, aficionado of fine drink,” he stumbles out.
“Do you have any Irish whisky?” you ask. Normally, you can identify your drinks by smell, each one has a distinct scent, but there’s a lot. Not to mention that ones that are sealed tight won’t have much of a scent coming out.
The large amount of bottles that you smell and run your hand over is something you can respect about this shop but it means that you’re having trouble singling out the Irish whiskeys from the other whiskeys on the shelf.
It’s a while before Rinnosuke speaks again. “...about that.”
Fucking perfect. He probably doesn’t know.
You sigh and go back to the shelf, where you carefully pick up a bottle and try to smell the contents through the cork. No luck. You put it back and pick up another while you hear Rinnosuke and Elly shuffling in the background.
You turn towards the sound of a barely-audible whisper.
You hear Rinnosuke clear his throat. “Actually, this bottle here.”
He reaches past you, what you assume to be one of those absurdly-large sleeves you remember on oriental clothes brushes against the back of your hand. The clinking the bottle makes is positioned above where you were reaching. He grabs your outstretched hand and places the bottle in it. Then, silence. Like he’s looking at you expectantly.
“What, you want me to read it out loud for you?” you ask, lifting the bottle up to find that you can’t smell anything through the seal, which is a good sign. “Elly?”
You hear her step over and she reads the name on the label for you.
“I’ll take it.”
Someone claps once. Probably Rinnosuke.
“Excellent. That will be—”
...the door. Being thrown open. Quite violently.
“Yo! Kourin!” Oh dear lord you recognize that voice.
“Shit…” and apparently, so does Elly.
“Kourin! Are you in there?”
You hear Marisa loudly making her way through the shop because of how much things she’s bumping into. Truth be told, you’re torn. On one hand, you don’t really have anything against her except—on the other hand—for that memory potion she gave you that did nothing but widen your memory gaps.
Finally, you really want to get this bottle to Seki before something happens to you, or it.
...then again, you do have that. Bullets or whatever the hell Elly put into your staff are nothing compared to the one thing you have (or rather don’t have but it’s effective regardless). You haven’t seen Marisa since your first run-in with her, and for once you’re actively curious as to how well you can pull it off and perhaps you won’t have to bring out your sack of gold since it sounds like she knows Rinnosuke, unless there’s someone else named ‘Kourin’ living in the shop.
Although, there’s the few things you’ve heard about her from Keine and Seki...
Normally you’d like to think that you can let go of things that bother or inconvenience you. Sometimes, it’s simply not productive since there’s not actually much you can do about ‘what happened’ than you can do about ‘what will happen next’. Other times you can’t be bothered because you don’t care too much.
Recent events, however, have long crossed the line of inconvenience and into “things that you are lucky to make it in one piece through.”
As such, Marisa chose a bad time to show her face now that all this has run through your thought process as you were about to buy a drink for your friend that you pissed-off earlier, regardless of how minor your role was, to make it up to her because you haven’t seen her since.
...God dammit now you’re over-thinking things. Time to use that/
“Kourin!” you hear from further back in the shop.
You turn towards the direction of Marisa’s voice in anticipation. Every footstep, every rustle of fabric of her clothes, every slightest sound of impact she makes when she bumps into whatever object lays around the shop. You use all this information to pinpoint where exactly she’ll be coming from, how far you’ll have to be for the maximum effect, and after going through your memory of her first offering you the drink, you quickly estimate her height relative to yours and adjust the angle of your head accordingly.
When she walks in, she walks into the most focused glare you’ve ever given.
You start of feigning ignorance to her earlier calls. Your expression is even, mouth set in a thin line. Then, you slowly drop it, transitioning into a frown, lowering your head a little more and narrowing your eyes towards where you’ve desperately guessed her’s to be. “I know what you did,” your glare all but says out loud for you. “I remember that.”
Marisa freezes in place. Her footsteps stopped the moment she saw you but now her breathe hitches.
“A-Ah! Heya Wash! How’re ya doing?” she faux-cheerfully says.
You narrow your eyes further.
“So! How’d the potion work out for you?” she says
Oh, she knows what happened. Maybe not everything, but she knows that something bad happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. You don’t faint when you’re improving your memory.
You hear her grit her teeth.
“I-I trust you’ve been well? Heard you made friends with Yuuka. That’s cool.”
Fabric ruffles, as though she clenched her fists with a fistfull of cloth in them, probably her dress. You have an effect on her. You can hear her tells. Feel the tension. Anymore and you’d hear her heartbeat accelerating.
You don’t hold back. Your eyes remain narrowed, but you lift your head ever so slightly, a condescending gesture that shows you looking down on her, no matter how little, for trying to change the topic and deny what she had a hand in doing to you.
She knows you know it was her. There’s no way to lie about that. She bailed out, leaving you in Keine’s care. Was it an accident? Who knows. All you know is that she wasn’t there. No concern, no worry. No presence or the thought of “shit, my potion made this guy faint! I should help him!”. Almost as though she had written you off and didn’t expect that you’d be back to call for her to take responsibilty.
Her breathing quickens.
Your gesture, however, has the other intended effect of making your blind eyes more visible to her. You carefully track every move you hear her make and keep your eyes focused in the direction you’re sure her’s are.
Your eyelids lower.
They rise back up.
“Alright. Dammit! You win! Just stop fucking staring at me like that, please!!!”
You blink again.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”
You hold your gaze for a while longer, and slowly raise the hand holding your gift for Sekibanki.
“Booze? You’re doing this for fuckign booze?!”
You slowly raise a brow, opening up more of your unseeing but piercing blind eye and flexing the scars that surround it.
She abruptly steps back. Your first concern is that she’s about to bolt, but then you hear he rummaging around as the cloth of her pocket flutters and the ‘clinking’ of a bag of coins is tossed over from her towards where you last heard Rinnosuke.
The coins clink again as someone, you assume that it’s Rinnosuke, catches the pouch.
With that, you tear your gaze away and stride towards the entrance-slash-exit, feeling with your staff but mostly retracing your steps.
“Pleasure doing business,” you say as you pass the sound of the coins, and then you’re gone.
You hear Elly jogging to catch up with you as you continue walking in silence.
...you let out your breath the moment you’re far-enough away from the shop.
“Holy shit, that was tiring!” you say, breaking out into a nervous-but-victorious grin. “I don’t suppose you’d like to join us later, Elly? I guess the drinks are on Marisa tonight!”
“A-Ah! It’s nothing, sorry!” she assures you, “I was just… impressed! Yeah! People don’t usually get free things out of Marisa like that! Let’s go find your friend!”
And she takes your hand and pulls you to the village.
Rinnosuke whistles at earlier’s display, having known Marisa for a long time and knowing that what he had just witnessed was the first, and most likely the last, time that anyone’s managed to guilt-trip Marisa into doing something for them.
“I suppose now you’ll be more careful with who you give your experimental concoctions to, huh?”
He turns to address the blonde but finds her huddled up against the wall. Shivering. Weeping.
“I’msorryi’msorryi’msorryi’msorry,” she mumbles, barely audible to Rinnosuke, who is deeply troubled.
“O-Oi, Marisa,” he cautiously approaches her, kneeling down to her. “Are you okay?”
He gently reaches out to her, but as his hand is about to land on her shoulder, she flinches, eyes wide.
“Don’t hate me papa,” she begs. “Don’t hate me. I’ll be good! It’s just magic, papa! Don’t hate me! PLEASE!!!”
She’s openly weeping now, mumbling apologies and pleading, no, begging for someone who isn’t there.
Rinnosuke stares at her in shock before his gaze slowly drifts towards the open door.
The floating head of Sekibanki says nothing, offering him an apologetic glance as she floats out of the store to resume her place behind the blissfully-unaware Washington.
The target, rather targets, are a set of bottles that had cracked and been rendered unable to be reused, set up on two stacked crates in a row. The rest of the crew are taking a nap in their quarters and the shot in your pistol is primed and ready. Restocked before the last port, the captain was willing to spare this much and the crew enjoyed a round of target practice.
Bottles were thrown and shot out of the air. A small buckle was hung from the mast and was almost shot until a bullet nicked the sail and the unanimous decision was made to abandon that particular target.
Everyone who was interested had their shots, but now it’s just you in the hold.
The sea is calm.
Rocking of the ship is minimal.
Your grasp is firm. Steady. Not tight, but not loose.
You raise the pistol in your right hand, holding it more to the left in line with your good eye.
Eyes on the target, sight aligned, you pull the trigger.
...and miss completely.
“FUCK!” you scream, frustrated, and drive your fist into the post. A stab of pain lances through your fist through the rest of your arm, but at this point, you don’t care anymore. It’s not like it’ll make a difference. Not like an eye could make.
Sighing, you plop downing another crate and bring out the worn piece of cloth you brought with you, cleaning out powder residue from the pan and what parts of the pistol you are able to reach inside.
Your mind flashes back to your home, and the object hanging above the hearth. You dispel that mental image with a frustrated shake of your head.
You’re brought out of your musing when a spare barrel lid is knocked off and hits the ground with a dull sound.
“Who's there?” You ask, knowing that the ship wasn’t rocking nearly as violent as it should be to knock that certain item off where it should be.
Of course, nobody says anything. You conclude that a crewman would have no reason to hide and the source of the disturbance was therefore one of the castaways. So you decide, being at the end of your patience, to make a show of putting down the rag and picking up your pistol again. You take out a used-up paper that once held gunpowder and make sure to tear it slowly as you take slow, deliberate steps.
You’re close to the fallen lid, and as you approach, you slowly cock back the hammer, making sure that the ‘click’ is the only thing to be heard.
A pair of hands slowly, shakily rises from behind a crate and the brat steps out, pale, trembling and utterly afraid.
“Jesus,” you say, “Don’t you have anything better to do?!”
She recoils as you shout but relaxes, barely, and slowly shakes her head.
You groan in frustration, sitting on a nearby crate and unceremoniously dropping the pistol beside you, which makes the young girl flinch.
“Fuck’s sake, it’s not even fucking loaded.” You make a show of pointing it upwards and pulling the trigger. The hammer is released and while the flint creates a small shower of sparks as it hits the steel, no shot is fired.
“Besides,” you resentfully mumble, “not like I could even hit you if I wanted to anymore.”
You look down at the pistol in your hands again, noting that you’ll have to replace the worn out flint soon and at the same time wondering what’s the point because after this, you’ll probably have to get yourself a blunderbuss.
Then you notice the girl staring at you. Or, to be more accurate, your pistol.
“What, this thing?” you say, raising it up.
She recoils as you hold it up, as though afraid that you’re going to point it at her.
“Dammit, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m not gonna shoot?!”
Frustrated, you grab her hand before she can shy away from you and you place the empty pistol in her hand, cocking back the hammer and pointing it to the sky.
“Pull the trigger.”
“I can do this all day.”
You notice the barest of twitches of her finger and without warning, you clamp your hand on her shoulder, causing her to jump in surprise and pull the trigger. As like earlier, the flint strikes the steel but no shot is produced.
She stares curiously at the gun in her hand, cocking the hammer and setting the flint again before aiming at the floor and firing to no effect. Truth be told the slightest bit of warmth stirs in your because of how much it reminded you of— +++ ++++ ++++ +++ +++++++ +++ ++ +++++, ++++++ +++ ++++++++ + +++.
You’re about to stand up and leave when you see the muzzle gravitate towards her head and you immediately grab her wrist.
You shake your head.
“Never do that,” you say, your gaze hard and your eye boring into hers to drive the point home. “Never.”
The girl shakily nods her head and relinquishes her grip on the pistol. Her curious expression shifting from it to the targets does not escape you.
You’re about to place it back in its holster when the strangest idea hits you.
As she turns to leave, you grab her shoulder—gently this time—and motion for her to stand opposite of the cracked bottles you set up earlier. You take out a proper cartridge this time, tearing it open and properly loading the pistol. As you’re ramming the ball into the gun, you glance at the girl who eyes you curiously. You walk up to her, and carefully hand her the gun, making sure it faces the targets and not you in such a way that, as you were positioned earlier, a missed shot would only go out at sea and not hit anything else.
“You see this?” you say, pointing at the front and rear sights of your pistol, line them up.
You bend down and look over her shoulder, making sure that the sights are aligned before reaching over and pulling the hammer back. You note that her tight grip keeps the pistol mostly centered as you do this, but that’s a problem of it’s own.
“Relax,” you say. “Don’t grip it too hard or you’ll never hit anything.”
She glances back at you, eyes wide and anxious at the reality of the loaded firearm in her hand.
You offer a shrug. “I saw you staring, don’t try to hide it. Here's your chance.”
She stares uncertainly at the pistol in her hands, which are trembling slightly. She swallows hard, you faintly hear.
Ah, wait. So that’s how it is. Trembling, anxiety, hesitance. You’ve seen this before and, despite your general apathy towards these “guests” on the ship, you feel for her for the briefest of moments. Then you remember just exactly what happened to +++++++++.
You take the pistol and point it at yourself.
“Do you want to hurt me?” you ask.
She looks up at you with fearful eyes and tries to pull her hand away, but you keep her hand on the grip, though she keeps her finger off the trigger.
“Is that a no?”
She hesitantly begins to shake her head before realizing that it would be the wrong sort of reply. She nods instead, as in “Yes, that’s a no”.
“Then that’s that,” you say, releasing your grip and allowing her to pull the pistol away from you. “That thing you’re holding won’t hurt anyone until you want it to.”
You scowl as the memory of +++++++++ +++ +++ ++++++++ flashes in your mind.
“It won’t always be that way, though, specially if someone else wants to do the hurting” you lament. “You gotta do what you gotta do or you’ll regret it.”
You’re initially unsure if she picked up on the meaning of your musings until her gaze shifts over to the entrance to the living quarters, no doubt where her mother and the rest of the castaways are asleep with the crew.
The bottle is now shattered and the fragments are scattered across the deck of the ship.
The smoking pistol is slowly lowered, the once firm-but-relaxed grip now clenched until her knuckles were white. She has that look in her eyes, you notice.
The look of someone who’s trying not to cry.
Her earlier interest seemingly forgotten, she drops the pistol and runs to the quarters.
You stand there, staring, until you work up the nerve to pick up the pistol again and set it in your holster.
As you gather the glass shards of the bottle you can’t help but notice the faintest reflection of your scarred face. You’ve got half the look she had just now, but you don’t know how long you’ve had it.
All you know is that you shouldn’t get too attached. It’ll make things easier for when they leave.
Your memory of last night is clear because your tolerance, you like to think, is fairly high.
You’re not hungover and apart from remembering how you fell asleep, you can actually recall a fair amount of details from the dream. No doubt because it’s within the timeframe of what memories Satori was able to unearth for you.
It’s fairly straightforward except that you can’t remember you motivations when they came up in the dream. Perhaps in time it will make sense.
In the meantime, you’ve got yourself a problem.
As previously mentioned, you remember how you fell asleep so there’s really only one conclusion to your current situation. Well, a partial conclusion. You don’t know what Sekibanki’s alcohol tolerance is like so you can’t really say whether the reason her head is in her arms is intentional or not.
Elly, on the other hand, you’re pretty sure passed out and woke up at some point before now, still drowsy and registering the presence of a warm body nearby. Hence the familiar softness on your back and the two arms wrapped around you.
You mentally note that you’ll have to confront her about this later, but for now you’re just grateful that it’s just the three of you. You can think of worse ways to wake up in the morning.
Then, because in hindsight you really shouldn’t have tempted fate, you detect—
 Fur. The scent of a familiar fur. Oh, and the door opening.
God news: my laptop's back from repairs and its easier to write now cause KEYBOARDS!!!
Bad news: i lost all my music files (which I've been building up since 2012) and pictures. FACK.
Since it took me so fucking long to get this out, here's an extra long update. Well, I say that but it;s really only a little longer than what I usually do cause I kept adding shit and eeeeeehhh.
Also, anyone got some high=quality Sekibanki wallpapers?
Up to you.
You expect a lot of things when you wake up nowadays, but today it smells like [X]someone’s bleeding over the carpet. That’s concerning. So is that brief ringing sound that you pick up and lose in the same second.
Carefully, you tighten your grip on Sekibanki with one arm while the other pries Elly’s arms off you as the knocking on the door continues. With the arm that just pried you loose from Elly, you push yourself up, reaching out slowly and feeling for the staff that you left leaning against the table. Your fingers brush against it, almost causing it to fall, but you catch it in time, breathing a sigh of relief. You carefully set Seki’s head down on said table (wouldn't want a repeat of yesterday, after all) and begin creeping your way to the sound and smell of the person behind the door.
You highly doubt that someone who smells so much like blood has any pure intentions. You place your hand on the doorknob, poised to lash out with your staff at whoever’s there, when—
“Elly? I wish to inform you that Wriggle has eaten your apples again.”
A resounding crash comes from behind you as something tears through the house and tosses you back from the door before you can even react. Then you hear the door being flung open.
“She did WHAT?! I’M GOING TO KILL THAT LITTLE SHIT!”
You hear Elly stomp off as that damned rigning briefly irritates you before disappearing again and the bloody-smelling person’s footsteps enter the house.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” she says as her footsteps stop in front of you. “She never showed up last night so the mistress sent me to search for her.”
After she says this, you hear something crash from deeper within the house.
“Is a peaceful morning to feckin’ much to ask for?” Seki mutters from the table. The muffled footsteps from further in the house tell you that her body is getting up as well and is most likely the new source of the crashing sounds.
You let out a long-suffering sigh as you push yourself off your ass and forward on your hands so you can feel around for the staff you lost when Elly tossed you.
You hear her step closer to you before something pokes against your hand. You grab it, feeling upwards to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. You're about to thank her once you’re satisfied that it’s your staff, but then you get a fresh dose of that new bloody smell and settle for a small nod.
“Feckin… I swear. No respect fer privacy. Wash! Where the fuck—” Sekibanki’s voice approaches, then pauses. “Oh. It’s you. What do you want, Kurumi?”
You turn your head in the direction of Seki’’s voice, questioningly raising an eyebrow. They know each other?
“It’s a long story,” she replies, “One that *some* people were made to swear they would not talk about.”
You get the feeling that she threw a glare at this Kurumi as she says this.
“My apologies,” Kurumi says. “I was not aware that my status as a one-night-stand was something—”
She’s cut-off when you feel the heat of a bolt flying past the side of your head towards her. You don’t hear a sound of impact, though.
You did hear the other thing, though.
“It’s none of your concern, Wash.”
“I know, but—”
“Irving Washinton, so help me I will rip out your tongue if you don’t shut the fuck up about that now.”
“Does that mean you will be using your mouth? I was unaware that biting your partner’s tongue was a part of that ritual.”
You take a moment to rationalize that Sekibanki’s body is probably still somewhere else in the house, hence why she’d have to use her mouth. Then you realize what was just said and you slowly turn towards the direction of Kurumi’s voice.
“Forgive me, was it something I said?”
In the few seconds that you don’t hear anyone else do it, you decide to do it instead.
“Are you done?” Seki asks, her voice dangerously low.
“I’m afraid not. It is my day off, and seeing as how I have no immediate family or friends, I require your company.”
You hear Sekibanki’s body crash into something further into the house.
“Oh my god, you’re serious,” Seki mutters. And continues muttering as you hear her voice fade deeper into the house.
“Er… Come in, I suppose?” you say to her, unsure and still bothered by the SHEER AMOUNT OF BLOOD YOU CAN SMELL ON HER.
LIKE, HOLY SHIT.
“Oi, Wash,” Seki, suddenly back at your side, whispers into your ear.
You jump in surprise.
“Is something bothering you?” Kurumi asks.
You frantically shake your head. "No, no, just got startled by something is all."
“It’s rude to make that kind of face at people, you know?” Seki quietly continues.
“Forgive me, but I found it hard to maintain my compusure when our ‘guest’ smells like someone’s been murdered. Quite violently, I might add.”
Seki sighs. “Riiiight. Forgot that it’d be you or Kagerou who’d pick up on that. Look, all you need to know is that she’s not gonna kill anyone, and if anything happens, I’ll handle it.”
You emote skeptically towards the direction of her voice.
“Trust me. I may be hungover but I’m not immediately violent and irrational.”
Of course she isn’t. Your bite-marked hand can testify that she’s only immediately violent when she’s sober.
“Oh, fuck off. It’s my house.”
Reluctantly, you shrug. “Fine.”
You follow Seki’s voice, as she had begun to hum an indistinguishable tune as she floated deeper into the house, after you reach out and shut the front door.
The path memorized, you make your way to the table where it smells as though Seki’s body already set the morning tea out. That and bloody murder. Kurumi’s sitting there as well, you realize as you sit down.
You can hear some more shuffling sounds and plates being moved around off to the side where you assume Sekibanki is (you note that her humming comes from there as well, meaning her head’s rejoined her body). The faintest ‘whoosh’ reaches you followed by… something you don’t recognize. It smells odd, almost like a swamp but not quite. You hear the sound of something sizzling and something sniffing really close to you.
You jerk your head to the side, facing the source of the sniffing sound and are rewarded with a barely-audible startled catching-of-breath.
“Were you… smelling me?”
Kurumi clears her throat. “Indeed.”
You hear the briefest and strangely-softest of high-pitched whines.
“Forgive me. There is no reason.”
You slowly turn away from her, focusing on the scent of tea before you and ignore what had just happened in favor of feeling around for your teacup.
‘Sssip.’ Kurumi sipping her tea, you presume.
‘Ssssss.’ Seki’s cooking something. You smell eggs shortly after the sizzling sound.
Your hand finally brushes against the teacup, which was much farther to the right than you anticipated, but find yourself unable to drink your tea. Why?
She’s taking a drink in front of you.
It’s not something you can just ignore. After all, blood was precious. Not necessarily for bloodletting, though. Apparently there were newer, “proper” ways to go about medicinal usage of blood. You like to think that, operating with only one working eye belowdecks where the sun rarely shone except through the gaps in the planking and often having to assist in bloodletting back on the ship as the only other person with a modicum of experience in the matter, you can tell what a person going through a bloodletting smells like.
Then there was that one time you bought a whole pig from a merchant who didn’t get the memo that you wanted it slaughtered before delivery and you made the mistake of leaving the bucket of blood on a shelf. Somebody. Had an accident and long story short, the two of you had a grand old time giving everyone nightmares.
Kurumi smelled like that, only it was a disturbing mix of different kinds of blood (you can identify pig, chicken, cow, human, among other things), and tea. What kind of tea? You wish you knew.
The smell of eggs is closer now, much closer and there’s no more sizzling sounds. It’s… rather bland, to be honest, but a fragrant bland. Clean, if not for the blood, which mixes. Metallic. Not necessarily pungent. Natural, you dare say, but sickening because of your memories of the times when such a large amount was involved. Lars’ bloodletting. The pig blood incident. Isaa-
.,,damn. It’s gone.
The smell isn’t though. It’s not. It’s so obvious it might as well be intoxicating.
The clatter of plates. Scraping across the table, ceasing in front of you and the smell of eggs. And blood. Lots of—
“I must say that I was quite surprised,” Kurumi suddenly says. “I had known about Imaizumi and Hime, but I did not expect one of Sekibanki’s associates to be a bat youkai.”
You don’t… how did she…?
Fucking hell you don’t even. Just… no.
“That is so wrong on so many levels,” Sekibanki says, perfectly vocalizing your thoughts as your palm meets your face. Around the same time as Seki’s if the sound’s anything to go by.
“Oh? Am I mistaken?” Dear lord you can imagine her tilting her head to the side in curiosity. Is that what she’s doing? Probably. “I had noticed your reacting to my scent and sound earlier, so I’d just assumed—“
“Firstly, no. Seven circles of hell no.” You weren’t always blind, after all. “Second, how can anyone not notice the smell?! Who the hell died and bled all over your?!”
“Hmm?” Fucking shit she’d definitely got her head tilted. “I beg your pardon?”
“Kurumi, we’ve talked about this,” Seki says. “Not everybody knows that you live near the Lake of Blood!”
You whip your head to the side towards the sound of Seki’s voice with an expression of disbelief on.
“Yes, Wash, a literal lake of blood. Don’t ask, nobody died.” She pauses, as though having an afterthought. “...recently.” There we go.
“It is not so bad,” Kurumi politely protests. “While I understand that not all youkai are so-inclined, it is quite the place to live for a vampire such as myself.”
“You. A vampire,” you say. Not so much in disbelief, but inwardly you may as well be saying: “of course she is. Why am I not surprised.” It’s something you could hear in your head, right after the strange initial reaction to either whip out a crucifix or just run away. Strange.
“That is correct. I believe I had just stated so.”
There’s so many things you want to say, most of which are behind the veil, but at this point what’s really bugging you is how unaffected you are. Hello? This is the affected side talking. Run.
Hmm… nah, what could happen.j
“Okay,” you say, finally mustering the nerve to ignore the bloody smell and take a sip of your tea. “That’s nice.”
“Well, I lean more towards a vampire’s nature as a bat than my distant relatives in the mansion so the near-useless eyesight is awfully inconvenient, but I suppose it has its charms.” ‘Sssip.’
Now that catches your attention. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
“I’m not completely blind, you know. I can tell you’re not even holding anything up.”
“That so?” You take another sip while utensils continue to clatter on a plate (probably Seki’s). “You get that a lot?”
“Quite often, actually. On bad days I do not even have the luxury of a rebuttal.”
“That bad, huh?” You’re not sure if your guess about having that kind of eyesight is correct or not. Not because yours was half gone followed by the rest and it all happened immediately when it did, but because you can’t remember the specifics of those yet
“Shall I assume you’ve been a victim of a hand-waving as well?”
Well… You think you were. “I’ve been a victim of many things.”
“Oh, dear. You are a newcomer, are you not? Has Gensokyo been so that bad to you?”
You unconsciously take note of how the sound of Seki eating breakfast is no longer there.
[x] “Eh… It has its charms.” -[x] "Even if their eggs are somewhat bland."
i finally have some free time so early updateV2018/05/23 (Wed) 01:47No. 199053▼
“[X]Eh… it has it’s charms, I suppose,” you admit as the sound of running water and humming comes from somewhere in the house along with the clatter of utensils. “I mean, not a lot of people would give someone like me the time of day, but then I met Seki and Keine.” Sure she might’ve done it out of pity, but your memories from when you had one working eye often shows that most people would’ve just turned you away as you are now. “After finding out just how dangerous Genskyo is, I’ve never been more glad to have met her.”
“You mentioned Ms. Kamishirasawa? I was not aware that you are acquainted with her.”
You weren’t aware that Kurumi knows her as well, but you suppose everyone in Gensokyo’s met each other at some point. “Long story short, she was kind-enough to give me a place to stay after a nasty accident.”
Kurumi gives a quiet “Hmm” of agreement. “I understand she is one of the, shall we say, safer residents to lodge with.”
You let off a dry chuckle “Considering what’s happened to me since I arrived in Gensokyo? She and Seki are practically godsends.”
“Most newcomers rarely last the first day. Less so in such good condition as you if they do. Would you care to elaborate?”
Ah, where to begin? First you get yelled at, then you get shot at. Followed by getting poisoned and waking up with a strange case of amnesia. Then as you try to get your memory back you get trapped, abducted, shot at again, and kissed by some strange rabbit girl and her hopping-mad sidekicks (/sidekick and other bunny),
With a dry chuckle, you tell Kurumi exactly what has happened to you ever since you showed up. Other than the occasional “hmm”, she only ever reacts to your mentioning of Marisa’s potion by saying “ah, her again.”
Before long you find yourself finally recounting your experience from the previous day, starting with your mishap with Seki and Keine until you buy the whiskey and arrive at Seki’s House. You’ve apologized (somewhat disproportionately?) to Seki for knocking her off her morning perch, but you never did clear things up with Keine.
“Truth be told I feel rather guilty for not making it up to her,” you say as the sound of running water ceases. “Not that I don’t like it in Seki’s home, even if the eggs are a little bland, but it’s a lot to keep track of, you know? It feels like everytime we go out, something bad happens and it can be a pain to deal with—“
“Well, Wash, if that’s how you feel, then maybe you can help with my groceries later.” Oh lord the fake cheer and hidden malice is off the scale. “I mean, it’s not a trek through the bamboo forest or a dive into the underground, but I’m sure whatever happens, you can handle it.”
“Wait a minute,” you protest, “that’s not what I meant! I was just talking to Kurumi about how Keine let me stay at her house for a while!”
“He was just telling me about his desire to compensate Ms. Kamishirasawa for her hospitality,” Kurumi chimed, to which you nod in agreement.
“Oh! Perfect! You can buy something for her while I make you carry all my stuff.”
Before you can say anything, her footsteps trail off, most likely heading towards her room while you sit there, somewhat frustrated that the conversation seemed to have aggravated her (and you probably know why) but mostly resigned.
“What bad luck indeed for Sekibanki to not have heard your earlier appreciation of her,” Kurumi says, continuing to sip her tea as though she were watching an interesting performance.
You can only sigh.
There’s chatter all around you. The excited kind, but you’re not really paying attention to that right now. You’re paying attention to the whispers,
“That poor man, slaving away like that…”
“Has she no mercy? He’s clearly blind!”
“Aww, yeah. Sweat sweat on that blind one.”
...you choose to ignore the last one in favor of hastening your pace to walk alongside Seki, whose cape you’re holding on to in addition to three paper bags (apparently that’s a thing. Certainly more convenient and disposable than a basket or crate) full of foodstuffs. What makes it worse is you’ve got your staff held in the crook of your elbow since you can’t really get around without it and you expected to be carrying groceries in a basket or sack or something you can sling over your shoulder and carry with one hand.
“I know what you’re going to say so don’t bother,” she immediately says. You this close your mouth. “Either way, few rumors won’t hurt.”
“This is the part of me that is genuinely concerned and not the one whose arms are tired that’s asking if you’re really okay with that. Word travels fast, after all.” And small-town gossip is absolutely brutal if the rumors going around every port you stopped at were anything to go by. Lars was a good translated, but he also had a tendency to exaggerate.
Oh, yeah. Your arms are fucking tired.
“I have my ways,” is Seki’s cryptic reply. “Besides, you want some decent, not-bland eggs? You’ll help me carry them and make sure they don’t break. Also if we’re in the village, I’m absolutely sure that nothing could possibly go wrong. Like those odds?”
Oh, the sarcasm. You would appreciate it if you weren’t balancing three paper bags without being able to see where you’re going, but you’ll just get this over with. To be fair it was kinda dumb to mention the eggs when all you’ve been able to contribute was a bottle of whisky that was drained in one night that one or two of the three people that were is the house probably don’t remember the taste of.
Speaking of the house…
“And we’ve just left Kurumi alone in the house why?”
“Her wings are too obvious.”
So she has wings. Huh.
Your train of thought is interrupted when you feel Seki grab your shoulder and you can barely react in time to prevent the contents of the bag from spilling out.
“Wait here,” she says, steering you forwards and forcing you down. You grunt, expecting a longer fall than to plop down on a bench, but then it wouldn’t make sense for Seki to do that. “I’m gonna buy something.”
Her footsteps fade into the background noise of the village, and thus you are alone.
You hear her long before she stops behind you. Mostly because of the rustling of shrubbery that comes from directly behind when there is no wind blowing. Then you hear the soft crunching of grass and decide that, if something is gonna happen on this trip, it’ll be to your damn amusement.
You lean forwards slightly, but not enough to raise suspicion. The footsteps get closer and closer until—
Yep. There it is.
You don’t respond, however. Instead, you breath in deeply and exhale appropriately in steady rhythm.
When you hear a step closer, you lean just a little more. When you feel a delicate finger tap the your shoulder blade, you allow yourself to slump forward a bit more.
Your eyes are shut.
“...aww, dammit! Is he sleeping?”
It’s all you can do to keep a grin from breaking out on your features. The footsteps circle around and come to a stop in front of you. A slight warmth and rustle of cloth tells you that she’s bent down to have a look.
Really, this is the best way to turn things around and surprise her. Better yet, she hopefully won't feel hurt either, since as far as she knows her surprise worked for once, even if it surprised her too.
You take that as your cue. Mentally, you prepare yourself. The feeling you’ve gotten used to dredging up from inside ever since you’ve started getting involved with everyone.
You’re not a dick, though. You only call a little of it, jerk your head upwards...
...and sharply open your eyes.
In the gentlest voice you can manage, as though you were comforting a crying child instead of unleashing your mischievous prank on an unsuspecting soul, you whisper.
...Huh. Perhaps you’ve overdone it.
“Did he really?”
Whispers. Yep, you’ve overdone it. You’d bend down to try to shake her awake, but you’re all to aware of what might happen instead. You can’t exactly nudge her with your foot either, that’ll just make you look even more like an asshole.
“Oi,” you say, leaning down. “You alright?”
The groan comes from slightly more from the left than you anticipated.
You lean down where you are, careful to make sure that the first thing you touch is the ground and working your way to the side until you make contact with her arm, which clutches a parasol that you cannot for the life of you pry from her grip, which only makes things trickier for you. One finger on her wrist, you stretch back and gauge how far she lies from the bench, moving a few paper bags to rest against the legs in the ground to the side.
With those preparations, you carefully stretch your hand to the other side and (to your relief) it lands on her opposite shoulder. You rearrange your footing, ignoring the whispers of passersby, and pull until she sits up and shift yourself so that you’re behind her, mindful of the parasol. Carefully, you hook your arms under hers and pull such that your back faces the bench.
Now she’s carefully laid down with her head using your lap as a pillow while the whispers pick up.
...look, it’s either this or you have her feet on your lap, and considering how she no doubt hit her head on the way down, you don’t want to appear even more of an asshole than you did by scaring her.
Oh, you can already imagine what Seki will say when she sees you.
“Wash, you pervert. Taking advantage of a woman like that.” That seems to be the default reaction of Gensokyo females. Perversions and misunderstandings.
“Welcome to Gensokyo,” you mumble, a tad bitter.
Pfft. “Yeah, guess you could say that.”
“I know the feeling. Really makes you want to get up and shout, doesn’t it?”
“...well, I suppose.” You’re more resigned than frustrated at this point. “Sometimes I just wish people would listen before, I dunno, headbutting me, shooting me, punching me, or make me carry around all the groceries.”
“...I know the feeling.”
“Pfft.” Does she?
“Oh, yeah. Step outside to play with the children, adults sic the Miko on you. Hide in a bush and try to surprise some passerby, people shoot you. Try to be nice and just walk around, nobody wants you…”
...jeez. “Sounds rough.”
Oh, good. It gets better. “This the part where you tell me to just wait it all out?”
“Pfft! What? Hell no! Last time someone tried to threaten me away while I was eating, I dunked him into a hot bowl of ramen!”
Not exactly what you were expecting but hey. That’s advice you’d like to follow.
“If there’s one thing I learned in Gensokyo it’s that, one way or another, you gotta hammer your point home. Sometimes literally!”
“Won’t that just inspire more animosity?”
“Nah! We do it all the time! Sometimes, certain people need a reminder that who you are right now is much better than who you could be if they don’t stop pushing your buttons! Doesn’t have to be a physical lesson either! Y’know Reimu?”
Only in the several times people’ve mentioned her, yes.
“Well, she pissed off Sanae once—(Oh hey. You remember her name)—and Sanae totally made her look like an idiot by making her drink Sake.”
You’re pretty sure anyone will look like an idiot after taking in enough alcohol.
“Made her think it was a brand favored by generals. Turns out only idiots who got people killed by getting drunk on it liked it!”
...does everyone here really have that much pride to make such a strategy viable?
“I mean, everyone here’s a proud idiot one way or another, so there’s a lot of ways to get back at them all! Hell, I’d say you’re pretty lucky!”
“Well, you’re really good at expressing yourself through facial expression, so get your acts down and you can make people look stupid or feel guilty for picking on a blind man!”
Heh… If Akane was with you, you’d be able to humiliate them even more since she’d make a beatdown look effortless. Not that you can’t do that, mind you. It’s just really difficult.
“Point being that let them know you can make things much harder if they do! Even if you’d still get beaten, it helps establishing that you can make things easier if the two of you reach an agreement rather than resorting to being an asshole.”
“So beatdowns, public embarrassments, that sort of thing?”
Well… You’re already making things inconvenient for Se—
“No, no, no. I know that look. You’re thinking that “but I’m already making things inconvenient with my presence”, aren’t you?”
Well, she’s got you pegged.
“Trust me on this. If you really were an inconvenience, whoever it is would’ve just shot you a long time ago and been done with it.”
“It’s true. I speak from experience.”
“You get used to it. Bottom line is you gotta communicate, even if that communication means blasting someone or making them look stupid in public. It’s crude sometimes, but really effective.”
Somewhere in the forest, a little blonde girl nearly sneezed.
“Truly! Believe me, it’ll do you wonders!”
“Huh. I’ll give it a shot.”
“...I’m sorry, were you expecting me to be surprised?”
“Dammit!” A weight is immediately lifted off your lap as the girl you didn’t quite knock out sits up.
“Well what did you expect? I’d pause, realize I’ve been talking to the girl using me as a pillow and get startled?” Really. You’ve both been talking for so long that anyone in your position would’ve noticed. Also if she tried to startle you while lying on your lap, she’d fall too.
“Couldn’t you have at least acted surprised?” she protested.
Expression flat, you say “I’ve been through a lot. It gets old quickly.” You also tell her the above reason that her plan was a bad idea.
“...is that so?”
This time, the little blonde girl really did sneeze. While she was stalking a tasky-looking deer no less.
“Fucking shit!” she curses as the deer bolts.
“If it means anything, I’ll give you points for effort.” Although you wouldn’t really call it effort, you’d give her points for the advice itself.
You sigh, ready to do your damndest to try and reassure her—
—but she’s leapt off before you jump in surprise and is spared the fate of being dragged to the ground with you when you stumble.
And now she’s laughing.
“Oh, man! Wasn’t me who did the surprising but I’ll take it! Thanks Seki!”
You turn around and level your most pointed glare directly behind you where you assume Seki to be standing, pushing yourself up and brushing the dust off your trousers.
“Oh, ha ha Seki, very funny,” you grumble. “That’s the last time I buy you anything nice.”
“...If anything, I should be the one buying something for you.”
OH SHIT THAT’S KEINE!
“Pfft! Okay, that was pretty funny,” Seki says as you pick yourself up again from the ground.
“Fuck’s sake, really?! Et tu, Keine?”
“I-In my defense, Sekibanki just grabbed me and put me here!”
You level a glare at Seki’s direction, but she just continues chuckling.
Another day in Gensokyo.
“...did you see it?”
“I saw *her*. Any idea?”
You shake your head. “Best not to press the subject for now. I’m doubt anyone else is aware.”
“...you said you knew him? From before?”
i feel like a dumbass for accidentally not copying the choices V2018/06/29 (Fri) 14:45No. 199095▼
You wake up with a tired and resigned sigh. Once again, the few nights of dreamless sleep you’ve had is brought to an abrupt end by God-knows who.
 Wait. It smells bloody. You have a good guess.
 On second thought, you do know. There’s a weight on your chest—only your chest—again.
 ...Oh, hell no! You are not having someone draw on your face again!
So my dad, my grandpa, a family friend and I all have birthdays in July, and you would not believe how much time flies when you're eating out every week for celebrations.
Next thing I know it's the 29th. What the fuck.
[X]...On second thought, you do know. There’s a weight on your chest—only your chest—again.
You sigh, hearing the snores coming from the sleeping head of Sekibanki on your chest. Carefully, you gently lift Seki’s head from your chest and place it down upon your pillow, making sure she won’t roll off one you let go before quietly stepping out of the room to follow the smell of breakfast being cooked.
“Oh? Good morning,” You hear Kurumi say to you, offering a quiet nod and a grunt in case she didn’t see it as you settle down at the table.
Admittedly it’s a bit hard to pick out the smell of anything specific being cooked. You detect the faint trace of something that reminds you of a swamp, but it’s covered up by heat and the smell of oils followed by hisses and cracks. On the other hand, a strong, herbal smell is easily recognizable coming from in front of you.
“I hope you don’t mind eggs?” she asks.
“Not at all.” It’s not like you’d be able to cook anything on your own. Not without mapping Sekibanki’s kitchen, at least. You carefully reach out with both hands, your left grazing against a teacup before you while the right reaches further. Carefully, you feel for the smooth surface of the kettle.
Then you realize, much to your chagrin, that up until now your tea’s already been in the cup when you get to the table.
You’re not really holding up the cup too high, thank goodness, but it drops down from your hand unto the table. It doesn’t shatter, but the sound attracts Kurumi’s attention. Her footsteps hurry over and a damp cloth rubs against your hand.
“Thanks,” you mutter as Kurumi pours your tea for you.
“Pardon me if this is rather insensitive, but do you find it difficult?”
You turn towards her voice and raise a brow.
“Not being able to see, I mean.”
“Ah, well it’s alright. I’ve no problem with people asking me,” you say. “And to answer your question, it depends.”
For one thing you can move about and do things without hesitating even if you can’t see. That takes getting used to.
On the other hand, thanks to Satori, you’ve got memories now. Incomplete ones, and also ones where you had at least one working eye. It’s a bit disturbing, not remembering how you got used to not seeing yet remembering a time when you had one eye to work with.
And oh how it took a while to get used to. You had to sweep your head around constantly and double-check the distance between you and an object you reach for. You’re just grateful the crew was so accommodating. When busy, Captain King could hardly be considered easygoing, but he wasn’t unreasonable.
“Forgive me for being so sudden,” Kurumi says. To that, you wave a hand dismissively
“It’s nothing,” you say. “You could say that I saw it coming.”
“Anything else would imply that it was worth the effort.”
You’re going for a walk. For what reason? You’ll keep to yourself.
In hindsight, you probably should’ve waited until you had someone guide you around so you could map the place out but oh well.
You have your reasons.
Completely legitimate reasons.
...Fuck, you’re hungry and you haven’t eaten breakfast.
“You’re an idiot.”
You turn towards the direction of Seki’s voice.
“Your joke sucked, by the way.”
Fucking… Can you ever win?
“It honestly did.”
You glare her way.
“If you want me to laugh, next time tell me to leave humor instead of honesty.”
How does that even..?
“You’ll see. Eventually.”
You then feel Seki’s head rise up onto the palm of your hand, bringing your arm up and resting on her.
“C’mon. I know a place.”
The “place”, as far as you can tell, is really just a bunch of tables set up around a grill or something with a bar in front where you can smell something delicious cooking. It’s not meat, but it’s not something that you recognize. Also everything’s outdoors, which must be really convenient for the rain.
“Two of the usual,” Seki says.
“You realize we only serve one thing here, right?” says a new voice. Kinda melodic too. “Coming right up.”
Idly, you listen. Only the hiss of cooking meat and the occasional ‘Tock’ of a knife stopping against a cutting board. Other than the sounds of the kitchen, birds chirp in the distance. The girl hums as she prepares the food, a pleasant sound that puts you at ease.
You can smell the cooking meat. Smoky, something sweet (probably the sauce) but with a sort of odor from the uncooked bits. From the kitchen you smell herbs. Alcohol. Maybe a fruit or two.
“Nice place,” you comment, mostly to yourself.
“When the owner isn’t conning you into buying her food? Sure.”
“That’s a lie and you know it Sekibanki.”
“Unlikely. I went to the village for a meeting so there’s no other head I could leave other than Honesty.”
“So you mean to tell me that your headless body is walking around the village,” you say. “The village where not long ago we were accosted by some brat accusing you of being a youkai.”
“Of course not,” Seki replies. “I can make copies of my heads.”
Oh, that’s good to know.
“A-Anyway! Kindly forget anything that she said regarding my business practices, please?” the owner said.
You level a blank expression towards her and turn to Sekibanki, quizzical.
“Oh, don’t worry. You’re immune.”
“Because there’s nothing to be immune to!” The owner again.
This time, you shrug. “Fine, if you say so,” you say.
You hear the owner sigh in relief.
 Sure is taking awhile for your orders to cook...
So initially I was planning to go for a few consecutive updates instead of the usual once-a-month schedule college made me adopt as an apology for waiting until the very end of the month to update.
Then like an idiot I got sidetracked and forgot again until I realized that friday is the 31st.
In the grand scheme of things, your priorities lie in getting your memories back without breaking your brain and finding out just why the hell you’ve come to Gensokyo in the first place. After that, you’ll get your eyes fixed, one way or another.
This means that your focus should be elsewhere, yet it’s right here.
“[X]...so how does she do it?”
In a shop with (one of) Seki’s heads, asking about scams.
“Night sparrow. Songs cause blindness, she markets grilled lamprey as the cure”
“You’re banned,” the owner says.
“Is what you would say if I weren’t you second most faithful customer.”
It’s not exactly a bad place for it to be. For one, it’s highly entertaining.
“Did you really have to tell him?!”
“No, but I did so because it’d be fun.”
For another, you figure that you may as well take the time to familiarize yourself with the place you came to in the first place. That said, you clear your throat, idly gesturing towards the source of the smell of barbecue.
The owner grumbles, but you hear the plate being slid towards you.
“Where’s mine?” Seki asks.
“Bullshit. There’s nothing on the grill.”
“I’m thawing it out back.”
You take a bite out of the grilled seafood.
“Out back? There’s nothing out back!”
“Sure there is. The forest.”
“And you’re thawing frozen eels out there. In the forest. Without anyone watching them. Where it’ll be easy for any animal or feral youkai to do unspeakable things to them.”
Huh… You’ve only had eel once before, but it’s never tasted this good! You feel around your coin pouch, resolving to leave a tip for dinner—.
“Of course not! The things they could do are perfectly speakable! For one, there was that time where that annoying taoist started spouting propaganda, so I thawed out an eel out back where the rabbit mating season was in full swing—”
You cough, pounding your chest a bit to dislodge any remaining eel you just choked on from your windpipe while reprimanding your mind for the disturbing thought of the “rabbits” you’ve met and the season-you-refuse-to-think-about.
“Carry on,” you say.
“Anyway, suffice to say she quickly denounced my store and vowed never to come back. Good riddance.”
“You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t find this amusing. I think I’ll cancel my order now.”
—and the entertainment.
“In any case, I’ll have you know that there are no scams or trickery involved in this reputable and morally upstanding establishment!”
You can already imagine her pouting and crossing her arms.
“Hey, Seki,” you say, a familiar feeling welling up inside you.
You fight to suppress the grin that threatens to take, which you do by biting the last shred of eel off the skewer and swallowing it.
“...I still can’t see.”
You can almost hear the sound of something meta shattering.
“He’s got you there, Mystia.”
Oh, wait. You can smell spilt barbecue sauce. Guess she really did drop something.
The good news is that you’re still allowed to visit the stand (“A paying customers still a customer,” said Mystia).
That bad news is only on days when there aren’t any other humans from the village. That said, you have a sneaking suspicion as to why the two of you were shoo-ed away so quickly. (“It’s bad for business if other people see you still blind after eating here!”). You’re not ever sure if she realizes that she admitted to conning people anymore.
You’d be lying if you said you weren’t even a little disappointed, though.
“Cheer up, Wash,” Seki says.
“...Oh, were you expecting more?”
“Sometimes, I wonder why.” That elicits a chuckle from Sekibanki.
“If you wanted that kind of thing, next time tell me to leave Empathy behind.”
You shrug as the two of you continue your stroll. Warm midday sun, birds chirping. Grass beneath your bare feet (you pointedly ignore the occasional stone).
What's this? An honest-to-god update so soon after the last one?!
I'm gonna go prep my fallout shelter.
“I don’t know… Love?”
“...sure, why not?”
Wait what? “Seriously?”
“Sure. Love’s pretty straightforward, after all.”
You do your best to track the sound of her voice as you both continue walking, hoping that the idea of you staring wide-eyed and surprised is conveyed in that action.
“Stop staring at me, Wash. It’s dangerous.”
“I’m curious, is all,” you say. You don’t remember a lot about love, especially since the temporary nature of your stays in any port would limit any crewman’s interaction time with the local dames. This is not taking into consideration the scarring of your then-single blind eye.
What you do remember is the Bosun’s tale of his fiancée, Julianna.
You suppress an involuntary shudder at the Bosun’s tale of that particular clusterfuck… in more ways than one, and his wasn’t the only tale.
“What’s there to be curious about?” Seki replies.
“It just doesn’t seem that straightforward, is all.”
“Speaking from experience, Wash?”
You stop walking to think for a moment…
“...Nope. I got nothing.” Everything’s still black as ever. “What about you?”
“Had a few flings here and there. Never really worked out. That’s where it’s simple, you know? It either works out or it doesn’t.”
You pick up the pace as her voice gets the slightest bit fainter.
“Is that really it?” you ask. “What if it works out, initially, but fails along the way? And vice-versa?”
“Same thing. I never said that “working out” is a one-time thing.”
“So if it “works” at first, there’s no telling whether it will fail or not in the future, and that’s just part of the relationship is what you’re saying? “
“Sure, why not?”
You level your flattest stare in her direction.
“Hey, you want a deep and meaningful discussion about emotions, tell me to leave Philosophy or Cynicism behind. Hell, ask for love, assuming she’s still alive somewhere…”
“...one of your ‘experiences’?”
“Looked like it was working out, but then he died. I think.”
“What can I say? It’s been a while. Good luck getting a straight answer out of Memory if you meet her.”
“Anyway,” she says before you can say anything else, “we’re here.”
Stone, something drips. The sound echoes and your bare feet feel cold.
Darkness. Once again, the paths are before you, only one is different. Faded. You can clearly see the scene at the end of someone coughing up a storm, the smell of saltwater wafting over to you. It brings a smile to your face, but the feeling doesn’t last long when you realize that the end of the other two paths are still invisible.
Lying at the start of them are the other two objects.
 The Sea: You feel a familiar presence
 The Rifle: Your scars ache
 The Lantern: Something you wouldn’t mind forgetting, but cannot
>>199280 Yeah, I know. I apologize for the shortness but that's because I put i plan on updating soon after the votes come in. Normally I only update once a month but now I'm go to try to put out more updates per month when I can.
Your choice made, you step forward and pick up the lantern, holding it aloft as you press onward. The wood creaked—
—creaks as you heft the lantern, moving towards the rancid smell. One you barely recognize.
“Isaac?” you softly call.
The lantern flickers as you exit the house, tracking the smell all the way to the barn, where you find yourself unable to rightly breathe at the door due to the stench. Reaching out, you think better and creep along to the side. You hear something.
It’s not a pleasant sound.
Steeling yourself, you raise the lan—
—tern, eyes that scanned the trees around you over and over as your companions followed silently behind you. That was—
—is when you see it.
Throat torn and bloody.
Dress no doubt ruined.
You barely register the smoking pistol or the steaming gash along her cheek, to focused at the horrifying sight of lifebloo—
EYES RED EYES STARING GLARING
Dear lord what on earth is that smeGOODGODHISEYESBEENEA
You awake to a weight on your chest, a hand taking a fistful of shirt, and what could only be sharp claws being shoved in your face if the pricking sensation is anything to go buy.
“I don’t care if you really are a Shinigami or not,” werecat hisses, “I wil not permit you to harm Satori-sama!”
“Stand down Rin!”
Her grip on your shirt tightens, but the claws are no longer pressed against your face.
Almost immediately the grip on your shirt disappears, along with anything preventing your sluggish body from letting your head fall and hit the ground.
“Oww,” you groan, pushing yourself to your knees.
“Satori.” Your question goes unsaid as you feel around for your staff.
“There was a… complication,” she says, her footsteps walking somewhere to the left of you. “Your memory is being repressed.”
“Ah… yes. This is a relatively recent development,” she says. “Tell me, have you heard of anyone, anyone at all, who claims that he still hears things? Cannons, screams, anything of the sort.
Immediately, your mind flashes to Lars, the old dutchman, and his tales of the Barbary states. Arid heat in the day, freezing at night, and at the end of it all, the frigate he served upon up in flames. It was by stroke of misfortune that he was wounded in the action, otherwise he might’ve joined his friends on the doomed fireship.
He was a good man, Lars, but dangerous. The cannonfire never left him, he claimed, and bad nights resulted in injuries from holding his frantic form down while he raged.
“In any case,” Satori picks up something from the ground. You hear something slide against wood, then two pieces knocking together. “I’m afraid I cannot help you today, unless you’re willing to risk reliving a particularly nasty memory without some form of closure.”
“...and if I am?”
“Then I do hope you don’t mind permanent mental damage. Tell me, do you think you could find your mind again after you lose it?”
Your silence is all the reply that she needs, even without your thoughts.
“I’ve brought up many unpleasant memories today,” she says, footsteps coming to a stop in front of you. “For that, I apologize and must insist that you come back another time. Rest, recover. Enjoy yourself. It won’t be long before it’s safe for us to try again, but for now I’d rather not risk it.”
She gently takes your hand, placing your staff back in your grip.
You sit silently on the bench, Seki resting in your hands as the underground noise continues all around you.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks you.
“If I could remember anything to talk about,” you reply, frowning yet relieved that the sensations from earlier don’t return with your mental prodding. Everything is as blank and featureless as before.
“Are you alright?”
You shrug and nod, knowing she can see. It’s not like you remember exactly what cause you to unconsciously lash out at Satori.
But this brings up so many problems. You're traumatized by… something, or so Satori says. Thank God it's not directly affecting you, but subconsciously it's there. Lurking. Waiting for a trigger.
“I don't suppose you know how to find Koish—”
“Yes, but not a chance.”
You remember the confusing clusterfuck that was the last time you met her. “Fair enough.”
“So what happens now?”
...you don't really know, honestly. “We go home?”
“Alternatively, there's a new place I've wanted to try for a while now.”
If you could still see, you’d probably be more affected by all of the eyes watching you being led by a floating head, on which you’ve rested a hand. As it stands, however, you can still practically feel the stares and whispers. These are monstly drowned-out by the sound of life, though.
Eventually, you can’t even hear the whispers anymore over a really loud crowd. Muffled, but still really loud.
“If you would,” Seki says as she comes to a halt where the crowd is at it’s loudest, but still comes out muffled.
Oh. A door.
And she has no hands.
In hindsight, you really should have prepared yourself more.
The moment the door is open the tiniest crack, the sound instantly booms into your ears, causing you to wince. If it affected Seki, you have no idea since you can barely hear her over the festivities going on inside. All you can do is to press against the stupidly sturdy throng of bodies in an attempt to keep yourself from losing track of her.
As the two of you ease through the crowd (Or in Seki’s case, cheat by the fact that she has no body, you take in the smell in an attempt to drown out the noise, and you’re not disappointed.
For one thing, the bread smells fucking amazing. Seriously. And you should know. Months on end of subsisting on Hardtack and salted meats has taught you to appreciate the scent of something as simple as home-baked bread, and this bread smells better that anything (you can remember) by far.
Second is the alcohol. You recognize the scent of that rice wine that’s so common in Gensokyo, but you also smell beer. Beer, whisky, and maybe even a few glasses of wine here and there, so this place has variety. Seki places an order of beer for the both of you.
As you wait, Seki settles down on the countertop near your hand. You, meanwhile, have much on your mind. In hindsight, you really should’ve asked Satori more about what’s going on in your head. You need closure, she says? Wonder where or how you’re supposed to get it when you haven’t the faintest idea what you need it for.
There’s things you gotta settle, for sure, but the problem lies in that you’re in Gensokyo now. Can you still leave? Maybe. But the world outside isn’t good for you. Not without someone you can trust. You’ve got three…
You wince and your hands shoot up to cover your ears as you feel your staff being wrenched from your grip and a small dust cloud being kicked up at your feet.
...Two people you can trust, but if they’d be willing to leave with you is the question.
You hope it doesn’t come to that.
Ah, the beer’s here.
“Most people don’t know it,” Seki says directly in your ear as she guides you to take a seat at the bar, “but Yuuka’s supplying this place.”
“Oh, is she? How nice,” you say, groping for the mug and raising it for a swig.
“Yeah. Turns out barley watered with the blood of trespassers makes for a great fertilizer. Who knew?”
The person sitting next to you is now wet.
You snap a glare at the direction of Seki’s voice.
“I tell no lies.”
KEEPING THE TRUTH TO YOURSELF IS NOT LYING.
You’re about to tear Seki a new one when you feel something… heavy is on your shoulder.
Back straight as a board, you silently curse and turn to at least do the courtesy of facing the person you’ve offended.
The person who turned you around was about to say something before you interrupt her. Now, the sound chokes and dies before it can leave. The grip on your shoulder slackens now that you’ve turned completely and no doubt given the person a good view of your face.
Oh, hang on. It’s that girl from last time. The bridge, you think.
“...Fuck it. I’m fine,” she says suddenly and goes back to drinking if the gulping sound is anything to go by.
Not the girl from the bridge (although it is a little bit), but that all of a sudden the noise in the bar just… Died. Replaced by a gradual build up in whispered conversations.
“Isn’t that the bridge-princess? The one who’s always jealous?” one whisper goes.
“Is she… pitying him?!”
“No way! What kinda fucked-up…”
“Hey, isn’t he that guy that thrashed Yuugi?”
You don’t think you like where this is going.
“Don’t you mean the guy that got thrashed by Yuugi?”
“But isn’t he just a hu—”
You chug down the rest of you bear as Seki hits the bottom of her’s (how the straw you heard her using hasn’t turned to mush by now you have no idea). You tap the table near her to get her attention and motion to the direction you estimate the dor to be.
“Hey, what’s up with his eyes?”
You immediately get up with Seki occasionally bumping against you to let you know she’s following and nudging you to correct your course. As the whispers grow into silent debates.
You’ve just felt and grabbed the doorknob before you’re stopped by a wrinkly hand grasping your shoulder and forcibly spinning you around.
“Lemme see your eyes, boy,” an old, raspy voice hisses in your face. You can feel him moving closer. Another wrinkly hand grabs you by the chin and forces your blank gaze downwards.
You force yourself out of his suddenly-slackened grip and throw the door open, all but running outside to escape the stifling atmosphere.
“Wait for me,” says Seki. You slow your pace, but don’t say anything. Your eyes itch. It’s probably the first time you’ve noticed, but that’s probably just because whoever that was forced you to stare. Or he did, at you. In any case, it’s an uncomfortable feeling.
There’s nothing much to say, after all. You didn’t like being the center of attention.
Was it because of last time? That’s certainly one reason. It doesn’t have to be you think. You really just didn’t like the atmosphere. All of a sudden and with one statement, all eyes were on you, contemplating and judging. You’d been recognized.
Above all you could feel it. Someone. Locking gazes with you and you’d’ve been none the wiser if your paranoia hadn’t skyrocketed when the patrons were whispering about you—
Immediately, you halt and gently wave your staff in front of you. It comes into contact with something hard that makes a knocking sound against it. A post, most likely, that Seki just prevented you from walking into.
“Apologies, I just have a lot in my head at the moment,” you say. “What were you saying, Seki?”
All you get out of her is a sigh as she levitates back up to your hand to guide you out of the caves.
Miraculously, you exit the cavern and make it to Seki’s house without any incident.
“Welcome home,” Kurumi says from somewhere. “Sekibanki—the rest of her, that is—has yet to return, so I’ve taken the liberty of preparing dinner.”
And lord almighty does is smell good. A hint of spice, something gamey, and smoke. The good kind of smoke.
“That’s practically raw,” says… Sekibanki. Well, that’ll be much more confusing later on.
“I assure you, this is perfectly safe for consumption,” Kurumi says. “You’ve been so kind as to have me, and my allotted leave is just about used up, so I’ve taken the liberty of preparing dinner.”
“I don’t mind,” you say, conscious about the effort Kurumi must have gone through to prepare something that smelled so good within the day. Maybe you weren’t a very good one owing to your post at a ship, but you were a cook once upon a time.
“Splendid! Please, have a seat!”
You carefully feel your way to the table and take whichever seat you happen upon first. Moments later, you hear Seki lightly place herself on the table, followed shortly by a platter being set down by Kurumi. The aroma, consequently, is stronger now and you eagerly feel around your plate for utensils.
Ah, there’s the—
“He’ll be fine, he’s had worse.”
Still, Kurumi’s hurried footsteps stop to your side.
“Well, this is embarrassing,” you mutter. “Usually, I’m not nearly so careless—“
Kurumi takes your finger and sucks on the wound.
It’s not so much what she does, but what you feel in her mouth that makes everything go bla
“Again, I do not blame him. In fact, had I known I would have exercised more restraint. If anything, I should be the one to apologize!”
Huh. Wonder what Kurumi’s so worried about.
“Then let’s just all agree that nobody wanted this to happen, okay? It did, but nobody’s blaming anyone, so let’s leave it at that.”
Ah, looks like Seki’s back. That’s two sets of footsteps you hear.
Apart from your mild headache? “Fine. Mostly. What happened?”
y“You slipped and fell.”
“Is that so?”
Elsewhere, a youkai curses in frustration as her sneeze ends up alerting the her target to her presence.
“WHO KEEPS DOING THAT?!”
You send a glance Seki’s way, trying to meet her eyes with guesswork from the sound of her voice. She’s hiding something, you know it. You feel it. It feels itchy.
Seki doesn’t say anything. That’s okay though. Maybe you can’t see how she’s reacting. What she’s hiding,
You’re hearing, though. It’s good. Good because you’ve got to rely on it a lot. Good enough that you barely catch the sound coming from Kurumi before Seki can cut her off.
You’ve got a decent sense of smell, too, and there’s something thanks much stronger than it was before.
“Ah… my head still hurts,” you say, massaging your temples for good measure. “Kurumi? Would you kindly guide me to the table?”
The moment you hear her footsteps stop at their closest to you, you snap out. You home in on what’s been bothering you since you woke up.
You’ve got Kurumi’s right arm in your grip and you refuse to let go.
“Wash!” Seki says, but you ignore her.
Gently, you place a hand the connected shoulder, squeezing slightly. You feel… something, and a shudder run through Kurumi. Then your fingers find the tear in the fabric. Clean, not frayed as much. Damp. Mixed smell. But inside? Bandages.
The implications… unsettle you.
“Where is it?” You ask.
Of course, you’re referring to your staff.
You hear Seki sigh as she approaches you.
“Look Wash, I wasn’t lying when I said you slipped and fell.”
She takes your hand and places the significantly lighter-yet-familiar wooden handle in your hand.
“I just wanted to break it to you differently.”
The you feel the slightest of stings when you tighten your grip. The knife. Right.
Aaaaaahhh… then that…
What are you looking at, exactly? It’s hard to say. There’s meat hooks, for one, thankfully empty. The room’s lit by nothing but your lantern. Something echoes from further within, behind a closed door at the end.
“...em brats prefer to let ‘me go. You, boyo? You got the short end of the stick.”
You leave the lantern at the door and creep in, wary of creaking floorboards and listening carefully.
“Me? I like getting my money’s worth, so to speak.”
You notice with a start that footsteps from within grow louder and closer to the door. You quietly make as fast as possible for the door, gently pulling it nearly shut and reaching down to snuff out the lantern. The door from within opens, and you hear the sound of a struggle, a bound body being dragged and muffled yelps. A grunt of exertion, a rustling of chains.
“Hmm… maybe I’ll have a quick drink first.”
Belatedly, you realize that your arms have started trembling. What you thought was the footsteps was your heart, pounding away from inside. You don’t like the sound of things. The implications. You want to act, but a part of you tells you that you should find out more. To wait. To observe.
Thus, you creep to the door and peek, muscles tensed...
And lash out.
“Wash!” Seki shouts, but you’ve reacted before you register her voice and cannot stop your vicious swing.
A flash. Red.
You… it disrupts any sort of visualization you might’ve had of anything going on in there.
“...I would like to apologize,” Kurumi says, as you numbly note that something holds back your staff from connecting.
It’s only when the smell of blood gets stronger still do you drop it in shock and stumble back until you’ve hit a wall.
“I… Had I known, I would have been more cautious. No, I would have not done that at all.”
You stare blankly at nothing at all, your eyes not looking anywhere specific as you clench your fists and tremble.
A shiver runs up your spine.
“I think it’s best if you leave for now,” Seki says to her. Not that you care.
You’re focuses too much on another thing. One thing, or maybe two in this case.
Anything you can put a mental grip on is drawn together as the door opens and Kurumi flees outside.
You massage your temples as you place the uneaten roast beef in the new icebox thing you bought off the Kappa. Images still burn through your thoughts.
A shattered lantern.
You dispel those thoughts with a shake of your head, rubbing your suddenly-tired eyes and sending a glance to your unconscious companion for quite some time now.
Wash is sleeping. Unlike before, he’s not thrashing as though caught in a nightmare.
Well, you’re not gonna complain. Your head’s still spinning and feels oddly heated, so the peace is greatly appreciated.
You open your eyes.
Immediately you can tell that something’s different because of one thing. One thing you never thought you’d witness anywhere except the deepest recesses of your wildest imaginations.
It’s not clear, nor is it striking, but it’s there when your eyes flutter open, tinging the usual formlessness you’ve gotten so used to in a way you couldn’t describe if you could properly see it. Thinking on it is complicated. You feel things. See flashes. Darkness, and the utterly horrified expression on a familiar face. all this and… someone. Someone latched to that face’s throat. Blurred, distorted, but it fits. Darkness, the dimly lit room. A face of utter horror? Hung by a meathook. You remember red, and the obvious answer in the throat-ripping.
Vampires… you’ve heard of them. Bloodsuckers, murderers, creatures of the night. Before your most recent visit to Satori, it was from a memory. Fragmented, but viewable thanks to her previous efforts. A lantern—different. Intact—and the crew gathered around. It was a quiet night. They were exchanging stories. It all came from one, a foreigner like Lars.
You think about Kurumi. How you met her and how pleasant she was. It wasn’t so bad back then, back before these flashes assailed you at the thought. Maybe you didn’t really take her seriously back then, but the implications draw emotions you don’t remember yourself capable of feeling in such intensity to the surface.
You think back to the last you’ve heard from her last night, but any sympathy is abruptly overshadowed by the whispers on your head.
That face… You knew him. Something killed him. Strung him up and drained him dry.
You… you need to think on this. There’s too much thoughts clouding your head for you to think about Kurumi any further. For now, you think it’s best if you refrain from seeking her out.
No telling what you’d do.
Vampires are bad news, after all.
...no, wait. That’s not…
“Hell. Where’s Satori when you need her?”
“Probably back home. People don’t like it when sis is around.”
You sit up with a jolt at the sound of your ‘friend’ from before right beside your bed.
“I like you,” she says. “It’s like watching a movie?”
What the hell is a “movie?”
“It’s a new thing here. Dunno, don’t care!” She cheers.
“I…” hell, what can you say after the mess that was the last time you’ve met her? “I’m not sure Sekibanki would be pleased to see you here.”
“Oh, pshaw, Mami’s still sleeping. Besides, she wouldn’t be too happy if sis was here instead of me either, but at least I can help!”
Somehow, you doubt that.
“Hey! I’m offended!”
Is she really?
“That way you can say things by just moving your face is really cool, by the way!”
“Can you help me or not?”
It’s several seconds of silence before the thought occurs to you that you’ve been a massive asshole for doubting her like that when she came all this way to see you.
“Look,” you sigh, “I’m sorry for snapping—“
You pause, taken aback by how flat and emotionless her voice suddenly is.
“You’ve consciously been ignoring the fact that she’s a vampire, but now your subconscious is suddenly screaming nasty stuff. All because sis couldn’t get through to you. Don’t blame her, though, cause that’s never really been her thing.”
You feel the mattress shift as she sits down next to you.
“The subconscious is a powerful thing. It’s probably what has most of the things that make you “You”. That doesn’t mean you can’t change, though, just that it takes time. You can’t rush things. Sometimes, before you can move one, you gotta take a detour and find some closure.”
The weight on the mattress disappears and a light, barely perceptible set of footsteps make their way to the window. The sound of hinges creaking, and you can tell it’s been opened.
“Tell Sekibanki to take you to Misty Lake. See ya, friendo!”
And with that, she’s gone.
The door opens.
“Oh, it’s just you,” Seki says. “For a moment I thought I heard someone else in here.”
“Just me and my conscience.” It’s the closest to the truth you can be since you’re sure Seki won’t appreciate the fact that your “conscience”, as she knows her, had so easily snuck into her house.
“Well I hope you and your conscience had a meaningful conversation before I cut in. Breakfast?”
“...Yeah, why not?”
Seki doesn’t bother to wait for you before she leaves, but it’s not a problem. You easily make your way into the dining area without bumping into anything or anyone unexpected.
“I’m going out later,” you say as Seki sets something down in front of you.
“Really? What for”
“Gotta clear my head.”
She doesn’t say anything, but you hear her settle down across the table from you, sipping her tea.
It’s a strange thought, thinking about the best way to go about asking her to accompany you. All those times before things just fell into place.
The question is, can you ask her?
She’s been with you all the way. Granted, she hasn’t exactly kicked you out of the house yet, but bits of your personality’s been coming slowly. You don’t want to ask too much of anyone, not if you can handle it yourself.
But the problem is that you can’t. Misty Lake? You’ve never been there before. You’d be lost, alone and unprotected (Elly’s modification to your staff notwithstanding).
Agh… One more time then.
“Join me?” you hesitantly ask. “I’ve been told Misty Lake is lovely around this time.”
The sipping stops. “You hesitated.”
“No? What makes you say that?”
Seki just sighs. “It’s not a problem. I’ve got a friend I’ve been meaning to visit there anyway.”
“How wonderful. It would appear we’ve both got our reasons.”
Left unsaid is how unclear yours are, but Seki doesn’t push the subject, thankfully.
After breakfast, you both set out for the lake, passing through the village (and hearing more whispers and murmurs from the inhabitants) and unto a path you recognize as heading in the general direction of Kourindou before you go off a different way.
It was a pleasant walk. Cool breeze, nothing but nature around you and Seki steadily guiding you along. That was the only awkward bit, the lack of conversation.
You recall last night, however, and how shaken you were. Maybe she’s giving you space? You did say you’d like to clear your head, after all.
...the ground’s gotten colder.
The wind kind of stings now.
“Well, here we are,” Seki eventually says, stopping in front of you. “Dunno why you wanted to go to this ice box, but we’re here.
Okay… Now what?
 You hear someone in the distance.
 “You said you have a friend here?”
 There’s some string in your pouch and fish in the lake.
You shrug. Clearing your head doesn’t always have to mean sitting around in silence, dead to the world around you as you empty your mind. In that regard, it’s not really clearing your head than taking a break and focusing on something that doesn’t make you immediately anxious or agitated.
“...Eh, why not? You’ve already met Kagerou anyway,” Seki’s footsteps crunch against the grass, which you note to be unusually cold.
“Anything I should know about her in advance?” you ask, just to be safe.
“...You have any repressed trauma about mermaids?”
“...one, I’m not sure that’s how that sort of thing works. Two…” you pause, massaging your forehead as you feel a mild ache coming along. “As long as she doesn’t sing, I won’t try anything.”
“Repressed memories about Sirens. Gotcha.”
Oh, for the love of—
“Okay, I’m definitely sure that’s not how it works.” And this is coming from you, who didn’t know anything about these terms until the last time you met Satori. “Also, Sirens are a legitimate fear! Especially since I’m in a land where one can be as real as my left arm!”
“Wash. you’re scared of someone singing.”
“I’m scared of someone luring me to a watery grave with their singing!”
The pause is very reassuring, Sekibanki. Thank you.
“...Nah, Mystia would rather grill you instead than boil you.”
“You’re not helping!”
The footsteps stop.
“Wash,” she says. “Are you okay?”
Are you? You don’t even notice how fast your heart is beating until she asks you that, how your hand’s wandered over to your right eye. How… warm it feels. Conversely, you feel cold. More than you normally should, you’re sure.
“I… I’m fine now. Sorry.”
You don’t hear anything, but you get the impression that Seki’s spending a few moments to look at you in what could either be concern, annoyance, or something else.
Your experience in conveying messages through your expression would be immensely helpful in reading if you could fucking see.
“Well, we’re almost there. Try not to fall in the lake, will you?”
You fell in the lake.
To clarify, it’s because of a very strange series of events. First of all, you thought that Seki simply wasn’t speaking. That was fine because you could still hear the crunch of her footsteps.
Then, for some reason, your feet got cold very suddenly and quickly. The ground also became slippery, and you realized you were walking on ice. Still, Seki’s footsteps pressed on and, having never been to this area before, you trusted her judgement.
Finally, when you questioned just how much longer you’d be walking on ice, her footsteps abruptly cut off and she shouted something behind you.
Next thing you knew, you were in the lake.
It cannot be stated what a terrifying experience it is to be submerged in water and unable to see. Back then you had the comfort of being able to see where you were going, even if the saltwater you often found yourself in made it uncomfortable and painful. Now, though?
You can’t see. Your clothes, particularly the traveling cloak you always wear, weigh you down. Your feet are numb from the ice and you can barely feel your legs kicking back and forth. Most importantly, you can’t breathe.
Desperately, you reign in your impulse to move as fast as you can and sette for a frantic and tiring kicking, knowing at least that you’re still heading for the surface.
Then, something grabs your foot.
Suffice to say your thought process might have gotten the *slightest* bit, well… Fucked. It’s all a blur, really. You kick wildly and struggle, but no matter how much you struggle, you’re dragged sideways just below the surface, unable to stick your head up with your flailing limbs occasionally get bitten by the frigid air.You’re only losing air faster because of your frantic-yet-garbled screams.
You must’ve done something because next thing you know, you’re tossed out of the lake and land rather painfully in the shallows.
“Fuuuuuuuuuck,” you groan as you steadily lose feeling in your body as you lay on your side.
“Oh, cool! You’re not broken!”
Dear lord not another one.
“No, no, I think I am,” you say.
Whoever it is that’s stumbled upon you takes a moment to consider this, then pokes you again.
“Hey.” she says, suddenly serious. “Play with me.”
“Play with me.”
“...I think I’ve broken something,” you weakly try
“Nice try. Stop being a pussy and play with me.”
You flop to your back and level a glare at the direction of her voice. “WHERE THE HELL DID SOMEONE AS YOUNG AS YOU LEARN TO SPEAK THAT WA—”