[x] "Yes, please."
[x] Salute the brave sailors of the Nagashi-bina doll navy.
“Yes, please,” you say, nodding. Carefully, you scoop up the small boat made from straws and bits of wood, into your arms. Inching closer to the stream of water you gently lower the boat to its surface.
The boat, carrying its paper doll passengers, begins to float down the current of the river. Standing up from your crouched position, you smile as you watch the boat start its journey down the stream. You raise your hand up in a salute, wishing the best of luck and safe travels to the brave sailors of the Nagashi-bina doll army.
Their vessel shakes about unsteadily, as it continues to follow the flow of the river… and then capsizes, floating on upside-down.
You stand there, still saluting, with your mouth agape in shock. Slowly, you lower your hand, frowning.
“How unfortunate…” Miss Kagiyama laments, looking on sadly.
“I’m… I’m sorry…” you mumble, placing a hand on your forehead. “Was that my fault?” Was what she was telling you about… the misfortune and all that… was it really all true? Then, what does that mean?
“No,” Miss Kagiyama says, shaking her head. “You’re not to blame. It’s not a surprising thing to happen. The dolls are carrying the curses of humans, after all.”
You still feel a little responsible, but you ease up on your frown, instead turning to the goddess with a quizzical look on your face.
“Um, say…” you begin to ask. Something’s definitely been bothering you. And you have to clear it up. Or maybe it’s just Miss Kagiyama’s… unique aura, but either way, you have to know something. “What did you mean earlier? By… growing, I mean.”
She looks at you sadly, but nonetheless, she begins to explain. “The curse that is plaguing your body… it’s continuing to grow. It… still seems to be dormant, but… it’s alarming how fast it develops.”
Whoa. That’s scary. But what does that mean? Are you going to be attracting disasters everywhere, or drop dead? You don’t really feel any different, though. “But what can I do about it?” you ask, frowning. “I went to see an exorcist like you said, but I don’t think it really did anything.”
“I’m sorry,” Miss Kagiyama replies, looking truly sorry. “But there is nothing I can do. A God of my standing… is unable to take away the tragedies you possess.”
You bite your lip, looking down at your feet. You don’t blame her, but it’s frustrating to know there’s something wrong with you, but not being able to do anything about it. Ugh, you really shouldn’t have asked in the first place.
Still, you force a smile on your face, trying not to look too bothered, and speak as cheerfully as you can: “Ah, that’s right, Miss Kagiyama. There’s another thing I’ve been meaning to ask.”
“Yes? What is it?”
“Normally, Curse Gods spread illness and misfortune, don’t they? But you do the opposite. Why?”
“I… want to help people,” she says thoughtfully. “Of course, the other Curse Gods are not wrong in their actions. Fate must have a light and a dark side, after all. But, even if I am meant to spread curses, I have my own choices. And I choose to carry away curses instead, if it means helping humans… even if it’s just a little.”
“I see,” you nod, smiling brightly. “I think that’s admirable.”
“Thank you,” she says, but she looks a little down. “Unfortunately, a friend of humans or not, people seem to feel very uneasy whenever I’m around, so they tend to avoid me.”
“That’s a problem…” you say, assuming a thinking posture. “Um… maybe if you smile more?”
“Excuse me?” she asks, puzzled.
“Maybe if you smile more energetically… Then maybe less people will try to avoid you?” you say, a little uncertain. She does smile, but it always looks… kind of melancholic.
Miss Kagiyama looks over you for a moment and then nods and closes her eyes, giving you a brighter, happier smile than ever. “I see,” she says, giggling. “I will try that.”
Yes… No matter how troubled you are, no matter how miserable you are… You’ll keep smiling.
You snap out of it, finding yourself at one of the many dining tables in the tengu HQ’s canteen, with your chopsticks in hand. Miss Momizi was sitting next to you, trying to get your attention.
“Is something wrong, Mikio?” she asks, looking concerned.
“No… it’s nothing,” you say with a smile, shaking your head. Actually, you were thinking about today’s afternoon, but you don’t want to worry Miss Momizi about that whole misfortune business.
“Anyway, as I was saying, Mikio…” she continues, after a bit of hesitation. “Your hair’s been getting pretty long…” she says, gently taking hold of a lock of your hair with two fingers. “Don’t you think it’s time for a haircut?”
“Will you do it for me?” you ask, seriously.
“Eh?” she looks surprised. “Um… if you want, I can.”
 “Then I’ll leave it to you, Miss Momizi.”
 “Actually, I like it long.”
[x] “Then I’ll leave it to you, Miss Momizi.”
“Then I’ll leave it to you, Miss Momizi,” you say, picking out a piece of meat with your pair of chop sticks and popping it in to your mouth. Honestly, you don’t really care too much about your hair, but if she says it’s too long, then she’s probably right.
“Are you sure?” she replies with uncertainty. “I’m not really much of a hairdresser…”
You give her a light-hearted grin, while saying: “That’s okay, Miss Momizi. I’m sure you can do a good job.” Afterwards, you resume eating your meal. She looks a little more confident, and she continues eating as well.
After finishing dinner, you and Miss Momizi head off to find an unoccupied room. Setting down a carpet on the floor, you kneel down on top of it as she goes elsewhere to obtain a pair of scissors, taking your tokin hat off and letting it rest beside you.
Returning with scissors in one hand and a towel in the other, she approaches you and drapes the towel around you. Fitting the scissors around her fingers, she runs her hand over your hair.
“It’s always so messy, Mikio,” she scolds. “You should really try brushing your hair.”
“Ahaha…” you laugh weakly. To tell the truth, you’ve never really bothered to run a comb through your hair. Even if you did, it would always return to being as unkempt as ever, anyway. “I’m sorry, Miss Momizi.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” she says, chuckling. She stands behind you, holding your head with both hands and tilting it forward. “Hold still, okay?”
She combs through your hair with her fingers, straightening out your locks. You remain still as she instructed, and she begins to trim your hair. Bits of dark hair fall to the ground below as she works carefully.
“How do you want it?” she asks as she continues to cut away at your hair.
“I’ll leave that to you, Miss Momizi.”
“That makes it hard for me, though,” Miss Momizi says with a resigned smile. “No complaining when I’m done, okay?”
You almost nod before you remember that you shouldn’t move your head, and settle for an “Okay” instead.
She quietly continues to work, without saying anything. But it’s not an awkward silence. It’s more… comfortable. More cozy. You smile as she scoots around you to trim the front of your hair, causing her to look at you with a puzzled look.
“What is it?” she asks you.
“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing…” You say, still smiling. “It’s because… I think you smell nice.”
Her face flushes a little, but she returns your smile. “Really? What do I smell like?”
“Hm…” you ponder a little as she works her scissors, watching the bits of your dark hair fall down. “You smell… homely, I think.”
“That doesn’t really narrow it down,” she laughs. “I don’t think I really smell like anything, though. And I do have a keen nose, you know.”
You shake your head. “No. There’s definitely a nice scent,” you insist.
“… Thanks, Mikio.”
“Alright, I think I’m done,” Miss Momizi says with a slight tone of pride in her voice. She makes a few final adjustments to your hair, sweeping her fingers through it, and then holds up a hand mirror for you to look in. “How’s that, Mikio?”
“I think it looks nice,” you say, examining yourself. It’s a little jarring to have the back of your neck feel so exposed, though, as you run your hand through the back of your head.
“It did come out better than I thought it would,” she admits. “Anyway, you should go ahead and take a bath. I’ll clean up here.”
 Offer to help her clean up.
---  Offer to do it all yourself.
 Go take a bath.
I said most, not all.
If it works even partially, we get to have Mikio spend more time with Momiji, and the possibility of an awkward bath scene where Momi starts to question how she feels about Mikio afterwards.
“I’ll help,” you quickly say as you stand up from your position. Your knees were aching, but you ignored the pain, taking the towel off of your body and folding it up before setting it down on the floor. You also pick up your tokin hat, deciding to pocket it instead of putting it on right now.
You dust off some of the hair that remained at the back of your neck and on the sides, giving your hair a good shake to make sure everything was out. You feel itchy under your clothes, but that can’t be helped until you go take a bath, anyway.
And then, you walk over to Miss Momizi, who was already sweeping up the hair that had fallen to the ground. Wow. Your hair really was long, wasn’t it? Using your hand, you sweep some of the hair onto the pages of old newspaper that Miss Momizi had set down below the cushion beforehand. There really isn’t much to do other than that, actually, but still.
You notice some stray strands of hair that had fallen away from the newspaper set on the floor, so you make your way on your knees to it and reach down…
You and Miss Momizi both let out a gasp of surprise, and in your case, of pain as well. Tears well up in your eyes as you recoil back, rubbing your forehead. Ugh… your head collided with Miss Momizi’s while you were reaching down…
That… that really hurts. You keep rubbing your head as Miss Momizi moves closer to you with a worried face. She’s rubbing her head too, but it probably doesn’t hurt as bad as yours does.
“Are you alright, Mikio?” she asks, taking your hand into hers and gently prying it away from your forehead to take a closer look. “It didn’t leave a bruise, did it?”
“I-I’m fine,” you say, giving a weak smile. The pain was starting to become numb. You wipe away the water in your eyes using your other hand.
“I’m sorry,” Miss Momizi says apologetically. “I wasn’t looking…”
“No, no, I’m the one who wasn’t paying attention,” you reply. “I’m sorry.”
She opens her mouth as if she wants to say something, but as the two of you exchange looks, both of you begin laughing.
As the two of you settle down, the last of your laughter dying away, you sit there, smiling and looking at her. She looks back at you, smiling back. And then she notices that she’s still holding tightly onto your hand. Her face reddens slightly, and she hurriedly lets go.
“A-anyway, let’s finish cleaning up here,” she says hastily, standing up.
You nod and follow her lead, helping her clean up the room. Afterward, she walks you to the bath, where you bid her good night.
Later, after taking a bath, you lie awake in one of the tengu quarters, staring up at the ceiling. Your body feels very relaxed. Very comfortable. A normal day. Well, mostly, anyway. You let out a yawn, and close your eyes, falling asleep peacefully.
The eventful summer soon passed, and in its place came autumn. Things were quiet, and the only real events lately were of the House of Eternity in the Bamboo Forest becoming public knowledge, and an alleged small fire in the said forest that Miss Aya had covered a week or so ago. Other than that, there wasn’t much going on.
As usual, you work at the printing press for several mind-numbingly monotonous hours. Thanks to a few machines from the kappa, the work wasn’t at all strenuous, but it sure is boring.
After finishing up, you decide to head outside. Looking up at the sky, you take in a deep breath, stretching your arms and legs. The heat of the summer was still lingering a little at the base of the mountain, but up here, it’s gotten kind of cold.
Now, what should you do today?
 Go to the human village.
 Head down to the river.
 Wander away a little from the base of the mountain.
Not at all. The Westermarck Effect is a form of imprinting that takes place in the really early years. Mikio was well past the age where that sort of thing would settle in for him when Momi first found him, and Momi never went through any of the biological aspects of motherhood that would ensure the imprinting for herself; the tengu community being fairly communal probably wouldn't help in that regard either. They may have an existing emotional attachment to one another that makes the prospect of a relationship awkward, but they lack any biological inhibitions in that regard.
That's why a pseudo-incestual romance between the two of them is so deliciously awkward-but-fulfilling.
Good to run into some friendly company and it might cap off the PoFV scenario. I want to see how our ever moe hero reacts to running into a busty shinigami and the judge of life and death. (I'm sure Siki has something to say about Mikio)
I must say a very interesting story.... I have a sneaking feeling about somethings
-the hunter's story; I suspect it's related to the guy that became a omnicidical youkai... either the hunter or his brother was it... and the long haired guy IS that guy.
-The guy on the train might be Konshuu after his story has ended (which it hasn't yet); something tells me that when Mikio runs into Sanae, she might see something familiar about him.
I kinda suspect a screw up in Higan in regards to him.
but Mikio's an interesting lead character; pretty strong (though he overdoes it in those duels)
But at least at the end of IN one he was able to leave under his own power.
that's all I'll say for now. I just said that just so there's food for thought.
Softly, you float up from the ground, and begin to descend the mountain at a moderate pace, admiring the freshly colored leaves of autumn. As you look upon the assorted leaves of red, orange, yellow, and green, a certain girl you know pops up in your mind. You can’t help but smile a little as you imagine her cheerfully spreading her colors to the turning leaves of the world.
It takes you some time to get to the bottom of the mountain, but you don’t mind. You enjoy watching the scenery when you’re not exactly in a hurry, anyway. Your feet touches down on the rough surface of the river bank, where you crouch down to watch the flow of the water.
You look at the reflection of yourself in the surface of the water. Slowly, you reach into your shirt to retrieve your mask, putting it on your face. It almost feels wrong to not be wearing this when you’re outside. You feel like you’re missing something when it’s not on. Maybe you’re getting a little too attached to it. You’re used to wearing it whenever you make an occasional trip to the human village.
Hm…? A ripple? Something in the river’s moving towards you. The ripples on the surface of the water become closer and closer, and larger and larger. Suddenly, the surface of the water is broken by a small, thin pipe. The top of the pipe is curved at a right angle, and on the end of is a glass lens. It looks around the area, as if searching for something, before locking onto you. Quietly, the pipe descends back into the water… and then something much larger jumps out of the water.
“Hiya, Mikio!” a girl cheerfully greets you as she leaps out of the water, landing in front of you. You stand up and grin, waving your hand amiably. “It feels like we haven’t met in forever, don’t you think?”
“Really?” you say, laughing. “Didn’t we play a match of dai shogi just a week or so ago?”
“Ah? Did we?” Nitori says, trying to remember. Her expression brightens up, and she laughs as well. “Ahahaha, I guess we did! So hey, are you up for another game? Ooh, ooh, maybe you’ll want to take a look at one of my inventions! I made something really cool, you know!”
“I’m… sure you did,” you falter a little. The last invention she showed you left you in a sorry state for a few days, although she profoundly apologized for it afterwards.
“Okay, okay, hang on!” She’s definitely really excited about showing you her new invention. She dives back into the river, although she sticks her head out of the water to tell you something else: “Lemme go get it real quick, okay?”
She sinks her head underneath the water, swimming off elsewhere. She’s not gone for long, though, and quickly sticks her head back out of the water again.
“Look, look!” she says eagerly, pointing a long tube of… bamboo at you. The end of the thick tube is narrow, like the end of a syringe, and at the end, there seems to be a handle. She grabs the handle while keeping the tube locked on you, and pumps it.
A jet of water hits you in the face. It doesn’t hurt or anything, but it came at you so fast, you nearly stumble back and trip. Fortunately, you manage to balance yourself before you fall.
“What was that?” you ask, wiping the water from your mouth. “Did you shoot water at me?”
“It’s a water gun!” she says proudly, holding up the tube in her hand. “It’s really simple, too!”
“Ahaha… that looks fun,” you say, smiling.
“Yup!” she happily replies, sinking back into the water. A moment later, she rises back up to the surface, presumably having left her water gun elsewhere. “So what are you up to, Mikio?”
“Nothing much, really,” you shrug. “I wasn’t really sure how to pass the time, so I came here.”
“Well, you know what I do when I need to pass the time?”
“I swim! It’s fun. It’s healthy. And the temperature’s just right. So you should try swimming too!”
“Ahahaha… well, I don’t know how to swim…” you admit. You were always… a little afraid of the water since your excursion to the Misty Lake.
“Huh? No way! Then I’ll teach you how to swim, Mikio!”
>“I swim! It’s fun. It’s healthy. And the temperature’s just right. So you should try swimming too!”
For some reason, this reminds me so strongly of the inane pre-battle chatter from the Swimmer trainers on the way to Cinnabar Island.
“… Okay,” you say, nodding. “I’m a little scared of swimming, but I guess it would be a good idea to learn how. Please teach me as best as you can.”
“Alright, then!” Nitori says triumphantly, pumping a small fist into the air. “Okay, take off your clothes.”
“Eh?” you utter, taken back a little.
“Take off your clothes. ‘Cuz, you know, they’ll get wet and you’re gonna catch a cold and all the water’s gonna get soaked up, and you wear some really baggy clothes, so they’re going to get all heavy and stuff and it’ll drag you down!”
Well, um, that makes sense. Slowly, you set the sheath of your sword down on the ground, as well as your tokin hat. Taking your shirt off, you fold it neatly as you lay it next to the sheath. You then reach down and roll up the legs of your hakama, and toss off your shoes.
“But…” you say a little worriedly as you watch the flow of the river. “Isn’t the current a little too strong to learn how to swim right now?”
“Huh?” Nitori looks a little confused, but quickly adopts a look of realization. “Oh! I guess you’re right. But don’t worry. I can slow down the current for a little while if I focus!”
You watch incredulously as the swift flow of the river gradually slows, becoming gentler. That’s manipulation of water, isn’t it? It’s very similar to how the tengu use their ability to fly through the air as swiftly as they do.
“Come on!” Nitori calls you, swimming closer to the bank of the river.
You walk to the edge of the river, and with some hesitation, walk into the river itself. You shiver a little as icy coldness runs up your body. The water feels so cold right now. Still, you endure it and keep going. Pretty soon, the water’s up to your neck and you’re too afraid to walk any further.
“Here, take my hand!” Nitori reaches her small hands out to you. You take them and grasp it firmly in yours. “First lesson’s on how to float! Okay… you have to come a little closer. Don’t be scared!”
You wade out a little further into the river, until your feet are unable to touch the bottom anymore. You nearly panic as the current carries you out a little farther, and your legs kick in a futile effort to keep your head above the water. Nitori quickly wraps her arms around your body, hugging you tightly to herself while keeping the both of you afloat.
“Relax. Your body’s too stiff, and if you panic like that, you won’t be able to keep floating,” she says to you calmly. You nod. “Okay. Keep kicking. You have to keep your legs stiff, okay? Move your hands horizontally. But don’t overdo it! I’m gonna let go now, are you ready? If you start sinking, I’ll carry you back up, so don’t worry! Ready?”
You nod again, beginning to kick your legs at a constant pace. As she instructed, you keep your legs stiff and moving. Gradually, Nitori begins to let go of you, and as she backs away, you start moving your arms about.
You’re floating… but it feels really uneasy, and you’re bobbing up and down. It’s hard to keep your head above the water, but at least you aren’t sinking like a chunk of rock. Still, this is something you really have to practice to get better at.
“You’re doing good!” Nitori encourages you, making sure to keep in close range of you as the slow current of the river gently carries you further. You’re a little too preoccupied to reply, as you’re trying to keep treading water. Ugh… it still feels awkward. You can’t help but start to panic as your head sinks lower and lower, the river water beginning to flood your lungs.
A pair of arms seizes your torso, dragging you back up above the water. You sputter and cough, wiping your hair away from your eyes. Nitori carries you back to the shallower part of the water, and you take unsteady steps toward the edge of the river.
“Are you okay?” Nitori asks you, looking worried as she follows you out of the water.
“N-no more…” you say, still having a fit of coughing. “T-that’s enough for today, right?”
“Huh? Oh, um, yeah, sure!” she says, although she looks slightly disappointed. But she soon gives you a bright smile. “Then, we’ll keep at it tomorrow, right?” she says with enthusiasm.
“Yeah… tomorrow,” you promise, nodding as you make your way to the pile of clothes you had left on the riverbank. You shiver from the coldness of the air. Quickly, you put your clothes back on, followed by your hat. You then slip the sheath of your sword back onto your sash, and finally, you slip your shoes back on.
“Well, see ya tomorrow!” Nitori bids goodbye, waving her arm at you as she prepares to jump back into the river. “Don’t forget, okay? The lesson continues tomorrow!”
You smile and wave back at her as she dives into the river, which is now flowing as swiftly as ever.
Maybe it’s because you’re feeling a bit cold, but your body kind of seems drained.
You might need to rest right now. You’re starting to feel a little nauseous, too. Your head feels all scrambled, and it’s getting harder and harder to think straight. Dazed, you begin to walk. You should head back to… back to headquarters. Take a rest. Take a long nap.
Your feet seem to be moving on their own as you continue on in your stupor. Ugh... are you going the right way…? Wait… where were you going? To rest. Right… to rest. You just need to… sleep for a bit.
Where… where are you right now, anyway? Your vision seems to be getting dimmer and dimmer. … Oh well. This place is as good as any. You stumble over to a tree, slumping to the ground with your back leaning against the trunk. Resting your head on your own shoulder, your eyes close shut.
You hear someone breathing. Whoever that someone is, they’re very close to you. So close it almost feels like they’re breathing into your ear. It’s disconcerting. The breathing is heavy and almost savage. Very bestial. The breathing’s getting louder. Louder and louder. So loud your eardrums feel like they’re going to burst. The sounds of metal clinking. The desperate gasps for air. Closer and closer and closer and closer.
“Ah! Hey, I think he’s waking up!” You hear a familiar voice, not far from you. Sleepily, you begin to open your eyes. As your vision clears up, you see another pair of eyes staring into yours. There’s someone leaning over you, looking down.
“Hi!” she greets you cheerfully, smiling. “It’s been a while, Mister Kirita!”
You attempt to return a greeting of your own, but all that comes out of your mouth is an unintelligible mixture of gibberish and groans.
“Huh?” Shizuha looks over to the side as she voices her confusion. “Hey Minorin, did you understand that?”
“Nope,” Minoriko walks beside her older sister, entering your vision. She looks down on you, a little worried. “Are you okay?” she asks, leaning forward with her hands on her knees.
Weakly, you rub your eyes, and manage to speak in a raspy voice: “I-I’m fine…” Letting your hand fall to your side, you quickly add: “I was just a little tired… that’s all.” Looking around, you assess your situation. You’re sitting down with your legs outstretched, leaning against a tree. Around you are piles of turned leaves, and many trees of brilliant colors. You must have wandered quite far from the mountain.
Although you’re feeling a little devoid of strength, you try to stand up. Slowly, you get up from the ground as the sisters back away to give you some room. But as you lift yourself up, one of your legs suddenly gives out on you. You fall back down onto the ground.
“Ah! Hey Mister, are you really okay?” Shizuha asks, stepping closer. You sit up, massaging your powerless leg.
“I’m okay…” you gasp out. “My leg just... it’s just gone numb, that’s all. I’ll be fine.” You keep massaging your leg, forcing a smile on your face. It’s not just numb. But it feels like… like it snapped off of you. Like it was broken. The pain’s almost unbearable, but you manage to keep quiet.
“You don’t look okay,” Minoriko says, frowning. “Your hands are really, really pale. Are you sick somewhere?”
“N-no. It’s nothing,” you try to laugh it off. The pain’s gone now, but you can’t feel your leg anymore. Like it’s dead. But you can move it. And you feel like you can stand. So you raise yourself up again, using the tree beside you as a support.
You look up at the sky. It’s dyed in red and orange, just as the leaves of the trees around you were. You must have been sleeping for a long time. Your head’s beginning to clear up at last, and you feel like you can walk straight now. You look down at your hands. They’re back to their normal complexions. And you can feel your leg again.
Come to think of it, hasn’t something similar happened to you before?
You shake off the feeling of uneasiness, and turn to look at the two sisters. They’re watching you, almost timidly, with concerned expressions. You give them what you hope is a reassuring smile.
“I’m really okay now,” you say slowly. “Sorry for troubling you. I should be heading back now.”
“Ahh… um… yes,” Minoriko says awkwardly, bowing in a polite manner.
“Well then, I’ll be going,” you say, waving as you turn around to leave.
Just before they’re out of your vision, though, you see Shizuha whispering into her little sister’s ear, and as you walk away, you hear Minoriko call after you: “Wait!”
“… Um, there’s still a lot left from the offering I received,” she says. “And we were about to roast some… would you like to join us?”
Come to think of it, you are feeling a little hungry, and having a meal here might help you recover a little. You’re still unsure why you suddenly felt so weak, but you should focus on getting better before heading back.
“If it’s not too much trouble,” you begin slowly, turning fully towards the sisters. “Then I’d be happy to join you.”
“It’s no problem at all,” Minoriko replies, giving you a relieved smile. Shizuha claps her hands, grinning widely. They must have been really worried about you. “There’s still a lot left, anyway!”
You return a smile, and Shizuha hurries over to you, clutching your arm with both hands and pulling you along gently as Minoriko leads the way, trudging through the fallen leaves of autumn.
Pretty soon, you’re sitting down in front of a small bonfire. You warm your hands against it. It’s late into fall, after all. The days have been getting colder and colder lately, especially during the evenings.
“It’s nice and warm,” you say, smiling contently. The smell of the sweet potatoes roasting in the fire almost makes your mouth water. Minoriko carefully prods them, turning them over.
“Hey, hey, Mister Kirita!” Shizuha calls out cheerfully as shescoots next to you, supporting herself on her knees as she leans closer to your face. You draw back a little, giving yourself a bit more room. “Why are you always wearing that mask?” She asks, pointing at it.
Unconsciously, your hand moves up to touch your mask. “Ah… well,” you stammer, laughing awkwardly. “I… um, I just like wearing it, that’s all. I-I think it looks cool.”
“Hmmm….” She seems unconvinced as she continues to scrutinize your face, making you feel slightly uncomfortable. “It looks like it’s been through a lot,” she says. She was right about that. You’ve only had this mask for a few years, and yet it was scratched up, cracked, had a large gash in the middle of it… whew. Imagine all of that happening to your face instead.
“Shizuha, you’re bothering him,” Minoriko says sternly, looking away from the sweet potatoes in the fire.
“Am not,” her sister responds, sticking out her tongue at Minoriko. “Bleeeh!”
“Ah…! Shizuha, such a childish act is unbefitting of a Goddess!” she exclaims, giving a flustered sideways glance towards you. “Don’t let youkai see such shameful behavior!”
“Whatever, whatever!” Shizuha laughs, continuing to stick her tongue at her little sister.
Minoriko frowns, and then gives an apologetic look towards you. It seems she really cares about having the proper image of a God. You don’t mind, though.
“Ah!” you yelp as you take another look at the fire. “They’re burning!”
“Wha-?! Oh no!” Minoriko scrambles to salvage the sweet potatoes. Thankfully, she’s able to get them out of the fire before they’re completely inedible.
“… They’re a little burnt, but they should still taste okay,” she says, offering one of the skewers to you. You thank her as you take the skewer into your hand. The slightly burnt smell of the roasted sweet potato still makes you feel ravenously hungry, and you quickly bite into it after letting it cool down.
“It’s delicious,” you say. Ah, the sweet flesh of the sweet potato feels like it’s melting inside your mouth. You don’t even mind the slightly charred taste.
“Autumn is definitely the best of the seasons, isn’t it?” Minoriko says dreamily, biting into her own share of the food.
“Roasting potatoes, yams, chestnuts, and eating mooncake at a festival…”
“Don’t forget the beauty of fall!”
“... Yeah, the leaves are so beautiful,” Minoriko grudgingly admits in a small voice. She looks over your way as you take another bite of your sweet potato. “You think so too, right? Isn’t autumn the best?”
“… Eh?” The question totally catches you off-guard.
“What’s your favorite season, Mister Kirita?” Shizuha asks you.
I think Mikio would pass out in the middle of the statement it being so embrassing. (And if anyone'd end up indecentish due to sweat it'd be Aya; her top is thinner than Momiji's)
my vote (sure I'm going against the tide)
[X] "the crisp air, the leaves all around the ground and trees, how the sunset matches the leaves. It's a beautiful season that leaves a strong impression"
[X] "And it's nice knowing the two gods that make it what it is"
Actual opinion (Not just trying to be nice to the lovely sisters)
The write-in is meant to be embarrassing. It was intended as Mikio answering the question honestly and without thinking, blurting out something that honestly feels, but doesn't normally acknowledge or consciously think about. I was hoping to have Mikio wind up sitting down later and seriously considering what he said, realizing that, awkward as it is, there's something incredibly attractive about Momi...
I'll admit that I wouldn't mind him doing the same for Aya, either. Or both of them. But Momi is the priority.
Lowering the sweet potato from your face for a moment, you ponder on which season you enjoy the most. Minoriko and Shizuha look at you expectantly.
“Summer,” you say. The girls’ faces instantly fall, and you hurry to continue. “You’ve enjoyed spring by then, and you have autumn to look forward to.”
“I think summer’s too long,” Shizuha says, frowning. “It should definitely be shorter, so autumn can be here sooner.”
“Ahaha. But that would be selfish, wouldn’t it?” you chuckle, biting into the sweet potato you’re holding onto.
“I guess you’re right,” Minoriko says, sighing.
“Aside from that, though, I think I like the climate of summer best,” you say. “I’m not very good with the cold.”
“Your hands always feel like they’re freezing, though.”
Shizuha scoots closer to you, taking one of your hands into her small palms.
“It feels so cold,” she says, massaging your hand. Your face burns a little, and you gently tug your hand away from her while scooting back a little.
“A-anyway,” you say. “You two don’t seem to like winter very much.”
“Well, no, I guess we don’t,” Minoriko replies with a scowl. “It’s too cold in winter. Everything gets covered up with snow and crops go to sleep during winter. It’s terrible.”
“And it means we have to wait soooo long for it to be autumn again,” Shizuha adds.
You finish your share of the sweet potatoes. With some food in your stomach, you definitely feel a lot better than before. “Well,” you begin, wiping your mouth with your sleeve. “I think winter has its charms, too. With the snow covering everything, the world seems like a blank sheet of paper, doesn’t it?”
“I guess…” Minoriko says reluctantly, fidgeting with her hands. “It’s still terrible,” she repeats stubbornly. Well, there’s not much you can do to change her mind about that.
“Well, I should get going soon,” you say, standing up from the ground. “It’s getting late. Thank you for the food.”
“Ah, wait, here, you should take some more with you,” Minoriko hurries to hand you a bundle of what you assume to be a portion of her offerings.
“You don’t really need to…”
“No, no. Go on, take it.”
“Ahaha, um, thank you. I’ll share it with some of the tengu,” you say, accepting the bundle from her and taking it into your arms.
“No problem. But, um, could you please put in a good word for us?” she says eagerly. “We’re still kind of young for Goddesses, so we’re not really known among youkai…”
“I’ll make sure of it,” you say, nodding.
“Bye, Mister Kirita!” Shizuha waves at you as you prepare to leave. You return the wave. “Next time you come, I’ll definitely show you something really good! And then autumn will be your favorite season too!”
Rather than flying to the mountain, you decide to take a slow walk instead. You look inside the bundle you were given. More than a dozen assorted crops. How generous of her.
As you walk through the path to the Youkai Mountain, you notice someone familiar not far off. A blue-headed fairy was crouched down on the ground with a twig in hand. Is she scribbling in the dirt?
A little curious, you approach the fairy quietly. She doesn’t notice you at all, intently focused on whatever she was doing at the moment. Bending forward, you take a look at what she’s scribbling on the dirt at her feet.
Kanji…? She’s writing out kanji on the ground?
“Are you practicing your writing?” you ask. Cirno jumps from the ground, dropping her twig and flying back while assuming a defensive stance.
“Ah!” she exclaim while pointing at you. “Masked Stalker! So you thought you could ambush me while I wasn’t paying attention, huh?! Well that won’t work! I’m always alert! Sneak attacks like that won’t work on me!”
“I wasn’t really planning a sneak attack, though,” you say, chuckling a little. “Also, again with the “Masked Stalker”…?”
“… I forgot your name.”
“It’s Kirita Mikio,” you say.
“Whatever. I like Masked Stalker better!” she says stubbornly, before taking notice of the bundle you’re carrying on your arm. “Hey, what’s that?”
“A gift I got from someone,” you say, reaching into the bundle and producing an unpeeled sweet potato from it. “Here, would you like one?”
She nods, and takes the sweet potato from you. Without even peeling it, she bites into it.
“It’s tasty!” she says as she chews a mouthful of the stuff.
“If it was cooked, it would taste a lot better.”
“I don’t like hot stuff.”
“Well, I guess that makes sense,” you laugh. “Oh, you’ve got a piece of the skin stuck on your mouth.”
Cirno reaches up with her other hand, rubbing at her mouth clumsily. Ah, geeze, she didn’t even get close to wiping it off. Leaning forward, you pick the skin off of her cheek with your fingers.
“So, were you practicing your writing?” you ask.
“Uh huh,” she replies, biting into her sweet potato again.
“I see. So you know how to read and write, then. I haven’t met many fairies who can do that.”
“Of course, it’s ‘cuz I’m a genius,” she states proudly. “… But it‘s hard. I keep forgetting a lot of the stuff.”
“Then, shall I teach you a little?”
“Huh?” Cirno huffs while crossing her arms together and speaking in a defiant tone. “I don’t need a teacher! I can do it by myself!”
“Ahahaha, then I’ll just watch you for a bit.”
She sticks her tongue out at you while finishing her sweet potato. After that, she picks the twig back up, going back to scribbling kanji characters on the ground. You stand behind her, leaning forward to check her strokes. Ah, she’s made a mistake there. Without thinking, your hand reaches out reflexively and smacks her upside the head.
“Ow!” Cirno looks up at you angrily. “What th’ heck was that for, you jerk?!”
“Ah, sorry,” you say, rubbing your hand. Brrr, she’s cold to the touch. “It just sort of did that on its own. It’s how I learned.”
“Huh? You mean someone taught you?” she asks, looking puzzled. “But aren’t you a tengu? You’re supposed to know everything from the start!”
“… Um… I don’t think things work that way,” you laugh awkwardly.
“Well if you’re going to watch, then don’t hit me!” she says, rubbing the spot where you smacked her. “If you do that, then everything I memorize is going to fall out of my head!”
“I don’t think your head works like that either.”
You coach her for a bit until the sun goes completely down.
“Alright, when I show this to Letty, she’s going to be really surprised,” Cirno says happily, grinning proudly while admiring her work on the ground. Her writing is kind of messy and childish, but she’s still managed to memorize some of the more complex characters.
“She’s coming back this winter, isn’t she?” you ask.
“Yeah! Hey, hey, when she does get back, you should play with us again! We’ll have another snowball fight! Of course, it’s pointless for you to participate, since it’s obvious that I’ll win. But you should come anyway!”
“I’m looking forward to it,” you say, smiling at her. You give her a wave, which she returns, before deciding to finally head back to the mountain. Whew, today was kind of an eventful day, wasn’t it?
“Ow, ow, ow, that hurts,” you whine a little from your lying position on the ground. Sitting on your back was Nitori, currently setting your bones. “Ouch… my whole body feels sore.”
“Bear with it for a bit, okay?” she says gently, bending your arm back. You hear something pop, and feel a momentary rush of pain, and then finally a degree of comfort washes over you. “There, how do you feel now?”
“Much better,” you sigh.
“Hee hee hee, it’s the ancient kappa healing technique!” she boasts proudly, standing up from you. “But you know… you’re pretty amazing. You’ve got swimming down pat already!”
“Not really, I just had a really good teacher,” you say as you sit up, putting your shirt back on. It’s been about two weeks since you’ve begun swimming lessons with her, and although you couldn’t be compared to a kappa’s level, you’re good enough to avoid drowning for a while, at least. Actually, come to think of it, swimming’s kind of made obsolete by your ability to fly, but you decide not to mention that to Nitori.
“Then, as celebration for your graduation from the kappa school of swimming, let’s have lunch!” she says to you brightly, holding out basket full of cucumbers to you. You take one into your hand, and bite into its head.
“Thank you,” you say as you munch on the cucumber.
“No problem, no problem!” she says as she happily eats her own share of cucumber.
“Things have been pretty quiet lately, haven’t they?” you ask absentmindedly. “It’s peaceful, but it also makes me feel uneasy about when the next incident will happen.”
“Ah! You know what would be really cool? If an ancient civilization appeared out of nowhere! And it had lots of cool lost technology and stuff. You think that’ll happen? Maybe that could be the next incident, and then we kappa can get at some of the stuff and study everything and- Ah!“
Nitori suddenly cuts herself off, quietly munching on her cucumber. “Actually, I think that’s happened before,” she says. “Oh yeah, now I remember. That really did happen before.”
“Alright, I’m interested,” you say, continuing to nibble at the cucumber in your hand as you watch the flow of the river.
“Well, a while back, some weird looking ruins suddenly appeared out of nowhere,” Nitori says as she sits down next to you. “I think it wasn’t too far from the eastern mountains of Gensokyo, actually. Anyway, there was a buncha people there, and there was a bunch of people fighting over who gets to go inside.”
“Why didn’t they all just go in?” you ask.
“Dunno, but apparently only one person was allowed to go inside,” Nitori shrugs, popping the remainder of the cucumber in her mouth.
“Did you fight, too?”
Nitori shakes her head as she takes a big gulp from a water bottle at her side. “No, I’m not really good at fighting, and there were some humans there too, so me and a few of the kappa decided to just watch.”
“Oh. So do you know who won?”
“I couldn’t tell, ‘cuz after all the fighting, some humans came out of the ruins and then everyone started fighting again,” Nitori laughs. “So while everyone was distracted, we snuck inside and took a look around.”
“Ahaha… that’s a little devious,” you laugh along with her.
“Anyway, the inside of the ruins was awesome! There were all these gauges and weird looking lights and everything! And there was a bunch of stuff lying around, too! So we helped ourselves to some of the things they had and then we got away before those weird humans came back!” she says, grinning proudly, as if fond of the memory. Her grin soon turns into a frown. “The ruins disappeared the next day, though. That was pretty disappointing.”
“I see. That’s a shame, isn’t it?” you say as you finish off the last bit of your cucumber.
“Yeah. But still, we learned a lot!” she says, eager again. “We experimented with and took apart some of the stuff we got from those ruins, and we even managed to replicate some of them! Like the stealth field generator that the tengu use. We made that using a design based on the one we found inside. Actually, right now I’m trying to develop one for personal use, but it’s kinda tricky.”
“You mean something that can make you invisible?”
“Well, no, not “invisible” so much as just blending in with the environment. It’s a device that refracts light around an object and changes the colors it reflects. But the one I’m trying to develop is having some issues.”
“Ahaha, I see. Sounds amazing,” you say awkwardly. “So why are you developing it? Are you planning to use it for something?”
“Huh?” Nitori raises an eyebrow, as if you just asked a stupid question. “Because it’s cool, that’s why! Wouldn’t you want to have something that makes you impossible to see?”
“I can’t imagine much uses for it,” you admit. It would be inconvenient to be invisible, wouldn’t it? You can’t really think of anything you’d use it for.
“Hmmm,” she scrutinizes you, making you feel slightly uncomfortable with her gaze. “So you wouldn’t use it to, say, steal a girl’s underwear?”
“… Huh?” You tilt to the side as you scratch the back of your head. “Why would anyone do that?” You’re confused. Would people really go out of their way just to steal underwear? Are they running low on underwear or something like that?
“Ahaha, I guess you wouldn’t,” she laughs. “But I do know this one jerk that would. Someone should really teach that little pervert a lesson. He’s a kappa too, but he’s always thinking of ways to use our inventions to play pranks on girls and the humans in the village at the foot of the mountain.”
“…Eh? There’s a human village at the bottom of the mountain?” you ask, bewildered.
“Huh? You didn’t know?” Nitori seems just as shocked as you. “You know, they’re just beyond the Great Youkai Forest.”
“Ehhh…. I thought that was a youkai village…?” you scratch the back of your head, thinking back on the village.
“Ahaha, I guess they do live like youkai, don’t they?” Nitori laughs nervously. “They’re kind of scary, so I don’t know too much about them. I see some of the kids playing near the river sometimes, though.” She looks a little forlorn as she says this, although she quickly brightens back up. “Ah well… Hey, you wanna play shogi?”
“Actually, I’m feeling a little tired right now,” you say. After all, your body’s been sore for a few days now, and the little relief you got from having your bones set by Nitori was wearing off already. “I think I’ll head back and rest.”
“Oh… alright. I guess I’ll ask Miss Momizi for a match,” she says, sounding disappointed as she stands up with you. “Well, see you.”
Waving your hand, you begin to climb up the mountain, while Nitori returns to the river.
Winter of Gensokyo was, as always, very, very cold. You had to practically bundle yourself up with a few thick layers of clothing to stay comfortably warm enough. Days like those really made you want to just stay home and stay warm, but…
“Woa-“ You slip on the icy surface of the frozen lake and fall yet again, and hear the laughs of the pair from behind you. Awkwardly, you pick yourself back up, careful not to slip again. “…This is hard.”
“What are you talking about? This is really easy!” Cirno laughs at you as she slides past you, together with her fellow fairy companion. Strapped to the bottom of their feet were blade-like pieces of ice, allowing them to skate on the slippery surface of the lake.
You shiver as another cold breeze stings your face, and you bring your hands up to warm them with your breath. Watching at the edge of the lake was Letty, who seemed to be content just observing the three of you play around.
Still, trying to balance yourself on the ice is proving to be really difficult, and every time you slip, those two would always giggle and make fun of you. Maybe you’re not really cut out for ice skating.
 Keep practicing.
 Pelt those two fairies with snowballs.
 Take a break. Go talk to Letty.
>>11554 >Is that related to an infamous ending that haunts its writer to this very day?
No. That was something far, far more severe. There's a reason Kira can't escape that stigma.
The incident KChasm is referring to is the snowball fight from EZMode's Flight of the Lost Soul. It was an agonizing debacle that lasted months, when it should have lasted maybe a week or two. Tops. I'm sure I'm not the only one who dropped that story for the duration of the figt. Fortunately it's past that now... though some of us do have other issues with the direction the story has taken, which we've articulated before.
Awkwardly, your feet lift themselves off from the ground. Once again, you warm your hands with your breath as you slowly float towards the edge of the river, where Miss Letty was watching the three of you. The fairies didn’t seem to notice you leaving, far too busy laughing and skating together. How carefree of them.
You sigh as you land next to Miss Whiterock, your feet planting themselves in the soft snow next to her. “I’m not very good at this,” you admit as you turn around to watch the fairies play on the ice.
Miss Letty giggles as she speaks to you. “Yes, you do seem to have become a good acquaintance with the surface of the frozen lake,” she says jokingly, and you laugh along with her.
“But they make it look so easy, though.”
“Well, they have been doing this much longer, after all,” says Miss Letty, turning away from you to cast her gaze on the fairies. “Are you taking a break?” she asks shortly after.
“Yes. I think I might end up with bruises if I keep going right now,” you reply, rubbing your sore knees with your nearly frigid hands. “By the way, aren’t you bored just watching them, Miss Letty?”
She smiles and shakes her head. “No, I’m happy just enjoying winter, though it’s not as cold as I’d like at the moment.”
“Sorry.” You give her an apologetic smile. “But I’m not very good with the cold. I won’t be around for too long, though.”
“Well, that’s not really something you can help. You don’t need to worry about it,” she says reassuringly. “Still, this is quite nice, though I’m beginning to feel a little sleepy.” She yawns, covering her mouth.
“I heard you sleep through most of the other seasons,” you suddenly say, recalling something Miss Aya had told you.
“Yes. Warm weather tends to make us sleepy,” she says dreamily. “Just as animals hibernate during the winter. As for us, winter is the time of the year when we can finally wake from our sleep and enjoy ourselves.”
“You must have really enjoyed last year’s winter, then.” Of course, you’re referring to the Spring Snow Incident, last winter.
“That was very nice indeed,” Miss Letty smiles. “Although, I think it was pretty unfair for humans to assume I was behind the incident.”
“Did they blame you?”
“Some of them did,” she says with a detached tone of voice. “Well, it isn’t unusual of them, though. Humans can be quite thickheaded, you know. I suppose it’s simply their nature. They consider winter their enemy.”
“To them, winter represents the death of the crops, leaves, and the sun,” she says with an air of sadness. “Tell me, what do you think of when you think about winter?”
“Snow,” you immediately answer.
“Yes, and how does snow feel to you?”
“Yes. To humans, snow seems cold and harsh,” she continues to muse. “But it is winter’s snow that keeps the seeds of autumn safe until the coming of spring, and snow can even be used to trap warmth.”
“Ah… I never really thought of things that way before.”
“Unfortunately, humans are always so concerned with staying alive and worrying about provisions for winter that they forget to enjoy the season. When I see something like that, it makes me want to tease them just a little.”
“… Still, isn’t it a bit too much to trap them in snowstorms?”
“You’re a very young youkai, aren’t you?” she says insightfully. “It’s only natural that winter should have its share of snowstorms. If humans were to be able to wander outside without fear of blizzards, we’ll lose our place in the world.”
You don’t quite understand, but most likely, she’s referring to the delicate balance of power between humans and youkai.
“I see…” Sighing, you lift off of the ground again. “Well, I think I’ll go back to skating with those two now. I did promise to play with them.”
“Have fun,” says Miss Letty. As you float away, however, she quickly adds: “Oh, and would you tell those girls not to go too far out into the lake? It’s a bit warm this winter, and the surface of the lake isn’t completely—“
You hear a shrill shriek in the distance. Looking back at the lake, you don’t see either of the fairies. But part of the lake’s frozen surface had cracked and broken apart, leaving behind a large gap in the ice. Cirno and her friend likely fell into the lake.
Without hesitating, you quickly fly off towards the direction of the lake. Biting your lip, you look down at the broken hole on the icy surface of the frozen lake. Probably, neither of the fairies know how to swim. Keeping yourself afloat just an inch or so above the water, you try to look beneath its surface. No good. Can’t see them… No choice, then. Taking a deep breath, you dive headfirst into the lake.
An icy wave of coldness washes over your body. As expected, the water beneath the frozen top of the lake is unbearably cold. It’s so cold that your skin feels as if it’s been scalded by boiling water. You’re afraid to open your eyes, to expose them to the cold water, but you won’t be able to get anywhere if you can’t see ahead of you.
Even with your eyes open, you still can’t see much of anything around you. There’s only a little light penetrating the surface of the water. Your eyes sting, unbearably so, so you can’t keep them open for long. You take a quick scan around, hoping to see any sign of movement.
Ah… you think you see something moving beneath you. You’re not sure if it’s really there or if you’re imagining it, but there’s not much else you can see around. Readjusting your body, you swiftly dive down. Clumsily, you grope around in front of you, hoping to find something.
You grasp what you think is a small hand. Squeezing tightly, you pull it closer towards you. It’s definitely one of the fairies, although you can’t tell which one. Her small, limp body rests against yours. You wrap an arm around her waist securely.
Nearby, there’s something… thrashing about. Must be the other fairy, right? You kick towards her. If she’s still conscious, and she can see you… then all you have to do is reach your hand out to her. The fairy grasps your hand…
And then unimaginable pain shoots through your arm. Coldness like you’ve never experienced before. An icy hot feeling as though you’ve stuck your hand into a fire. You want to scream, but if you do, you’ll lose all the air in your lungs.
Distantly, you can feel two small hands wrapped around your frozen wrist. Steeling your resolve, you rise up through the water, with one fairy in your arm and the other clinging onto another.
Finally, you break the surface of the water, still carrying the two fairies. The cold air assaults your wet skin without mercy, and as soon as you fly away from the lake and to its edge, you drop the fairies onto the snow as you tumble onto the ground below.
“Agh… aaaaaagh!” you scream in pain as you clutch your useless left arm, cradling it to your body. It hurts. It hurts so much. Your arm feels like it’s on fire. Your breathing is completely ragged, like a dying man’s, as you roll around in the snow, trying to stop the pain. The next few minutes feel like eternity, and you nearly lose consciousness, oblivious to anything that was going on around you.
Letty rushes to your side, kneeling next to you. “Hold still,” she commands, and you immediately stop thrashing about. She wraps her delicate, pale hands around your frozen arm. They’re warm. Immediately, your arm feels… soothed. It… doesn’t hurt as much anymore. She begins massaging your arm, and with each passing moment, your arm begins to hurt less, until it becomes completely numb. “… You’re okay now,” she says comfortingly as you sit up.
“W-what’d… you do?” you ask, still breathing a bit heavily as you look down at your hand. You still can’t move or feel it, but it’s regained a bit of color, compared to just a moment ago when it was completely drained of it.
“I shared a bit of warmth with you, that’s all,” she says. You notice that she looks a little bit more tired now than before.
“… Where’s… where’s Cirno and her friend? Are they okay?”
“They’re fine. They’re sleeping now.”
Looking about, you find the two of them lying down on the ground next to each other. Despite what just happened, they seem to be sleeping peacefully.
“Thank you for helping them,” Letty says with a smile. “I’m sorry for the trouble they’ve caused.”
“N-not at all,” you manage to say, stifling a cough.
“You should hurry and get going,” says she. “Change out of those wet clothes and be sure to eat something warm, or you’ll catch something nasty. And…” she closes her eyes, covering her mouth while yawning. “… I’m feeling a bit sleepy, too, sadly…”
“Yeah. Thank you, Miss Letty.” You stand up and bow to her, before taking your leave.
“Here you go,” a kindly old woman says to you as she hands you a small bag, which you accept gratefully with both hands.
“Ah, thank you, ma’am,” you smile and bow to her.
“Ohh, I wish other customers were as polite as you.”
With a spring in your steps, you walk out of the local bakery in the Human Village, owned by an elderly couple. You’re a regular there, and they’re always happy to see you, since they had only a few dedicated customers. You can’t figure out why they’re not doing so well, when their bread was so delicious. Something about bread not being the staple food around.
Reaching into the bag, you pull out a sweet roll and start munching on it. Ahhh… the piece of bread feels like it’s melting in your mouth.
“Oh? Hey, Miki!”
You turn around, and see Miss Aya approaching you.
“You were visiting the village too, huh?” she asks. “You sure you should be moving around so soon? That was a pretty nasty cold you had.”
“I’m fine now,” you say. You hold up the sweet roll in your hand, offering it to her. “Do you want some, Miss Aya?”
“Ahhh, I don’t really like sweet things. Thanks for the thought, though,” she winks. “Anyway, I’m here on an errand to get a few things from the kiosk those Eientei people set up in town, so I’ll see you later, Miki.”
Well, there she goes. You quietly chew on your bread as you walk through the streets of the village.
 Look around for something interesting.
 Just mind your own business.
Interesting things come to you. Like another drunkard. A drunkard who starts another fight. A fight that ends up the same way as last time, except with Mikio dodging while munching on delicious pastries, humiliating his attacker even more.
Well, it’s not often you visit the Human Village, so you might as well take a look around before you leave. With this thought in mind, you begin looking about curiously. As is usual, the place was bustling with activity despite the cold. Everywhere you look, you can see humans and youkai of various heights and appearances, going about their business in the village.
As you stuff the remainder of your sweet roll into your mouth, you see something unusual. A woman is walking down the streets, struggling with an armful of various scrolls. It’s not that they seem heavy. More that she seems to be having trouble keeping everything from spilling out of her arms. From the top of her concealed figure, however, you can make out a familiarly strange hat, resembling a pagoda.
Wrapping up the bag in your hand and slipping it inside your shirt, you speak out to the woman as she passes you by. “Excuse me, do you need help?” you ask.
“Oh!” The woman, Miss Kamishirasawa, if you remember correctly, exclaims, hurriedly readjusting the scrolls so that she can see you. “Would you help?”
You nod, and quickly, you help to lighten her load by unburdening her of some of her scrolls. She smiles gratefully to you. “Thank you,” she says.
“No problem. Where do these need to go?”
“To the schoolhouse, please. Follow me.”
You start after her as she begins walking again, following close behind. Along the way, she continues to talk to you. “Really, normally, there’s someone else helping me carry these, but one complication after another, and I ended up having to do this by myself.”
“Ahaha, well, I’m glad to be able to help.”
“And I’m glad you volunteered to help,” she smiles, giving you an appreciative look. “I’ve seen you around before, and you really are always polite.”
“Having good manners is virtue among the tengu,” you say.
“Yes, and I respect that,” says Miss Kamishirasawa. “Although humility is another matter.”
“What are these?” you hold up the scrolls in your arms, curious.
“Records of history,” she says as-a-matter-of-factly. “It’s my duty to transcribe the events of Gensokyo. Of course, there’s more to it than just having them written down on paper. It’s why I’m so busy at the moment.”
“Just because something is written down, doesn’t make it a part of actual history,” Miss Kamishirasawa explains delicately. “History exists. It’s a tangible part of reality, seen from a single point of view. On the day of the full moon, like today, I have to create new history for Gensokyo. Since it can only be done once a month, there’s always a lot of work to catch up on.”
You don’t really understand, but you nod anyway. She seems fiercely proud of her work, whatever it is that she does, at the least. “Sounds like a really important duty,” you comment. “Is that what a hakutaku does?”
She nods. “Do the tengu learn of the hakutaku?” she asks you.
“Yes. It’s a beast that appears before rulers of virtue. Um… if I recall correctly, it was also known as the Bai Ze,” you recite from your memories, thinking back to the long lectures Master Ogata would always give you, whacking you on the head and starting again from the beginning if he found you not paying attention.
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” she says. “The tengu always did value knowledge over all else, even in their war politics. The hakutaku is a legacy. Its powers are passed down through the centuries, as are their duties. Ah, but enough about that, here we are.”
Without realizing it, you had ended up in front of the schoolhouse. It's an unexpectedly large building, showing signs of wear. Some parts of the buildings seems more recent than others, as though a section of it had been destroyed and rebuilt.
You follow Miss Kamishirasawa inside, walking through the dusty hallways and up the stairs before reaching a room on the second floor of the building. Heading inside with her, you find yourself in what seems to be a study room.
“Please, just lay the scrolls on the table here,” Miss Kamishirasawa instructs you, placing her own load on the table she was indicating. You walk up next to her and dump your scrolls onto the table’s surface as well. “Again, thank you for your help,” she curtly bows to you.
“You’re welcome,” you say, returning the bow. As you straighten back up, however, a sudden idea seems to dawn on her.
“Oh, but are you busy?” she asks you suddenly. “There’s still some time before I have to start working, and the least I can do is invite you for a cup of tea.”
 "I have time."
 "No, I should really get going."
“Excellent,” Miss Kamishirasawa says, sounding pleased. “Then, please, pull up a chair. I’ll be back shortly.”
She approaches the table again, scooping up several of the scrolls in her arms to make some room on its surface. Carefully, she places the scrolls vertically on the floor, letting them rest against the table before leaving the room.
Glancing around the room, you find several wooden chairs stacked up in the corner. Picking one up for yourself, you set it down next to the table, taking a seat. You then patiently wait, looking around the room in the meanwhile. The schoolhouse was certainly an old building, wasn’t it?
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Miss Kamishirasawa soon returns, carrying a tray. She sets the tray down on the cleared part of the table, and the warm, fragrant aroma of tea fills your nostrils. “I hope you don’t mind green tea?”
“I don’t mind at all,” you say as she sets a cup in front of you and carefully pours in the tea. Something catches your attention, however. “A third cup?”
“I’m expecting another guest,” she explains.
“Oh. Well, um, if I’ll be a bother, then…”
“No, no, she won’t mind at all, I’m sure,” she says as she pours herself a cup as well, taking her seat behind the table.
“I see,” you quietly blow on the surface of the tea, letting it cool down a little before taking a careful sip.
“It occurs to me,” Miss Kamishirasawa begins slowly between sips of tea. “That we’ve never properly introduced ourselves to each other. My name is Kamishirasawa, Keine. I’m a historian, and a teacher at this school.”
“I’m Kirita, Mikio of the mountain’s tengu,” you say, bowing your head. “Pleased to meet you, and thank you for the tea.” You take another sip of tea before asking another question. “By the way, can I ask a question on what we were talking about earlier?”
“Yes, what is it you wish to ask?”
“About the hakutaku being a legacy, and how their powers are passed on and so forth. How does that work?”
“I see, you want to know about that,” she says, somewhat reluctantly, although she clears her throat and prepares to explain anyway. “Well, as I’ve said before, a hakutaku lives, performs its duties, and then passes on its power, and when they die… they will devour their own history.”
“… Devour their history?”
“Yes, it’s the reason why written records of hakutaku are so rare, and also the reason why their fates are ultimately unclear. A hakutaku will live on only in its successors.”
“Then, do you know what happened to your predecessor?”
“The previous hakutaku… is dead, most likely,” she says indifferently. “She was my mother. I don’t remember much about her, but I know that, at least.”
“Oh… I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be. I can’t even remember whether she died, or when it was that I received her powers. No one really does,” saying that, she coolly downed the rest of her cup. “Either way, she’s no longer here.”
A slightly uncomforting moment of silences passes by the two of you, during which you take a careful sip from your cooled tea. A knock at the door breaks the silence, and Miss Kamishirasawa makes her way to the door to answer. Her other guest?
Opening the door reveals a girl standing in the hallway, with a sword-clad man at her side. The girl was a small child you would gauge to be around the age of ten or so, with dark violet hair and a flower-shaped ornament decorating her head.
“Ah, hello, Miss Hieda.”
“Good afternoon, Miss Kamishirasawa,” the girl says as she steps into the room.
“Then, I’ll be waiting at the entrance, Lady Akyuu,” the man says, giving a low bow to the girl. It seemed that even though she was a child, she still commanded considerable respect.
“Ah, yes, I won’t be too long,” the child, Akyuu, replies to the man. Giving a nod, the man turns back to the hallway, presumably making his way towards the stairs. “Oh, I see you have another visitor.”
You quickly stand up and bow. This girl is probably a person of high standing of some sort. Maybe she’s a youkai? “Hello,” you greet. “I’m Kirita, Mikio, of the tengu.”
“A tengu? I see. I am the Ninth Child of Miare, Akyuu of the Hieda,” she smiles and politely returns your bow. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you before. You say your name is Kirita Mikio?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
The small child known as Akyuu makes her way to the table, Miss Kamishirasawa quickly hurrying to fetch a chair and to pour some tea for her new guest. You sit back down in your seat just as Akyuu takes hers.
“Which characters does it use?” she asks you.
You place a finger on your table, imitating the strokes of a brush as you run the point of your finger along the surface. “Ki-ri-ta… Mi-ki-o.”
Akyuu follows along with the movement of your finger, reciting your name to herself several times. “Yes, I will remember now, Sir Kirita,” she finally says, looking up at you, before turning to Miss Kamishirasawa. “Miss Kamishirasawa, is he part of…?”
“No, no, he’s just here as a guest,” she says, and when she sees your look of confusion, she quickly begins to explain. “Miss Hieda here is a fellow scholar. She’s very knowledgeable about the history of Gensokyo.”
“The Hieda family has been working with the hakutaku of Gensokyo for generations,” Akyuu helpfully adds.
“I see…” you say as you slowly get up from your seat. You bend forward respectfully, and speak. “Well, I don’t want to be in the way. I’ll be going now. Thank you for your company.”
The two scholars stand up and give their farewells to you as well, Akyuu stepping forward to tell you one last thing. “I’m creating a compilation on the youkai of Gensokyo, if you ever wish to give information about yourself, then you are always welcome in the House of Hieda.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” you say with a smile as you step out of the room. A compilation on youkai, huh? Sounds interesting.
Shortly after, you emerge back out into the crowded streets of the village. As you walk along one of the many roads in the village, however, you hear a whisper from the side.
“Psst, Miki! Over here!” Miss Aya signals toward you from an alleyway.
Curious, you decide to humor her and walk her way. She retreats a bit further back into the alley, and you reluctantly follow her. You note that she’s carrying a bag in her hands. Purchases from the kiosk, maybe? “What is it, Miss Aya?”
“Well, while I was at the pharmacy those rabbit kooks set up, I had a thought,” Miss Aya explains. “It’s kind of inconvenient for us to not have any medicine for you, right? I mean, medicine for youkai is way too powerful for humans, so I thought it’d be nice if we could get some medicine for you, too.”
That’s surprisingly thoughtful of her.
“But the problem is, I can’t buy any medicines for humans without it really being suspicious,” Miss Aya continues. “Well, disguising you as a human’s simple enough, but even your mask doesn’t really cover much of your face, so you might be recognized somewhere, so if you’re going to be disguised, then it has to be something much more drastic.”
You’re not sure you like where this is going.
“…So I went and bought these,” she says, opening the bag and showing its contents to you. A long, brown wig, and some clothes… for women, you’re sure. “How ‘bout it?”
 What. No, no way.
 You might as well. It's for your health, right?
[X] "... you know, Miss Aya, Miss Momiji told me you had some strange tastes, but... I didn't think it was something like that..."
[X] Mumble: "... should have just asked... like you enough..."
Escaping cross-dressing through strategic moebeetus.
[x] "You couldn't have just worn it yourself?"
[x] Sigh. No, you'll be found out too easily.
[x] Maybe you could get an acquaintance to get the medicine, no questions asked. Or just say that it's for one of the wolf pups.
With how many humans get lost near Youkai Mountain, it would be just as easy to assume that the Tengu are taking care of one, and they'd rather not move him/her due to injury.
[x] "You couldn't have just worn it yourself?"
[x] Sigh. No, you'll be found out too easily.
[x] Maybe you could get an acquaintance to get the medicine, no questions asked. Or just say that it's for one of the wolf pups.
[x] Just go up and get the medicine.
[x] If anyone asks, old man Ogata took a nasty spill and his immune system can't handle youkai-strength medicine right now. (He's far too proud to admit it, but old age is getting to him)
This may be less likely to work, but anything is worth a shot compared to getting found out that we're human - or that we're cross-dressing. Not sure which is worse.
[x] Say that you're putting together a spare pack of human-strength medicine for one of the outposts on the mountain that handles lost/stranded/waylaid human travelers.
You slowly take a step back as Miss Aya approaches you with that bag in hand. Her seemingly innocuous eyes mask a menacing gleam that scares you, and you hurriedly begin to run your mouth.
“Um, th-there’s no need for that, is there?!” you say, alarmed. “I mean, um, can’t we say the medicine is for old man Ogata?”
“Human medicine is poisonous to youkai, you know,” she says with a triumphant sort of grin.
“Ehh…” you whimper as you take another step back. Miss Aya continues to advance towards you, holding the bag up higher now.
“Come on, Miki, you’ll put this on, won’t you?” she says with a falsely sweet voice, stepping closer and closer. You quickly rack your brains to think of an alternative.
“A-Ah!” an idea suddenly hits you like a flash of lightning. “Wait, can’t we say we’re putting together a spare pack of human medicine for… um… an outpost that handles lost human travelers?”
Miss Aya abruptly stops her advance, placing a hand on her chin. “You know what, that’s actually a pretty good idea,” she says seriously. You breathe again, sighing in relief. “Rejected.”
“That’s no fu—I mean,” she immediately corrects herself as she speaks. “I told them I was on an errand from the tengu earlier, and it’d seem pretty silly of me to overlook buying all that the first time, wouldn’t it? And besides, I already bought all these, it’d be a waste to let them go unused!”
“Now, Mikio… put them ooooon!”
You turn to run, but a hand reaches out and grasps your shoulder, stopping you in your tracks.
“Are you finished, Mikiko?” Miss Aya asks, and you reluctantly step back into her line of sight.
Pressed tightly down to your head was a large, oversized round hat, underneath which was the long brown wig from earlier.
“Ahahahaha, you look so cute, Miki!” she laughs as she hurries over to you, circling around you to better examine you.
“If Master Ogata found out about this, he’d kill me,” you mutter to her in a low whisper, looking down at the simple and dull-colored dress you were wearing.
“Oh, he won’t find out about this, I assure you,” Miss Aya says with delight, taking hold of the camera hanging from her neck. Before you can cover your face, a flash of light blinds you, followed by the sound of a shutter clicking.
“Don’t take pictures!” you say, frowning.
“Ah. Sorry, sorry,” she says, grinning. She isn’t sorry at all, you can tell. “Anyway, can you talk with a slightly higher voice?”
“Like this?” you say.
“Perfect. No one would be able to tell.”
“But wait, Miss Aya, couldn’t you have just used these to disguise yourself instead?” you say, voicing a question that had been on your mind while you were changing.
“Ahh, I suppose, but I’m not very good at acting at all!” she says with mock distress. “Now, go on. I’ll follow you from a distance.”
You sigh. Readjusting the hat on your head, you timidly begin to walk back out of the alleyway. A particularly strong gust of wind blows by, tossing your long (fake) hair up behind you as you continue to walk, looking up at the sky.
Well, if you can say one thing about this situation, it’s that wearing a long skirt like this isn’t much different from the pair of hakama you wear everyday, so you don’t feel uncomfortably exposed, at least. It did feel strange to not be wearing the mask in an open area like this, though.
Most of the people passing by don't even spare a single glance at you as you walk by. Usually, there's a few people gawking at you, probably because of that bizarre mask you're always wearing. Still, that's a good thing. If people were still staring at you while you looked like this, you think you'd die from the embarrassment.
As you absentmindedly walk through the roads of the village, you remember that you’re supposed to be heading for the place those weird youkai of the House of Eternity set up. What’s more, you also realize that you don’t know where exactly it is.
What should you do…?
 Ask one of the villagers for the location.
 Head back and try to find Miss Aya.
 Look for it on your own.
[x] Ask one of the villagers for the location.
That’s right. Someone here should know the way, right? Gulping, you look around, glancing at each of the people passing by. But... who should you ask? Your old apprehension is returning again, and the fact that you’re wearing… what you’re wearing right now doesn’t exactly help you build confidence.
Helplessly, you continue to look around, but you fail to speak out to anyone as they pass by. Frowning, you scurry forward, only to bump into someone as you frantically search about.
“Ah... I’m so-,“ you begin, but you quickly stop yourself, remembering to talk in a higher voice. “I mean… I’m sorry,” you say, looking up at the man you’d bumped into.
“It’s alright,” the man says dismissively, turning to go about his way.
“Um, wait!” you call after him. He turns and looks at you curiously. “Do you… um, do you know where the medicine kiosk from… from Eientei is…?”
“Uh, yeah, I know where it is,” the man says, though his face seemed to instantly sour. “Why? Are you sick or something?”
“Huh? N-no, not really…”
“Look, if you need medicine, my family’s pharmacy is just as good, you know!” the man says with sudden fervor, placing his hands on both of your shoulders to pull you in closer as you let out a sudden gasp. “Those youkai rabbits can’t be trusted! I mean, sure people say that their medicine is effective, but ours are just as good!”
“Everyone thinks it’s so great that they go around distributing medicine to households, but don’t let them fool you! They’re just trying to trick you into buying from them!” he says excitedly, shaking you by the shoulders. “Look, if you come to our pharmacy instead, we’ll match their price!”
“In fact, since you’re so cute,” he raves with the same amount of passion as before, licking his lips. “I’ll give you a discount, even! So come on!” As he says this, he leans in even closer than before, narrowing his eyes as if trying to intimidate you into doing as he says.
You can’t take anymore. You panic, surprising the man by shoving him down to the ground and quickly hurrying away from him. As you scuttle away, you hear the man calling after you.
“Hey, wait, come back!”
You don’t stop running until you’re a good distance away from where you started. Whew. That was scary. Some people can just get a little too overboard about their job, can’t they…?
As you let out a breath of relief, you hear the caw of a crow somewhere above you. Looking up, you see a small crow staring at you from the roof of a nearby building. As you return its gaze, it flutters away, stopping at the roof of another building.
You follow its trail, and each time, the crow flies away before landing elsewhere, presumably leading you to where you need to go, you hope.
Sure enough, the crow lands for the final time on top of a rather shabby looking building before taking flight again, this time into the open sky. Taking a deep breath, you open the door and step inside.
“It’s close to the end of winter, so I want everyone to remember to check the households for their medicine boxes when spring arrives,” a commanding voice is issued from inside the building. “… Hey, quit playing around with those boxes! Are you listening to me?”
You peer inside cautiously. Standing at a counter with an exasperated look on her face was the tall rabbit from Eientei. Um… if you remember right, her name was Reisen, though she was called something else when you first saw her…
Also present in the room were several of the shorter, childish rabbits. A few of them were tossing around a small container to each other, others were running around in the rather limited space within the room, and a few more were playing around inside a large cardboard box.
“They never listen to me…” you hear Reisen mutter, frustrated. As you step a little further inside, her gaze turns to you, and for just a second, your eyes meet hers’. “Oh. A customer.”
“Um… hello,” you greet. You know that she probably doesn’t remember you well enough to recognize you right now, but you still feel a little anxious.
“Excuse the other rabbits,” she says to you, reaching down and placing an enormous knapsack on the counter. “What can I help you with?”
“Um… I want to buy medicine,” you say. You’re not sure if you’re imagining it or not, but you think you can hear a faint humming coming from the inside of your head.
“Yes, that is usually why people come here,” a voice whispers into your ears. Or was it a whisper? You’re sure that it was Reisen who spoke to you, though, but it’s not like she’s standing next to you. You shake your head to clear the weird buzzing in your ears.
But now the room seems to be spinning around. It’s disorienting. You feel like if you took a step forward, you’d start falling up. Even the figure of the youkai rabbit in front of you seems to be swerving around, dividing into three…
get out of my head
“Ow!” you hear a sharp cry of pain, and at the same time, the disorientation stops. Everything feels normal now. Reisen was still standing, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands. “Ouch…” she moans, opening one eye and pointing towards one of the smaller rabbits. “Hey, could you get me the eye drops?”
The little rabbit she pointed to reluctantly stops playing in the cardboard box, fetching a small vial and handing it over to Reisen, who placed a drop of the clear liquid in each eye. “Sorry about that,” she apologizes as she bottles the small vial up, placing it to the side while wiping at her eyes. “Anyway, what do you need?”
Shaking your head again, you produce from your dress the list of things Miss Aya recommended for you to get, as well as the small wallet she had lent you to buy them with. You hand the list over to Reisen.
“Okay, we have all that,” she says, looking over the list and rummaging around in the knapsack. Soon, she locates and retrieves several little bottles and containers, handing them to you in a brown paper bag. “Here you go.”
“Thank you,” you say, handing her the appropriate amount of money. But wow, Miss Aya sure was accurate about the cost of the medicine. She’d given you just enough to buy everything.
A few days later, you were mercifully back in your regular attire, resting at the tengu headquarters after a satisfactory dinner. Having nothing better to do, you decided to play shogi with Miss Momizi.
“Ah, are you sure you want to place that piece there?” she says teasingly as you deliberate on where to place your lion. Since it was a pretty powerful piece, you really couldn’t afford to lose it too quickly…
“You’re bluffing,” you say, although you aren’t sure. Miss Momizi simply smiles in response, making you feel even more reluctant to play out that move.
“Ah, Momi, Miki, there you two are!” Miss Aya suddenly joins the two of you, sitting at the side of the shogi board, a small paper packet in hand. “Those pictures are finally developed.”
“Those pictures?” Miss Momizi raises an eyebrow. “What are you referring to, Miss Shameimaru?”
“Ah, wait! You don’t mean…!” you quickly object, but it’s too late. Miss Aya pulls out several photographs from the packet, laying them out on the shogi board.
“Tada! I think they came out pretty well,” she says shamelessly.
“Is that…?” Miss Momizi inspects the pictures closer, and then looks at you. Of course, you’re included in all of those pictures, from that small little incident a few days ago in the village. You had no idea she was taking pictures of you even as you were walking about the village. “Oh wow, he really does look like a…” Miss Momizi catches herself from talking any further, clearing her throat with a cough. “I mean, did you force him to do this Miss Shameimaru?”
“Huh? No way~! Miki agreed to do this, didn’t you, Miki?” she says, wrapping an arm around your shoulder and pulling you closer. Spitefully, you remain silent, looking away.
“Now, what’re you all looking at here?” a gruff voice makes all three of you jump, and Miss Aya hurries to stuff the photos back into the packet as the old man Ogata enters sight, sitting down at the other side of the shogi board.
“Nothing, nothing!” Miss Aya quickly says.
Master Ogata snorts, obviously unconvinced but not willing to pry any further. Instead, he turns to Miss Momizi and asks her. “The border’s reached its one-hundred and twentiethed year now, hasn’t it?”
“Eh? Ah, yes, I believe so,” she responds. Master Ogata looks satisfied by the answer.
“Why? Is something happening?” you ask.
“Hm? Maybe so, maybe not, who knows,” he says in that usual roundabout manner. “Oh, playing shogi, are you?” he says, taking notice of the game board between you and Miss Momizi. “Well, keep going then, kid. Show me what you know about strategy.”
You shrug, and pick your lion piece back up. Again, you make to place it in the same place you were going to earlier, but you deliberate again as the old man speaks out in his rough voice.
“You sure you want to move that there?” he asks you, placing a hand on his chin.
>>11699 Some canon material seems to imply that looking her in the eyes is always disorienting, like she can't turn it off. Although, that would make it hard for anyone to buy medicine from her, so maybe not.