I slam the wooden door with a loud bang behind me as I push my arms out and up towards the ceiling with a relaxing stretch.
"Ah, I'm finally done with the hunt. Good run today." My arms come back down with the leather bag held in my right hand swaying slightly. I press my forehead with my left hand and slide it across flicking the sweat off, then tug my light purple vest around a bit. It's pretty hot around here.
With a precise swing, I fling the bag to a corner with a solid thump on the floor and twirl my hat on top of the bag. I walk over to light the candle then jump with a nice flop landing my back on my soft comfy bed as the eyes on my hat bob from the impact. A moment of peace, a good day's work in.
Until the phone started ringing.
I sit up and slam one end of the handset on the base sitting on the nightstand. It flies with a flourish and ends up in my hand as I hold the transmitter next to my ear.
"Who's this?" I nod speaking into the receiver.
"Oh, it's you, good, I thought I got the wrong number. Anywho, Suwako, it's Shizuha."
"Huh. It's been a long time since I've heard from you. What's the occasion?"
"Uh, Suwako..." Her voice quivers, but returns to normal. "I've got something to talk to you about. I'd like you to come over to my house so we can discuss it."
She wants to see me in person? Strange. I wonder what to tell her.
[ ] "Since we haven't seen each other in a long time, I'll come over right away." [ ] "I want to know what you want to tell me first." [ ] "Can this wait until later? I'm tired."
[X] "Since we haven't seen each other in a long time, I'll come over right away."
"That's nice, but can you get here as soon as you can?"
I lean in closer to my handset. "What's urgent about it?"
Shizuha sighs. "I think Kanako passed by he-"
The handset sits itself on the base as I had already retrieved my hat and my bag from the corner and flew out the door with another bang.
I can't believe it. I can't believe it at all. Kanako.
It felt like eons since I had heard her name so I just resumed my routine life until now. However, there's only one question I want her to answer for me: Who was right in the end, me or her?
I run across the dusty dunes with my fluttering sleeve across my eyes as I head towards Shizuha's place. I didn't think any of us would survive in such an environment of lifeless sands, yet we've managed to so far. I guess we would have to attribute our resilience to something, but I haven't discovered what that source is.
The lantern post makes a loud clicking noise as it lights up next to the house where Shizuha lives. It is a relic of the past, much like the item I hold in memory of Kanako.
"Hey, Suwako." Shizuha sat at her desk, writing more fantastic tales of her imaginative 'world before its death' that we apparently can't remember. Her blonde hair the last time I saw it was short, but it had grown a bit now. The dead leaves knitted in it still remained, however.
"You didn't even look back. What if it was someone else, huh?" I scoff as I shut the door behind me.
She puts down her fountain pen, then finally turns around and looks at me. "Every person's entrance is distinct, unique." Shizuha, being a stranger to logic and common sense as usual.
"Anyway, you said you wanted to talk to me about Kanako?"
"Yes." She pulls out the top drawer of her desk and takes out the photo I gave to her so that she could identify Kanako if she ever appeared. If ever. "This is Kanako with you, right?"
I sit down on Shizuha's bed. "Yeah, that's her." I affirm to her. The camera we used to take this picture is now missing because it was stolen when someone broke in my house. Even with that, that was the Kanako I once knew. "So you're telling me you saw someone that looked similiar to her?"
"That's it, really." Shizuha glances at me for an instant. "Remind me what your friend is looking for."
"Any trace of technology." I unbuckle my belt and pull out the ancient revolver from my holster. "What she gave me before she left, it's not like I have to remind you of the whole story."
"Of course, that story. She found that thing, thought that other pieces of such power remained in the unknown and left you behind with it to see if she could revitalize the world with more similiar findings. Says plenty when I find something just like your weapon there in the area." She pulls open the bottom drawer under her desk to the right and takes out a well-built blunderbuss. "Your friend's oblivious about what she's searching for, isn't she? I'm sure that this was how things were supposed to be."
I lay back on her bed in silence for a moment. "...Not really. I imagine that something broke within Gensokyo and that the ones who remain have to give it a nudge for the world to repair itself. Kanako, however, thinks that she can shove it around until it's fixed or it crumbles until nothing. I won't know until I find her first." I get up with a good oompf. "Which leads to why I'm here. Shizuha, where did this person you saw go?"
Shizuha stands up and scoots her chair in. "She arrived from the north and moved towards the southwest. Where are you planning on going?"
[ ] Head north. We should see what she found there to cause her to go to Shizuha's location. [ ] Move southwest. Following Kanako's trail could lead to more information and predicting her next move.
[X] Move southwest. Following Kanako's trail could lead to more information and predicting her next move.
"So you're planning to go after her?" Shizuha grabs my hand and pulls me off of her bed. "I'm willing to go with you, but not now. Both of us need a good night's rest."
"Oh right, I also have dinner in the bag I brought with me." I snicker as I place my belt next to Shizuha's desk and my hat on her work.
"So what's your dinner? I was going to eat some of the bits of oats I have." She looks upon my bad with a smile.
"A small sized pig. It was pretty fun to catch!" I grin at my achievement. However, Shizuha's smile quickly dissipates.
Displeased about my announcement, she walks out the door and comes back with a nice log of firewood to toss in her fireplace. "I just don't understand you sometimes, but I'm going to fire up the stove. After I'm done roasting the grains, you can go cook your pig. Just leave me out of it."
"I'll happily oblige then!"
I watch Shizuha with a constant pout on her face place an cast iron pot next to the fireplace to cook her oats. When she finishes, she tosses my hat off of her desk onto my bag, pours the oats onto a plate and quietly starts eating.
Meanwhile, I take my hat and put it back on my head as I open the bag up to have a quick glance at my prize. With that done, I heave the pig into the pot and swing it directly on top of the embers. Shizuha waves her hand up and down to get the smell of my meal away, but for me, it's a delicacy worth biting into. It annoys her to the point where she decides to change into her pajamas just to not watch me chew into delicious succulent meat.
All in all, the nicely cooked pig is now sleeping inside my stomach, my lips thoroughly cleaned and the lid finally placed on top of the pot for the evening. Shizuha throws me a spare blanket and a pillow. "The sofa is the only other comfy place I have for you to sleep, so that will have to do. Sorry."
She lastly puts the photo in my hand and reminds me, "You don't like it when I don't get my sleep, so don't disturb me."
That's true, though it's not that I don't like it, it's that she tends to relapse into an even worse mood if she doesn't have enough energy throughout the day. Sometimes, I wish that she would look at the brighter side of things for once. For one reason, it'd be less irritating.
I look at the photo one last time before falling asleep. "Was Gensokyo supposed to end like this, Kanako? You could have just come to me and told me. Get everything over with." I walk over to my belt and place the photo in a pouch attached to it, then lie back on the sofa to sleep for tonight.
...My back's killing me though.
While Shizuha turns in her bed, I silently get off of the sofa with blanket in hand and tuck myself in next to her. Not a single sound to tell me to get off the bed. It's more comfortable than the sofa, that's for sure. I could not think of anything else before slumber overtook my mind.
Nothing coherent came up in my dreams, just a multitude of swirling colors.
Yellow... Yellow daffodils.. Green... Green grass.. Blue... A blue sky...
When I wake up, Shizuha stares at me with the same pout from yesterday. It took me a moment to realize she was leaning over the bed and that I had fallen off without noticing it at all.
"I thought I told you to sleep on the sofa."
I shrug my shoulders. "You didn't mind me sleeping on the bed, did you?"
"Umm..." Shizuha blushes slightly, then regains her composure. "Get out! I need to clean the house a bit before we set off."
"Alright, alright." I put my belt around my waist, my bag in my hand, and my hat on my head once more as I walk out the door and wait for Shizuha to get herself ready. The eyes on my hat spin around happily with the waiting.
A while later, Shizuha comes out of the house. She wears a long sleeved dress with an gradient of orange at the top ending with a soft yellow at her skirt. Her white collar emits a proper atmosphere around her, yet it's hard to tell with her rough leather backpack and the blunderbuss she brought with her.
She checks her slippers and then lets out a quiet sigh. "I'm ready."
We headed southwest along the path between the high dunes. It was fairly windy, but it gave both of us time to converse.
"What did you bring for our journey anyway?"
"Oats, dried vegetables, ointment, bandages, painting supplies, and my work in progress book."
I stop for a split second, confused. "Your book and painting supplies? What's the point?"
"It's just..." Shizuha chokes up for a moment. "When I die, I want someone to find my work and think 'Those people lived in such beautiful times.' even though this place, this place is just a horrible awful stupid hell!"
She holds back her tears, but I just pat her on the shoulder. "We won't die, don't worry." Another laugh out of me. "We'll find Kanako and make your book the truth. It'll be fun!"
"I still hate this place." Shizuha looks away, but in time she glances at me again. "I'll change the topic then, how did you get the pig?"
I smirk. "Easy, I kicked him in the bellyand then punched it in the face until it stopped moving."
She looks cross. "What a savage. Would Kanako do it like that as well?"
"Yes!" I answer without hesitation.
Shizuha sighs. "What is your plan with Kanako anyway? Why do you want to meet her so much?"
Unlike the last question, I ponder in deep thought about how I would approach Kanako if I finally see her, finally talk to her, finally answer the questions that have surrounded her since we last spoke.
[ ] I'll tell her "I told her so." and ask her to help me fix Gensokyo my way. [ ] She can tell me how she plans to fix Gensokyo and I'll assist her on her plans. [ ] We'll find a compromise and then we can proceed together, hand in hand. [ ] I want to see her one last time.
[X] We'll find a compromise and then we can proceed together, hand in hand.
"That's pretty nice of you to say, Suwako, but do you think she even remembers you?" Shizuha strikes a glare at me.
"Kanako has been best friends with me until she left!" I snap back.
"Until she left." Shizuha looks away. "What about now? What makes you so sure? Maybe her motives overshadow your very existence."
"If I stopped existing to her," I look down for a moment, "then she wouldn't be able to challenge me on my ideals. That's why I know she remembers me."
"Hmm." Shizuha kicks at the sand. "I'll take your word for it, just know that I'm skeptical about your friend."
"I'm fine with that," I beat my fist on my chest lightly, "because as long I believe in her, she'll take one look at me and call my name."
"It's really boring seeing sand and cacti and tumbleweeds." Shizuha swings another light kick at the drab scenery she walks through.
"You'll see some green soon enough, the town you're taking me to has those in patches, don't they?"
"It does, I'm just going blind from looking at yellow forever."
I look over and wrap my arm over Shizuha's neck. "Tell me something interesting then to distract yourself from the dreariness you hate so much then, hahaha!"
"Heh," Shizuha cracks a small smile, then returns to her normal boring expression, "actually, there's something I do want your opinion on."
I lift my arm off of Shizuha. "I assume it has to do with your writing?"
"Yes, it's a specific theme to be exact."
I clap my hands together. "I'm all ears, what's up?"
"There's this glamourous genre of literature that I've heard of, it was called the western or something like that." Shizuha clears her throat. "In a desert like this, a chiseled jaw man in a cowboy outfit walks into a lawless town and restores order by challenging the leading bad guy to a duel and killing him with one shot from his unwavering gun."
"Saving the town with a gun like this?" I remove it from its holster and examine it for a moment. "That's a pretty stupid story if you ask me."
"What's stupid about it?"
I then put the gun away and move my hands about while laughing. "The villain wouldn't follow rules, they'd shoot the hero the second he looks away!"
Shizuha pouts. "It's supposed to be dramatic!"
"I prefer a more realistic outlook." I smirk. "It's awful to read a story where the characters act like they're following a script. I'd like them to at least try to be smart, you know. The plot isn't exciting if it's as straight as 'hero defeats villain, good triumphs over evil and everyone's happy', that's shallow story telling!"
"It's based on fiction, it's supposed to give you a sense of fantasy and whimsy."
"That's nice, but I would like it if their characters' intelligence wasn't as fictional. The bad guys wouldn't suddenly stop being smart because the good guys walked into town, they'd still do the same thing they were doing before they arrived on the scene."
"You don't get it at all, Suwako." Shizuha sighs with her head down.
"I do get it! Dumb people in stories are just puppets, completely flat and shallow!" In my tirade, I glance ahead and see the specks of green sparsely sprinkled in the town in front of us. I point at it quickly. "Is that the town, Shizuha?"
"Huh?" She looks up and sees it as well. "Yes, that's the town."
Upon further examination of the town with the boats nearby, something irritates me. "It's a port?"
"I didn't think that would be an important detail unless we had to board a boat."
"It gets on my nerves. It's hard to describe why, it just does." I cross my arms and sigh.
The town with its Western style roofed houses indeed was stained with greenery in places, although it is still sandy as everywhere around it. As I've mentioned, there's boats floating in the Sandsea next to its port. Every time I look at the Sandsea, it sends chills up my spine. Am I afraid of seasickness or something else altogether?
Apparently during the desertification, most valleys and low altitude areas were consequently filled with sand creating a very fluid water/sand mixture everyone now calls the Sandsea. Despite having water in it, the sand usually smolders any living thing that falls into it or gets washed with it to death before the water saves them. Nowadays, boats are designed to be able to cut through the Sandsea without a problem, but I'm hoping we don't have to get on one to catch Kanako.
I approach a local, a nice looking fellow with black hair in a breezy dark brown cloak. His eyes were fairly bloodshot though, I guess he had a bad day today. Still wanted to try. I pull out the photo and show it to him. "Hey, have you seen a lady with purple hair like this?"
"She looks familiar." He leans forward and blinks several times with twitchy eyes, then stands straight and points to a building. "I think she headed into the bar."
"Thanks for the info!" I wave goodbye to him as both of us head off to the bar. The last glimpse I had was of him staring at Shizuha's butt. I should have punched him in the face for that, but I had something way more important to deal with.
The bar's wooden side doors swing open with Shizuha and I walking inside. The bartender, a grizzly bearded chap with a leather hat, stands behind the counter cleaning a large mug. Sitting at one of the stools was indeed the person that the local mentioned to me.
Shizuha expresses concern in her voice. "That's... not Kanako."
"That's the same thought I had." I sigh.
"Since we're here, we should get a drink." Shizuha wraps her arm over my neck and motions me forward. "You should ask just to make sure anyway."
Shizuha sits down to the left of me and takes off her backpack. "Bartender, may I please have a glass of red wine?"
"Why, certainly m'am." He puts down a stemmed glass in front of Shizuha and pours into her glass a bold dark blend.
"Thank you very much!" Another small smile from Shizuha. "You're very polite."
"It makes business better. No need to be rough." The bartender strokes his beard.
"A glass of beer, thanks." I tell him.
He grabs a mug, taps out a nice fill with a frothy top, and hands it to me. "Here you go."
Shizuha nudges me in the gut with her elbow. "Are you going to talk to the lady?"
I take a short swig of my beer and then look at Shizuha. "Alright, I'll go ask her." I look to my right and see the woman focused on her beer.
She has lavender hair and blue eyes. She wears a blue vest with a white long sleeve blouse, blue pants with a white apron, a white hat that has a triangle point that swings up and a white scarf that hangs out behind her. She's plenty taller than me, reminds me of Kanako yet I can't imagine her being Kanako at all. I don't even think her hair turning lighter would be an excuse.
[ ] "Are you Kanako by any chance?" [ ] Ask her name first, don't assume she's Kanako, geez. [ ] She's definitely Kanako, give her a violent hug. [ ] Leave her be with her beer. She should be able to enjoy her cold one.
>>23447 It was at least still on the first page, so it's not as if it pushes out anything more active that itself. Best case scenario: the author remembers that the story exists and starts up again. Worst case scenario: Nothing happens.