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He looked up at the sky, dismayed. It had been several hours since he started out from the Hakurei Shrine and it was already getting into the evening. The distant mountain ranges posed a particular problem, as they would blot out the sun much earlier than a flat horizon. A brewing dread over becoming some youkai's dinner was starting to instill a slight panic by now, as being out after nightfall was almost surely an easy way to get killed. He was thankful however that the Hakurei shrine is built over the East of Gensokyo, since it seemed the mountain range in the East was higher than those visible in the western horizon.
There had been a few times when he thought it was all over, catching a sight of some various beasts and youkai in the woods along the road, though they paid him no mind fo the most part or were otherwise appearing to be entirely uninterested. The road so far at least had been even and uneventful. Actually, it was more of a pathway at this point, the cobbling had long since given away to a walkway of dirt with sunken logs, almost like a park trail. The trail itself had slowly seemed to go into a rather gradual curve, as looking back at the path behind him showed that there was a slight arc. Little thought was given to the reasons for the condition of the path and why it wasn't cobbled anymore, since every conclusion he arrived at involved youkai and death. In fact, a lot of what he had been thinking of contained those factors, which is why he had taken to focusing on the memories he had of the music stored within his currently useless mp3 player. With enough concentration, he could almost hear them, and that was all he needed to keep himself composed despite his situation. Very soon, he would have a new hope, as he saw the forest ahead had suddenly cut off and the path took a sharp turn away from a short cliff face.
It was the first open view he had in several hours, and being below much of the tree line that seemed to comprise the entire view from the shrine, he could see the rooftops of houses in the distance. All feelings of hopelessness faded instantly at the sight. The pathway went along the cliff face for a short while before turning onto a slope that seemed like it was artificially created out of the cliff face, a crude set of stone and wood stairs he figured were made to ease travel over an otherwise steep slope further down the cliff. Shifting the book bag hanging from his shoulder, he turned back to the path and started towards the stairs. He took a few steps, and was suddenly blindsided. It took a moment to realize he had been pushed over the edge. He lost consciousness from shock long before he hit the ground.
By the time he opened his eyes, miraculously finding himself alive, the sun had long since set and he found himself in quite a situation. For the most part he felt terrible, several parts of his body hurt quite badly, but nothing felt as if it was broken. He did notice he had been bleeding, though the wounds had clotted. With a bit of twisting and squirming, he managed to right himself and turn his back to the cliff, propping up against it. Most of his hair had come out of it's hair tie and hung in his face and clung to dried blood around the cuts on his head. Despite being night time, it was rather bright, or brighter than he expected at least. The natural moonlight gave a rather pale lighting to the open areas. The area he landed seemed to be the bottom part of the path that descended the cliff. It didn't look as tall as it had from the top, maybe around fifteen feet. Still, though the fall wasn't enough to kill him, he was in too much pain to walk and the worst part, he had been unconscious for several hours, God knows what could have found him before he woke up. He took a quick look around him, finding his book bag had apparently fallen off him in transit to the ground. It had landed on it's back several feet from him. It looked largely unchanged, though he had hoped that it's contents had survived the fall. Little good would broken electronics serve him here even if for trade.
There was a rustle in the forest ahead of him. His heart jumped into his throat. While it was dimly lit on the path where he was, the foliage of the forest blocked out the light, making it look like a deep black abyss of trees. There was another rustle and a sound like the snap of a twig. Another rustle, they were getting closer. A thousand scenarios raced through his head, punctuated by the throbbing pain that continued to grow with the rate of his heart beat. He could make out a faint figure in the darkness of the trees. Whatever it was was human, or at least human shaped. A young girl stepped out into the moonlight, though it didn't take long for him to realize she was a youkai. The clawed hands and feet were sign enough of trouble, though the red eyes, grey and brown tail and dog ears were the easiest sign to follow.
"A human? What a treat! I don't even have to fight the rest of my pack for him." she said with a sick smile. He could only help but laugh. It was the worst thing he could think of at a time like this, but it started without him. A low chuckle, almost like a cough, that built into a clear, insane laughter. A mixture of utter terror and pain had pushed him over the edge of logical thinking.
"What're you laughing at? Hey!" the girl commanded sharply, only to be met by more laughter. It was uncontrollable, in the back of his mind, he felt that this is what it truly meant to 'laugh in the face of death'. The wolf girl took a step forward and drove out her foot, kicking into the rock next to his head. Several chunks broke away and he felt a new warmth on his face as a fresh wound began to bleed. His insane laughter stopped abruptly.
"What's wrong? Not funny anymore? We'll see how funny you find my next act, when I bite out your throat." she said, taking a few steps toward him, baring her teeth. A set of fully canine teeth greeted him with the ferocity of a hungry wolf.
"Little girl," he said, his voice hoarse from laughter. "You touch me and I'll send you to Hell." Her snarl faded and returned as one of insolence.
"What!? You piece of- I'll be sure to kill you right away!"
Clumsily he worked his right hand towards his pocket, hoping he could play the situation just a little while longer.
"That's what the last youkai that threatened me said shortly before I sent him to receive his judgment. He was holding me out above the cliff here, you see," he said, working his hand slowly into his pocket. His key ring was right at his fingertips, and he could feel the small plastic press light he kept attached to it he kept to help find things he might have dropped in the street at night. It was his only trump card. So far, the wolf girl looked like she was buying his story.
"I finished him with a rather powerful attack at point blank, and as a result I fell down this cliff. You should be thankful I'm still sore, or else you'd never have lived to threaten me."
The wolf girl's snarl worsened. He didn't feel like he had much time left.
"That's a tall tale, but there's no way a half-dead pile of meat like you could have beaten a youkai." she said indignantly, taking another few steps forward. She was within arms reach of his feet by now.
"Look at me, youkai girl. Do I look like any normal villager from these parts? I'm not just some bag of meat like these people, I'm a youkai exterminator from another world. A world outside of Gensokyo. That bag there contains all manner of weapons I use to destroy your kind."
She took a step back. Her expression didn't change, but it was naturally true he didn't look like villagers here and this worked in his favour, as did his bag which he noted she glanced at out of the corner of her eyes. He had managed to squirm his keyring into his hand by now and folded it into his palm, holding the press light in a way that concealed most of it though left the bulb exposed enough to still shed it's pale blue light. He slowly withdrew his hand from his pocket.
"I hear you have some spellcard rules around these parts to limit individual strength. So... how about a high stakes game. One card each, I go first, and-"
"No way!" she interjected. "I go first!"
"I go first," he commanded sternly, "Or I will simply destroy you where you stand before you can even begin." He waited for her to say something, but she didn't. The silence hung between them for a few seconds. He brought his hand, concealing the light, up to his lap casually.
"I go first, and if you manage to avoid it, you get to go. If you hit me, you can eat me. If I win, however, I will kill you regardless."
He could feel an air of uncertainty, as he was hoping to instill. His only hope was beginning to work in his favour, being an outsider, all he had going for him was the fact that he didn't fit in and his blatant disregard for established rules he was hoping was a part of every youkai's life. The wolf girl nodded slowly, her face changing to a determined expression hiding her nervousness. He mustered all his strength for what what coming next.
"Then I'll begin." He said, raising his arm from his lap. He pressed the button on the light and began to move his arm, pressing and releasing the button in short bursts to break up the pattern as he drew random shapes and characters in the air with his hand, which as far as the wolf girl was concerned, was creating light from nowhere.
"Paragon of Humanity 'Perfect Destruction Wave'."
The bluff worked. Before there was any time to realize that it was a hoax, the youkai turned tail and ran back into the forest. He dropped his arm to his side, throbbing with pain still. It had been only a few minutes since he had woken up, and most of the pain had begun to dull from tolerance, though he felt in no shape to start moving. Risking another youkai attack would be suicide though and the possibility the girl would return with others occurred to him, he forced himself to his feet. It was a fairly painful process, though he recovered his hat and bag, he also discovered that the contents of the latter had also survived the fall. He began his slow hobble back along the path, his body aching every step of the way.
Limping his way down the path, rustling sounds in the trees were heard again, though none of them sounded like they were coming towards him. Thinking back to a few minutes ago, he remembered not being able to clearly see the girl until she stepped out of the woods, and suddenly realized that she might not have been the only youkai in the area. A familiar dread began to set in as he wondered if others were watching, and worse yet, if they were aware of his feint. This time however, fear couldn't quicken his pace beyond his painful limp, and he was forced to progress slowly listening to periodic shuffles in the darkness within the trees. It was as if all his fears of the early evening were starting to come to life. Perhaps it was the pain, or maybe a deep realization of the trouble he was in, injured and still possibly several hours from the village, he fell to his knees and then laid down on the path. He really was in too much pain to walk, and was only carrying himself on adrenaline from his brush with death. The rustling didn't stop with him however, and he closed his eyes, resigning himself to whatever fate awaited him.
It felt like an eternity passed, his body throbbing in time to his heart. He heard the distant sound of footsteps and his heart jumped. Something was coming for him and he wasn't going to put up much of a fight any more. It took him a few seconds to realize the sounds were coming from up the path however, and he strained to look up to see down the path. Several figures were moving towards him in the pale light, though his poor angle didn't allow him the best view. He lowered his head again, closing his eyes. Bracing one arm against the ground, he lifted himself up and looked down the road.
"Come any closer and I'll kill you all." he shouted at the figures. They all stopped, which bought him some time to see they were all humanoid, though he couldn't make out much more aside from the fact they were all men. The group of men talked to each other for a few seconds before one of them, a shorter man with a bald head, stepped forward.
"We've heard that there was an outsider coming down from the Hakurei shrine that might be seriously hurt at the cliff pass, so we came as soon as we got word."
It occurred to him that they were villagers, though he didn't realize entirely what they had said, only that he was glad to see them. His arm gave out beneath him and he fell, hitting his head hard against the ground. He heard some shouts before he lost consciousness again.
The next time he opened his eyes, it was morning. A single beam of light shone through a small gap in curtains covering a nearby window. His mind swam as he looked around the room, trying to remember what happened. Slowly, memories of the night came back to him, the wolf youkai, his fall from the cliff, the villagers on the path. He realized he was in a bed, not just a mat on the floor. His body still ached from the night before, though he felt relieved to be in relative peace. He felt slight tremors in the bed before he heard the footsteps outside the door to the room. The door opened with a click and a man with silver hair and yellow eyes stepped into the room carrying a tray bearing a pitcher and a cup.
"Ah, you're awake. That's good."
Rinnosuke blinked. He was clearly surprised to be named. He adjusted his glasses and walked over to the bedside, where he placed the tray on a short table next to the bed.
"Yes, that's my name, but I wonder how an outsider like you knows it."
The bedridden man didn't remember that he should be acting as if he doesn't know anything about Gensokyo in his haze, he closed his eyes and tried to fight off the coming headache.
"It's... an ability. Like your item recognition. I can... know who people are and what they can do."
Rinnosuke seemed to ponder for a bit, pouring some water from the pitcher into the cup.
"Sounds like a pretty useful thing to have in a place like Gensokyo."
"How did I get here?"
"I don't know. How or why people cross over the boundary between Inside and Outside isn't exactly something we know how to explai-"
"No, I mean here, this room. Last I remember I was passing out in the dirt."
"Oh, right." Rinnosuke said, giving an exaggerated cough. "A particular customer of mine came by last night to borrow some items and told me about an outsider they ran across. She didn't seem too interested in talking about that until I offered to waive part of her outstanding tab..." Rinnosuke said, trailing off and taking on a fairly aggravated expression. It took him a few seconds to get back to the explanation.
"She told me that she saw him fall off a cliff. She tried to save him but he hit the ground pretty hard. She then said she had some important business at the time and had to leave without checking to see if he was alright, but she did offer a prayer to his soul and hurried along."
The man in the bed started to have a bad feeling, a discomfort began to grow in the pit of his stomach. He had flashes of memory from when he first fell from the cliff, something he hadn't thought about until now. It was still hazy though, as if looking at a picture taken out of focus.
"Of course, this had happened in the evening and I hadn't heard of it until nightfall. That's when I hurried to the village to see if I could find help in recovering this person to see if he was still alive. I got a few men of the village I have contact with to lend a hand and go search. In the end, they brought you here and helped treat your wounds."
Since waking up again, he realized for the first time that he had been tended to. Though all of his hair was loose now, he could feel slight tingling where the cuts he knew about were. One visible one he remembered being on his chest was covered lightly in some sort of cream and covered with an adhesive bandage. Rinnosuke must have noticed him looking at it, as he spoke up shortly afterwards.
"Yes, even here in Gensokyo we have some fairly modern conveniences for outsiders. The medicine is supplied by a rather recently discovered medical genius, but the bandage is something that was brought to me from the outside world. I believe you call them Band-Aids?"
"Something like that."
A silence followed. It almost felt like the silence was throbbing for the man in the bed, as a headache closed in on him.
"I should let you rest some more, you were looking pretty bad from that fall you took and I'm sure you could use some more time to recover. Just one last question before I go. Do you mind telling me your name?"
He hadn't thought of it before, but he he hadn't been asked his name back at the Shrine, though admittedly it wasn't exactly a situation that would require someone's name. He also considered that neither of the girls might have particularly cared about his name, especially if he came without a donation.
Rinnosuke gave a short nod and backed away from the bed.
"When you're feeling better, feel free to take a look around the shop. I have some more questions for you before you leave though, so I'd like it if you'd answer them for me to repay the tab you'd otherwise run up from medical treatment and housing."
There was always a catch. Patrick gave a snide smile to Rinnosuke as he left the room, closing the door behind him. Still sore, Patrick made for the cup of water on the tray, and noticed there were a few objects that looked like pills on the tray as well. Taking his chances, he downed the pills with the water and laid back in the bed. A few minutes later he fell into a welcomed sleep.
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