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Patrick felt a little awkward walking through town with Mokou. Partially because of the silence between them, but also because of the odd looks several people gave them. More towards Mokou than him, but he was still getting the odd glance as well. It hadn't crossed his mind that he had several bloodstains on his shirt, and that's probably what caused the most reaction towards him. Since he had seen the town from the hill, more people had started to come out, and parts of the streets already looked fairly busy, with various shops opening their doors and windows, and a few stalls being opened by their owners. One thing Patrick noticed however, was the bizarre mix of apparent technology levels. Some buildings were made primarily of wood, with wooden shutters, paper screen doors and had a general old fashioned Japanese feel to them, while other buildings were built from stone and brick and had glass windows.
"This place is a lot different then I imagined it." Patrick said aloud, as if Mokou would have some kind of explanation.
"Hmm, what were you expecting?" Well, she had him there, he thought. He never really expected anything really, having no real knowledge of what a Meiji era town would look like. "I don't know much about the outside world anymore, but these stone houses are a lot more common now, same with some of the houses in the richer parts of the town. I don't exactly follow the business of humans in this town, but from what I overheard from Keine, there was some big commotion over an engineer from the outside world who knew how to make an electric generator. Sure enough, he became high society instantly after it's completion, and electric power is common for the rich, even if they don't necessarily have the means to use it."
Mokou stops with a sigh, sweeping back some of her hair from her face.
"Anything for luxury I suppose."
"Doesn't anyone else want electricity?"
"People have better common sense when their head isn't stuffed with cotton. Everyone else realizes they don't need electricity if they don't have anything to use it with. It's more of a bragging right for the elite."
"Makes sense, I guess."
"Besides, who needs electric power when you have fire power?"
At this point, small embers began to float off of Mokou for a few seconds before dissipating. A few nearby women walking the street began gossiping about the sight, quite obviously, in an almost exaggerated hand-over-mouth 'EEEH MAJI' sort of way. Patrick had a bit of a hard time taking it seriously, wondering if this kind of over-the-top way of acting was going to be a common theme among the common populace.
The two of them walked in silence once again, rounding corners and taking shortcuts through alleyways when available, the smell of smoke coming ever closer, until they reached a large plaza lined with shops and stalls. Here, the smell was at it's strongest, and he realized why once he saw the number of open air food stalls being opened, their owners lighting up their grills to prepare for a day of business.
"This is a lot of food stands," Patrick said, looking around at the stalls. Various yakiniku and yakitori stalls, a few ramen and soba shops, and even a place with 'Burger' written on it like a title. "This is something else."
"Yeah, there's not much business in the mornings, but you'd probably be surprised to know that it's nearly impossible to get a meal here come mid day. Almost everyone comes here to eat, even youkai and other folks that live around the area. Even that silver dog comes here for a meal every once in a while," Mokou said, heading towards a stall in the far corner from where they entered the area. "The stall I'm looking for is over here."
Patrick watched Mokou walk up to the stand and step inside, and he followed suit. As he did, he immediately noticed the man behind the counter, a tall, thin looking man with short, fire red hair and grey and brown dog-like ears. It only took a few seconds before it clicked and Patrick began to feel very uneasy.
"This a friend of yours Mokou?"
Mokou waved her hand in a dismissive manner.
"Nah, he's Keine's latest pet, so I'm showing him around so she doesn't have to do it later."
The two of them chuckled at Patrick's expense as he stood there sweating bullets. The man looked him over, and Patrick knew immediately that he was looking at the blood stains.
"Why's he all bloodied up?"
"Youkai troubles, and a small misunderstanding with Mokou." Patrick said, cutting off Mokou before she could reply. The man fixed his gaze on him.
"Youkai troubles you say? Funny you should say that," he said, a small grin crossing his face. "I've heard some stories from a particular girl of mine about some human troubles, some guy going around with delusions of being a youkai hunter who attacked her with a sword."
Patrick was sure his heart had stopped just then, he was suddenly all too aware that he was potentially surrounded by youkai, and totally unarmed. Panic alarms were raging in the depths of his mind telling him to run away, but his legs wouldn't follow.
"I- uh... I'm..."
"If you ask me though," the man cut in, "she needed it. Always playing at dreams of power and thinking herself some big, strong youkai when she's only still a pup. Sure, she was angry she got hurt, but I think she's starting to realize that if she wants to play hard, she's going to get treated hard, and a fairly serious wound was probably what it would take to calm her down a bit."
His panic came to a grinding halt. For a moment, Patrick felt that he was just being tricked in some way, but considered that is he was actually in danger, he would very likely be dead already. One thing nagged at him though, the man's choice of words.
"Wait, what did you mean by 'one of your girls'?"
The man looked confused, as if he hadn't understood the question entirely.
"She's one of my daughters."
"Domesticated and house broken, indeed."
Patrick couldn't help but laugh. It was a mixture of disbelief and genuine amusement. Disbelief that he had been so endangered by a 'domestic' youkai animal and that he would likely have been destroyed had she actually been 'wild'. The amusement came from a mental image of the girl in a dog collar and sleeping in a dog house.
"Anyway, what'll you be having today?"
"I'll have some negima." Mokou replied, leaving Patrick momentarily surprised until he remembered that negima is actually food and not just a manga series. The wolf turned his attention to Patrick, who was all too suddenly aware he had no idea what was on the menu, or what to order.
"He'll have the same thing." Mokou said, having noticed Patrick's dilemma. The man nodded and went about preparing the skewers, and he left the stand to go get something.
"A youkai running a stand in a human village, huh?" Patrick said as the man left the stall. "Is that common?"
"Pretty much, actually. People call this a human village, but it's more like a village for people with human-like tendencies. Humans and youkai can live here if they want a peaceful kind of life, or they can live in the wilds if they'd prefer, or are otherwise a hassle to the people, like a particular black-white witch."
"Guess that makes sense."
"Yeah, Keiji is a pretty good guy, and well respected around here."
"I completely forgot introductions. The guy running this stand is Keiji Mitsumine, though I and a few other people call him Fujiwara no Keiji due to a drunken claim he made about raising one of the later descendants of my old family."
"That's not just a drunken claim, you know," Keiji said, stepping back into the stall, skewers in hand as he went about setting them on the grill. "Just because I was drunk doesn't mean it didn't happen."
"Not that it particularly matters anyway, I cut ties with that family long ago. Rightfully so as well, since they ended up getting themselves destroyed."
There was a brief silence, broken only by the sound of meat frying on the grill.
"So, can I get you anything to drink?" Keiji asked.
"Sake." Mokou replied instantly, even though it was likely not even 9 am yet. Keiji turned to Patrick, waiting for him to pipe up.
"Uh, water? I don't really drink."
Keiji knelt behind the counter and soon produced a large jug of water and a smaller, white porcelain-looking bottle, as well as an average sized cup and a smaller cup that looked like the same porcelain material as the small bottle. He placed the jug and cup on the counter, as he placed the smaller cup in front of Mokou and proceeded to fill it. In turn, he did the same with the water.
"So, kid, you never told me your name," Keiji said as Patrick took a sip of the water. Apparently there was some kind of cooler behind the counter, since the water was actually pretty cold.
"My name's Patrick Miller, I'm an outsider. Mokou already told me your name, as Im sure you know."
"Yeah, I caught that," he said, casting a glance at Mokou. "I'm telling you though, I really did help raise that Hidehira kid."
"Well, I don't really know what you're talking about. I haven't exactly studied the history of Japan. To tell you the truth, I thought the whole 'Fujiwara no' thing was just made up until I actually looked into it and found out it was actually a historical family in Japan. Beyond that though, I don't really know anything."
Keiji seemed a bit disappointed, while Mokou seemed indifferent. She probably didn't exactly care for having her family history discussed, and Patrick decided to drop it. No one said anything for a few seconds until Mokou started up another conversation with Keiji, talking about things happening around the village, how some people are doing, and various other things Patrick didn't really follow. After a short while, the negima skewers were taken from the grill, and a few small bowls of some kind of sauce were taken from behind the counter and placed onto a tray.
Mokou grabbed a skewer and began to eat, and Patrick joined in soon afterwards. It really wasn't that different from a shish-kebab, and the sauce that came with it was pretty good as well. Despite being just chicken and green onion, it was surprisingly filling. What as probably more surprising though, was Mokou's eating. Clearly a veteran of eating, she had downed seven of the ten skewers made before he had started his second, and had already placed another order for ten more. Patrick briefly wondered if she always ate like that and if she did, how she wasn't overweight. Yuyuko would have the excuse of being dead, but Mokou was still mostly a human. He dismissed the thought though, since she could probably literally melt away fat, and that life and death battles with Kaguya was probably good exercise.
There was a flash of movement out of the corner of Patrick's eye, and before he could see what it was, it had vanished. He had thought nothing of it, until a brown and black cat suddenly appeared on the counter when Keiji's back was turned and began to pick at some raw bird parts on the chef's side of the counter. It had happened so quickly, that Patrick and Mokou hadn't the time to react, and Keiji didn't even notice until the cat had managed to pick up half a leg and drop it from the counter, by which point Patrick had called Keiji's attention. It was futile though, since by the time Keiji saw the cat himself, it had already taken the half-leg and started scurrying towards a nearby alley. That's when Patrick made two important realizations: the cat had two tails, and there was a small golden earring hanging from it's left ear.
"Oh, OH! I'll be right back, I have to catch that cat!" Patrick said suddenly, darting from the stall, leaving a confused Mokou and an angry Keiji behind. The cat vanished into an alley shortly ahead of Patrick, who took the same route. He could see it up ahead, struggling to keep a fast pace as well as keep from losing the stolen prize. Thankfully the alley was fairly devoid of junk to get in the way, as Patrick chased the twin-tailed cat as it took corners and darted out into other streets and into other alleyways. Despite his best efforts, Patrick really wasn't much of a match for a cat, especially not a youkai cat, in terms of speed. Just as it crossed another street and darted into an alley once more, Patrick stopped his chase just inside the alley.
"Chen?" He called out loud as he stopped in his tracks.
The cat cornered once again and disappeared. Patrick leaned against a wall and tried to catch his breath. Maybe he was wrong, and earrings were a common fashion accessory for all nekomata. Patrick took a few more steps into the alley, a slight feeling that he should try seeing if he could chase it again, when a brown head poked itself around the corner. He froze again, and then started slowly making his way towards the corner, keeping his hands low and open at his sides as an attempt to gesture he meant no harm.
"How do you know my name?"
Patrick nearly jumped out of his skin. He wasn't wrong apparently, but hearing a cat talk threw him for a bit of a loop.
"That's not important right now, but I need to talk to you."
Chen disappeared again, and Patrick ran up to the corner, prepared to chase her again. Instead, he found her in her human form, sitting on top of a high wall a few feet in, idly wiping dirt off the half-leg she was now holding in her hand.
"What was it you wanted to talk about?" Chen asked, sniffing at the leg.
"I need to meet Yukari, she's probably the only person in Gensokyo that can send me back to the outside."
Chen seemed to be paying attention to the leg in her hands more than Patrick, turning it over and inspecting it. A flame appeared in her hand and she held the leg over it.
"Not a chance. You're a weird man covered in blood, and Ran told me not to get involved with bad men."
Patrick made a mental note to himself to get a new shirt at some point in the near future, as it would likely continue to work against his best interests to parade around with a collection of bloodstains.
"These are just a misunderstanding, I'm not a bad guy."
Chen continued to flame broil the leg in her hand as she looked down at Patrick. It was absurd to him how a girl who looked no older than 13 could look so intimidating, though he chalked it up to the fact that one of her hands was currently on fire, chicken or no chicken.
"I don't think I should trust you."
Patrick started to get frustrated that his only chance so far to get home is about ready to hop off a wall and disappear on him, and he didn't know when his next chance would come. He decided to put his only skill that meant anything to use: knowledge.
"Fine then. It's okay if you don't trust me. I do know, however, that you occasionally come to the village to play with the other cats even when Yukari and Ran wouldn't want you to. I also know that Ran occasionally comes by as well to do errands. All I need to do is present her with some fried tofu when I see her and she's sure to hear me out. That's when I'll tell her about your mischief here in town."
Chen nearly fell off the wall in surprise. That was it, he could see it in her eyes, he really hit a weak spot. If there was anything he knew about Chen, it was that she had a child's intellect, and like most children, they fear and hate punishment.
"No, no, I'm sorry, okay!" she said, dousing the fire and jumping down off the wall. "Please don't tell Ran, Yukari will get mad at her if she finds out that she doesn't keep a close eye on me, and Ran will be mad. I-" she stopped, looking at the half cooked half-leg in her hand. "I'm being bad, even though Ran tries so hard to be good. I need to be a good shi- uh... shini- No, shikigami. A good shikigami, and make Ran proud."
She turned her eyes to the ground, a sad look on her face.
"I'll bring this back. I shouldn't be stealing, I should save money for treats when I want them. That's what Ran does." she said, turning the leg over in her hands. "Will you forgive me?"
"The theft isn't my problem, you should apologize to the stall owner when you go back. If I get back before you, I could see if he'll be easy on you. Though..." Patrick trailed off. Chen waited a few seconds for him to continue.
"I don't know how to get back there..."
"Okay then Mr. Badguy, I'll start being a good shikigami by leading the lost boy back!"
Patrick accepted, despite his annoyance at being called a boy by a girl who was clearly younger than him by physical appearance, but could easily turn him into a smear with little effort.
Several minutes later, Patrick and Chen had returned to the stall, where Mokou was still sitting and, apparently, eating. Keiji came out from the stand and approached the two.
"So, this is the youkai cat, eh? You know how many times I've caught her stealing?"
Before he could continue, Chen held up the leg as she offered it back.
"I'm sorry Mr. Dog, I shouldn't be stealing."
"Do-" Keiji's voice caught in his throat. Patrick made the all-too-late association of a cat and dog, and suddenly found huge irony in the situation, and began laughing. He composed himself when he saw Keiji looking at him, however.
"I hope you can forgive her. She knows what she did is wrong and she knows that I can tell her master about what she's been doing. She promised not to steal anymore, and she'll save money for next time she wants something." Patrick said, hoping to ease some of the tension and get Chen off the hook. Keiji looked at him, then to Chen, then sighed and reclaimed the leg.
"There's not much I can do about it if she's sorry. Her thefts to date aren't really all that costly and doesn't really hurt my business much either, so I'm no going to ask for repayment either. Just be sure to become a good, regular customer in the future, alright?"
Chen looked relieved, and simply nodded.
"Looks like this leg was partially cooked already. I might as well finish the job for you then. Come on in." Keiji said, which was quickly and eagerly responded to by Chen bouncing her way into the stall. Patrick could easily see the truth in all the fan portrayals of Ran now and her nosebleeds for Chen. He entered the stall as well, and immediately noticed somewhere around 30 used skewers sitting on a separate tray on the counter in front of Mokou, who was nursing another cup of sake. There were a few skewers of negima left over as well, which he found were left for him.
After Patrick finished eating, Mokou pulled a bill from her pocket and placed it on the counter where it was quickly claimed by Keiji. It had only been around forty-five minutes since they first arrived, but the plaza was already getting busy with people. Mokou left the stall, and almost immediately, someone else came in and placed an order. Patrick skirted the customer and approached Chen.
"So, if it's not too much trouble now, you think I could meet Yukari?"
Chen seemed lost in thought for a moment.
"Hmm, I couldn't help you there. Yukari's always sleeping and the only person that sees her is Ran."
"I see, what about Ran?"
"Ran's been busy lately too, so she hasn't been home much."
"Damn..." Patrick stopped to think for a moment, wondering if there was an alternative. He briefly considered just leaving and waiting for Chen to go home, then following her, but given that she could fly and he couldn't, that plan was scrapped very quickly. "Could you ask Ran the next time you do see her to come to the human village? Tell her there's someone staying with the history teacher Keine that wants to meet Yukari. If she refuses, tell her that I'll pay her in fried tofu."
"If you promise not to tell Ran and keep our secret, I'll help you, Mr. Badguy."
"Ah, by the way, my name is Patrick, so you can call me that if you want."
Chen's eyes wandered back to the bloodstains on his shirt.
"Fair enough, then."
Patrick left the stall behind and caught up to Mokou, who hadn't even stopped to wait for him.
"You get what you wanted out of that cat?" she asked.
"Yeah, or, well, somewhat at least. Still have to go through yet another person to get to Yukari."
Mokou gave an amused snort.
"Her, eh? What do you want to meet her for? She's a pain in the ass."
"Well, for one, she can send me back home."
Mokou didn't reply for a while.
"It's not too bad here you know. You get used to it after a while."
Now it was Patrick's turn to snort amusedly.
"Maybe for people that can throw fire, but right now I'm walking through an unfamiliar Japanese style village with faint Meiji trappings with a woman who has been alive for more than twelve-hundred years, surrounded by people that are either normal humans, normal humans with special powers, or animal humanoids with special powers, and all I can put between me and the world that will have any effect is a sword that just barely has any effect," he said, taking a slight pause. "If I were a trained swordsman, that'd be no problem, but I'm not. I'm a fairly average guy who used to lead a fairly average life before my world got flipped, turned upside down. Only difference is when this story is retold, it won't be about how I became a prince of Bel-Air, but rather a corpse, granted that anyone even retells my 'story' in the first place."
Once again, Mokou was silent. After a few steps Mokou stopped and turned around, looking Patrick directly in the eyes.
"Guess I owe you an apology then. I was absolutely convinced you were some weirdo and you were nothing but trouble. That's why I offered to show you around, to see if you did anything weird or suspicious. I've been separated from normal people so long I guess I forgot that there are some good people around." she said, with a smile. "Guess I don't have to worry about you hurting Keine most of all either, which is a good thing for you, because I'd have broken every bone in your body before I boiled you from the inside out if you did."
Patrick had a little trouble responding to that, as it was a little difficult to do so with the mental image of that in his mind.
"I wouldn't dream of hurting Keine, not when she's going to be putting me up for a while."
Mokou simply nodded, but didn't say anything. She turned around again and started walking off.
"There's more things I want to show you and we're burning daylight, so come on."
Patrick started walking with her again, continuing the guided tour of the town.
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