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Birthday for a Humble Gardener Part 4

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Youmu just stared at it. Her face was flushed, and her hands were trembling. Her heart rate was a little higher than normal. Even her half-ghost was looking a little pale and missing a little of its luster. “You... want me to wear that? I couldn't... I couldn't possibly... There must be some mistake!”

“It's beautiful, isn't it? It's yours. Put it on, and let's see you in it!”

“M-m-me? I...” Youmu sighed and tried to calm herself. “Well, there's no way around it. I promised you I'd wear it...”

In a matter of minutes, I had her in that dress. There isn't a word in the English language that can describe her beauty. Although, she wasn't as confident as I was. But that doesn't matter! She'll warm up to it when the rest of the guests get here. “Youmu!” I said. “Come out here! Everyone's going to be here soon and it's only appropriate if you are out here to greet them!”

Out here, in the flower viewing gardens of Hakugyokurou, is where the guests will show up. But, even the blooming cherry blossoms pale in comparison to Youmu's beauty! I can't wait to see everyone's reactions!

Ah, the flower viewing gardens. Home to the most beautiful cherry blossom trees in the world, and they're in my garden, tended to by my gardener and loved by everyone. Most people who know how to get around the Border of Life and Death show up here to watch them bloom. They have already bloomed, no doubt, but they are still very beautiful. Many of my subjects, if you want to call them that, loaf under the shade of the cherry trees after they're done with their jobs. Some of them like to try to catch leaves as they fall from the trees, even, and keep them. Since they shrivel up anyway, I don't get why they keep them, but I don't say anything. Today, the party I throw for Youmu will be held here, in my most prized section of my land, the gardens that Youmu herself so tenderly cares for. I want to really reward her for all her hard work!

“Master... Do I really look that good in this?”

“No, Youmu, saying you look 'good' would be insulting. Cheer up and be confident!”

“Alright,” she said, with her normal, expressionless face on. Either she got used to getting the extra attention I was giving her, or she's really good at hiding her nervousness. “But, there's just one thing I want to know. Why? Why are you treating me so kindly all of a sudden? Is there something you want, or is something going to happen to one of us soon? What's going on, anyway?”

“I told you already, Youmu! You're a great servant, and I haven't done anything for you in a while, so I'm throwing you a little birthday bash.”

“But, it's so extravagant.”

“I wouldn't be giving it to you if I didn't think you deserved it.”

“Truly... I don't know what to say. Thank you.”

“If you don't know what to say, just smile, look happy and above all have fun. That's what I want from you, that's all I want in return.”

“I understand.”

Now, we could hear footsteps coming from just outside the gardens. The visitors are on their way... “Look the part of the birthday girl, Youmu. Be happy! Smile!”

Here they come. Youmu, knowing her, could probably tell who was who before they were even visible, just by listening to their footsteps and breathing speed, and maybe even their smells. I dunno, but her senses are generally better than most people's because she's trained so hard to hone her concentration skills. She can pretty much concentrate on anything, many or few, with any of her five senses. Her concentration alone makes her a dangerous warrior, but combined with her amazing grace and swordsmanship, she's more than formidable. But I should stop talking about fighting. Fighting is not what we want to do, we want to have fun!

Of course, the first person here was Yukari. She couldn't resist letting out a huge, warm smile and a giggle when she saw my Youmu in that beautiful gown she bought. Of course, she brought her two shikigami with her. Chen and Ran, also named after colors, were her two personal servants. Ran, a kitsune – that means a fox with nine tails - challenged Yukari to a fight long ago, and wagered her freedom on it. She lost, being overconfident in her skills. Now, she doesn't seem to mind being a servant, but she does complain every now and again about how lazy her master is and how she spends over 17 hours a day sleeping. Ran has a shikigami as well. Chen, a nekomata, is Ran's shikigami and actually bound herself to Ran by choice. Nekomatas are very similar to cats. The two are inseparable, and Ran seems to act as Chen's mother. Go figure. They both turned to say hi to Youmu, but no sound escaped their mouths. They stared, before their master pulled them away. I don't think they realized that it's rude to stare.

“Amazing. It's much better than I had imagined. That gown was worth every penny, huh?” She giggled again and opened a large gap in the sky. Suddenly, dining tables and chairs fell from the sky, lining up perfectly so that they were under the shade of the trees and blended with the beautiful surroundings. The tables were from the outside world as well, as they were made of hand-cut wood and the chairs were covered in some sort of comfortable fabric. I think Yukari called it “plush.”

“Let the preparation begin!” Food and silverware fell from the gaps as well, and landed on the tables perfectly aligned with the seats. “I made sure to get the best of the best! Fresh lobster, with an accompanying salad, some shrimp with cocktail sauce and a nice, baked potato, pre-seasoned. There's some sparkling grape juice to go with it, and, to top it off, there's a huge ice-cream cake in my freezer. Ooh, this is going to be great!”

“Great.” Youmu echoed, without emotion and monotone. She was thinking, I'm sure of it. But I don't know what she was thinking about. However, she did something that she hasn't done in years: She looked at us, and smiled before she bowed, saying “Thank you.” She took the seat reserved for her at the head of the largest table, with the largest plate of food on it. It had an extra potato on it, and the lobster was meatier than the others. But, upon seeing that her plate was larger than mine, Youmu thought she had to apologize. I don't think she understands the concept of herself having more than other people yet. It's something she's never really experienced. She'll warm up to it by the end of the day. But now, it's time for FUN!

The next person to show up was an Oni named Suika. She couldn't pass up an opportunity to party. Let's hope she doesn't coax everyone else to drink as much as she does...

An oni is similar to an ogre in folklore. But, there is no way you could compare little Suika to one of those things. She's so cute, but somehow she looks cuter when she's drunk. Ugh, don't ask me how that works. It's probably her Oni style charm. She looks like a little girl, although she's centuries old, and has two horns coming out of her head. She's got a bottle on her belt buckle that will never run out of Sake, which is a very powerful Japanese alcoholic drink. Oh boy. I hope she doesn't get too messed up on that stuff. She seemed to be looking around for something. “Hey, Yuyuko, where's Youmu?” she said.

“Um, are you drunk?”

“No, not yet. Why?”

“Because you're staring right at her.”

She didn't even recognize Youmu. “Woah... That's you Youmu? How did you get like that? What a cool outfit! I want to get one like that too when I grow up!” She skipped to a seat, looking at the food and drinks in front of her. “Hey, if you ever need me to elevate the mood, just say so. With my magic, I can turn anyone into a party animal!”

“No, that's OK. We don't need your power. I just want a nice, peaceful, fun, relaxing event for Youmu.”

“Pfft. You're no fun. So when do we eat?”

“We eat when everyone else gets here. Please don't touch anything...”

“Alright.” I noticed her pouring some Sake out of her gourd into her cup of juice.

Oh, great. I thought to myself. She'll ruin things if she gets hammered...

A few moments later, I heard something approaching. Fast. Really fast. A scream was accompanying the fast moving object. At this point, it was obvious who it was.

“MARISA! SLOW DOWN!”

“SHUT UP, I'LL FLY AS FAST AS I WANT TO ON MY BROOM, ALICE!”

“YOU'RE A JERK!”

“YOU'RE A WIMP!”

“BRUTE!”

“COWARD!”

“YOU COULDN'T HIT THE BROAD SIDE OF THE DEATH STAR!”

“YOU COULDN'T SPELL DEATH STAR!”

“YOU'RE GONNA CRASH!”

“...WHAT!?”

“LOOK OUT YOU IDIO--”

After a loud thud and the sound of a heavy object sliding across the ground (and leaving a giant rut in my garden!), a tree nearby shook. I assume that's where they landed. Marisa and Alice. They're best friends, but they hate to admit it. Marisa is your average black and white which, with the black hat and broom, blond hair, brown eyes, and the like. She likes to carry this mystical item she calls Hakkero, the “eight trigram reactor” with her, that would allow her to create a laser powerful enough to blow almost anything to kingdom come. She could, after all, brute force her way through the very border between Life and Death. I hope she didn't damage the border again this time...

With her is a natural-born magician, Alice Margatroid. When I say “natural-born,” I mean she's a youkai that was born with the ability to do magic, whereas Marisa was a human who had to work hard to get all the power she's got. In fact, she's really the only person I know that works hard to attain and maintain a high amount of power... Anyway, Alice is an otaku – that is, to say, that she spends as much time alone in doors as possible, playing with her dolls in her house hidden far away from the rest of society in the dark forests of Gensokyo. She has a red ribbon in her blond hair, and orange colored eyes. She also wears a light blue dress with pink ribbons on it. But her most defining feature is the large, heavy black book covered in a red lock that she swore never to open again. That Grimoire, or magic book, when opened, would unleash a fearful power that would make almost anyone quiver in fear. Alice's true power is locked away in that book, and she said she'd never open it again because, after she lost a fight to Reimu Hakurei, the so-called “heroine” of Gensokyo, at full power, she would never open it again in order to refuse others a chance to beat her at her full power. She'd rather know she could've won if she tried than know she would've had no chance of winning...

The two have an odd relationship: They love each other and hate each other at the same time. I don't know how that works, but one second they're the best of friends and the next they are literally trying to blow each other off of the face of the planet. Their arguments are generally over petty things such as... oh, say, the speed at which Marisa flies and her super-tomboyish nature or Alice's lack of human interaction skills and frail nature. Great, I was banking on this being one of their good days. So much for that...

“GET OFF OF ME LUMMOX!” screamed Alice.

“DON'T TOUCH ME!”

“STOP YELLING!”

Oh, it's going to be a long day... I mused. A few minutes later, and the two had made their way to the garden, carrying a large package with them. Those two... I said to be conspicuous... I doubt they could spell the word, much less carry out the action. Ugh. They sat next to each other at one of the many tables and, within no less than 5 minutes, seemed to be the very best of friends, talking casually and complimenting Youmu as if their whole squabble during the landing never happened. I'll never understand those guys...

Next in was Reimu. As usual, she was wearing her red-n-white Miko outfit with the strange sleeves. They weren't connected to the rest of the shirt, and there was always something up them. Whether it be charms or spell cards, needles or, in this case, a present, there was always something up her sleeves. I wonder how she holds so much stuff up there, anyway, and why her sleeves don't fall all the way off of her arms...? Oh well, some questions are better left unanswered.

“Hey Yuyuko. How's it going? I see that the most annoying freeloaders have shown up first.” She turned to Youmu and said, “Well, that's different. I didn't think of you as the type that would wear something like that. It's so... well, exquisite.”

“Yes, I know. Master made me wear it. I dunno, I kinda like it.” She looked at me, and then looked back and Reimu and smiled. “Today, let's all relax and have a good time, OK?”

Reimu looked at her like she was insane. “Did you just say... crap.”

“What?” inquired Youmu, the smile sliding off of her face.

From across the field, we could clearly hear Marisa gloating. “Fork over the cash, Reimu! 500 yen!”

“Aww, come on Marisa!”

Youmu and I were confused, but we didn't think anything of it. Reimu, even though she's a supposed shrine maiden, will generally do almost anything to get a little “donation” money for her shrine. Not surprising that she'd resort to betting, especially against Marisa. Youmu and I looked at each other and smiled. Reimu looked at us and we looked forward, expressionless. Of course, when she turned her head again, we both tried our hardest not to let out a giggle as she walked slowly over to Marisa's table.

It didn't take long for 4 more people to pour into the door. Probably the last 4 guests of the evening, and definitely the most dangerous group. They also probably had the biggest present, considering who's among them. There was the vampiric mistress of the scariest place around, the Scarlet Devil Mansion, named after Remilia Scarlet herself. Remilia was very short, but if you called her on it don't expect your battle with her to last more than 10 seconds. You'd be lucky to last 5. Her dress used to be white, but, as a vampire, she never finished her meals. She couldn't ever drink all of a Human's blood, and generally when she fed she left them alive, but anemic. Thus, most of her victims' blood would spill onto her dress, and it turned it a scarlet color. Thus, she got the name Scarlet Devil, and a scarlet dress to go with it. Even scarier is her power: she can manipulate fate itself. So don't mess with her. Of course, she has black wings on her back and red eyes, and an evil smile that would scare the pants off of you if she looked at you with it. Because if she did, it generally means you're what's for lunch. She also had red eyes and light blue hair.

By her side at all times is her faithful follower, the Lady's maid: Sakuya Izayoi. Probably, the weirdest thing about her is that she's a human that willingly serves a vampire. That seems to confuse a lot of people at first, but after a while it becomes clear that Sakuya doesn't like other humans. I wonder why... maybe something traumatic in her past? Anyway, her powers are the manipulation of time and magic that controls knives and similar instruments. Stopping time and repositioning knives during a battle generally gives her a rather unfair advantage, but extremely skilled warriors – like my lovely Youmu – could give her a run for her money anyway. Strangely, she's a maid that lives in a section of Japan that is completely sealed from the outside world, but wears a French maid outfit with a pink bonnet, as do all of the other maids of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I wonder how that happened? When she's normal, her eyes are blue. But when she gets angry, they turn a scarlet color. Go figure.

On Remilia's other side was the book keeper of the Voile Library in the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Patchouli Knowledge. The Voile library is HUGE. Actually, huge doesn't do it justice. It's got to be almost as large as my garden, if not larger. Marisa and Alice like to steal books form it a lot, and “forget” to return them. She always looks like she's in pink poofy pajamas, with a crescent moon on the cap on her head. She was very pale skinned, as she literally spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with her head in a book. In fact, she was reading one at the time. However, spending all that time inside in that dusty library ruined her health. She has almost every physical disability you don't want. Or, at least she looks and sounds like she does, anyway. But, all that reading made her a genius, and gave her the largest spell repertoire in all of Gensokyo, and her mastery of the elements has allowed her to even combine them, creating completely different forms of magic. But maybe she would have even more power if her books weren't constantly stolen because the door guard couldn't do her job right.

Speaking of the door guard, she was behind them, walking the same way a child who thought her parents were about to hit her on the head would. Poor Hong Meiling; she couldn't do her job to save her life. She lives in a dog house out side of the mansion because of it. And, on top of that, Sakuya treats her the way she treats everyone else – like dirt. But she makes sure to give Meiling the blunt of her aggression and enjoys using her as a punching bag or target practice in her spare time. None of the residents of the mansion call her by name; they just call her China. It really aggravates her. She can take most of the other types of abuse, but when people don't call her by her name she gets really emotional. She's just weird like that. She's also kinda dim-witted and unintelligent, but let's face it: if you got stabbed in the head with knives repeatedly, often, you'd be kinda dumb too. And, being that you're human, you'd also probably be dead. She knows that she can't run away because if she did, Sakuya would have a reason to actually kill her. She's got a traditional green Chinese dress-type thing on, and her hair is scarlet, like her master's dress but much darker. She's got aqua-colored eyes, and on her green hat is a star. In that star, the character reads “dragon,” which symbolizes strength in China. And yet, she isn't very strong at all. She has mastered Chinese martial arts and has control over Ki, which is the energy that flows through the body as far as I can understand. But I'm not good at Chinese.

The group is quite fearsome, and even China... I mean, Meiling, is quite powerful if you get her motivated to fight. But, inviting them could've been a big mistake...

Remilia cracked a smile as she walked into the garden and saw Youmu. “So,” she said, “I take it that you are Youmu. You certainly look... different. More confident. And not afraid to show off a little, eh?” She looked at the diamond at the neckline on the dress. “How pretty. It must have been expensive.”

Youmu was trying not to blush. “Thank you.”

Patchouli, who is commonly called Patchy or just Patch, didn't take her head out of the book at all. “You look good today, Youmu.” She walked, her head still in her book, right behind Remilia.

Marisa yelled across the garden. “You look exceptionally well today also, Patchy. Usually you don't even want to stand up, much less come all the way here.”

Patch coughs a few times and takes her seat next to the one Remilia took, reading her old, dusty book. “Hmm... how to be a good guest at a party... Ah, it looks like I'm doing it wrong.”

Sakuya shoots a glare and a malicious grin at Youmu. The two don't get along very well: they both believe that they have the best master in all of Gensokyo, and that they are both the best servants in all of Gensokyo. Youmu says that I'm the perfect sheltered girl, and Sakuya says that Remilia is the perfect independent lady. Of course, this makes both of their jobs inconsequential if they were right, but they don't generally think about that. Sakuya also likes to dig on Youmu for being so young and trying to take on so much responsibility, but in reality Youmu is almost as old as Sakuya, but she ages much slower as she is only half-human.

“Youmu. Look at you.” She scoffed. “I'll bet you think you're all grown up now, don't you?”

Youmu said nothing in return, but the smile that she greeted the rest of the visitors began to wane as Sakuya spoke.

“Well, child, you aren't. You're still just a little girl... and you aren't fit to serve a queen.”

I glared at Sakuya. “Get to your seat, and close your mouth. If she wasn't a good servant, I wouldn't have thrown her this party.”

“A good servant, possibly. But not an exceptional one.” And with that, she strutted over to her seat, smiling.

Youmu took it all in stride. I think that she did it for me; she knew I wanted to day to be a peaceful one, and she probably didn't want to ruin that expensive dress either. Meiling walked softly in behind Sakuya. “Please forgive her. She's mean, but she is very stressed too.”

I wonder how she, or anyone, could stand up for Sakuya. But... that's her business. I just wonder how she can always wake up with a smile on her face? Maybe she's brain damaged or something. Anyway, she sat at the last remaining seat at the table and sighed. She didn't want to sit next to Sakuya, and for good reason. Heck, I don't think anyone would want to sit near her aside from the Scarlet Devil herself. Yukari tapped her glass. “Let the ceremonies begin!”



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