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Return to Mokuren
Albeit it was a rather warm night, and the wind was refreshing rather than chilly, Reimu was barely any happy about being still awake. Her plans were very simple: sleep until morning, that's what she did every night, except when somebody burst into her house to throw a party of some kind, she wouldn't have slept even if she could in that case.
She stared at her guests, her hair not even tied in her classic ribbon and still in her underwear, which, being Gensokyo, was actually pretty covering, even for summer.
"So", she grunted, "You people fell from the sky. You got lost, stumbled blindly around and then decided to climb a mountain".
"Is that so?"
"That is so".
Reimu blinked, her hands grasping her drawers with a little too much force, those two had quite the nerve, "A mountain. You went up a friggin' mountain. At night. And that's the first thing you decided to do when you realized you were lost".
"Is that so?".
"That is so".
She grit her teeth, and they were drinking her tea. Her own tea, damn it! She needed it for her breaks during work, who did they think they were? She paid no attention to the fact she was starting to look quite scary, with her tired face and eyeshadows, "You couldn't just go to the village and ask for help. You had to climb the whole damn mountain and come to my shrine. My shrine. At this hour in the night".
"Is that so?".
"WILL YOU TWO STOP DOING THAT?". Reimu's hands slammed on the table, making her two guests fall silent, blinking uncertainly as if they just saw a ghost, or a monster that suddenly popped out from under the table. "The hell is with this crap? Go out and sleep on the grass for all I care, you won't die from cold with this weather!".
"Is that s-".
A hastily thrown amulet slapped on Rumia's mouth, sealing it closed and underlining that Reimu wasn't in the mood to fuck around. Her eyes then set on the other guest, the one who wasn't holding her arms stretched out like an idiot although her face didn't really speak of an unfathomable intelligence.
"You", she then said, "Who the hell are you and how many times did you hit your head to think a girl could climb a yokai-infested mountain at night at her leisure?".
The girl set the tea cup down on the table, and Reimu painfully noted it was already empty, just in case she needed more freeloaders, "I have not hit my head, except against this girl, but in my defense I can say that things kind of faded to black when she approached. That really scared me, I thought I was in a visual novel and somehow hit a bad end because of a completely unrelated choice made at an arbitrary point in the past".
"You do realize she's a yokai and she eats people?", Reimu could hardly believe a person this stupid had accidentally stumbled in her shrine. She was human, she would have sensed if she wasn't, so either she was a powerful magician or this was all a bad dream and she would have woke up at any moment to see Suika sleeping on her stomach or something equally granted to give her such retarded nightmares.
"She looks kind of tame to me", the other glanced casually at Rumia, who muttered something in response behind the seal on her mouth, "But really, this is not the heart of the issue. The problem is another: where am I?".
"Funny for you to ask for directions after you ripped a road sign and brought it here", she glared at a genuine road sign, metal pole included, that had some kind of guy with a wheelcart on his head and a big ass sword that was supposed to be a warning, probably about breaking for homicidal freaks crossing the road, "Where the hell do you come from, anyways?".
"I was just on the road between Silent Hill and Raccoon City. See, I was on a small trip with some friends but I went for a walk because I was tired of their skating shenanigans, because I hate skating, so I went to see more of the town which, by the way, was very picturesque at night and-".
"I did not ask for your life!", Reimu slammed her hands on the table again, her tired face didn't make her agitation any less scary, "Oh what the hell, just go sleep under the table, I've had it with you for tonight. You'll leave tomorrow when you can actually see where you're going, and you'll head for the village and ask for their help without them freaking out for seeing a girl all alone out at night carrying weird, kinky stuff!".
"Road signs aren't kinky!", she answered, frowning defensively, "And I'm not a girl!".
Reimu wanted to answer to that, really. She wanted to point out the obvious, or ask her if she hit her head against Rumia so hard her skull cracked and her brain spilled out on her way there, but she simply gave up. She was way too tired to discuss with this weird dream of hers, so she said ,"Whatever, just leave me alone. If you make a racket again I'm exterminating both of you".
They waited for Reimu to leave and return to her room, slamming the sliding door behind her. It is only at that time that the yet unnamed girl decided to remove the seal from Rumia's mouth, and as she looked around the living room, she thought that, all considered, her situation was looking pretty good.
"Is that so?".
"That is so".
In the bright, early summer morning, the Hakurei shrine was rather peaceful. The dust and pollen carried by the gentle wind didn't warrant a thorough sweeping of its grounds, but Reimu was doing so slowly and distractedly, her head most likely somewhere else far, far away, with a beach and a parasol, sipping iced tea.
Her early daydreaming was interrupted by Suika actually doing some work in the periods between festivals where she wasn't drunk, and the reason behind her responsible conduct was, predictably, that what she was helping with were the preparations for the first summer festival.
"Reimu! Hey, Reimu!", she nagged by, pulling her delicious miko sleeve while carrying several wooden poles under her arm, "Where do I put these?".
Reimu wasn't sure what the poles where for, but she assumed they were used to set up the stalls, and in that case Suika was so early it was ridiculous to just consider putting them anywhere handy. "Just leave them in the back, we'll pick them up when it'll be time". Of course, by "we", Reimu meant "you", that went without saying. "Why don't you take out the trash while you're at it?".
Suika darted off. Clearly, taking out the trash so early wasn't necessary for the festival itself, but there was no reason to not abuse of the little oni's will to work, especially considering she'd be drunk and rampaging around rather soon.
A sudden breeze tossed a lock of her black hair on her nose, which promptly distracted her from her train of thought. Sighing, she leant on her broom and stared at the clear sky; it was going to get hot in a few days, but at least she wouldn't have to deal with the rain and could hang her clothes freely. Stupid rainy season, making laundry even worse of a chore.
She idly wondered if the Moriya shrine would have thrown a festival as well. Actually, she was pretty sure they would, but couldn't help asking herself who would have the most visitors. A curious question, considering both of them were in less than hospitable and yokai-infested mountains.
"Reimu! Hey, Reimu!", Suika returned, pulling her delicious miko sleeve while carrying nothing at all and having a dumbfound look on her face, "The garbage is complaining".
Reimu looked down at the little oni, staring at her innocent blue eyes for a long moment, before stomping meaningfully back into her house. When the garbage complains, nothing good can come out of it.
The sliding door to her living room slammed open, revealing Rumia atop the mysterious and yet unnamed girl from last night; they were both sleeping, sprawled disorderly on the floor like a couple of drunkards after a long night of partying. Except that Suika came in the early morning.
The oni, however, had the chance to witness the famous and extremely effective Hakurei method of waking people that sleep on your living room's floor, that basically consisted in kicking them hard in the side until they both rolled over.
"Wha?", the mysterious girl said, "If it's about the letter of marque I swear I didn't-".
"Why are you still here?".
The two blinked in unison, squinting their eyes and trying to wipe their faces. A tired "Is that so?" came from Rumia but was largely treated as background noise, what Reimu was waiting for was an answer from the human one, which she expected to make a bare minimum of sense.
"Uh, me?", she tried to comb her hair with one hand, not realizing there was a damp and sticky spot where Rumia had drooled in her sleep, "Buh, I thought we were in miko miko country?".
A gohei was thrown flat on her face, which helped remove the sleep status, restoring her abilities to think straight.
"Ah! I'm stuck here!", she suddenly shouted, jumping on her feet; she was rather tall, albeit it wasn't a hard feat to achieve considering her company, and her set of clothing was peculiar and marked her as an outsider. Funny thing, Reimu could swear they didn't look like anything that came from Gensokyo, thought it was hard to tell with all those yokai and their fancy styles.
"What do you mean stuck? You have your legs, use them. To get out of here".
"Ah, no, that's not what I meant", she made some weird gestures before giving up and realizing Reimu couldn't understand whatever sign language she just tried to make up on the spot, "I mean, I don't know how I came here or how to go back. Didn't I explain last night?".
"No", Reimu answered, trying to resist the urge to exterminate her, even thought she was human, "You only came in with a yokai and dragging a road sign along and said you were lost".
"Oh, but that's true", the girl nodded sagely, "I do not know how I arrived here, nor how to turn back. I hoped you could somehow help me, you know, maybe with miko miko magic".
"The kind I'm about to use on your face?".
"I was hoping you could avoid the face".
At that point, Suika started tugging on the delicious miko sleeves again, "Reimu, hey Reimu! How about she helps us with the festival? We will need to go to town to buy something anyways, she'll be handy".
Reimu knew that by "something" Suika actually meant "booze", and couldn't escape a chance to use two more arms to carry even more of it. The idea of letting her abuse of a random human hit, for a moment, the feeble wall of responsibility that is hidden inside her heart and acts up from time to time, but then she figured she'd prefer to have her as far away as possible until the incident somehow cleared itself. "Fine", she then said, "You, new girl, follow her to town and do as she says".
"Uh", the yet unnamed girl blinked, then nodded with a smile, "Sure thing! Thanks, miko miko nurse!".
A second gohei hit her face fair and square.
"Name is Hakurei Reimu, and I own this place, so behave yourself if you don't want to be exterminated".
"Y-yes...", she massaged her face, resisting the urge to point out she was human and not supposed to be exterminated at all, but she was also sure Reimu would've proven her wrong had she tried to challenge her on this issue.
Suika then tugged her not miko sleeve and started dragging her along, "Come! Come! We need to buy lots of stuff for the festival!". Shortly, the two disappeared down the stairs, after the torii, and Reimu leant back on her broom with a heavy sigh. So early in the morning and something wrong was already starting to build up.
"This is bad, she looked like an outsider", she muttered to herself, thinking back of the time Sanae came to Gensokyo with that shrine of hers, "Outsiders are nothing but trouble".
"Is that so?".
"That is so".
Fortunately, what was referred to as "the human village" was actually closer to a small town than some random bunch of wood and paper houses next to fields of rice. It did not appear to be particularly advanced, by the means that most likely nobody would've had a phone or, most importantly, an internet connection, but at least it could stand and had more than twenty inhabitants.
The yet unnamed girl assumed there were about as many people spread out in the nearby farms, thought she assumed that, from the number of traders and artisans, there must've been another source of income other than farming. Considering she spotted a grand total of zero buses, which was not uncommon in Gensokyo, she assumed that whoever their trade partners were they couldn't be too far. Maybe.
For one thing, embarking on a dirt road to an unknown destination for the sake of it was maybe an attractive possibility, but very less so with one's hands full of supplies. At first she was surprised there was such a little amount of alcoholic material, but she also considered that Suika most likely didn't trust her enough to let her dirty, outsider hands touch something this precious. Reason for which actual food and mattresses were a better fitting luggage for the yet unnamed girl.
"Why is it that no one asked my name yet?", she asked at a random point of the main street, not bothering if it was the fisherman or the cooper that looked at her funny, "I can understand Reimu since I barged in her house at night, but you seem to be an awfully trusting lot around here".
Suika looked back at her with the absent smile of someone who didn't even spare a single thought to such occurrence. Why call someone by her real name when Reimu was going to exterminate her by the time they'd come back? She could as well have asked once she got her ass kicked, or maybe she just assumed that she was the girl with no name that came from nowhere.
In the end, she decided it was a good idea to widen her smile, "Why, I thought you were just a random human". Funny thing to say in the main street of "the" human village, at least the yet unnamed girl considered that she was no longer between the ranks of "random human" since she just said that. Ought to have counted for a level up, she hoped she could pick a new feat, too.
"I am not a random human, I am...". Huh, funny moment to stop for someone who raised the issue in the first place. She pondered the matter carefully with a somewhat distressed face, but in the end just sighed, "Call me Mokuren, will you?".
"Mokuren, like the tree?", Suika blinked in understanding, "Oh, you're a tree yokai!".
"I'm not a yokai!", she protested.
"So a tree human".
"I'm not a tree!".
Suika stared at her with a blank look, silently questioning if either of the two was drunk out of their skulls; with a slow, detatched motion, she peered into her personal booze container. Mokuren felt the need to specify she didn't drink, but a correctly timed pre-emptive strike on her tongue prevented the outing of such a suspiciously specific denial. The fact it was true had no bearing at all in the matter.
"You're a funny girl", that was Suika's verdict and there was nothing that could be done about it, at all. Mokuren realized it as she hit her tongue a second time before she protested with "I'm not a girl!", a defense that was most likely a waste of breath until she attained access to the ears of more communicative individuals.
"While you're at it, let's split up. You go buy some more rice, I'll take care of the sake", and of course, Suika left off before the other could protest. Fortunately, Mokuren was in no mood for protesting, thought she silently wondered whether she could manage to carry everything back on her own two arms or not. She had a decent endurance but wasn't that strong.
"Rice, rice...", she wandered the side streets more than the main one, because her keen nose and customer senses knew that half the stuff on plain sight were tourist traps, and in this circumstance she was so tourist she could turn into a nethack character any moment. Unfortunately, this place was so old style that even her valiant shopping powers were struck by a strangely well timed daze.
At least until she realized Suika had left her with no money. At all.
"Damn what am I supposed to buy rice with? You damn half-pint oni...", she muttered under her breath as her eyes targeted an interesting scene with laser precision. A girl with a large backpack was selling something on one corner of the main street, smaller packages and small bottles of what looked like common medicaments.
Truth be told, she only saw these details when she was uncomfortably close, what drove her in the first place were the bunny ears. "Excuse me!", she promptly said, almost startling the humanoid rabbit, "Ah, if I may impose. I believe I'm in need of your help. Possibly".
Unsurprisingly, the reaction was rather cold, the girl just stared at her with her crimson red eyes, staying still and wondering where the hell someone like that just jumped out. "Do you need some medicine?", she instead asked, keeping her cool and professionality like a grizzled veteran of the sales wars, "You seem to be... Confused".
"Yes. No. No, wait", she took a step back, trying to avoid gathering enough material to make a second complete idiot out of herself, "Wait, no. I feel fine. My problems do not lie in body health".
"Mental health?", the bunny girl inquired, somehow sure that the other wouldn't have taken offense at such an abrupt jab. She was half right.
"I'm fine, thank you", she paused to put a modicum of believable emphasis on her words, "Look, I come from somewhere far away as you probably noticed", she motioned to her clothing, which was really, really not in tune at all with the local peasants, thought strangely more fitting to the bunny girl's, who was wearing a clean and tidy blazer over a shirt with a tie. The miniskirt added that girly touch that was just lovely.
"Indeed... You look like the part". Mokuren could feel the snap of the quest window informing her that she succeeded in getting the bunny's attention, she was just one objective short of completing it for juicy experience. Well, no, not really, it was gold she was after right now.
"You see, point is: I didn't prepare for such a journey so I don't have the appropriate type of money. You look like a, ah, traveled person, maybe you can help me? I don't know the change rates or anything". She pulled off her own walled and peeked inside. It was certainly enough to buy enough rice, but... Yeah, what was the change rate again.
"I don't think there are moneychangers here", the bunny girl admitted, "I'm afraid there is no way for you t- Wait". She spotted something in that wallet that struck her immediate attention, her crimson eyes setting like laser sights on that single piece of paper.
"What?", Mokuren blinked, she didn't expect such a reaction. Funny people in the human village, even thought she didn't look too human, "These? They're 1000 rubles, I don't know how much they're worth here".
"No, no, the other one".
"Uh? These? They're 20 antarctican dolla-".
"The green one".
Mokuren blinked, the green one? Oh, she must've meant this one, "Oh, this? It's a hundred dollars note. American dollars. How did it get in here?".
"I believe I can give you something for that one", the bunny girl pointed her finger at a couple millimeters from the note the other was holding up, her eyes were dead serious. "Name your price".
"Uh...", the tables had unexpectedly turned, she was ready to do some fast talk, some begging and possibly not get arrested or something for stealing rice or paying with fake money, but actually naming a price for a hundred dollar notes? "Uh... I don't know, I have to buy rice for a festival so... I have no idea, what are the local pr-".
"These will do", the bunny girl arbitrarily decided, grabbing the other's hand and placing a decent amount of varied coins in it while slipping the dollars from her other hand. While Mokuren was still dumbstruck, she quickly but ordinately collected her things, packed, and ran off without another word.
"Uh... Thank you!", she shouted at her running back, blinking at her newly acquired money. She just completed her quest and attained the rank of consumer, which was her objective from the very beginning. Not giving more thought to yet another strange matter in a strange day, she simply went to buy some rice, figuring she'd meet up with Suika right after that and then, hopefully, head back to the shrine before she was made to carry more than she could.
She wondered that, since it was a festival, she had to get some more lampshades to hang, but she figured that back at the shrine she'd find enough to make do.
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