Return to Mokuren
The sun was gleaming high in the sky as the human and the oni were returning from their quick trip to the village, after having acquired precious festival-making resources. Barely two hundred meters after leaving the place, however, it became rather clear that the human's puny arms were unable to not only support the weight of everything she was carrying, but also quite unfit to carry everything at the same time.
"Thank you, you're a lifesaver", smiled Mokuren as her companion took much of the burden in her place; she hoped she wasn't wrong in thanking the only part of her that remained sort of normal in its, admittedly diminutive, size, but she figured the horde of palmtop Suikas weren't really worthy of an individual conversation. And, if they were, she had to admit something in the back of her brain was holding her curiosity back.
"Don't worry about it! Don't worry!", the little oni was already drinking with way too much glee. Most of the goods she bought were the kind that she could put in her gourd and quaff down with abandon, just like she did every other step, apparently; it was a surprise she had the resources to support such a drunkard lifestyle, but then Mokuren assumed oni like her must've had some mysterious money-summoning powers just for sake. That, or the villagers just gave it to her for free of what would happen otherwise.
Which wasn't all that unreasonable, considering the local economy; she herself has been treated to many a discount on the grounds that she looked weird, maybe they assumed she was another yokai?
"Say, Suika", she then decided to try and strike a more appealing topic of conversation, "What can you tell me about the Hakurei festival?".
"It's the Hakurei shrine festival!", the oni answered, compacting a surprising amount of uselessness in a single sentence, enough to daze Mokuren and make her believe, albeit for but a moment, that she didn't really hear such an answer.
As she attempted to summon potential dialog options in her brain, Mokuren sought to keep the conversation alive yet somehow useful to her quite unprepared self, "Yes, but, I mean... Is it a famous festival? Will a lot of people from the village come? They seemed to be quite friendly to me...".
Suika made that strange smile that drunkards do when they don't understand the question but are too drunk to either admit it or ask for confirmation or even just to repeat the question, which brought the human to her best attempt at holding a sigh and yet another, final attack at the topic of conversation.
"... What do we need to do now?", in her ingenuity, she thought that a question this simple would have worked, but she was still new to Gensokyo and didn't quite grasp the idea that no, common sense couldn't apply there.
When the two girls came back, Mokuren had guessed from a cursory look at Reimu's face that she was going to be asked question that she probably wouldn't have managed to answer despite her best intentions.
"I'm going to ask you a question you probably won't be able to answer", said Reimu as soon as the human was in range, "But... Why did you buy all that stuff?".
Still trying to recover from her failed attempts at conversation with Suika, Mokuren resorted to the last drops of her social willpower to try and, for once, not make a fool of herself in front of the landlady, "I don't know, I bought what food I could get with the money I had, and sort of trusted Suika for everything else. I assumed that, being a festival, we'd need to feed quite the people...".
"No", was Reimu's prompt answer, but instead of a gohei to the face, she simply set aside the broom she was using to pretend to brush the dead leaves away and instead said something that could be interpreted as positive, "You did good getting food, however".
"We have many to feed?".
"I was starving. The rice, now, give it to me".
There was something comforting and yet unnerving in Reimu's tone of voice, Mokuren thought that, if she for some insane reason decided to refuse Reimu her food, the shrine maiden would've just annihilated her with her miko miko powers and left not a shred of her being left for a proper burial. Of course, she had no reason to, so she simply handed over the relatively heavy sacks of rice she insisted in carrying on her own, so as not to appear like a complete freeloader.
"Good, good", there was a glint of cuteness in Reimu's reaction after seeing several kilograms of food safely in her tiny but all-clutching hands. Was she even on the verge of tears?
"Well... What do we need to do with the rest?", Mokuren insisted, taking advantage of this brief moment in which she could, possibly, hold a somewhat ordinary conversation with another human being, "I assume the people with the stalls will come up and build them themselves, will they? Speaking of which, how much time do we have to prepare for this?".
"Huh?", Reimu's interested appeared to wane shortly after having received food, and she had promptly returned to her previous, rather uncaring self, "There's still three days left, no reason to get excited so early".
Mokuren's already-budding sixth sense was starting to pick up this weird feeling that there was something in this place she got into that didn't really respect the laws of the world she's previously grown into, and most of these laws had to do with the behaviour of intelligent creatures. She bit her lower lip, carefully examining the choices that popped up in front of her face, and wondered if she couldn't just pick one at random and then push the skip button, or something as lame.
"Ah, I just thought...", she tried nonetheless, "... We might get many visitors and need to prepare something in advance...".
"Yes, we will get many visitors, but they can take care of themselves", as Reimu started hauling the precious foodstuffs into her house, Mokuren couldn't help but feeling that such an attitude was... She'd think inexcusable, but she was kind of afraid that, somehow, in this world, someone could have managed to read her mind and slap her across the face for such an offensive idea.
"Ah... I see... Well, maybe we could set up some poles or flags so that the villagers don't get lost while climbing up the mountain to come here?".
Such an idea, that Mokuren thought perfectly reasonable, was met by a weird glance from Reimu, as if the human girl suggested setting the whole shrine on fire so as to make it visible at night, "... Villagers don't come here for the festival", she simply explained.
It was at about that moment that Mokuren decided her ability to hold conversations with people in this alien world was more or less exhausted.
"... Would you like me to fix lunch?", she then offered, out of purely automated verbal reflexes, but relatively surprisingly, the proposition was met by a starry-eyed Reimu. Mokuren's confusion gauge was over 100% capacity, but her happiness meter grew by about 10%, which made everything better nonetheless.
"... And that's it, I'm not familiar with those cooking utensils and implement, so I went for something quite classic", the foreign girl explained, "I'm also unfamiliar with the local spices, so I decided to go with quite ordinary steamed rice with peas, stirred egg and bamboo shoots, I hope this isn't...".
She stopped the moment she realized that Reimu was too busy devouring the innocent and most definitely undefended world of rice, and Suika was... Wasn't there, actually, which was strange, she looked like a complete freeloader. At least Mokuren now had kitchen duty, which was a little better than doing nothing at all; actually, considering the circumstances and Reimu's reaction to food, she had most likely hit a sensitive and useful spot in which to build a niche fit for survival.
Taking the chance to relax a little bit, she breathed deeply and resumed eating; it wasn't much of a problem that Reimu turned into the devourer of worlds once sat at the kitchen table, for Mokuren had cooked for three and had problems different than food at this very moment, albeit after the early wake and all the trip down and up the mountain, she had to admit she was kind of hungry. However, sitting across Reimu was kind of like feeling a little inadequate at playing shooter games while watching someone choose easy mode and failing before the third stage.
She carefully avoided any feelings of pity, in the off-chance someone could read her mind, a thought that for some reason she felt very possible in a world devoid of common sense.
After lunch was over, Mokuren felt the chances were quite right to take the initiative yet again and avoiding falling down the niche usually fit for male leads, whose presence was just a token to justify fanservicelike shenanigans. Her assertiveness was on the line.
"So, Reimu... This mountain is quite dangerous, isn't it?", this much she had guessed already, albeit it looked quite tame to her up to now, "That's why villagers aren't invited to the festival, is it?".
"Aaaaah", Reimu sighed in bliss, the mere presence of food in her body was enough to untie her tongue and turn her into a quite different and much more agreeable person than she's been up to then, "It's a bother, yes. Nobody ever comes to give offerings and I have to rob the local yokai to make a living", she said that with such a smile it was impossible to point out her obviously criminal tendencies, "And a lot of big eaters come for this festival anyways, so I'm not all that thrilled".
"But who comes, if the human villagers don't?", there, she was getting closer to the point, she was finally going to get some answers... Hopefully.
A tense silence followed, as Reimu took her pretty time before cooking up an answer, leading Mokuren to suspect she wasn't going to answer at all. Eventually, however, she received something, "You'll meet them quite soon".
There were two striking points about this statement, the first was that Reimu actually expected her to keep showing up (possibly as a side effect of her super-effective food attack), the second was that these people were hard to describe, or perhaphs Reimu was just being lazy. Whatever the reason, Mokuren was going to find out soon, very soon.
So soon, in fact, that she was distracted by quite some rustling just outside the shrine; seeing how Reimu was too deep into her food-induced nirvana, she figured it was her duty to go and investigate, so she fought the irregular gales as she stepped outside.
"I've come here to play da ze~!".
The statement was followed by a loud, metallic thunk as Marisa was sent flying inside the house, landing with her blond and curly head just against Reimu's lap.
"Hi Reimu!", she said, completely unfazed, as Mokuren went back inside, still holding her trusty road sign that now had a weird bent on it.
"Oh, Marisa", Reimu went one step away from the bliss and further back into normality, at least what she would considering like that herself, "You're here".
"Oh", Mokuren blinked, starting to get this strange feeling that she made an apparently obvious and perfectly justifiable choice that somehow would have lead to a quickly-approaching bad end, thus reinforcing her idea that she was, indeed, in a visual novel of sorts, "... Is she your friend?".
"She's Marisa", Reimu explained, stating the obvious once again, "She's one of those people I told you about".
"Yo!", Marisa added, smiling despite the bruise on the cheek and a certain bleed from the corner of her mouth, "I came here to play da ze~!", she repeated.
"Oh damn I'm so sorry!", Mokuren quickly laid her road sign down and profoundly apologized, but making sure as to not genuflect, seeing her possible situation, "I thought you were some kind of intruder! Despite I came in last night with a yokai and we were perfectly fine!".
"It's okay! I'm fine!", Marisa insisted, albeit wobbling irregularly and looking on the verge of falling as she tried to stand, "I liked the surprise attack! It hadn't happened in a long while!".
"You're not fine at all! Stay here, I'll go fetch a first aid kit", still clutching relentlessly to her common sense, Mokuren attempted to look for a first aid kit, unaware of the fact her chances of finding one were pretty low.
"If she says she's fine, she's fine", Reimu insisted with a blink, instilling a little seed of doubt inside Mokuren, who, genre savvy albeit in the wrong way, figured the most obvious and sensible choice in a visual novel would be the one yielding the worst result. Of couse she sucked so hard at visual novels that she still picked the common sense choice in spite of the thousands of warning signs.
She realized it was a bad end the moment she actually found a first aid kit, possibly something to remind her of the uselessness and inapplicability of common sense inside Gensokyo for her next playthrough. She also realized something was going terribly awry when Marisa didn't resist the treatment too much, albeit her conditions weren't allowing her to put much of it, despite it wasn't too much of a serious hit. Reimu didn't seem to understand what was going on.
"I'm fine, I'm fine da ze!", Marisa eventually looked like she could satisfy a beginning of bandaged girl fetish, which meant that maybe her chances of not hitting a bad end square in the face weren't too bad, "But now I want a rematch! Let's fight fair and square, one on one!".
Mokuren blinked. A fight? Fair and square? It looked like she could afford it, she probably didn't mean a fight to the death, which translated into higher bad end evasion chances. "Uh... If you insist...".
"Great!", Marisa looked ecstatic despite the bandaids and the wrap of bandage around her jaw, "Let's go outside then! I'm eager to see what this new girl is capable of!".
"I... I'm not a girl...", Marisa probably didn't even hear Mokuren say that, but it was fine, she didn't want to take chances considering the situation.
She followed the petite black and white blondie outside, and Reimu sat on the porch to watch, apparently interested in seeing what was going to happen; Mokuren brought the road sign with her, hefting it on her shoulder and readying for a fight, though she wasn't really happy with the idea of hitting a complete stranger that sounded quite friendly.
"Are you ready?", Asked Marisa, holding her broom in hand, Mokuren immediately realized that this fight was going to be worse than she thought: when you face a small girl armed with a broom in a one on one fight nothing can go right. Feeling it was too late to pull back Mokuren nodded and readied herself in a low stance, keeping the road sigh at the ready to strike.
"Here I come!", Marisa shouted as she climbed on flied up.
Mokuren blinked. Flying? Why was she flying away? And more importantly, wasn't this cheating? "Uh... Hey, Reimu", she pointed up at Marisa, "... Why is she flying?".
Reimu blinked, unfazed and back into her normal, unhelpful self, "It's a danmaku fight. Duh".
"Danmaku?", she looked up at Marisa, who was apparently getting ready and holding something small in her hand, but she was too far to tell what it was, "... What's danmaku?".
"A multicoloured bullet and graze fight", she more or less resumed Reimu in a painfully abridged statement of what is a whole genre of shoot 'em up games. Oh, so it was a firefight, and she was armed with a road sign.
"I hope you're ready!", Marisa shouted from afar, as Mokuren tried to recalculate her chances of survival and found out she really, really hated visual novels.
"Hey, Reimu", she asked instead of worrying about her fight.
"how do i shot danmaku?".
"lol i dunno", said the master spark that hit her squarely in the face.
"B-b-but mistress! It's dollars! American dollars!", the rabbit insisted, looking rather panicked, "It's an american! The americans have infiltrated Gensokyo! They're going to wage war here!".
"My, my, Reisen", the foxy woman tossed her braided silver hair behind her shoulder as she shifted her legs to sit more comfortably, portraying a scene for which most Hollywood film makers would pay in blood to shoot, "It's unlike you to panic this much, aren't you a former military? You should know how to handle the enemies like this".
"M-m-mistress!", the rabbit looked on the verge of tears, "This is serious! We must warn the princess! The rabbits! This could get serious! It could be the start of another w-".
"Speaking of which, Reisen", the woman interrupted, staring at the rabbit with a gorgeous smile and a merry shine in her deep blue eyes, "Weren't you supposed to sell all medicine in the human village before coming back?".
"I ran away as fast as possible once I found these dollars!", she admitted, then her eyes kind of blanked, realizing the rapidly approaching bad end she cornered herself into.
"You have purposefully disobeyed my orders, then?".
Reisen's tears started flowing, albeit for different reasons; she wasn't shaking anymore, caught in this abject terror where not even the body is able to move or respond to involountary commands, much like simple trembling.
"B-but... M-mistress...", her voice rapidly waned, "... War... Blood... Potential genocides...".
The other woman was smiling so widely her face could have ripped at any moment, and she pulled out something that Reisen didn't have the heart to look at, completely locked into Eirin's blue eyes.
Return to Mokuren