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Return to Mokuren
The wind swept down the warm, early spring plains, clearing the path and bringing the delicate scent of life to the whole countryside; circled by tall grass, the old trees were starting to blossom, providing shade to the weary travelers.
As the weary traveler stopped, he paused not to search shelter from the pleasant sun, but to check his surroundings with an almost sleepy expression.
"Great", he said, "Now where the fuck am I?".
With a sigh, he kept walking; dragging a road sign with him, a kind of strange, yellow danger sign with a black man wearing a pyramid on his head and wielding some sort of giant cleaver. "I should have figured there was something wrong the moment the mist stopped hiding the horizon, or the sun for that matter", spoke the weary traveler, that for luck or ill had this habit of talking to himself, "Still, if I grazed Silent Hill, I can’t be too far off... I mean, if I stumbled to Raccoon City, that’d be serious, since it’s the opposite direction". He stopped again, looking around... No trace of mist of any kind.
"I’m so not home", he realized, "If I were home, the grass would be darker, there’d be ditches, with giant were-rats and ninja bats with guitars, and enough mist to hide the sky"; quite clearly, wherever he was, there weren’t ditches, there weren’t were-rats and there weren’t ninja bats with guitars. Sparrows were very common, as well as magpies and the occasional raven, but definitely no rats.
"Can’t be too bad, thought", he stated while not so sure of himself, "If I keep following this path, I guess I’ll eventually get somewhere".
Dusk fell, and our weary traveler was sprawled down on the path, disheartened like an italian after the second game of Six Nations’ Rugby championships, his trusty road sign by his side still in his grip thought. Shit, I’m not getting anywhere, he thought, and it’s getting late. And I’m hungry, and my cell phone is dead, and I need a shower; surprising himself with how bad things could get if only he tried to see the negative aspects, he was sort of re-heartened when, as the sun was starting to fall, he could see a light in the distance. Civilization? Maybe?
"Well, maybe I’m not toast then", and he got up, dusting his clothes.
For a person who lives between Silent Hill and Raccoon City, and who has the habit of taking road signs with him, one would expect him to have some sort of danger sense to keep him alive. In fact, he did notice something was odd, sounding very odd; he was very used to the countryside sounds at night, but... "The Higurashi are Nakuing like motherfuckers", he clearly stated in an overly tense tone, "This can’t be good".
"Oh, so you’re alive", said the girl that has been at his side, poking him with a pointy stick, for over twenty minutes.
Noticing her presence just now (and discovering his side was aching, as if he has been poked with a pointy stick for over twenty minutes), the weary traveler found a young tomboy with a fancy shirt and baggy pants, whose eyes and hair were between teal and blue, and who had something that could only be antennae on her head.
Where did I see her already? He pondered, while figuring out something to say, "Yeah, I’m more alive than I look".
"It’s so bold for you to ignore the insect life around you, I wonder if you are tough enough to back up for that spirit?", not only she looked tomboyish, but she was pretty confident too, maybe a bit of a bully, or maybe actually dangerous, if only our weary traveler had some kind of danger sense and wasn’t such a sucker for cute faces, so the only thing he could think was Well, she’s cute, at least.
"Hunger makes people bold, and also carefree, so unless you have some food to offer me, I’ll have to execuse myself", damn it, I get the felling it’s very important... Where did I see her already?
"I don’t have food to offer unless you want to eat yourself", she replied with a smirk, "I have found my dinner".
'Dinner, he thought, me dinner, then he added insects, tomboy and clearly not home elements together. Still didn’t get it. "You don’t eat people raw, and its laughable to see an insect light a fire, the only thing you could safely light is a mosquito repellent"
"I’m a firefly damn it!", she looked pretty pissed and ready to pick a fight; while our traveler had about the physical strength of a girl, he was confident he could knock such a brat out cold if he had to, unless...
"Oh, just what I needed, won’t you mind shedding some light and guiding me to some resemblance of civilization? I promise I’ll share some bread crumbs with you. Or whatever else fireflies eat".
Oooh, that’s it, now she was angry, "That’s it, I’m going to kill you dead!", she said before jumping into the air and flying up, far beyond his reach. Uh-oh, he thought, readying his road sign, even if she was out of range anyways, this looks bad... But somehow it feels good that I won the pre-combat banter.
At that moment, enlightenment struck him, and just after it struck him, he noticed something else that was going terribly wrong, or terribly right.
"Ah... Uh...", he tried to say, "Behind you...."
"Ha! As if I could fall for it! Too late for mercy, now you die!"
"Ara, ara, this is not how you treat guests..."
The tomboy looked shocked to hear that voice behind her, and as a matter of fact, the moment she turned she looked more horrified than the weary traveler has ever seen in his entire life (that is, comparing to other people he saw with horrified expressions. Because, seriously, it was the first time he saw her. Really).
The voice belonged to... What could only be an astonishingly beautiful woman with curly long hair and a cute white and blue dress with a comfortable silk hat; she came out of... A rift in thin air, kept open by a pair of red ribbons; inside the rift, nothing euclidean geometry could explain.
"A... Yu... Y-yu... Yuka..."
"Ara, ara, you remember my name? How cute of you!", her eyes then set on the weary traveler, that while dumbfound, wasn’t all that dense, and immediately let go of that fighting stance of his (but not of the road sign), "So this is our guest, eh?"
"Uh... Yes", he said, scratching his head and feeling dumb for such a stupid answer, "Uh... Thanks for saving me, or delaying her dinner. Unless you too dig in human meat?".
The firefly girl landed next to the traveler, as if her first priority was to get away from her, nevermind if her former opponent was at arm reach right now, "Yu... Yukari! This is unfair! He... I saw him first!".
Unfazed, the woman (Yukari?) instead looked down at the two as if she saw some sort of hidden potential... Wasted hidden potential judging from her expression, "Ara, ara... Wriggle, you insist in such tasteless choices in dressing?", she sighed, moving her eyes to the traveler, "And you too, our dear guest... We have a strict dressing code in Gensokyo, so it is better that you adapt to our customs"
"WHA?", Wriggle looked shocked, hugging herself as if she was afraid the other woman would rip her clothes apart (and a hidden, submerged part in the traveler’s brain wanted that to happen, but it was quickly beaten senseless), "N-no way!". The traveler wasn’t so quick to grasp the situation, he instead pondered on something Yukari said. Gensokyo?
The rush of air that followed almost knocked them both off their feet; figuring some sort of fight was about to break out, they both got back into fighting stances only to find themselves...
... In cute, girls’ clothing, fancy gowns with wide skirts and embroideries; Wriggles’ was light green with dark green embroideries, while the travelers’ was red and black with golden embroideries, they somehow looked like they were made to match.
"Wha...", the traveler said, unable to absorb all of the shock in one shot, why a girl’s dress? And why such a fancy one, at that?
"Is this me...?" he heard the other girl wondering as she looked at herself. Couldn’t blame her, she was awfully cute, as a matter of fact, and as she realized that and started to discover that side of herself, she seemed to have forgotten about insects, dinner and all the fuss about fighting.
"As I thought, my fashion sense can’t be wrong", said Yukari, who was still there, floating in the middle of nothing, somehow having managed to change their clothes without moving, "These clothes really suit you; but I already knew Wriggle looked cuter like that, crossdressing does fit him".
The traveler could hear it; Wriggle’s newly discovered girl side and heart, crashing like she just divided by zero. Tears sprung up to her eyes and she turned, running away at the cry of "But I am a girl!!!!"
He looked at her, feeling pity for such wasted beauty and hurt feelings, then turned to face the other woman, as if he wanted to scold her, "That was pretty rough, cannibalistic half-insect girls have feelings too". Pause, "And I’m not a girl, by the way, I’m a man"
"Man? What are you talking about?", she giggled, but her initially dumbfound expression made him realize (not without shock) that she really didn’t notice, "Anyways, welcome to Gensokyo weary traveler, and please be careful of youkais during your stay".
At a loss of words, trying to absorb too much that had happened too quickly, he nodded slowly and carefully, "Uh... Thank you, I guess. Yukari, is it?"
"The youkai of boundaries, Yukari Yakumo. May I know the name of our guest now?"
"Oh, it’s Mokuren. I’m sorry but I don’t have any fancy title to go with it... Yet"
"It has been nice to meet you Mokuren, please be careful of hungry youkai from now on. I have to leave on urgent business so please execuse me", and, still smiling like she was hiding something and enjoying every bit of it, she disappeared back in the gap she came from, which closed with her.
Moments passed, the wind swept, gently blowing below Mokuren’s skirt and tickling his legs, it was starting to get cold, especially with that kind of clothing. Everything was clearer now, this didn’t make it less crazy, but at least he had an idea of what was going on...
Better keep that road sign close and handy.
At which point he remembered about Wriggle. Wriggle Nightbug, oh so that’s the familiar face he thought he had seen already; he could hear her sobbing away, something he couldn’t stand (and one of the main reasons he shouldn’t ever be thrown in the world of anime, but go tell Yukari...); sighing, he proceeded to reach her.
As she heard him approaching, she stopped sobbing and took a deep breath, wiping her eyes quickly and trying not to be seen; ultimately useless, but also sort of granted, "Ah", Mokuren said, "I just wanted to see if you’re fine".
"Of course I’m fine", she tried hard to make her voice not break, "I even decided I’m not hungry tonight. Be grateful I’m letting you go, human".
"Name’s Mokuren", he answered, patting her on the shoulder, "And believe me, I share your pain".
While it was almost impossible for such a half-assed comforting from a complete stranger to work, the sheer honesty and weight of real pain in his words somehow reached her, and she even went as far as turning to face him, getting more proof that she wasn’t alone in not having her gender identity recognized.
"Uh..." she said, as if between a loss of words and no desire to speak with anyone at all, "Well, thanks. I’m Wriggle, if you haven’t figured. Humans are thickheads after all".
"Speaking of which... I’m lost and I have nowhere to go", he clasped his hands, a kind smile on his lips, "I’m sorry about earlier on... Can you please forgive me and at least point me towards some sort of civilization? I promise I will treat you to dinner once we get there".
"I don’t want to, go find your own way".
"Please allow me to insist", he circled to knee in front of her, his hands still clasped in front of his nose, "I am also a
half-decent amateur who left his recipe books at home good cook, and I’m sure a cute girl like you does not deserve to be left alone all the time. Please allow me to repair for my lack of respect to the insect life".
Whether for sheer luck, coincidence or having praised her well enough, Wriggle, for once, looked like she would do somebody a favor. A real one.
"... Fine. But only for this time, ok?".
In the skies of evening Gensokyo, a youkai was carrying a human that was carrying a road sign. Much to the advantage of their dignity (especially the road sign’s, who had more than the other two combined), nobody saw them flying around.
It turned out that Mokuren’s eagle eyes were pretty accurate even during night (which cut Wriggle’s comments about him seeing things and being bird-eyed) and the light he saw was actually a light. From a building.
Holy raptor jesus on a pogo stick, he thought, of all the places, this had to be the closest one?
"Are you sure you want to stay here?", Wriggle questioned, feeling sort of uneasy, "There’s a dangerous person that lives here".
"Well, as long as it’s human, I may be able to fit in better. We humans tend to help each other in times of need".
"Doubt it. Good luck trying anyways, I’m letting you off here and getting back to the plains"
"Are you sure?", his feet touched the ground and he merrily used them to scuttle around and finally turn to look at Wriggle, "I haven’t treated you to dinner yet, I’d feel guilty"
"Thanks, I’m not hungry, really", she eyed him almost suspiciously, then she scratched her head as if embarassed, "Well, I’m leaving".
"Very well. Farewell then, and feel free to come and call in this dinner I owe you whenever you feel like it", he smiled, "Thanks for everything, Wriggle".
She turned, and only the muffled sound of a "You’re welcome" accompanied her takeoff as she disappeared in the night sky.
Mokuren sighed, then smiled in satisfaction at his accomplishments, good, I’m in Gensokyo’s relationship chart. I’m no longer a nameless extra, I’m a PC now! I take more than one hit to kill!
With this thought and the making of a new friend following him, he proudly and firmly walked the path down to the entrance of the Hakurei Shrine, knocking at the wood and paper doors.
He blinked, knocked again, and got absolutely no answer again. "Mh, could she be outside?", he opened the door and peeked in, "Helloo? Anyone in here?". He stepped in, the very idea of entering a true shrine making him remember to take his shoes off at the entrance (much to his chargrin, said shoes were now unmistakeably girly); he then proceeded to carefully explore the house, not forgetting to kick in a "Helloo? Anyone? I’m coming in! Helloo?" every once in a while.
Minutes later, he was sitting under a kotatsu, alone.
"I guess she’s out", he said to himself, resuming monologues now that he was, once again, alone. He sighed, wondering where she could be, leaving with the lights on like that; it probably wasn’t wisest to stay in one’s kitchen when she was out, but it was getting pretty cold outside, and the kotatsu was sooo warm and cuddly.
He eventually got tired of waiting, and very prone to getting bored as he was, he got up from the kotatsu and started exploring the kitchen. He wasn’t an expert on Japanese-style furniture and cuisine, but he thought he had the ingredients to cook up something; the lack of recipe books was still crippling, but considering the ingredients weren’t really suited for italian cuisine anyways, he figured he had to improvise something.
Yes, he got the idea that it wasn’t wisest to stay in one’s kitchen and use it and eat her food when she was out, but by the time he was thinking about that, he was already tossing minced pork meat in the pan while rice was boiling in salt water.
When he had made enough and his bowl was already full, he sat down under the kotatsu and clasped his hands together, "Well, since Yukari told me to learn Gensokyo’s customs, here we go: Itadakimasu!".
The split second later, he noticed he wasn’t alone anymore.
"Hey Reimu, you got guests, ze"
He opened his eyes, Reimu Hakurei (aka Red&White, aka owner of this house and temple) was standing on the other side of the kotatsu, her arms crossed, her looks not pleased at all. At least Marisa (aka Black&White, aka friend of Reimu’s and usually freeloader at her place) seemed to have taken it lightly.
"You better start explaining", Reimu was dead serious, and if Moku was about to get kicked by Wriggle, it didn’t take a genius to guess what would happen if Reimu got really angry.
"Long story or short story?", Mokuren tried his best to keep a friendly expression, and found it surprisingly easy in spite of the panic.
"Shortest you can".
And so, he told her.
Moments later, after much blinking, Mokuren was forced to wonder "Uh... Which part of “Yukari kidnapped me” you don’t understand?".
"The part in which you’re freeloading at my house while I’m not here instead of being captive"
"Oh", he said, "That part". He paused, "Well, it’s because she kidnapped me from my home world and brought me in Gensokyo, she didn’t really seem interested in keeping me as a pet", he stopped, knowing it would have never, ever been enough to satisfy her, she then proceeded to push the other two bowls of rice on, "But please, have a seat and eat, there is plenty for everyone".
"Hey, thanks ze", and Marisa was quickly by his side, helping herself to some tasty food, Reimu still wasn’t pleased, of course.
"Marisa! For what we know this girl could be any kind of weirdo!". Girl? For the love of all that is holy why everyone kept calling him a girl?
"Relax Reimu, she can’t be all that dangerous, and you know that Yukari is up to this kind of pranks, ze", all this while she was eating like she’s been starving for the last three days, "And I think she’s honest, I don’t know anyone that cooks rice like this".
Reimu sighed heavily, but she had already joined the other two at the kotatsu, "This doesn’t make up for the fact she sneaked in my house at night while I was out", pause, "And how the heck were you brought up, learning to cook like this?".
"Ah, sorry, that’s how we do it from where I come" and you seem to like it, you ungrateful miko, "And sorry about sneaking into your house, I was lost and homeless and there was nobody inside, so I had that bug youkai carry me here"
Reimu made a funny face at that part of the story, "Bug youkai? Are you sure you’re human? What bug youkai?"
"I met an insect girl during that Eientei accident thing, but I don’t remember much of her", Marisa seemed a bit challenged in remembering the details, but this didn’t prevent her from opening the nearby pot and helping herself to more rice and minced meat, "What was her name anyways?"
"Wriggle Nightbug", Mokuren’s memories were still pretty fresh, at least, "We became friends in odd circumstances regarding this Yukari", explaining further would have been difficult.
Both Marisa and Reimu shook their heads, "Can’t remember any Wriggle person, ze".
"Anyways, why did you come here? Couldn’t you have sought refuge somewhere else? This is a temple, not an inn, you know", Reimu sighed; while she was still quite pissed, at least a fully tummy made her less prone to killing people, maybe she also believed that Yukari story? I hope so, because it’s so damn true!
"Well, I was lost, it was late night, a youkai tried to eat me... Sorry if I couldn’t be picky", he sighed, "Also, I’m a boy".
Marisa laughed, "Hey Reimu, you’ve gotta be some kind of weirdness magnet, you got a freeloading girl who thinks she’s a boy, ze".
"An alien, directionally challenged and gender-confused girl freeloading at my house, since when I became a charity service?", Reimu sighed and slide down deeper into the kotatsu; for Mokuren’s luck, she looked like she was used to having people freeloading at her house, "Anyways, you’re new to Gensokyo and have already survived an encounter with a youkai, I must admit you’re an interesting person", now she even seemed to be curious, "Did you fight her with that road sign you left outside?".
"I intended to", he honestly answered, "But we managed to resolve peacefully", he was even starting to lose the will to point out he was actually a man, since it didn’t seem to work anyways. Funny how some things don’t change no matter in which world you go to...
"Wow, she’s tough, ze. Winning battles with words"
"Or she’s stolen her precious thing, I guess she has a lot in common with you".
For some reason, Marisa turned blood red, then laughed, avoiding eye contact, "Ha ha ha! I don’t know what you’re talking about, ze, are you maybe jealous of my magic?"
"There’s no way I would be", Reimu sighed again and noticed something was lacking. "You, stranger, do you have a name?".
"Well, Mokuren, make some tea please".
"Sure", he then got up and proceeded to make tea... Which was quite difficult, considering he wasn’t used to tea leaves at all, or to tea in general. Luckily, Reimu was such a tea fangirl that she didn’t bother as long as it was tea, and Marisa couldn’t care less anyways.
So, the three were now sipping hot tea while sitting under a kotatsu, peacefully relaxing in a moment of perfect quiet, everyone far away from problems of any kind; even the intruder felt somehow in tune within the room, as if the two strangers were no longer strange and hostile, but friends of a long time ago.
"So, Reimu, are you goin’ to keep that girl?"
"I don’t know", she honestly answered, "What good can it do? It’s a bother to have people around"
"It’s not much, but I could cook, do chores and help with the temple", Mokuren intervened, "At least so that I can pay back for your kindness, I’d hate being in debt with you"
"Don’t waste flattery on Red’n’Whitey, ze, she can’t even understand it"
"Well...", Reimu pondered, "I guess a Mokuren wouldn’t hurt for a change, we only have cherry trees here..."
"Now, that’s the Reimu I know, ze!"
And that’s one bad pun, too, Mokuren added with his thoughts, but well, moé slavery was far from the worse thing that could happen to him.
"So, Mokuren", Reimu said as if talking to an apprentice, "Tomorrow I’ll teach you to wear a sarashi, I’ll also lend you a chihaya until we visit Kourindou and see if he has another. Then, you can begin with the chores, like cleaning, cooking, making tea, baking biscuits... Just leave all the spirit stuff to me"
"I gladly will", and he sighed... So, that must’ve been Gensokyospeak for YTMND.
You’re The Miko Now, Dog.
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