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Return to Mokuren
Mokuren just couldn’t scoff that uneasy, unnatural feeling of being in a weird situation all of a sudden and not making heads and tails out of it. It has been a strange morning, after all, but luckily his “Adaptive learning” special quality kicked in, and he used routine tasks to attune himself to this strange world.
When he woke up in the morning to find himself not in his bed, he was pretty dumbfound, but sleepy enough to not care. Then he met Reimu (again), remembered he was freeloading at her place and working as her personal moé slave, and everything made sense.
It actually didn’t, but from Mokuren’s point of view, it was perfectly viable.
"Reimu?", Mokuren was taking a break after having cleaned the northern part of the courtyard and, honstly, looked fine in his chihaya, as if he was somehow used to crossdressing (just don’t tell him).
"Uh?", was Reimu’s half-asleep answer; of course she didn’t budge or help or anything, she just watched him work, and took breaks during that.
"Is it really fine for an oni to be a miko?"
Clearly, he wasn’t referring to himself, but rather to the noisy brat with the killer alcohol jug to which he gave the broom. She was proceeding to make the paving more mess than nature could ever dream of doing, and she was clearly an oni, unless the two horns were just for sport (nothing wrong with the balls and chains to the wrists, thought).
"No, it’s not", the miko answered, with the uninterested tone she so masterfully used to kill topics and arguments before they could see the light, which left Moku wondering things like so why don’t you chase her or something?
"Mocchan! Mocchan! I’m doing the cleaning!" the brat oni shouted, waving her hand frantically like a problem child trying to get attention; Mokuren timidly answered, not being half as good as Reimu to ignore people. Mocchan?
"Say Mocchan, you have to buy a Kouhaku right? I wanna come too, it’s a while I don’t see a real man!"
You’re talking to one, you dummy, Mocchan sighed, there was no way telling her would do any good anyways, "Of course you can come, Suika", he kindly answered, "But we’ll have to walk. I cannot fly".
This revelation must have shocked the oni, for she turned to Reimu, gawking for explainations. "She can’t fly", she simply stated, "She can’t fire danmaku either, so it’s fine if you go with her, as long as you protect her from the youkai; she still owes me, it’d be a bother if she got eaten".
"I would be less of a bother if you could teach me. I could go fix the roof without having to look for the ladder, for example" and thanks for clearly stating you consider me a bother he added, but he didn’t really expect anything different from her, he was freeloading at her place, after all.
"Teach?", Suika looked more confused than ever, "You can teach someone to do that?" Reimu shrugged, completely immersed into her own, personal world made of bliss and relax, "Teaching is a bother, ask Marisa, she’s the one into that kind of stuff".
"I certainly will"
Reimu gave him a glance, as if something struck her curiosity, "Did I say something funny?"
"Not at all", despite his best efforts, he couldn’t hide that smile, "It’s just, it almost looked like you actually cared for this delusional girl freeloading at your house"
"Of course", she answered unfazed, "I’m a good girl, you know".
Moku rose to his feet, quickly followed by Suika, "Are we going, Mocchan?"
"Yes", he turned to Reimu, "Well, if Suika’s guiding me, I can come back in time to prepare lunch"
"Fine, fine", and the miko just sipped her still warm tea. Well, Reimu’s Reimu, I guess, and the assistant miko set forth to buy clothes, guided by his trusty oni assistant miko.
Walking in the midst of untamed nature was not new to Mokuren, but the long way on foot was particularly pleasant and relaxing, "I wonder what my friends are thinking, with me disappearing and all" he thought out loud, forgetting he wasn’t alone.
"Oh, yeah, you come from another world don’t you?", Suika was coming with him, but it was almost like he was escorting her somewhere rather than the other way around, at least her habit of running around when walking would have fit just fine didn’t help giving her a serious look. Not that she could have one anyways, "How’s life there?"
"Boring", he answered before his brain could kick in and give something more decent, "Well... In truth, I guess it’s just pretty different, it’s tough to explain"
"Ooooh", she was digging into it, but Moku got the feeling she’d dig into just anything, "So you’re going to stay here? It’d be so cool if we could make the red’n’white trio at the shrine!"
As if Reimu wouldn’t kill us both for just thinking about it, "Well, I don’t know. I’m not really a miko, I’m just helping out because I’m freeloading at Reimu’s"
"Don’t worry! I’m not a real miko either!", she looked proud of it, "I just come to the shrine to play when I’m bored!", she looked proud of this, too.
The weird but in-the-end pleasant conversation lightened the travel, and the path widened until it revealed a town; a Meiji-era town, except there wasn’t any trace of westerners, even thought westerner contamination was already present, mostly in clothing styles.
Mokuren was surprised, in a way; the city was full of what could only be extras, nameless NPCs, random no-threat mooks, but most importantly they were all ordinary human beings. Holy yodeling jesus on a rally car, he thought, I can’t believe there’s ordinary people in Gensokyo!
Being Gensokyo dwellers, he expected them to be used to weird stuff. As a matter of fact, they didn’t look too shocked to see an alien crossdressing miko and an oni loli miko strutting around, most inhabitants simply kept a safe distance, meaning the two had more or less the whole road free, wherever they went.
"So... Rinnosuke’s shop is in town?", Mokuren eyed the locals, trying to look as friendly and innocuous as possible; the two evidently weren’t a common sight even for them, some of the kids were blatantly pointing at them and asking weird questions at their parents, mostly in the “who are they?” area. They were promptly shushed at every turn.
"Nay, nay", Suika answered, "We stopped by ‘cause I’m out of booze, the Kourindou is actually outside".
Ah, he thought, you could’ve said that, you know. He sighed and patiently escorted the small oni to a liquor shop, where she filled up with something that was probably sake, and probably something much worse at the same time. Meanwhile, Moku’s sharp ears picked up bits of whispered conversation from people that thought he couldn’t hear them; they were mostly innocent, but things like “Did you see her already? She looks new”, “Yes, she’s not the same, and isn’t the other an... Oni?”, “Well, if she’s with a shrine maiden, it’s probably fine”. Of course, he also tried to be a friendly neighbor and greet people while he was waiting, receiving welcomes like “Good day miss shrine maiden”, “Good day to you, miss shrine maiden”, “Isn’t the weather nice, miss shrine maiden?” and stuff.
It made him wonder yet again: how come people didn’t notice? I mean, damn, it looked like his friends on the other world insisting he was a trap, it just didn’t make sense! And how could Reimu not have noticed when she made him a sarashi?
Vague reminiscences drifted afloat from that morning...
"Wow, you’re flatter than Marisa"
And then she moved on.
Moku sighed, and when he opened his eyes, an "I’m done!" brought him back to the present world. Suika looked happy, and looked like she had a taste of many “ingredients” from said shop while she was at it, at least judging from the smell of alcohol. But boy, she did look happy.
Is this loli?, he wondered, and having asked he already knew the answer.
Kourindou was out in the wilderness in the middle of nothing about just like anything else in Gensokyo, but compared to other places like the Hakurei Shrine, it wasn’t too far from civilization, and it was in the same direction too, so the way back wouldn’t have been too long. "Kourindou", Moku repeated, "So, is this it?"
"Yup, shall we?"
He nodded, they couldn’t possibly be wrong, even on the outside there were some weird things that looked just terribly out of place compared to the somewhat “ordinary” city. Rubber boats, professional fishing poles... And a large, wooden sign at the entrance, reading “A CHALLENGER APPEARS”
Oh, true, he thought, I’m the only other male PC in Gensokyo. Except nobody realizes it, he sighed, and entered.
"Welcome to Kourindou", hearing a male voice was somehow... Odd, which surprised Mokuren, was he already getting so used to live amongst women even thought he has been there for about just one day? Still, Rinnosuke was a rather handsome and refreshing man, unlike Mokuren’s experience with the doujinshis depicting him as yet another random pervert. Well, it’s a good change, he’s not too bad, but stopped his train of thoughts after that, in the unlikely case somebody reading a fanfiction about him would (mistakenly) believe it was about to turn into yaoi.
"Oh, well, if it isn’t Suika, long time no see", Rinnosuke obviously knew her, he probably knew everyone, Moku was sort of at a loss with him... A mostly unknown character, but supposedly harmless at least. "And... Who’s this friend of yours, Suika?", he turned to smile at Mokuren, "Welcome to Kourindou miss shrine maiden, please make yourself at ease".
Oh, fuck, was his first thought, this gender-distortion field I appear to be in works on men, too?
"She’s Mocchan, she’s freeloading at Reimu’s. And she thinks she’s a man"
"Ah ah ah ah...", Mokuren laughed without passion, just as an execuse to drop into the conversation before it all got out of hand, "I’m sorry; my name is Mokuren, and I am a temporary assistant miko, guest of Reimu’s".
"Reimu... Reimu Hakurei of the Hakurei shrine?", he nodded, his eyes scanning the “temporary assistant miko”, "I see. If I may ask, are you two relatives? You look quite alike".
Alike? Relatives? You fail, Rinnosuke, you fail at life, "No, we are not... I never figured we looked alike", he smiled, trying to make it look as honest as possible, "I have come to look for a chihaya about my size, since this one is Reimu’s".
"Well, help yourself Mokuren", he made a wide arcing gesture with his arm, "My shop holds the most varied and rare goods you will not find the likes of anywhere else in Gensokyo, please take your time".
Indeed, his shop was full of delicacies... Some of which could interest him as well. Fancy goth clothing, radios, TVs, a price tag reading “599 U.S. dollars”, Sword replicas, real swords (WTF?) and... Ah! Here was a chiha-
"If you need to try it on, you can use the changing room to your left", promptly came from behind him. Rinnosuke must have mistaken Mokuren’s dumbfound stare with interest, probably because he couldn’t see his face.
"... Suika? Does this still count as a chihaya?"
"I don’t know", she pondered, "It’s not red and white"
As a matter of fact, it was blue, black and white, but it looked exactly like a chihaya... Assuming miko were actually goths.
"You... Don’t have other chihayas in the shop?"
"I’m afraid not, I have no interest in keeping common goods", he smiled, "I am sure a tailor in town could make you one, but it might take long, and Reimu might want you to give back the chihaya you are borrowing, after all".
He smiled. The bastard, he wanted to see him with a goth chihaya. Well, it was unlikely that he kept exactly one goth chihaya just in case a new miko came to town and needed one in exactly one day so she’d be forced to wear it... But still, he smiled like he planned it all along.
Eventually, he had to surrender to the obvious facts and go change. Funny, it fit him nice... Which made everything even more suspicious.
"Whoa, dark Mocchan!"
"It suits you fine", was Rinnosuke’s apparently unfazed comment; of course, he was supposed to be pretty used to attractive women (not traps, but still, who is used to traps?), "I think Reimu will like it, too"
"Uh. I guess so", he looked up at Rinnosuke, then down at the folded chihaya (Reimu’s), then back up at him. Now that he wondered, Rinnosuke was support cast, not PC, right? If so, this meant he couldn’t fly or shoot danmaku... Or could he? "By the way, Rinnosuke..."
"how do i shot danmaku?"
"lol i dunno"
Damn, well, at least he tried.
"On a side note, I do not know if I have something worth enough to give you in change. I have nothing of the local currency, and the currency I have will hardly be any useful in Gensokyo anyways"
"I do not have real interest in currency, my business lives on barter and exchange of other strange and rare goods, especially those coming from other worlds", he adjusted his glasses, looking straight at Mokuren, "I understand you come from out there, don’t you? I am sure you will have something interesting".
"Well, I don’t know if you can consider it interesting", he browsed through his pockets, pulling out his wallet and cell phone, "But I do have 23.51 euros and a cell phone, I don’t know if they are worth enough".
They probably were thought, for Rinnosuke seemed very interested in his currency, "Mh, I have never seen this kind of money before".
"They’re the present unified european currency", he explained, knowing he probably didn’t make any sense to him anyways, "And this... Is just an old, stupid, useless cell phone, especially considering there’s no signal here".
"They would both be new and welcomed additions to my shop", wow, he made Rinnosuke happy? How cool is that?
On the (somewhat shorter) way back, Suika resumed pestering Mokuren with an all huge measure of things he couldn’t care less about, ranging from the so-called “oni culture” (which were mostly ramblings and brags about herself) to the so-called “festival culture” (which were mostly poorly accurate resumes of parties. Crazy parties at that).
"By the way Mocchan", she eventually said, "Why’d you pick that sword?"
Mokuren shrugged, "He said I could pick something else, and it intrigued me" it’s also about the only weapon I have some expertise with he mentally added. Not that it would have helped him much in a danmaku fight, but if Youmu could stunt her way with fencing, why couldn’t he?
As promised, Mokuren was back at the Hakurei shrine in time to make lunch. Of course, they had guests.
"Wow, Reimu, we’ve got a black’n’bluey now, ze!"
"Where’d you get that funny chihaya?"
"It was the only one available at Kourindou’s", he answered, handing Reimu her own, "Having one tailored for me would have taken too long"
"I guess so", Reimu stood up, leaving to put her chihaya back, "Feel free to use the kitchen, remember there’s four of us"
"I’ll take care of it right now", he smiled at Marisa trying to hide his damn, Reimu, at least be subtle in enslaving me feelings, "Do you have any preference?"
"I’ll leave it at you, ze, you were pretty good yesterday", she smiled back, giving him a thumbs up.
"Thank you", get away from my precious thing! get away! "I’ll make sure not to disappoint you".
And, moments later, they were all eating around a square table.
"Pennette alle erbe con crema di radicchio and Caprese" he explained for the girls, unfamiliar with italian cuisine, "It’d be best with forks and knives, but it’s nothing chopsticks can’t do".
Of course, Suika had started since before Moku could even say what he cooked up, but Reimu and Marisa had the decency to wait before stuffing everything down their throats like there’s no tomorrow.
"Where’d you get these ingredients, by the way?"
Reimu’s question came largely ignored, for Mokuren had more pressing business, "Oh, by the way, Marisa, Reimu said you can teach me to fire danmaku"
"Teach you to fire danmaku?", Marisa seemed to ponder trivial things, like “why would you want to”, “Why can’t you already since you’re a PC” and “Where else did you sink your points to not take something as basic as Danmaku?”, but in the end she answered with a simple "Sure, yes, I’ll teach you, ze".
"Please finish cleaning the other half of the garden first", odd, Reimu didn’t look as cheerful as Mokuren expected, maybe it was because of him? I guess I’m still a total stranger to her, she’s not like Marisa after all.
"Sure thing. Suika, are you going to help?"
"Yes! I wanna see Mocchan learn to fight!"
And so, after lunch, the afterlunch rest/nap, a bit of work, tea break, more work (mostly to fix Suika’s mess) and the proper 5 p.m. tea break, Mokuren was ready to take danmaku lessons.
"Laser", said Marisa, "Is not difficult, ze".
She even laid out a blackboard with the most important steps written down, it looked fancy and all, which meant Marisa was getting into it more than she should have.
"First, concentrate your mind!".
Concentrate your mind, the three (yes, Suika joined too, wonder why) were all in line, as if practicing some strange form of martial art, possibly one involving ridiculously slow breathing and sluggish motions. Sounds pretty easy.
"Now, mutter the spell to the mini-Hakkero!!"
Mutter the spell? What spell? To what mini-whatever?
"Aim at someone you don’t like..."
He felt it was time to stop and ask a question, but seeing how everyone was getting into it, Mokuren was feeling guilty already for having even just thought that. He aimed at someone he didn’t like... That is, nothing in particular, right in front of him.
"Now unleash your annihilation of love!"
Unleash your wha-
The rush of air almost threw him off his feet, a bright light flashing straight to his eyes, and then he had to set his feet firmly to the ground to avoid being flung away from the sheer power of the spell; it was roaring in his ears as if he was right in the middle of it, except that he luckily wasn’t.
When everything was over, he fell down sitting, blinking at Marisa with a befuddled expression, his hair all a mess, "See?", she said with a grin.
Yeah, he thought, Except I, like, didn’t learn anything.
"That was awesome" he instead answered, and he was sincerely honest about that, "But... I still don’t have an idea of how to do it".
"Well, you can’t learn anything in a day", she pointed a finger at him, "Practice daily, and one day you’ll learn. Maybe".
He sighed, as expected of Marisa, all she cared about was show off. Looks like I’m without a teacher again.
"Marisa, I told you more than once not to fire a Master Spark in front of my shrine", Reimu’s cold and dispassionate scolding was of course granted, along with the fact that Marisa couldn’t care less.
"It’s ok Reimu, there wasn’t anyone anyways".
Even if there was, I don’t think there’d be any proof left now. Kind of a dangerous world he ended into.
Eventually, both Suika and Marisa went back home, leaving Reimu and Mokuren alone. He, of course, was busy with cleaning dishes.
What surprised him was Reimu.
"We need to talk, Mokuren"
There was something strangely serious in her tone, did he piss her off at some point of the day? From the looks of her face, she was dead serious about something... Something not trivial.
"I decided to keep you for the night because you had nowhere else to go, I have watched you throughout the day. Mokuren, you are not the first human that has crossed the boundary to Gensokyo..."
"I see", he blinked, trying to guess where this was going.
"Ordinary humans either want to go back or stay; if they want to go back, Yukari and me will try to open a passage for them to return, if they want to stay they will be directed to the town, under the protection of Keine", she paused, looking at him straight in the eye, "It’s not your subtle wish to stay that has surprised me thought".
"First of all, and assuming you aren’t telling lies, Yukari has saved you from becoming food. She’s a youkai herself, she’d have no reason to do it, and I don’t remember her ever doing something like that. Secondly, even thought you met me, Marisa and Suika for the first time, you behaved as if you knew us already, you are a human from the outside world that easily accepts youkai and oni, strikes conversations with witches and, most suspicious of all, you seem more interested in learning danmaku than it would be healthy to".
She stopped, while she didn’t look angry, it was clear that Mokuren’s existance depended on wether Reimu would be satisfied or not from his answers. He knew that; even he had no danger sense, he could see that coming.
"Well, I’ll try to answer in order...", he said, putting the dishwashing to a temporary halt, "As for Yukari saving me, I don’t honestly know myself, she spoke of me being a “guest”, I don’t know if this is supposed to mean something, I do know I’m here because of her, but that’s all. As for knowing you... Let’s say I’m actually just very open-minded and ready to accept strange things", noticing this was even more suspicious, he cleared his throat and continued, "There are... Legends about a place called Gensokyo from my world. All I know comes from there, but until yesterday, I didn’t believe it really existed".
"As for the third thing, well, if half the things I know about Gensokyo are true, then I won’t be able to get anywhere alive without danmaku"
Moments of eerie silence passed, stagnating in the somewhat cold air of Reimu’s kitchen. The sun was almost completely down now, and it was becoming difficult to judge Reimu’s expression under just starlight and lanternlight.
"As expected, you’re not a common lost soul", she sighed, and somehow the situation appeared a lot less tense, "Gensokyo is not new to troubles, and all of them have started small. You are a potential problem, I just cannot figure what makes you such, and I also can’t figure what your intentions have to do with that".
"I can assure you I have no ill intentions", he smiled, "And even if I had, you know I can’t put up a danmaku fight, I just can’t be dangerous".
"Yes. Well, ok, let’s say you aren’t a threat", she crossed her arms, looking up and down at him, looking for something to explain the situation, "This doesn’t mean you can’t be a pawn. You mentioned a bug youkai brought you here yesterday, did you befriend her?"
"More or less. I rolled high enough on my Trap Empathy check and turned her from Hostile to Indifferent; I can’t say we’re friends but at least she won’t try to eat me again, maybe"
"Still, if Yukari didn’t interrupt the fight, you’d be dead, because that youkai can fire danmaku and you don’t"
Reimu nodded, "In town, there is a person, Keine Kamishirasawa, which I mentioned earlier. She is dedicated to protecting humans, I’m sure she will give you shelter"
"Thanks, Reimu. But... I don’t think that freeloading at her place instead of yours would make me feel less of a burden. Also, I don’t really want to stay".
Reimu quirked her eyebrow, "Oh? So you don’t want to stay, yet you want to learn danmaku instead of trying to find a way home?"
"I thought the two things were connected", he blinked, "You know, the part where the hero stranded in an alien world has to learn to fight the local big bads and earn their way to freedom?"
Reimu shook her head, "Yes, yes... Stop there, will you?", she sighed, "Look, tomorrow we’ll go see Keine and hear what she thinks about this"
"Uh, I see", he paused, then looked at the dishes, "Well... I guess I’ll prepare some dinner now"
"Nah, don’t bother, I’ll take turn this time".
He blinked. OMG I BROKE REIMU!!!1! he thought, for there was no other logical explaination for her will to work; wasn’t she supposed to be lazy?
"Oh", he said, then blinked again, then took a couple steps back, watching her like some sort of strange, shapeshifting beast that took Reimu’s looks, "Well... Thanks"
"You’re welcome", she paused, "And don’t worry, I’m convinced you’re not a bad person. I’m not blaming this situation on you".
Mokuren couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief; of course, knowing what to expect from Gensokyo didn’t made him able to read minds. But Reimu’s Reimu, I guess.
"Well, if you’re cooking, I’m doing the laundry then"
"You just can’t keep still, can you?"
"It helps me ponder", and he smiled. I’m curious as to what Keine will have to say, tomorrow. Reimu was right, this situation is a bit odd, but good heavens I did need a holiday. He even giggled at his own train of thoughts, not paying attention to the fact there was a washing machine and electric lights in a supposedly Meiji-era world.
Return to Mokuren