Return to Mokuren

It was a weird situation, even thought Ruukoto’s creativity routines were overly active in imagining a prince kissing her mistress out of the ice, she was fired up and extremely confident in finding a suitable prince to break the enchantment.

Of course she dragged Cirno along; the snow fairy didn’t really agree, but once you are pwnt in a danmaku fight, free will stops being important. Not that it is anywhere near important in Gensokyo anyways, danmaku makes right and stuff.

The quest for the prince was clashing against one of the most basic barriers in the cruel world of Gensokyo:

There weren’t any men.

“Actually, where do we find a prince?”, Cirno was the first to wonder about that, which wasn’t a surprise considering she asked long after they set forth. Maybe the fact Ruukoto didn’t ask already could be suspicious, if not for the fact her blind devotion covers for the apparent stupidity.

Ruukoto found herself in a tight spot, the only man around was her mistress, but of course she couldn’t realize/accept it. The othe one was Rinnosuke, but between his sexy beam and his rumored appreciation for dark, muscular men, nobody with any hint of common sense would have expected him to cover for the position of “prince” of anything.

If Mokuren was awake and able to listen, he would have got a disturbing mental image of Rinnosuke doing a Fresh Prince of Gensokyo TV drama, but luckily he was deep down in hell, playing sudoku with Shiki and Komachi.

“I know!”, Ruukoto had a very brilliant idea, “I read on a newspaper that mistress is intimate with a tomboy youkai, I’m sure she can count as a prince for the purpose of using prince-like powers!”.

“Prince-like what?”, Cirno looked confused like every time somebody uttered a sentence more than two words long.

“Prince-like powers; if she’s tomboy enough, she should have the Use Plot Powers skill that allows her to bypass gender requirements for Romancer level checks”, Ruukoto nodded to herself, “That makes sense, we must look for that bug youkai!”.

Needless to say, this bug youkai had the weird power of being surprisingly easy to find when she least needed to. Needless to say, she wanted to have nothing to do with the accident.

“I’m not going to kiss anyone! Let alone a block of ice! It’s cold!”, she was hopelessly grounded in that idea, “And how do you expect a kiss to solve this problem, anyways? It’d only get my lips stuck!”.

Ruukoto was still calm enough to avoid killing everything in sight in front of that refusal, so she tried a more diplomatic approach, “But we need a prince to wake her up with a kiss. You’re the closest one, so-”.

“I’m a girl, damn it! What’s so hard to understand?”.

Ruukoto pressed her diplomacy protocols, keeping her EXTERMINATE ones at bay, “But she cared for you, and I’m sure the feeling is reciprocal. Even if you’re not a prince, she can be a princess bride or something, and you can take her as your... Bride, and brides may kiss and...”.

Words could hardly describe the face Wriggle was making. Dumbfound would have been the understatement of the year, same goes with puzzled and bewildered. “Just... What are you talking about? Are you sane?”.

Ruukoto stopped, then pressed her index fingers together in a shy, childish manner, “But... I just got a bit carried on... But you and mistress can still-”


An awkward silence followed, during which Cirno’s substandard understanding abilities managed to put one and one together and consider there was a pretty high chance for Ruukoto to go berserk again and who knows what could happen then.

“Is that so~?”, Rumia barged in completely unnoticed in spite it was barely past noon and her choice in dressing gave her a camouflage rating of about -75% “Whoa! Moku-oneesama is frozen solid!” was her other, totally carefree comment.

“Fro-zen! Fro-zen!”, Mystia joined the party, which was now composed of five members; six if we consider Mokuren; unfortunately, nobody had skills or items that could remove the Frozen status, which kind of sucked since they had a useless party slot because of that.

“By the way”, said Wriggle, uncaring about the intrusions, “I thought you only froze frogs”.

“Eye do, but stupid maid made me ice black and bluey and now she’s faulting me!”.

“I’m not blaming you”, Ruukoto explained, her exterminate protocols sent aback once again for sheer chance (and to Cirno’s advantage), “I expect you to cooperate to restore my mistress’ health, not just prevent her from dying!”.

Meanwhile, in the forest of magic, far from where Mokuren and his party were, a young samurai girl was doing the laundry by a river not far from a very humble hut, barely a shelter from the weather and a good spot for fishing; the girl herself, dressed in an unassuming red kimono and hakama, was washing another identical set of clothing. And panties.

“Ho, ho, ho, a samurai in a place like this?”, as with always, washing panties or somehow manipulating intimate wear was the only and single moment in which one could get interrupted; the girl turned, hiding the striped panties with strawberry motives behind her figure, “No, more like a ronin, it seems. A samurai would sure have a decent chamber by her lord’s castle. And servants that could do her laundry”.

Samurai girl gave the stranger a long stare, it was a rather tall young woman with blue hair tied in a simple ponytail and a mischevious face with the wrongest pair of dark yellow eyes ever seen on earth; her dressing style was resumable in “standard dungeon explorer”, complete with asymmetrical light armor and a heavy scabbard with a handy strap, holding a strange bluish sword inside.

She then returned to her laundry, sighing heavily and looking at her striped panties as if they were her only friend, “So lonely have I become...? To see random RPG characters around...”.

“Don’t dismiss me like some sort of hallucination!”, the random RPG character didn’t vanish, but rather became pissed, “I need sane samurai for hire, not crazed loonies!”.

“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not for hire”, samurai girl was minding nothing beyond her own laundry now, and she somehow had plenty to dry after she was done, “I am fine without a master, I have learned to live on my own in this unforgiving land. Also, it’s not safe to trust strangers that wander this forest”.

Silence fell between the two, random RPG girl scratched her head with her free hand, this was an unexpected turn... She figured a samurai would take something like, oh, honor to heart? Ah, the good ol’ times really were gone, “Now, don’t talk to me like I’m a weirdo, I need a honorable samurai, honorable and skilled. Possibly skilled, I don’t really give a damn about honor”, her I’m-not-planning-anything-good smirk returned, “So, are you up or not?”.

“I’m afraid not”, samurai girl didn’t even turn, “I have given up trying to lead a normal life long ago, and since then I decided to lead a satisfying life instead. Please look elsewhere as I cannot satisfy your needs”.

A brief silence followed, “What if I don’t give you a choice?”.

The girl stood up, hanging her just washed set of panties to dry, before bending down to pick up a finely engraved scabbard, the first clearly japanese sword ever seen up to now in this story, “If that is the case, I would be forced to dispatch you before returning to my satisfying life”.

The merry expression of random RPG girl, looked from the outside, was simply a crazed smile as she unsheathed her blue, single-edged sword, carved in magical symbols and with a gem near the guard, so dull it almost looked like the void was inside; she still held the scabbard tight by the strap, as if it was as fundamental an asset as the sword itself, “Well, bring it on, samurai girl”.

From the moment Samurai Girl unsheathed her sword, the weight and composition of air changed, static charges started running between the two, creating a stilled atmosphere in which any movement could send lightning blasting away in any direction, not to mention the usually high risk of danmaku proliferation.

Random RPG girl looked even more amused, as if she actually came from an anime of cute but secretly homicidal girls, “Is that your sakki, Samurai Girl? I hope your swords(wo)manship won’t disappoint me”.

None of the two looked like they were going to attack, even thought the air was no less tense; the wind stopped blowing for fear of getting hurt and the small animals had already reached their danmaku-proof bunkers, long before the two even thought of drawing their swords.

Like in some kind of shonen anime mind battle, nothing happened, not even third-party commentary on the fact nothing was happening (obviously), no insight on what the two girls were thinking, just a steely nerved glare clashing against a blatantly crazed one, for many long moments.

Eventually, air left Samurai Girl’s lungs, and she sheathed her sword, “It’s no use. I am beaten”.

The wind resumed blowing as if it too had held its breath for the whole time instead of just disappearing. Needless to say, Random RPG Girl was somewhat dumbfound, which made her hair a bit messy, “... What?”.

“I feel your vibe”, Samurai Girl explained, “You’re like one who once beat me. No...”, her hand still rested on her sword, but clearly without the intention of drawing it again, “You are different, my sakki did not simply bounce off you, it bounced back at me”.

RPG Girl composed herself, chuckling in self-satisfaction, “I see, you did see through my appearance in the end, didn’t you?”.

If possible, Samurai Girl looked a little bit less tense, “You must be a goddess, the embodiment of the spirit of the sword, or-”.

“What?”, her face didn’t look pleased, but rather distorted, like the anime representation of a yakuza member, “Are you dense? Are you retarded? Who the hell do you think I am?”, she then forcefully sheathed the sword back in the heavy scabbard, right in front of her, the void-filled gem flashing for a moment, “I am the goddamn sword”.

Back on the other side of the Forest of Magic, things had gone downhill already.

Deep in the ⑨ team’s HQ, with Meimu’s frozen body back in a corner of the room, Cirno was illustrating her attack plan.

“This is where we go”, she said, pointing a spot in the horrendously scribbled whiteboard with a stick she found somewhere on the ground, “I will be the tank, Mystia stays back with support and heal, Rumia will do the DPS thing and Wriggle is the AoE girl”.

Of course, all the writings didn’t make sense, and there was no reason for them to wear military helmets with the ⑨ insigna, not that the other three girls were really paying much attention to Cirno anyways. Except for Ruukoto, who noticed there was absolutely no plan on the whiteboard, or anything that made sense, but being the only one to notice, she felt stupid and pretended to understand.

“Is that so~?”, Rumia raised her hand frantically, after having spoken already, “Captain Cirno, captain Cirno, who are we ganking?”.

Feeling herself at a loss of words for having forgot to think of such a basic detail, Cirno decided to make up things on the spot, “Whoever we lay our hands upon!”.

“Wuh? Why should we gank random n00bs? That’s not l33t at all”, argued Wriggle, who didn’t appear too interested.

“Because... Uh...”, Cirno’s pupils started to turn into a ⑨ as her absolute inability to come up with a plan started showing, “Because... If we gank random n00bs, the problem’s going to solve itself!”.

Everyone thought about it for a long moment, then everyone nodded in unsion, “Uh, uh... True”.

“Ruukoto!”, Captain Cirno’s command admitted no talking back, “What do your mecha eyes see?”.

“Eh?”, caught dumbfound, Ruukoto looked up in the clear afternoon sky (because the HQ was actually just a clearing in the very sparse woods), “Uh, I see... Uh...”, she focused her robotic sight, scouting the area to detect lifeforms, until she targeted something.

“Over there!”, she then screamed, and everyone turned to see... A distant dot, flying at reasonable speed, not really hard to catch up, were they to move immediately.

“Party, dispatch!”, Cirno shouted, and everyone moved immediately with the coordination of a party that didn’t made sense, played by monkeys on crack.

Not too far away, Mokou was quietly flying along to pay a visit to her (only) friend Keine, unaware of being the target of a ganking attempt. If she knew she was, she’d probably have laughed herself to death, but she didn’t, so when she noticed the barrage of ice shards flying towards her, she was surprised enough to be pissed rather than amused.

“I’m pulling!”, Captain Cirno exclaimed, “Be ready to strike as soon as she-”.

“As soon as I what?”.

Cirno had to suddenly brake in mid-air to avoid colliding with Mokou, and worst of all, her spell card, Icicle Fall, was ineffective! How could that be? The ⑨ factor was rapidly increasing...

“Whoa! Fast!”, was Wriggle’s comment.

“Is that so~?”, was Rumia’s unimpressed comment.

“What now, chief?”, was Mystia’s question.

“Now you die”, was Mokou’s answer.

As Cirno was about to say something, a blast of fire engulfed her, sending the fairy flying down to the earth, blowing a crater in her landing and rising more earth and dust than it was healthy to, the other three instinctively pulled back, but Mokou just smirked, “Flee if you wish, you’re all going down anyways”.

“Is that so~?”, Rumia was the first to react, flying higher in the air, setting above everyone else to get a good view in her cross pose, “Moon sign: Moonlight ray!”.

Two beams of solid energy crossed paths in Mokou’s direction, forcing her to move away from the other party members (and said party members were too forced to get away), the following spread of bullets made sure that she couldn’t easily return to close striking range; the child youkai focused her fire to give Mokou little space to maneuver and properly avoid the constantly returning beams.

“Here I go!”, Mystia came back into the spirit and flapped her wings with excitement, “Healing type youkai ready! Vocal sign: Howl of the Horned Owl!”.

The bullet pattern shooting from Mystia was widely spread, managing to both cover Rumia’s position and giving Wriggle a place to hide and reorganize so that she could shoot something on her own. Mokou however looked unimpressed, chuckling between herself as she dodged the linked patterns with her arms crossed, “N00bs, you clearly don’t have a clue on how to pull a mob of my rank”, she said before she darted straight towards Rumia, evading her bullets as if they didn’t exist.

“Oh, no, you won’t!”, Wriggle stopped, firing off a group of slave spirits to aid her in her upcoming spell, “Lamp sign: Firefly phenomenon!”.

The sheer barrage of green bullets shot between Rumia and Mokou forced the hourai to stop on her tracks, and then go back because of the combined assault of Wriggle’s servant-directed barrage and Rumia’s lasers, who kept running even if she couldn’t see Mokou too well; Mystia’s own pattern assured that their enemy couldn’t close up with them too fast by barring the most obvious weak spots in each’s barrage.

“Not bad”, Mokou conceded, “But not enough for one of my caliber”.

“Is that so~?”

A pair of fiery wings extended majestically from Mokou’s back, a single flap distorting the direction of the bullets around her, allowing her to stand still and smirk as she said, “Oh, no, it’s worse than you think”.

A quick fire of extremely accurate fireballs shot down all of Wriggle’s slaves, taking her accurate fire option out and creating enough smoke to make her lose sight of the enemy for a moment, barely enough for Mokou to start diving fast towards her, so fast that not even Rumia’s lasers or Mystia’s barrage could cover her.

“Damn!”, Wriggle’s panicked reaction was to re-summon her slaves and resume the barrage at full power, but as soon as she managed to start that, Mokou passed by, leaving a trail of flames in the sky that forced Wriggle to close her eyes for a moment, fire burst around her, forcing her to move away and out of Mystia’s protective barrage.

“Where is she? Where is she?”.

“I... I don’t know!”, Rumia looked a little less cheerful now.

“I’m over here”.

It was just a whisper, but everyone heard it. Mystia’s eyes shrunk around the pupil as she realized the voice came from right behind her.

“Fire bird: Flying Phoenix”, she said out of time, the moment later her wings flapped, leaving a scorching barrage of fire bursting in front of her in the shape of a bird, snatching a screaming Mystia and tackling her straight to the ground, where it exploded in a vast display of fiery power, immediately starting a fire so hot it was melting trees.

“Healer’s down, now who’s going to restore your Hps?”, Mokou chuckled, effortlessly producing more orbs of fire around her figure, “I hope you have scrolls of escape in your inventory”.

Rumia and Wriggle looked at each other, Cirno was taken down before she could react, and Mystia was annihilated as if she wasn’t even trying, “... Whatever should we do?”, was Rumia’s extremely uneasy question.

Wriggle looked up at Mokou, who wanted to give them all the time in the world to think (she was having fun, the bastard), then at Rumia, then just a glance to the fire where Mystia (or her remains) was presumably in. She didn’t want to end up like that.

“Shit, we don’t even have a choice”, she muttered, looking up at Mokou, “That bastard...”.

“So, out of res scrolls and potions?”, Mokou yawned, “Well, since you can’t disconnect from this server, I guess you’re in for a world of hurt...”.

“Rumia...”, Wriggle paused, as if biting her tongue for what she was about to say, “... We can’t go down without a fight”.

A moment of silent admiration followed, after which Rumia returned to smile, “You know Wriggle, I’m fine with this”, her childish voice had a somewhat serious tone, even thought it still sounded happy, “Because it’s for Moku-oneesama’s sake”.

Wriggle blinked, “Moku- You mean that dark miko girl?”

Rumia nodded, “She beat me at an eye beam contest, she played with me all night, she was very nice. I’m happy to have met her”, she smiled, “I’m sure she would do the same for me”.

It was as if time froze in revelation, Rumia talking like that, it was never heard of. If Aya was there, she would be making one hell of a gossip service, Rumia getting this far for someone else’s sake was earth-shattering. Come think of it, even Cirno and Mystia looked in for it for more than just fun, after all, even Mystia could clearly see what happened to Cirno, and didn’t retreat.

“Just what are you?”, she muttered under her breath, “Getting youkai you barely know fight for you to the death...”

“I’m getting old over here...”, Mokou yawned again.

They looked at each other again, then nodded, Rumia springing high above her companion, “Darkness sign: Demarcation!”.

“Wriggle sign: Nightbug tornado!”.

Althought they weren’t coordinated like before, the barrage of bullet the two combined could produced was thick enough to give a headache to even the most accustomed danmaku fighters, and its beauty was such that a lesser person would be enraptured and hit by sheer distraction. Unfortunately, Mokou did not belong to this party, and her fiery wings were blistering so hard that Rumia was starting to have troubles aiming her shots, and their combined wide area barrage was still not enough to keep Mokou at bay.

For some reason, however, Mokou stopped at medium range; sort of unusual considering she has only been attacking from close up until now, which was something the two youkai clearly underestimated. Too late to cry over spilled milk, especially after Mokou called “Forgiveness: Honest man’s Death”.

Its sudden burst and the sheer speed of its bullets was far beyond what the two youkai had ever experienced, Rumia was hit on the side by a stray stream, moving her straight in the line of the main barrage, where high-speed large bullets rammed repeatedly in her stomach, sending her way up in the sky until she was out of range, at which point she continued until gravity claimed her.

“R-Rumia!”, somehow evading the bullet pattern, Wriggle rushed to save her, not even Rumia could survive such a fall, assuming she survived getting hit square in the guts so many times, but after the first dozen or so of meters, she was moved to the side by a powerful kick to the face.

“Just where do you think you’re going?”, she could barely spot her devilish grin before Mokou resumed her attack, by simply kicking her in the face, her legs turning into berserking pistons, the only thing Wriggle could feel was that she was gaining ridiculous speeds and that she was going down fast, deep into a zone where it was much hotter than the norm, probably in the raging inferno caused by the attack that took Mystia down... But before the pain from the first kick could reach her, she slammed head first into the ground, instantly reaching the realm of unconsciousness.

Mokou flew unscathed over the flames, lazily dusting her trousers off, “Hmpf, n00bs, can’t even pull and protect their support”, she commented, before something hit her in the back; a fifth opponent? No, it was a very weak hit...

She looked down, seeing the ice fairy she thought she took down with her first attack; the icicles she shot were mostly melt by the heat of her phoenix wings, she was hit with balls of water in the end, which made the scene even more pathetic, “Come on”, she smirked, “Don’t say you’re going to do a last stand by yourself”.

Cirno didn’t look too good, but she was good enough to be able to fight, or at least try to. “Stupid, stupid person!”, she shouted, “We’re just trying to help a friend, but you had to spoil everything! It must be your fault! Stupid, stupid person!”.

“Oh, and what are you going to do about it? Cry?”, as soon as Mokou finished the sentence, she noticed that, in fact, Cirno was crying, althought wiping her eyes often enough to pretend she wasn’t.

“You hurt my friends”, her voice was really broken at this point, “Don’t you know what’s like to have hurt friends? I’ll never, never forgive you!”.

Mokou blinked. Friends? To her, that idea didn’t even exist, the fact somebody could resort to it in a fight was even more ridiculous. Friends? Did she have friends? The only person she could consider like that was Keine, but even then, they were just mutually helping each other.

... Or not? What if Keine got seriously hurt in front of someone else? By Kaguya, to name an absolutely random and unrelated person.

For a moment, Mokou’s eyes burned with an anger she seldom felt, even when facing Kaguya herself.

“Snow sign: Diamond Blizzard!”, Cirno shouted as she dived towards Mokou.

“Hourai: Fujiyama Volcano”, Mokou answered, no emotion betraying her feelings.

The sea of icicles melt into water almost instantly, turning into gaseous form before the flying inferno tackled Cirno down to the ground, the explosion feeding the previous one, creating a huge bonfire engulfing a non indifferent part of the Forest of Magic.

Mokou landed not too far away; she smelled something going on, and was decided to go to the ends of it. A fairy and three youkai just went into a suicide fight for somebody’s sake, with claims of friendship on top of that, she had to see who they were talking about.

A robot maid blocked her way, she was standing there with her arms stretched out, her eyes firm with a steely determination to not let anyone beyond that point.

“One more step”, she warned in a cold, detatched voice, “And I’ll blow myself up”.

Mokou stood there, crossing her arms, “Even if you blow yourself and disintegrate me, I’m immortal, I’ll just come back”.

The maid still did not move, so Mokou just took a peek behind her shoulder and...

“... Oh for the love of...”

“... W-what?”, Ruukoto blinked, that was a strange face Mokou made, was it a trick? Better keep the guard up and the self-destruct protocols at hand.

“It can’t be”, she blinked again, then chuckled, “That... That girl?”.

What started with a chuckle became a laugh, and moments later Mokou was rolling on the grass in front of a raging inferno and, most importantly, the most befuddled Ruukoto ever seen in these pages.

It took her several attempts and deep breaths and eye wipes to recover, barely. “I lol’d!”, she commented.

“Uh...”, Ruukoto felt a little embarassed in not knowing what was going on, “... Why did you laugh like that?”.

Just remembering almost made Mokou rofl again, but she somehow resisted, “I... I can’t believe it, a mere human is behind all this?”.

Ruukoto took a glance at her frozen mistress; yes, she was a mere human, so? What was wrong with that?

“Move”, Ruukoto noticed too late that Mokou had approached, and pushed her to the side, “Let me see... Oh, she’s frozen solid”.

“B-buh!”, the maid shouted in panic, “G-get away from my mistress! Or I will... I will...”

“Oh, shut up”, phoenix wings sprouted from Mokou’s back, starting to melt Mokuren’s ice casing, “How did she get into such situation?”.

“She... She fought a terrible opponent, yes!”, she tried not to make it sound like she made it on the spot, “Tougher than you, too! And she just barely lost!”. She then noticed what was happening, “Aaaah! Stop! If you unfreeze her she’ll-”.

“Oh, shut up, I know what I’m doing”, Mokuren was gaining color again, but not much; in fact, he was still pretty pale, and it was doubtless that whoever he fought with gave him quite a sound beating, “Mmmh, last time I saw her, she was weaker than the fairy I just blasted, I wonder what puny creature hit h-”.

She instinctively retracted her hand from Mokuren’s chest, she felt a... Strange vibe from him, as if the leftover energy he was hit with was still lingering. “Holy... What was that?”, she muttered.

Ruukoto leaned over, evidently worried, “Can... Can we do something about it? She’s dying, I don’t want my mistress to die, I cannot live without-”.

“Oh, shut up, I know what I’m doing”, Mokou repeated, but in her thoughts, she was really just wondering what could have hit her with such power.

And how that human survived.

“Leave her to me”, Mokou said, taking Mokuren in her arms, “I’ll bring her to Keine, she’ll make up something”.

“B-but...”, Ruukoto blinked, fought between hope and distrust, “How can I trust you? After what you did to her friends...”.

“They’re youkai, the world’s better off without them anyways. And fairies can’t really die, so I didn’t kill all of them”.

Ruukoto looked at her, then sighed, and started running into the fire.

“Whoa! Wait!”, Mokou shouted, “Where are you going?”.

“They’re my mistress’ friends!”, she answered, “If she were to wake up and find them dead, she’d suffer too much, and I don’t want that to happen!”, the moment later, she disappeared in the fire, in front of a blinking Mokou.

“Maids...”, she shook her head, and took off.


“Oh? Did you get it?”

Shinki and Mokuren were trying to complete the Lunatic-level sudoku in the latest issue of Hell’s Weekly Enigma while Komachi was reading comics on the floor; a lazy day in hell, but Mokuren’s situation was (slightly) changing.

“My silver cord started degrading again”.

“Oh, this is bad”, Shiki stated in an overly undramatic tone, “I guess you’re getting closer to your death”.

“Too bad”, he sighed, “There were many things I still wanted to do”, he answered in an equally undramatic tone.

“Don’t worry, you can do them in your next life”. And they got back to their sudoku.

Patchouili was drawing feverishly, using many sheets of paper and consuming all of her attention, which usually went towards books of magic; this meant she was up to something, and it generally wasn’t a good sign.

“Mistress...?”, Koakuma seldom saw her like that, and she knew very well that it wasn’t a good sign, “Mistress...? What are you doing?”.

“The Gensokyo StrikerS are good, but they need to be improved”, she spoke with the ardor of an art director, taking the spirit of Sentai to heart, “First of all, the costumes need to be... Customized”.

Koakuma looked down on the pile of sketches, even going as far as opening the scrapped ones; one of the (luckily discarded) projects contemplated an animal theme. Still better than the vegetable-themed costumes at least.

“This is...”, she tried to look for kind, non-suspicious words to use, “... Impressive, mistress”.

“Uh”, she distractedly commented before coming to an abrupt alt, “A! I almost forgot!”.

She then grabbed Koakuma’s hands, both of them, looking at her straight in the eye from so close that her pure scent of leather binding and stale dust was picking into the devil’s nose, “Koakuma, I need your help”.

She froze, blinking away as if the sheer scent made her feel like dust was getting in her eyes, she was enraptured by the movement of Patchu’s lucid lips... What did she just say? “Uh... Y-yes mistress, of course...”, she couldn’t get her eyes off.

“We must improve the StrikerS lines”.

Improve, this word never sounded so sweet until her mistress said it with such a serious face; she would have taken arms against the whole world if her mistress so commanded, but since she commanded to help her in finding better lines for a sentai cosplay that was becoming too much a serious affair, she nodded her head with enthusiasm and claimed “Y-yes mistress! I’ll do everything in my power to help you out!”.

Patchou grinned, letting go of the devil’s hands, “Excellent...”, she said.

“This is bad!”, Keine claimed, and she meant it.

“Uh, told you she’s in bad shape”, Mokou was leaning against a wall in her high school delinquent pose, “Frankly, I’m just surprised she’s still alive after the hit she took, I brought her to you just to know how she pulled that off”.

Of course Mokou wanted to underline she was a bad girl, but Keine didn’t have the time nor the focus necessary to reprimand her for that. Instead, she was too rather dumbfound at how she could be still (barely) alive considering the energy from the attack she took was still lingering on her form, “I don’t know”, she admitted, “But it’s more than her human body can take. If only she was a bit stronger... It can’t be that she went this far just to die slowly in a bed”.

Mokou shrugged, “Cheer up, emo Keine, it’s one less person to bother about”.

Keine pondered carefully about the situation; it was clear from the beginning that she was an unusual guest in Gensokyo, but the implications of that kept going past her eyes; there was something she was missing, something apparently trivial, yet very important, and she couldn’t get it no matter how hard she tried.

“So, we going to wait until she dies? That’d be boring”, Mokou got off the wall and started heading out, “I’ll be out there, call me if something happens”.

Keine didn’t turn, she simply watched, trying to fight off that feeling of powerlessness to watch such an obvious McGuffin die in her arms. She caressed her hair, as if trying to get a grip on her fading life. Time was running out, and just how far was Keine willing to go to save a plot device?

She pondered on that as she gently caressed his carotid artery.

“So, it’s all like OBJECTION!!! and stuff?”.

“No, no”, Shikieiki chuckled, “It’s actually much cooler; not that the souls can say much in their defense, given I know all of their sins”.

“Mmmh, so I’m not going to see delicious attorney action? Well, that’s a pity... Aaaaaa...”, a warm-cold shiver run up his spine, giving him such a sudden feeling of... He didn’t know any word to describe it, he just wanted to feel it again.

“Uh? What’s up? Is the cord gone?”.

He looked behind himself and... “Uh, no. Actually, it’s got pretty big, and it’s pulsing with energy”, he blinked, turning back to Shiki, “Say, what could that meEEEEEEEeeeaaaaa-”.

With unexpectedly sudden force, he was yanked in a random direction, passing through walls and doors as if they didn’t exist, leaving a dumbfound judge of the dead alone in the room. With her servant, yes.

“... She’s gone”.

“Who’s gone?”, Komachi looked up from her manga as if nothing happened in the meanwhile.

“The soul you brought in. The one who wasn’t dead”.

The death goddess blinked, “I brought in a soul? When?”.

Silence fell between the two, before Komachi was poked with a 17 REPENT! combo.

“NOT THE ORANGES!!!”, he shouted as he woke up, sitting on the bed so fast it took him several moments to realize he strained his back doing so.

“Ah!”, was Keine’s reaction, “You’re awake!”.

Mokuren blinked, he was alive, somehow, he was at Keine’s home (which he suspected being his default respawn point by now) and Keine herself was by his bed. All in all, a pretty good situation, surely a good change from getting shot around and seeing memes; by comparison, his short trip in hell was pretty pleasant.

“Oh, uh”, he blinked, feeling a little numb all around, “Uh, yes”, he strained his brain trying to think of something less stupid to say, “Uh... Thanks for saving me, I guess. This is the second time, I wonder where I’d be without you”.

“Ah... Don’t worry about it. It was Mokou that rescued you, I didn’t do anything special, really”.

Mokuren blinked, “Mokou did?”, difficult to believe, why would Mokou want to save a puny human’s life? Why would Mokou do something compassionate at all? “Oh. Well, I suppose I should thank her”.

“I’ll give her your thanks. Don’t get her wrong, she’s just a bit shy”.

“Yes... I guess so”.

They smiled at each other, chuckling at nothing in particular, before the door was burst open, revealing a tall woman in a weird dress, carrying a sheathed sword that clearly didn’t belong to this place, “SURPRISE BUTTSHECKS!”.

She was not alone, behind her was Samurai Girl, who sighed at her friend’s actions, “I’m sorry, I’ll fix the door right away”, she said, before setting down her handy haversack and pulling out carpentry tools, as if she expected her friend to kick down doors at random.

“Wha-!”, Keine stood up, “Just who are yo-”.

“Oh, weird hat girl. Thanks for saving the butt of this loser”, she then walked past Keine as if she didn’t exist, stopping to flash an energic grin to an equally dumbfound Mokuren, “Yo! So you made it, huh?”.

He blinked, the voice sounded familiar, but what she was carrying was even more recognizable. “Wait, that’s my sword, where did you-”.

“Well somebody picked you up but forgot this very important part”.

“Wait, I didn’t even have that scab-”.

“So I did it in her place, because it’d suck if the story was all about you, don’t you know secondary characters are more popular in polls in the long run?”.

“And the gem’s not right at all, it should be bl-”.

“And yet look, I came all the way to save you! I even brought you a personal moé slave!”.

“I’m not your slave”, Samurai Girl said as she started putting the hinges back on.

“Thank you; it was just a little bit lower...”, said Keine, supervising her work and largely ignoring the odd girl with the sword.

“No, no, wait wait wait...”, Mokuren shook his head, trying to get up from bed, something that he, surprisingly, pulled off pretty well, “Just who exactly are you?”.

“Oh? You didn’t get it?”, Random RPG girl looked surprised, but then her grin returned, “Very well, I’ll give you a hint”.

Out of nowhere, she pulled out a pair of semitransparent sunglasses with deep orange lenses and put them on, “So? Any better?”.

Mokuren blinked in disbelief, “... No. Actually, yes but...”, he blinked again, “... You’re doing it wrong. You’re mixing up two different mangas! Ok, they have the same name, but still...”. He paused, “Three different mangas, actually”.

“Oh, how picky of you, didn’t you just love kitchen sinks?”, RPG girl put her glasses away in the same nowhere she pulled them out from.

As the other two girls were done with the door, they joined the group again, and Samurai Girl kneeled down in front of Mokuren, “I’ll execuse myself in advance since my formalities are rusted. I am Meira, a ronin; I have given your companion the promise to accompany you in your journey in Gensokyo. Pleased to meet you”.

She finished with a bow, and when she got back up, her eyes were both expectant and... Distracted? “Uh... Well met, Meira. I’m Mokuren, but everyone here calls me Meimu”, he put a hand on Random RPG girl’s shoulder, “I assume by ‘companion’ you actually mean Haedonggum, here?”.

Meira nodded, which was just what Mokuren needed to hear: Hi, your sword talks, she mixed up two different mangas so that she can walk herself and added up a third source so that she can... I don’t even want to know what she expects to do.

“Very well”, Haedonggum returned the hand-to-the-shoulder pose, “Now that my partner is back in my hands, we can all go home”.

“Wait, wait, Hae”, Mokuren said, halting her, “There’s no hurry, I’ve just been back from a combined out-of-body and near-death experience, Keine saved my ass again and there is a girl I would like to know better since you made her promise she’d stick with me, can’t we just-”.

“It’d be better if you stayed here”, said Keine, “It’s getting too late to travel and I’m afraid just twenty seconds in bed isn’t going to do for your recovery”.

Mokuren nodded, “See Hae? It’s for my sake, really”.

Hae sighed, “Fine, fine, but I’ll have to watch over your honor”.

A long, embarassed silence followed, “... My honor?”.

“Sleeping in a room full of girls, mmh? Don’t you get it?”.

“... Aside from the fact you are a girl yourself... I’m pretty used to it, don’t worry. Really”.

But she didn’t want to avoid worrying, so she just wrapped an arm around him, “Better safe than sorry. So, let’s spread a couple bedrolls over here and there and we’ll be all just fine...”.

He sighed, feeling sorry for barging in other people’s homes like always, but Keine in the end was just chuckling, so it had to be fine. Meira was pretty enigmatic herself, but with Haedonggum around, there was no way she could get closer to her and have a... Conversation or something.

He helped lay out the beds; tomorrow was going to be yet another fine day of Cosplay Trap Mokuren and his MMORPG Party.

Return to Mokuren

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