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It was two days after the full moon and the battle against Kaguya and I was ready to continue to the Hakurei shrine. Kaguya was still alive of course. Even after hitting the ground from about half a kilometer up, she got back up, dusted off her clothing, and looked about as alive as ever. I couldn't help thinking what would have happened if I had hit the ground that hard and shuddered at the thought. Anyway, Kaguya had admitted her defeat and restoring the "temporarily destroyed" houses before disappearing from the place rather quickly. As for how she had been defeated, no one was really sure. Somehow, only Keine and I had seen the phoenix turn into a human shape and deal the deciding blow, and immediately afterwards, it had turned back into a phoenix and had flown away. Keine was escorting me to the outskirts of the village and we had a chance to talk alone.
"So what is everybody saying about my transformation?"
"Well, I heard some rather... clever... jokes about not making you angry. They don't seem to know that it's caused by the full moon, but either way, nothing's really changed. I think I heard someone say you looked cuter like that too."
"I see. But I still don't know how I ended up in the village."
"Well, you sort of just-"
"Yes, yes, you already told me, but why don't I remember that?"
For the first time, I actually thought about it. Along with the fact that she didn't remember anything was the fact that she wasn't supposed to know how to summon phoenixes. And the mysterious figure who had defeated Kaguya was strange as well. Then it hit me.
"Mokou. It was Mokou."
"What? But that's preposterous."
"Not really. You forgot about one of her spellcards: 'Possessed by Phoenix'. She possessed you and defeated Kaguya. And the phoenix that turned into a human was her. It all fits."
Keine thought about it and nodded slowly.
"You may be right... but we'll never know for sure. It isn't like Mokou to admit to helping, too. Well, this is as far as I can take you. If you follow this path, you will find the shrine. Take care and please remember that you are welcome here anytime."
"Thank you... for everything."
She turned around and started walking back, but stopped, apparently remembering something. She looked back and tossed a small bag at me. I (barely) caught it and looked inside. It had a few strange-looking fruit, some bread, and at the bottom, a few coins.
"Huh? What's this for?"
"Unless your an expert at hunting, I don't think you'll be able to make it to the shrine without a bit of food. And as for the money, there's nothing to spend on along the way except for one place. You'll need to pay to get through."
She turned back again and walked off. I followed suit in the opposite direction, wondering as I made my way towards the shrine, A place where I need to pay to get past? A tollbooth?
It was getting dark and my feet were getting sore. They painfully pounded in time with my heart beats which slowed me down considerably. Finally I decided to a take a break. I sat down, leaning against a tree and closed my eyes for a bit...
I woke up suddenly and realized that at least an hour had passed already. The sun was nowhere to be found, instead replaced by the waning moon. I got up, feeling a little better physically and a little worse psychologically. Wasn't the night most dangerous in Gensokyo? I walked around in hopes of finding a more secure place to settle down before sleeping. As I walked, I noticed that it was still getting noticeably darker. If I didn't find a somewhere to hide and sleep soon, I'd be in big trouble.
Faintly, I heard singing like that of a siren's coming from ahead and hesitated for a bit. It got darker still and I was forced to keep going. As I approached the singing, I caught sight of two points of light in the distance. Instinctively, I headed towards them which was where the singing was coming from as well. Soon, the world was pitch black except for the two points of light and the moon and I started worrying. The night was never this dark before, even at midnight when I was in the middle of the forest with Keine. But I had no choice now but to head toward the light; there was nothing else I could do. Presently, I reached the lamps that were emitting the lights. It appeared to be a building of some sort and my outstretched hands groped around for a door knob. Finding one, I turned it and pushed the door open.
A bell tinkled and a bright light came from the inside of the building and blinded me for a few seconds. When my vision cleared I saw what looked like a restaurant. On a stage that was, for some reason, behind the counter, a pink-haired, pointy-eared, brown-winged girl in matching brown and white clothes who was singing the song that I was hearing before. She looked up at me and signaled for me to wait. I listened to her sing and realized that beneath the charming voice that held the tune perfectly were some rather bizarre lyrics...
A person, a person, a person!♪
Kidnap some humaaans♪
It took about a minute for her to finish and during that time, I realized just exactly what this place was. To get some confirmation, I asked the singer when she finished and walked up to me, "This wouldn't happen to be that place where a night sparrow named Mystia Lorelei sells grilled lamprey which was reported on in a newspaper article about a year ago would it?"
"Huh? Newspaper? Well my name's Mystia and I sell lamprey so I guess that's at least half true."
"But... this place is big. Wasn't it just a red-lantern stand a while ago?"
"With all the money I earned, I turned it into a real restaurant. I drew the floorplans too."
She waved her hand arbitrarily behind her and I took a good look around. The first floor was just a big square with the entrance in the middle of one of the sides and the counter on the opposite side. As I noted before, there was an elevated stage behind the counter as well, which looked really bizarre. Also behind the counter were some white curtains that probably led to the kitchen. To the left of the counter was a stairway to the next floor which looked really rickety and unstable. The tables were strewn randomly about, leaving some wide spaces and some tables almost touching each other. Even at this time of night, there were customers at the tables.
"It's still pretty busy here..."
"But of course, so many people get night-blindness so a lot of them come here for the lamprey. Do you want some too?"
"Umm... sure, I guess... how much is it?"
Looking inside the small bad Keine gave me, I found two 500 yen coins. I sighed. So this is what Keine meant by a place where I needed to pay to get past.
"I'll have one order I guess."
"Okay! Sit down where you want, I'll tell the cook."
She ran off, almost tripping over a chair and landing on a table where someone was eating already. I walked over to the counter, deciding to sit at one of the stools there and wondered... who's the cook? I caught a part of the conversation between Mystia and the cook as I sat down at the counter.
"...since we're out of lamprey. No one will tell the difference."
"Is that so~?"
I shrugged. Lamprey or not, if I paid Mystia, my severe night-blindness would be lifted. And I didn't even know what lamprey was anyway. The dish came quickly and the night sparrow placed it in front of me before going back up on the stage to sing again. I ignored her nonsensical song and focused my attention on the "lamprey". It was like a long piece of fish with rice on the side. It smelled alright but I picked up my chopsticks and poked at it tentatively. After about three pokes, I yanked off a piece and put it in my mouth. It was, well, fish. A long piece of fish. I liked fish and so, the plate was cleared in less than five minutes. Presently, my attention was drawn to Mystia's singing again. As I listened to the tune along with the lyrics, I realized that I still was tired and yawned. I laid my head on the counter and closed my eyes, the song still ringing in my ears...
Drinking raw water will make your stomach hurt~♪
Drink lake water and it's off to Sanzu no Kawa~♪
I woke up in an unfamiliar place. The room was small and there was a single window, which had sunlight pouring out of it now. I got up and opened the door to see where I was. It looked like a hallway with many other doors probably leading to other rooms like mine. Like a hotel or something. At the end of the hallway was a stairway so I headed there hoping to find out more about where I was. At the bottom, a familiar sight greeted me - Mystia's restaurant. The night sparrow herself was busy cleaning the tables and humming to herself when saw me come down the stairs.
"Oh, it's you. You didn't pay for your lamprey before you fell asleep so you owe me 1000 yen for that. Also, for using one of the rooms on the second floor, you owe me another 2400."
Crap, I only have 1000 yen...
"You owe me 3400 yen... don't tell me you don't have enough?"
"Ummm... I have enough for the lamprey..."
"Then here's how this'll work: either you work for me to pay off the remaining 2400, or I eat you."
I looked at her face and realized that she was serious. I definately didn't feel like getting eaten so...
"I guess I'm working for you then..."
"Great! One week should do. You get a bowl of rice for your meals and you sleep in the kitchen at night. Now, your first job is to finish cleaning these tables."
She threw the rag at me and went up the stairs in a noticeably good mood. I sighed and started my first day of work.
A haze or a cloud~
It smells during the equinox♪
I gritted my teeth as I wiped down the next table. Mystia's singing was really annoying - especially the stupid lyrics - and it was going to drive me crazy if I couldn't find a way to cope with it. What's worse was as I moved to the next table, I saw that there were absolutely no customers. There was no point in singing on the stage if no one but me and possibly the cook were listening. In an attempt to block out her voice, I started playing my own selection of music in my head which, for some reason, ended up being Necro-Fantasy, Ran's theme from Perfect Cherry Blossom. And so I was able to keep my sanity as I finished cleaning the tables, switching off among various other Touhou songs. I was supposed to finish before nightfall when everyone would rush in to cure their night-blindness and succeeded. The sun was still visible above the horizon which gave me about half an hour...
It was already my third day of work and I'd already gotten used to the routine: Wake up the people in the sort-of-an-inn upstairs before noon and chase them out (after they paid of course), wash the dirty platters that weren't washed last night, mop the floor, and after the floor dries, clean the tables. After that, it was usually night already and I had to act as a waiter of some sort. Today, I had an unusually large amount of free time since there were no dirty platters to wash. What to do now? As I sat around, I realized that I'd never seen the chef though I had a good idea of who it was. Always, she arrived just before nightfall while I was cleaning the tables and always, she left before all the customers had finished eating. So I decided to see for once.
As I entered the kitchen, she greeted me with, "You aren't supposed to be in here," but I wasn't too surprised at this reaction since I had guessed correctly about who it was that prepared the food. The cook, Rumia, looked a lot like a little kid who was just barely twelve years old. Her red hair ribbon stood out against her blond hair and her usual black dress was currently covered with a dirty apron. I told her that I was the new temporary worker and not surprisingly she replied with her catchphrase.
"Is that so~?"
Deciding that I wasn't going to get anywhere talking to her, I left the kitchen and went back where night sparrow was still singing.
I flew all the way to the roof and it broke and disappeared~♪
I turned after seating some customers as Mystia called to me from the stage.
"The next group of people are the last for tonight!"
She then proceeded to continue singing and I took the orders of the group of people I just seated. Just as I finished telling Rumia the order, the next and last group of people entered, talking about something that perked my interest.
"...after being defeated by that scary miko. I wish Yukari-sama would do something about it, but she's always sleeping. So the next best thing is fish. Right, Chen?"
"We're eating fish today, Ran-sama? Yay!"
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