At the crack of dawn you're already up and en route to the village. It doesn't take long to get there when you can fly, though you try to stay low to the ground as you draw closer so as to not attract attention. Before entering the village you hide any obvious signs you don't belong and amble towards the store.
The man in charge is a geezer, as far as you're concerned. He always insists that he has a lot of life left in him, but you know better. People all die eventually, though you hope he hangs around for a while yet. After all, if he dies then you'll need to find a new job!
Anyway, after running into the old man and getting your morning greeting you get straight to work. It's not easy work, though the only hard part is settling for something so boring. These days you have the whole thing down to a routine, where you sweep after every ten or so customers that come through.
Occasionally the old man breaks his routine by having you sweep after a particularly messy guest, or by interrupting the constant breaks you allow yourself by having you help a customer get something off a shelf. Sometimes he even has you load what they bought into a cart for them, or sends you to help them carry it to their house!
None of that matters, though. The only thing that matters is when she comes through.
Every other day she stops in, usually carrying meat and vegetables she already bought elsewhere. Most of the time she'll just look at the old man's wares while talking to him, only occasionally buying something. Those are the best days, since you get to volunteer to help her carry whatever she bought.
Today is one of those days.
You nod at the old man as you exit the shop, awkwardly clutching a weird box as you go. The thing's pretty unwieldy and kinda heavy, but you're more than willing to carry it if it's for her.
She smiles the way she usually does. It's a gentle, genuine smile that makes your heart melt any time you see it. You follow excitedly after her while clutching the weird box and try to say something, but no words will come out. That being the case, you decide to just take this chance to admire her.
She's totally your type. Mature, graceful, beautiful... The kind of woman who'd make an amazing wife! You love her golden hair and how it shines when the sun hits it. You love the way she swings her hips slightly while walking, making her tails dance behind her. Her big tails are great too, and look like they'd probably make an even better pillow than her lap.
Most of all though, you love that she's a fox youkai like you. That's the main thing that caught your attention when you first saw her, after all. You were busy pranking some bratty village kids when you noticed her shopping, and ever since then you've been trying to get closer to her. Disguising yourself as one of them, coming back to this place, and even getting a job here. It's all been for her.
She slows down so she can make eye contact, and you make every effort to stop gazing at her lovely, lovely tails.
"Thank you for helping me as always, shop attendant." She pats your head, and you can almost feel your ears revealing themselves. Every time she pats your head it gets harder and harder to keep up the disguise around her. "Please set it down over here, if you would."
You do as she asks, and then begin to take in your surroundings. It's a strange little village with no residents in sight. No human residents, at least. Cats wander freely from building to building, purring and rubbing against each other and occasionally breaking out into a fight. When did you reach a place like this, you wonder? Must've been so lost in your thoughts that you didn't notice where you were going.
She seems to notice your confusion and waves her right hand dismissively. "Oh, don't worry about this place. Here, take my hand and I'll lead you home."
Before you're able to protest she grabs your hand, making your heart skip a beat. Her fingers are warm and soft, and... tense. Looking up from your joined hands, you're met with her disapproving stare. Her grip on your hand tightens, and you can feel a chill running down your spine as she leans in closer to you.
"Like I thought, you're another one of them trying to have fun at everyone else's expense." She lets go of your hand and reaches up, flicking one of your ears. You freeze as you realize your cover's been blown. "You know the rules, right? Leave the humans alone and they'll leave us alone."
"Ah, um, you see-" She leans closer as you stammer, her beautiful smile now a frown.
"I don't see. Why were you meddling with humans when you know how shaky our relations are? Were you playing pranks on them, or trying to seduce a village girl?"
She's not too far off, though the girl you're after isn't from that village. Your thoughts race as she stares deep into your eyes, their piercing gaze making it clear that more than your potential love life is at stake here.
[ ] Be (sorta) honest. -[ ] "I was only trying to get closer to a girl!" -[ ] "I wanted to work there for a good reason!" [ ] Lie to her face. -[ ] "I wanted to learn more about humans!" -[ ] "I want to protect them from other youkai!"
"I-!" You begin, but cut yourself short. Someone like you is too clever to let fear influence you at a time like this, so instead you'll stick to cold, hard, and more often than not a buzz kill-- logic!
Weighing your options isn't easy. On one hand the truth is too embarrassing, but a lie would be even worse. Someone as smart and amazing as her would see right through any lies you told her, but the truth is too embarrassing! Even so you can't lie, but you can't be honest, but you can't live if you lie, but you'll die if you tell the truth, but--
Your heart's racing. She continues to glare at you, her once beautiful eyes now freezing your heart in place rather than warming it. Every second spent in silence feels like an eternity, but even with that you don't feel like you can figure a way out of this. Every option is terrible, every truth is awful, and every lie is deadly. It's no good at all, nothing will work, it's useless, useless, useless!
Your hands begin to shake and you swallow dry air. Who'd have thought something like this could happen just from chasing some fine tails? You stop for a moment and think about what you just thought. You came to the village for romance, so...
So if being honest doesn't work and you can't lie, why not tell a half truth? Genius, if you do say so yourself.
"The thing is-" You take a deep breath and try to gather yourself before continuing. "I was only trying to get closer to a girl!"
Her gaze becomes less intense but she doesn't look any happier. With a slow motion she rests one hand on your shoulder and caresses the bridge of her nose with the other as she speaks.
"So what you're saying is that you're trying to seduce a village girl?"
"Um, ah, s-something like that?"
You can't help but stammer as you realize the situation you might've put yourself into. The villagers are always wary of youkai interrupting their little slice of heaven, and some handsome young fox making off with an ignorant village girl would be sure to rile them up. It's not what you plan to do, but now it's what she must think.
For what feels like an hour the two of you stand there, frozen in place. You don't dare move less you provoke her, and she's probably not about to let you just walk off after saying something like that. The two of you continue standing there for a while longer before she sighs and lets go of your shoulder, shaking her head all the while.
"I trust you've had enough time to realize just how foolish you're being?"
Unable to express yourself verbally due to fear, you once again settle for a nod.
"Good. I'm not about to tell you to steer clear of the village, but please try to be more subtle. I probably wasn't the only one who realized just what you were." She begins to walk away but turns back to shoot you a glare. "Oh, and don't impregnate that girl, whoever she is. Anything that might rock the boat is off limits."
"Y-" Terrified, you reply without thinking. "Y-yes ma'am."
You're absolutely disgusting right now. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if you were usually disgusting, but for someone as intelligent and handsome as yourself it's a real low point. Not only were you unable to be honest with the woman you've been after all this time, but you even made her think you're after some dumb hick human from some dumb hick village! Absolutely terrible.
You look up to watch her as she walks away. Even after that she still moves with grace, her brilliant tails swaying behind her with every step. Somehow it's always her tails that catch your attention, maybe because having so many of them is a great status symbol. Well, you think it is. That or something akin to godhood, who knows?
With a heavy sigh, you mutter to yourself. "Might as well head back."
It's hard to not just stare at the ground as you walk, feeling as defeated as you are. You'll have to try even harder next time you see her, maybe even doing something to impress her. You could show her how well you get along with humans? Maybe how much the village kids like your pranks? The second one's better, you reason. Beautiful women like a guy who's good with kids, right?
It's no sooner than you think that that some annoying kid shows up.
"Hey hey, who're you? We haven't seen your face around here before, so are you someone new?"
That one word grabs you, "we". It takes a moment for you to realize just what this dumb girl is talking about. All around the area are stray cats. There's cats in trees, behind trees, in bushes, in front of bushes, and absolutely everywhere. They're all trying to be inconspicuous, but they didn't count on someone like you coming along and spotting every one of them! Although you don't really plan to do anything about them now that you know they're all there.
The weird stupid girl inches closer and closer to you, her face becoming an image of pure idiotic glee all the while. Something about this brat pisses you off.
"What are you, some kind of fox? You can't be a red fox since your hair and tail are blonde, but you're definitely a fox right?"
"Ahaha, that's cool! Some of my best friends are foxes!" You severely doubt that. "I'm a cat. I mean, you probably didn't know since I have two tails, right?"
She turns and wiggles her butt at you in an attempt to show off her twin tails. You're glad her dress is long enough that you didn't actually have to look at this brat's butt, but even so you really wish she'd go wag it at someone who actually cares.
"Oh, that's great, yeah."
You try to ignore her and continue your walk of shame back to the shop, but she's quick to follow. You begin to notice the stray cats in the area are all following you as well, and you make a mental note to find the nearest body of water in case they attack.
"Um, so yeah! My name's Chen!" She stares at you for a moment, her dumb smile fading as time passes by. "Uh, so what's your name?"
"Don't have one, bye."
You try to pick up the pace and get some distance from her, but she's quick to follow after you.
"Waaaiiit! It's not every day another youkai like me wanders through here, no-name! Where are you going anyway?"
"I've got a job and I'm heading back before my boss fires me."
The old man wouldn't actually fire you for ditching work. You've done it a lot in the past, and even though he got angry he never once threatened to give you the boot. It's just a convenient and believable excuse to get away from this girl.
"Oh, a boss? Like one of those human people who run the shops in that little town?"
"I know the way, so I'll lead you there!"
"No thanks, I've got it."
She smiling maw hangs open in disbelief. She's probably just realizing you don't want her around, you figure.
"Um, well, I know a quicker way back! Besides, someone like you needs someone like me as a guide to find your way around here!"
Actually, you think you'd be better off without her following you around. This whole time you've only been able to focus on trying to get away from her, and as a consequence you've got no idea where you're going.
[ ] Let her guide you back. [ ] Tell the brat to get lost.
She's already gotten us halfway to lost so it wouldn't hurt to get some direction. If she tries to lead us astray then we can just outsmart her. What can go wrong? After all, she says some of her best friends are foxes.
It really would be easier just to tell this brat off and go your own way, and you'd be more than happy to go ahead and do that.
The only problem is you really have no idea where you are, and this girl apparently knows her way around the area. As much as she's annoying you, you suppose you'll just have to deal with it and follow her back to the humans' village. Should worse come to worst and she decides to follow you into the village, you can always ditch her by running between buildings.
"Alright, lead the way."
The dumb girl's face lights up at those words. She hops excitedly as she moves past you, running off in one direction through the woods.
"Close your eyes and follow the sound of my voice! I'll have you there in no time!"
"Why do I gotta close my eyes? Are we playing marco polo or something?"
She turns and flashes you a smile. Something about that grin tells you that she's absolutely loving this, whether this is making you play a dumb game or having someone to play the dumb game with.
"Blind man's bluff! And you need to close your eyes so you can get properly lost and lose your way back to the village!"
Sounds like a stupid reason, but you can't expect much better from a stupid girl. You decide to play her game and shut your eyes, and after a moment's consideration rest your hands behind your head as well. Walking around with your eyes closed is pretty lame, but if you look like you don't care then it's instantly okay! That's what you figure, at least.
"This way, this way!" The excitable brat- Chen, was it?- calls out to you from up ahead. You step carefully to avoid tripping, but no matter where you walk nothing seems to be in your way. The thought to peek crosses your mind, but you'd much rather see just how long you can go without running into anything.
She continues to call back to you for a while as you follow blindly. It isn't until you feel your foot collide with stone that you open your eyes, more from shock than anything else. The bra- er, girl is standing in front of you, her arms spread out about as wide as her smile.
"Tada! We're here!"
You look around and quickly realize you aren't "here". Not if that's supposed to mean the village, at least. It takes you a moment to figure out that you're at that poorly maintained shrine that's sorta-near where you were going, but at the same time not at all where you want to be.
"Uh, this is that crappy shrine." You take another look around just to make sure you aren't confused. "I said I was going to the village, so why're we here?"
"Weeell..." The girl joins her hands behind her back and shuffles timidly. "I thought we could, y'know, mess with the shrine maiden before you head back?"
At first you're kinda pissed that she'd take you to the wrong place on purpose, but at the same time you haven't really had a chance to prank some dumb villager lately. You've seen the shrine maiden walking around the village every once in a while, and you've heard plenty of rumors about her and how tolerant she is of youkai. With that in mind, it probably wouldn't be that dangerous to mess with her anyway.
"Um, you know!" Chen pumps her fists up and down as she speaks, a gleam in her eyes. "I haven't gotten to play with another youkai lately, especially not one my age. So this is, uh, special! Y'know?"
"Ah, guess so."
Her ears lower themselves a little at your reply, and her eyes lose a bit of their shimmer. She slowly reaches up and brushes her silky brown hair back, looking to the side with a look of-
Wait, shit! You have to stop yourself there. Even if she shares some of your interests and claims to be about your age, a brat is still a brat. No sense paying her any mind when you've still got your main lady to go after, right?
She continues to look away from you, occasionally glancing back at you only to immediately redirect her attention again. Something about this brat's kind of charming, whether it's her ability to lead people through the woods or her apparent penchant for pranks. With all this in mind, you think you might just humor her this one time.
[ ] Put a lot of small bills in the donation box. [ ] Pretend to attack the shrine. [ ] Find something to dump on the shrine maiden from above. [ ] Custom prank. (Please describe)
[ ] Forget about the pranks and go back to the village alone. [ ] Forget about the pranks and go back to the village with Chen.
Chen's ears perk up as you say that, her eyes shining just as brightly as they were just a short while ago. You glance around suspiciously before pulling her in and whispering the plan into her ears. After every couple of words she inhales and her open smile perks up.
"Alright, got it?"
"Roger dodger!" She salutes while beaming at you with her sparkling amber eyes.
Without a moment's hesitation she speeds off, her two tails twirling around as she dashes away from the shrine. You move to the shrine itself and pull out your wallet, thumbing twelve of the smallest bills you can find.
For a while you simply wait there, taking in the surroundings. The shrine itself is a little worse for wear, though you guess it's still standing. So, that's something. A little building near the back of the shrine looks to be in better condition, though you don't really care to inspect it. Trees of varying sizes surround the structure and the immediate area. In some place they're so dense you figure nocturnal youkai might be like to hang around the area, if for no reason other than to operate better during the day.
The stairs to the shrine are... Busy, actually. Chen and some poor chump are walking up them, the guy she found looking less than thrilled to be there. You quickly stuff the money into the shrine's donation box and retreat to some nearby bushes, bracing yourself for phase two of your plan.
"-was walking along and thought, 'Hey! I'll bring a human here too!'"
Chen's busy rambling off some nonsense to the poor guy she found. You figure she probably hasn't shut up since she found him, that way he can't get a chance to ask why she's even bringing him here. Clever girl.
"Uh, a human? So you're a youk-"
"Hey look it's the shrine!" Chen pulls the guy by the arm, nearly making him trip as she bolts towards the shrine's front steps. "So, whaddya say? Let's donate to the poor, hungry, destitute shrine maiden!"
"Uhh..." The guy she brought with her looks hesitant, and he begins to take a few steps back. "Actually, I gotta g-"
"I heard she eats grass, she's so poor!" Chen smiles wide at the guy and gives him a wink. "Please, mister? I feel so bad seeing this poor, lonely, starving, smelly, kinda dirty shrine maiden suffer!"
"F-fine." The guy shakily reaches into his pockets and pulls out a wallet. He tosses a few coins into the donation box and turns to Chen, looking desperate. "Can I please go now? I have to get home to my family."
"Yeah! Thanks mister, please remember to support your local shrine!" Chen sing-songs the words while bobbing from side to side, her hands clasped in front of her. The man nearly runs off as she speaks, a worried look on his face.
It isn't until the man's left that the shrine's door slides open, hitting the door panel with a loud CRACK. The not-so-poor, hungry, or destitute shrine maiden steps out with disgust evident in her eyes. She's halfway through tying a bow in her hair as she emerges, and once she has it in place she reaches back into the room she came from and brandishes a gohei.
"It's not nice to spread rumors, y'know."
She waves the gohei around a little, which actually gets a reaction from Chen. She looks intimidated, but she stands her ground and laughs, probably trying to appear less afraid than she actually is.
"I got that old guy to give you some money, so shouldn't you be thanking me?" She folds her arms and leans back, possibly trying to make herself look big. It isn't working. "So what if I told a couple lies, rumors never hurt anyone! Right?"
The shrine maiden shakes her head and sighs, obviously already tired of dealing with this girl. She turns to look at the donation box and her shoulders droop.
"Oh, real great. He barely gave me anything." She turns back to Chen, her eyebrows lowered. "Black cats aren't welcome here, okay? You're just bad luck."
Chen pushes past Reimu and looks into the box, her eyes going wide as she covers her mouth.
"Oh myyy! Sooo much money!" You can't help but wonder if she's acted a day in her life. "If I were you I'd call that good luck, not bad luck! Look how much he gave you!"
Reimu reaches into the box and emerges with the money you threw in earlier. She looks less than thrilled as she motions for Chen to get lost, pocketing the bills as she does.
"Maybe if you find me some more donations I won't exterminate you. Now beat it, alright?"
Aaand that's your cue. Sneaking out of the bushes, you move quickly but quietly towards the shrine maiden, approaching her from behind. It isn't until you're right upon her that she realizes your presence and points her gohei at you menacingly.
"If you wanted more you shoulda asked! Eat this!"
You reach into your wallet and pull out even more small bills than before. A lot of them are fakes you made with magic and leaves, but she doesn't need to know that. Not skipping a beat, you begin to run your hand across the stack of (mostly) fake bills, tossing them one-by-one at the shrine maiden. She lowers her "weapon" as you do this, a look of disbelief and confusion now washing over her.
"Take this! And this! And then some more!"
You keep showering her with the fake money as she looks on in terror. Her mouth quivers as she starts to speak.
"I... I'm not some kind of adult entertainer! Stop throwing your money on me!"
She lashes out at you, but you're quick to back away. You make a run for the shrine's stairs and Chen follows after you, the two of you quickly escaping from the crazed girl. Chen keeps running, practically flying down the stairs and then down the dirt road below, though you find yourself stopping and peeking over the steps to get a last look at the girl you just pranked.
She's on the ground picking the money up bill by bill as she bites her lower lip. You aren't sure why, but something about this scene makes you feel... Not so amazing, intelligent, or awesome. Huh.
[ ] Forget about it and follow after Chen. [ ] Go back and help the shrine maiden gather the money.
You know you shouldn't help her. Helping someone recover from a prank after the fact is like admitting defeat. It's essentially telling them and anyone else who might be watching that what you did was wrong, and that you're ashamed of your actions. Such things are unacceptable, and only an absolute fool would do such a thing after a successful prank.
Though at the same time, you can't stand to see a cute girl on the verge of tears. Are those tears? Her eyes are a little watery, though she isn't actually crying. Looks like she's just considering it right now.
You reluctantly approach the downtrodden shrine maiden and start to help her pick up the money. She's quick to lash out at you with that gohei of hers, her eyes nearly red with rage.
"Get lost! Just because I'm not gonna do it doesn't mean you can take your money back!"
You barely dodge her odd weapon, trying your best to smile in spite of your confusion and regret.
"Uh, whaddya mean? You aren't doing what?"
She stares daggers at you as her face brightens up, turning a hot pink as she shakily lifts one hand.
"You know, uh, that..."
She puts her thumb between her pointer and middle fingers and pushes it back and forth. Someone as well versed in lewd acts as you can tell instantly what's going on there.
"What? No, we were just messing with you! Why would you think I wanna do something like that with a stranger?"
"Huh?" She looks taken aback. "When that dumb cat started talking about rumors, I thought for sure the money thing was because of-"
"Because there's a nasty rumor that you'll do anything for enough money, right?"
Chen leans in from behind you, remorse as plainly evident on her face as it must be on yours. It's kinda nice to know you aren't the only one who feels like shit after that. The shrine maiden hesitates a moment before nodding in confirmation.
All at once it clicks in your mind. When you started showering her in money, she must have thought you were trying to buy her! Little does she know you'd never pay for a girl's company. No, someone like you would earn that time with her rather than doing something gross like paying her for it. It's not like you're all that anxious to bed a human girl, anyway.
More importantly, all of this means that your prank actually was awesome and hilarious! It was just the wrong time and the wrong target is all. Maybe some time later you can do a similar prank with someone a little less vulnerable.
"Sorry, miss Hakurei shrine maiden." Chen claps her hands together and bows her head, her tails drooping to the ground as she does so. You follow suit, figuring it'd be best to try and look mature when you can.
"It's okay, I guess." The girl shrugs, a faint smile appearing on her lips. "It was just a misunderstanding is all, right?"
Chen nods as you continue picking up the bills for this girl, switching the fakes out with some real ones when you notice them. Not like you really use that money for anything, anyway.
"My name's Reimu, by the way." She extends a hand towards you. As you go to shake it she grabs the money out of your hands and pockets it. "I run the shrine here and look into shady business and goings-on in the area. I don't think I've met you though, whoever you are."
"Nah, I try to lay low." Truth is that you just don't get involved in any of those big problems that go on in the area, though you're well aware of them after the fact. "So what, do you live here or something? It doesn't look like good shelter for a human."
The shrine maide- no, Reimu shrugs. She dabs at her eye with one sleeve as she continues to speak, drawing your attention to how her eyes have left that weird stage that happens right before crying. Pseudo-crying, you'll call it.
"It's a roof over my head and money for existing, I guess. Not that people seem to care." She thumbs through the money she collected as she speaks, smiling as she counts bigger and larger numbers. "Anyway, I guess you gave the shrine a good donation in the end. You want some snacks or tea or something?"
Oh, right. You were so caught up in things like trying to impress that beautiful fox lady, failing to impress that beautiful fox lady, and nearly making a shrine maiden cry that you didn't even consider the time. It's just about time for you to go on break for lunch, though you aren't even back at work yet. It'd probably be responsible to head back, though if you did you'd have to pay for your own food.
[ ] Take her up on the snack offer. You already paid for it anyway. [ ] Head back to work and hope you're given your lunch break on time.
[ ] Take some time to more carefully observe... -[ ] Reimu. -[ ] Chen.
You know what? Screw it. You already more than paid for some snacks from this shrine maiden, so you're going to enjoy them and maybe enjoy her company before you go about your merry way. Uh, though you won't enjoy her company like that.
"Sure, I'll have both."
"Me too!" Chen shoots her hand up excitedly.
"Fine, then come in and take a seat." Reimu pushes the shrine's door open as she says that, revealing its interior to you.
The shrine isn't much to look at on the inside, though it's not very amazing on the outside either. A kotatsu dominates the center of the room, and along the sides are small shelves and tables with various items placed on them. You try not to pay them much mind, considering they're all probably this girl's possessions. It's considered rude to analyze a girl's bedroom, right? You think it is, at least if you aren't in an intimate relationship with her yet.
Reimu eyes you suspiciously as you try to avert your gaze from any of her personal business. Chen leads the way into the room, taking the first spot at the kotatsu. You follow suit and sit opposite of her while the shrine maiden begins setting up a kettle and liquid. She starts a small fire beneath it using some weird clear box you think you've seen once or twice in the shop before turning to open a heavy-looking box that sits against the wall.
She pulls out a few oranges and passes them to Chen, who in turn hands two of them to you. You begin peeling the skin off one of them as Reimu takes her seat at the "head" of the table.
"So, you usually this nice to youkai?"
"It depends." Reimu peels at her own orange, swiftly removing its skin. It's like she's had hours or practice or something.
"I'm always ready to take a break, and if someone's donated then they're welcome to join." She shoots you a glare. "Even if they donate all over my face like some kind of brute."
Something about those words makes you feel strange. You almost think she was making some kind of joke or reference to something, but since you didn't get it that must not be the case. It's not like some human girl could even hope to be half as clever or intelligent as you are!
"What're you taking a break from, anyway?"
"A whole lot of nothing." Chen uses a long nail to peel her orange, making short work of it. She then retracts the nail, to your surprise. "Am I right?"
Reimu roles her eyes.
"Maybe to an outside observer like you it's nothing, but it takes a lot to maintain a shrine. I have to clean, patrol the grounds, stand guard..."
"If you say so!" Chen pops an orange slice into her mouth and chews it before continuing. "I found a newspaper that said you just spend every day slacking off, though."
"That rag's nothing but lies!" Reimu slams her hands against the table as she says this, her brow furrowed with anger. The girl really doesn't take rumors about herself lightly, huh? "Besides, that weird tengu girl has no business commenting on anyone else's work ethic."
Chen shrugs her shoulders and hums as she chews another slice. As you begin peeling your second orange you take a moment to observe this new girl a little more closely.
She looks a little older than you do on the outside, but since she's human her years can't compare. She's probably about the age that she should be looking for a husband and having kids, though if she's living in a place like this then that might not happen any time soon.
Despite her living conditions, she really isn't that bad looking. Her dark brown hair looks really soft and like she's recently taken a comb to it, and the bow she has on isn't the littlest bit off-center. Her eyes are bright with moderately long eyelashes, though you can't help but think they'd look nicer if they weren't constantly half-shut. Her skin is pretty nice too. Not too tan, not too pale, though if she had tanlines she wouldn't work for you. You're not that big on a girl with tanlines, especially if she has a farmer's tan.
One thing about her catches your eye and won't let it go. The gap near the armholes on her top reveal her armpits and a bit of her sarashi. The sheer quantity of bare skin on display captivates you, and you have to admit that she's really something. For a human girl, at lea-
Your thoughts are cut short by pressure on your leg. Something rises and falls off your legs a few times, and it's then that you notice how far you'd stuck your legs under the kotatsu. You look up and catch a glimpse of Chen glaring at you before she averts her gaze, trying her absolute best to not draw your attention. The weight lifts off your legs, and you can see her start to scoot back a little.
[ ] Pull her back in and tease her with your own feet. [ ] Pull her back in and try to lead her feet to Reimu. [ ] Let her escape.
An awful thought enters your head, and you absolutely love it. You place your hands against the floor and, with all the subtlety you can manage, inch your feet closer and closer to Chen's side of the table. Reimu doesn't seem to notice it, and Chen is too busy trying to look focused on the outdoors to really understand what you're doing. That is, until your toes brush up against hers.
"Ah!" Her eyes go wide as a pink hue rapidly encroaches on her face. "What are you-?"
"Mm?" Reimu leans back and gazes at the girl cat with some interest. "What's up, think of something nice?"
For a moment Chen sits there as you try your best to grab her feet with your own feet. They're a little sweaty under the kotatsu, though not enough to absolutely gross you out. Another moment passes before she spreads her toes wide, welcoming you in with open... legs? You were trying to be clever with that thought, though in the end it really just sounds lewd.
"Ahaha, something like that!" She does her best to not look at you as this all goes on, though her shoulders sway a little as she wiggles her arms up and down. "I, uh, remembered something nice is all!"
"Oh, what's that?"
You lock your toes into place, giving you full control. Chen's eyes light up as you do, her face getting more and more red all the while. You aren't sure why she's so willing to go along with this, but it works for you!
"It was, uh! What was it again?" She looks out the doors towards the shrine's grounds. "My uh, master! She said she was gonna get me something nice since I've been behaved lately!"
She's gradually sliding closer to the table, pushing her legs further and further under as she does so. You keep up the act for a moment as you pull them closer to you, and once she's far in enough you unlock your toes and grab one of her legs with both feet. The smile she had been letting appear on her face all at once vanishes, and she quickly looks at you with some level of growing concern.
"I don't know if I'd call insulting a maiden's dignity well behaved, honestly." The tea begins to whistle as Reimu talks, and she stands to get it. "Ah, gimme a sec."
She turns her back from you as she begins the process of grabbing the pot and putting out the fire. Chen's worried eyes instantly lock onto yours, her smile twitching as she looks at you. She glances down towards the table and back up at you, then tilts her head to one side. You respond with your own smile, though yours is far more devious than hers could ever hope to be. Yours is the smile of a master prankster. You shake your head in response to her implied question, refusing it. With just that her smile begins to flatten out, becoming a pained straight face.
"Alright, got it." Reimu, having swiftly extinguished the flame and gotten a few cups to pour tea into, returns with the kettle in hand. She sits down on her knees at first as she pours you each a cup, ultimately setting the kettle down on her end of the table and sliding her legs back underneath the kotatsu. "Here you go, tea for a devout fox and a freeloader cat."
Chen reaches for her cup nervously, her eyes still fixed on you. She shakes her head "no" as she grips the cup, her foot wriggling in protest against your own. You wait until Reimu's taken a sip and looked up wistfully before you nod in response, causing what you suppose is your new friend to look even more panicked.
You smile, ready to fully embarrass her. With a swift motion you push her wriggling foot towards your new shrine maiden friend, making sure to angle it so their toes should be pressed up against eachother. Reimu jumps in place at first, though after a brief silence you can feel Chen's leg being shifted. You pull your own feet back and brace yourself for whatever may happen next.
"Ah, I guess cats are okay though." Reimu looks back at the two of you, smiling. At the same time Chen looks extremely confused, the majority of her lower body still underneath the kotatsu. "I guess they just have trouble expressing themselves sometimes is all."
It's then that you notice Reimu gradually shifting her lower half, ultimately bringing her hands to the floor. Chen starts sweating profusely as this happens, and shortly after she vanishes beneath the table.
"Gotcha!" Reimu scoots back quickly, pulling a frightened Chen out from her side of the table with her. The poor girl's hat is missing, and her skirt's flipped up over her torso and putting her bloomers on full display.
"Ah, what?" Chen blinks, seemingly unaware of her situation. "Where did I go?"
Reimu's toes are now intertwined with your new friend's, and she doesn't let go until she's scooted her even farther out. She then scoots back towards her hapless victim and slides one leg between hers, using the other one to catch her foot. You aren't really sure what happens next, but it looks painful and has Chen hitting the ground with one fist as tears begin to form in her eyes.
"How do you like that one? Got the gatekeeper at the mansion by the lake to teach me!" She puts more of her weight into it, you think. You're still not sure what this is, but if you had to guess you'd say... Some kind of especially brutal martial arts? You feel a little bad for Chen, though you're now very glad you pulled your legs away when you did.
"Mercy! Mercy! Mercy!" Chen keeps slamming her hand into the ground, half-laughing and half-sobbing all the while. "It hurts it hurts it hurts! Hahaha, stop iiit!"
Reimu flashes a devilish grin before letting the poor girl go. She slides her legs away from Chen's and gets to her feet. Chen continues to lie there, barely moving as the shrine maiden dusts off her skirt and retrieves Chen's hat from under the kotatsu's sheet.
"Ah, did I go too hard? Sorry." She bends down and places the hat on Chen's head, though slightly askew. "Guess I don't know my own strength sometimes."
Chen waves her worries away with one hand as Reimu walks towards the doors, getting a look at the sky outside.
"Ah, crap. I think I'm supposed to go meet Marisa about now." Reimu props her hands up behind her head and sighs. "Uh, I hate to be like this, but you two should probably get going too. I don't really like to have strange faces around the shrine when I'm gone, no offense."
You shrug your shoulders. You're not really sure what to do or say after what happened, especially since you're still trying to figure out how sorry you should be for what just went down. Reimu looks back to Chen with some regret and shakes her head.
"Actually, I guess you can hang around for a little while. Just don't take too long, alright?" She waves at you as she rushes down the steps, her legs stiffening as she begins to float upwards. "Feel free to come again though, especially if you bring more money!"
How about that. So humans really can fly, at least if they're resourceful enough. You give this just a moment's thought before returning your gaze to Chen, who's still sprawled out on the ground and rubbing her legs with both hands. She's hiked her bloomers up some so she can massage her thighs, and doesn't really seem to notice that you're still around.
[ ] Stay a while and let Chen rest. [ ] Stay a while and offer to massage her legs. [ ] Lift her onto your back and head out for the village. [ ] Leave her behind and head out for the village.
You'd love nothing more than to hang around here letting this girl rest, maybe while you're tenderly massaging her legs and occasionally getting an excited gasp out of her as you brush your hands against her thighs. That's not happening though, since first of all she isn't that beautiful woman who comes through every day, and second, you've got daylight slipping away from you. It's about time to head back to work, though you imagine she'd be more than useful as an excuse for why you're so late getting back.
While she's still rubbing her thighs, you're busy sneaking up behind her. With one swift motion you lift her off of the ground and onto your back, where she starts shouting her protests.
"Wha- hey, what're you doing?" Chen wobbles as you try to center her on your back, your hands searching for a place to hold onto.
"I've gotta get back to work, and I'm not about to just leave a girl alone in a place like this." You might, actually, if she could handle herself. Also if she wasn't a convenient excuse for why you've been gone for so long.
Your hands continue searching for a handhold as Chen struggle, and after a bit of trial and error you find one. They're warm, soft, and as you grab them Chen yelps.
"Wh-why're you grabbing my thighs?" Your hands caress her soft skin as she speaks, trying to find the best way to hold her comfortably. "They're still sore, you jerk! If you're gonna carry me can't you do it some other way?"
That's not a bad idea, actually. You shift your hands back some more and bring them together underneath her butt, using the palms of your hands as a seat for her. She jumps again, nearly tipping you over.
"I didn't mean my butt, what the hell?"
"It's not like I have a better choice. So are we ready, or are you gonna keep whining?"
Chen's arms tighten around you. She brings her chest in close and presses it against your back, and her face comes up far enough that you can see her in the corner of your vision. She looks far less than pleased, predictably.
"Fine, let's go."
"That's the way!"
You walk down the shrine's steps with Chen clinging to you the whole time. She's about your size, so it's not like you're carrying a little sister or something else cute. If anything it's kind of embarrassing, and you start to hope nobody important sees you like this.
A quick glance up at Chen's ears reminds you of something important. You focus your attention on yourself, quickly making your ears and tail vanish from view. Chen sees this and actually smiles, her eyes lighting up once again.
"Oh, I can do that too!" She removes her hat and shoves it into a pocket, pulling an odd leaf out in its place. After applying it and waiting a few seconds, she's managed to hide her youkai features just as well as you. Huh, last you heard that wasn't really a nekomata sorta thing to do.
"Impressed?" She grins slyly, her arms coming back to their resting place around your shoulders and chest. "I borrowed it from a nice lady the other day. She said with it I could pretend to be a human!"
"Yeah, seems like it works."
You aren't really impressed, honestly. Borrowing tricks from another youkai is fine and all for low tier weaklings, but for a cat spirit like her it shouldn't be anything to brag about. It makes your job easier, though, since your boss would be a lot more ready to welcome a human girl than some stray youkai.
Chen looks ahead thoughtfully, her gaze becoming distant. You try to focus on where you're walking, but, as much as you hate to admit it, this silly girl's commanding your attention right now. It's just as well, though. You travel paths like these so often that they all just start blending together, and you'd much rather focus on some good company than a boring road.
"Hey." Chen glances towards you, her eyes burning with intensity. "Why do you keep treating me like a kid? I told you earlier that we're about the same age, so why?"
[ ] Tell her she's fun to tease. [ ] Tell her she's cute like a kid. [ ] Tell her it's your natural big brother instincts kicking in.
Sorry if the update seems lacking. I've been feeling under the weather, but I'm gonna keep at it and not drop out of the contest.
She has a point. Why do you keep treating her like a kid when she's about as old as you are? To answer such a question you have to look inward and consider your own character, which is exactly what you do.
"Hmm..." You'd rub your chin, but your hands are busy acting as a seat for your traveling buddy. "I guess you could call it something like big brother instincts?"
Chen's quiet for a moment. She simply looks at you with some oddly vacant expression, her lips quivering like she's on the edge of saying something but not yet fully committed to putting it out there yet.
"Oh." She breaks the silence with one word, then pushes her weight forward. "So I'm immature like a little sister?"
"Uh, no. No way!" She is pretty immature, but only about as much as you. "It's normal for youkai our age to act like we do. When I say big brother instincts, I mean that..."
You stop for a second. What does that really mean, anyway? If you have to give an answer, you'd say it mostly just means that you wanna look out for weaker youkai. Though only if they're cute or entertaining enough, and you guess Chen's got those qualities.
"I mean that I like to tease other youkai who seem a little younger than me. And maybe help them out, I guess."
She continues pressing her weight into you, making it so you have to lean back a little to counteract the shift in balance. While she may be cute like a little sister, you can't help but notice that she has some assets like an older sister. Namely the ones she's pressing into your back. You try your best to not think impure thoughts about your under junior. It'd be unbecoming of a noble fox spirit to lust after someone he sees as a cute little sister, after all!
The two of you continue in silence for a while longer, Chen seemingly no longer interested in talking. She spends most of the walk pouting and looking away from you when you try to glance at her, much to your dismay. You're not sure how, but you must've said something wrong to her at some point. Maybe.
You try to distract yourself by observing your surroundings, but they honestly aren't much to look at. Boring old trees line the road, and some dumb sticks lay at the edge of the path. A few are broken because they aren't nearly as tough as you are, and most of them are leafless and faded since they can't respect their own beauty like you do yours.
Trees are stupid and you're smart. Brawn, beauty, brains. The holy trifecta that's always in your grasp, which all the objects of this world are unfortunate enough to be compared to. You take a deep breath and take a moment to consider just how wonderful you truly are.
It isn't long before you draw close to the village, though you can tell by the position of the sun that you've goofed off until past noon already. Chen remains silent as you walk towards your boss's shop, occasionally shifting her weight to mess with you.
[ ] Leave Chen outside as you confront your boss. [ ] Carry Chen inside and introduce her to your boss. [ ] Carry Chen inside but try not to make a big deal about it.
Updates may be a bit shorter until I feel better. Please bare with me.
One question lingers on your mind as you approach the store. How can you best use Chen as an excuse for showing up late, while not making it incredibly obvious that's what you're doing? You're pretty clever, but this is a challenge, even for you.
Deciding on a method, you push the door open with one foot and step into the store. The old man lifts his gaze from the table he's sat at so he can stare you down the moment you enter. You return his gaze and smile as innocently as you can as you shuffle to the side and lower Chen into a nearby chair.
Silence fills the room as you step away from Chen, making sure to never stand between her and the owner while also making sure to not motion towards her in anyway. He looks past you a few times, probably making eye contact with her as you approach him.
"So, picking up girls are ya, kid?" He inflates a little, chuckling. "What happened, did you find some poor girl with her legs broken about to be set upon by wild youkai?"
"Pick me up?" Chen starts, and as you turn to look at her you can see that she's frowning. "He carried me, but I'm not his new girlfriend or something!"
...What the hell is she talking about? You aren't sure where she thought anyone called her your girlfriend, or why she would think about that in the first place. Whatever the case, it's your duty to clear up weird misunderstandings like these.
"Haha, don't pay her any mind!" You wave your hands in front of you dismissively, donning the best pokerface you possibly can. "She sprained her ankle on the road to that rundown shrine, so I carried her back to the village is all!"
You glance back to Chen, who rolls her eyes. You glare at her and she smiles, suddenly giving you the smuggest look she can possibly manage.
"I only sprained my ankle because some mean kid tried to flirt with me and accidentally knocked me over." She shrugs, her smile downplayed but still apparent. "What kind of person tries to flirt with sudden dancing?"
What the hell? You would never break the ice that way! If it were you, you'd pick a girl up in your arms and carry her bridal style while walking into the sunset, your hair blowing in the wind as nature itself parts before you to give you passage to-
Wait, it's important to not let her get the best of you here. Lying is kind of like pranking someone, though far less respectable. Nonetheless, you aren't about to let a silly cat youkai get your goat!
[ ] Say that Chen had no rhythm so she couldn't keep up with you. [ ] Say that you weren't dancing, you were trying to keep her from tripping over a rock. [ ] Say that she mistook your brilliant running technique for a beautiful dance routine.
You'd weigh your options here, but the only true solution is to go along with the lie and escalate it.
"I wouldn't call my amazing trail blazing dance flirting, but I'm still flattered you liked it so much!" With one hand held pretentiously over your heart and the other raised by your side, you can't help but grin. "You shouldn't have tried to join in, though. With so little rhythm, it's no wonder you didn't hurt more than just your legs!"
"Wh-what?" Chen looks taken aback. Perfect. "What do you mean, no rhythm? I can out-dance you, just watch!"
She hops to her feet as she starts an aggressive dance routine, but she's fallen back to her chair in no time. It kind of scares you just how badly that Reimu girl hurt Chen's legs, though a part of you is also very impressed. Well done, silly red-and-white outfit miko, well done.
"Alright, alright. Don't hurt yourself, little lady." Your boss stands up with his hands on his hips, his chest still puffed out as far as he can manage. "Just rest here a moment. I'm sure that, once you've got your feet back, my heroic lil' janitor will gladly take you home."
Urgh, not good. The whole point of her coming with you was so you could get back here, not so you could get lost in whatever place she was in before. Chen merely grins at this announcement, leering at you as if she just won something. Brat.
"So, Yonosuke." The old man grabs your trusty broom off the wall and tosses it at you. You catch it with ease. "There's been a lotta dirty boots through the store in your absence. You know what to do."
The boss man turns and retreats to his back room, leaving you and Chen alone in the main area of the store. You're quick to get busy with the broom, scooting piles of dirt and debris away from the walls and over towards the door. Chen watches you as you do all this, that stupid smug grin still largely apparent on her face.
You turn to face her, a little annoyed to have someone constantly watching you work. It wouldn't be as bad if she was merely admiring how handsome you were, but when you know she's just getting some perverse joy out of seeing you suffer... It's just not the same at all.
"I thought you had no name, Yonosuke?" She tilts her head to the side, her dumb smile getting toothier by the second. "At least, that's what you told me before."
"Ugh, okay. I lied." You lean in closer to her, making sure your boss won't hear anything you say. "I lied to the old man, that is. I made that name up when I was asking if I could work here."
She tilts her head to the other side, her soft brown bangs swaying as she does. She pulls on your sleeve, craning her neck at the same time so she can get right up to your ear.
"I think it sounds cute."
You reel back in disgust, quickly putting distance between the two of you. Cute? Really? It may not even be your name, but to think she'd insult you by saying it was cute rather than handsome or manly! It's like a slap across your face, stinging your cheeks with the harsh words of a rude cat girl.
She lowers her ears, smiling meekly.
"What, do you really hate me that much?" You aren't sure how to answer, so you merely shake your head as a reply. Negative. "Well, that's good. I guess."
For a moment you freeze up, realizing something was very wrong with what you just observed. You're a youkai. You're in a village full of humans, and your boss is also a human. You and this girl are both supposed to be masquerading as humans, so as to not incite a mob.
This girl just lowered her ears, though. Her very much non-human ears, which shouldn't even be visible right now.
[ ] Whisper to Chen that her youkai shame is showing. [ ] Pull on her ears to clue her in. [ ] Check to make sure yours aren't showing as well.
Feeling panicked, you quickly move towards a nearby display mirror and start to check yourself over. Your ears surfaced, though the rest of your youkai traits have thankfully remained hidden. You take a few breaths to calm yourself and prepare to flatten your ears, but you're cut short by an image of beauty.
That image being yours reflected in the mirror, of course. Your short, blonde hair has a playfully messy look that you love, and the dark fur at the tips of your ears has grown out nicely. Your hair aside, your face is still as manly and rugged as you remember. Even someone as old as the geezer can't compare with your macho appeal, and you find some real pride in that fact. It's not always easy being the ultimate image of manliness, but the gods had to choose someone for the role. And that someone is obviously you.
Realization hits you like a brick, and you're quick to stop admiring yourself for just one moment so that you can once again hide your ears. With those tucked away you take another moment to admire your attire. It's a simple hakama, but it really does suit you. The plain design does an amazing job of illustrating just how easy going you are, while having a little more substance than other villagers hakama. That little bit extra is a clever hint at just how clever you are! Gods, you're just great and you can't stop reminding yourself of that wonderful fact.
Content with that short break for self-admiration, you turn your attention back to Chen. She's looking around nervously while running her fingers along the edges of her ears, her eyes shaking as she meets your gaze. You can see the desperation in her eyes, and decide to act before she can say a word. After approaching her you place your hands on her ears, focusing as hard as you can while rubbing them down towards her head. Within moments they blend into her hair perfectly, once again giving her the appearance of a normal human girl.
Well, mostly normal. She's still wearing an extremely showy outfit, though those village girls have taken to wearing similarly flashy outfits since some mansion appeared in the area years back. It's nice that odd occurrences like those can ultimately make life easier for youkai, especially when they're infiltrating human society.
"Uh?" Chen reaches up to feel her head, placing her hands over your own. "They're gone?"
You nod, still absentmindedly stroking the place where Chen's ears where. Her hair's actually soft and silky, and stroking it feels kind of like petting a cat. You could get addicted to this, honestly.
A moment passes in silence as you pet Chen's head, completely oblivious to her concerned stare. You eventually look back at her and make eye contact, forcing you to let go of her head and take a step back.
"...What was that about?"
"Ah, sorry." You fold your arms, doing your best to regain any composure. "For a second I thought I was petting a cat and got lost in my actions."
Chen opens her mouth as if she was going to say something, but she seems to decide against it. She looks confused as you take up your broom and get back to sweeping, and whenever you look back to her she looks more and more confused.
Your boss returns shortly after you finish sweeping, his hands on his hips again. He walks to the door and peeks outside before turning his attention to you and Chen.
"Well, hum." He strokes his chin thoughtfully as he looks at you, and after a few seconds spent that way he grins. "I think I got the shop handled, so why not take your lil' friend home? Maybe help 'er family with a chore or two and let them know who you're working for."
You groan. You're fine sweeping and lifting heavy objects, but you aren't too thrilled about the idea of taking Chen back to her home. You could probably claim you helped with chores if it takes you a long time to get back, though you could also potentially just come back tomorrow.
The geezer pats your back, gesturing out towards the village street.
"Daylight's wasting, Yonosuke."
[ ] Carry Chen like you did before. [ ] Carry Chen over one shoulder. [ ] Do a fireman carry. (Fireman? What's that?) [ ] Try to weasel your way out of it.
Well, might as well do as he says. You approach Chen and turn around, holding your arms out invitingly behind you. A few seconds pass before you turn to look at her, finding that she's just glaring at you in silence. Not one to draw things like this out, you settle for backing up into her and getting a firm grip of her butt with no help from her whatsoever.
"H-h-hey! Not this again!"
You maneuver your fingers to push her dress up between her butt and your palms. It wouldn't be very brotherly to caress a younger girl's behind, now would it? Even if it is soft and warm. You take a firm hold of your two handfuls of cat girl butt and stand up, pulling Chen towards your back. Something fuzzy brushes past your hand and, realizing it's one of her tails, you're quick to use your tricks to hide those as well. Which involves a lot of rubbing in and around where the tails are and soon won't be. Chen takes this in silence, probably realizing that you're doing her a favor.
Your boss watches this whole process in silence, thankfully not getting any chance to see the girl's tails.
"Wow, kid." He folds his arms and shakes his head, a dumbfounded look on his face. "In my day we carried girls like brides and took them to the festival, but your generation skips straight to buttplay, huh?"
"What? It's not like that!" Chen leans forward, once again pressing her more feminine assets against your back as she berates your boss.
"My legs hurt, so he just found something else to grab onto! He just..." She stops for a moment, and from the corner of your vision you can see her face light up. "Did you say you carried them 'like brides'?"
Welp, not having any of that! You move past your boss before he can answer, carrying a protesting Chen out of the store and towards the edge of the village. She tries to turn back to talk to him, but you're not about to let her waste your time on something as silly as how some old guy carried girls.
It's not long before the two of you are back on the trail, the last sights of the village long behind you. You let your ears and tail free, and do the same for Chen. When you're far enough from the village you don't really worry much at all about appearing human. It's not like you'll run into one of those villagers this far out, will you?
"Hey." Chen speaks up, learning her head forward so you can see her in the edge of your vision. "Why don't you carry me like he was talking about? It'd be a lot less embarrassing than being carried like this."
"For you, maybe."
You'd hate to imagine running into that beautiful older fox woman while carrying a cat spirit like a bride. She may get the wrong idea, and then congratulate you on a new bride or something else awful like that! No, for the sake of your future love life you must carry Chen this way, even if it means you have to hold onto her butt for a couple hours while you walk.
That said, you are getting a little tired from all this carrying her back and forth, and you could do for a rest. No sooner than you think that does the steps to that shrine from before reappear in your vision, reminding you of the tea and oranges you had earlier. For the amount of money you donated, that really wasn't an appropriate thanks. Something like meat buns and a warm place to take a nap would be more appropriate, maybe even napping somewhere like on the shrine maiden's la-
No! You're not about to let yourself be distracted by a cute bratty cat girl, let alone an oddly attractive human girl! You steel yourself to not indulge in any such worldly pleasures as you near the shrine steps, considering your next move.
[ ] See if Reimu is back and, if she is, demand more snacks. [ ] See if Reimu is back and, if she is, donate for more snacks. [ ] See if Reimu is back and, if she is, demand more snacks and a nice place to nap. [ ] Ignore the shrine and return Chen to her home.
Well, no sense in letting yourself be tempted. You walk past the steps up to the shrine, trying your best not to think of oranges and meatbuns you might've been able to extort from the shrine maiden. It's best not to dwell on those things, though you are getting kinda hungry.
Pushing those thoughts to the side, you continue down the trail and into the forest. You aren't really sure where that place you were before was, but how hard could it be to find it?
As it turns out, extremely hard. It isn't long before you start to lose yourself in the trees, with no sign of that place to be found. It's just as you're about to give up that you stumble upon it, much to your surprise.
Chen motions towards one of the little houses, and you follow her lead to drop her off inside the house. Something about it seems pretty familiar to you, though it isn't until you notice the big strange box that you realize just what it is.
Is that master she was talking about that beautiful older fox woman? You start sweating as you consider the possibilities, thanking your past self for being as nice as you were to Chen.
[ ] Ask her about her master. [ ] Leave the subject alone for the time being.
Sorry for the insanely short update. I don't wanna drop out of the contest, but I'm not feeling that well right now. Assuming I've recovered by tomorrow the next update should have more substance.
"Ahaha, so this is where you live?" You glance around the little home, realizing just how important this girl must now be to your love life. "So uh, that master of yours. You mentioned her earlier today, what's she like?"
Chen narrows her eyes at your question, looking more than a little annoyed.
She rolls herself over and walks over to the strange bo- Wait a second she can walk just fine! You're a little annoyed she had you carry her if she could move around okay, but you're not about to change the topic when you're this close to making a breakthrough.
"Funny story, I came to this place earlier today to help an older fox woman carry that strange box!" You grin, gesturing out with open palms. Chen smirks and presses a button on the box, turning it on.
"That was her, then." She fiddles with some odd rectangular device, making the box show different variations of a snowy landscape. For some reason it hisses while displaying the image. "So what, did you want me to tell you all about her and how she's so great?"
You try your best to not nod too eagerly.
"Weeell-" She makes the weird box display a blank screen, then with the press of another button makes it go silent and imageless. "I guess I'll bite. She's really smart, really pretty, and really strong."
You stand there waiting for Chen to continue, but she doesn't. She reveals a comb she had been keeping somewhere and begins to brush her tails, avoiding any eye contact with you as she does so. The two of you continue to stand there in silence for some time before she looks at you expectantly.
"...So, anything else about her?" You grasp at the air with your upturned palms, trying to put the best pleading look on your face. "Her name, her age, hobbies?"
"What, do you plan on trying to romance her or something?"
[x] Yes. -[x] Beg and plead if she's not forthcoming.
If Chen's not at least our bro, we're right fucked. That's why we go at it with so much audacity that she either decides to help on a whim or is so impressed by our thick-headedness honesty that she respects us. Either way, there's no possible way this could fail, right?
"Y...Yes!" You clench your fists with manly determination bubbling in your blood. You must be honest with yourself, and also with everyone around you! Especially if they have any influence on that lovely fox woman. "Absolutely!"
"Oh." Chen stares at you for a moment, her expressing deflating. She quickly perks back up to a grin, though it isn't quite the same grin she wore earlier in the day. "Oh! Well uh, I've got news for you!"
You nod your head, excited to hear what she has to say. The mere thought that she could somehow help you get closer to that image of perfection who graces your life with a few fleeting moments of her beauty everyday fills you with determination.
"As her precious shik- er, student- I'm very close to her." Chen walks over to the strange box again and rests one arm on it, gesturing to it with her other hand. "See this thing she had you bring here for me? A present for her most favorite student in the whole world."
So that's what's going on here. That radiant fox woman's taken Chen under her wing, probably hoping to mold her into a fine lady like herself. You have your doubts that Chen could ever hope to reach such heights of perfection and grace, but with such an amazing woman as her teacher... She might have a chance. What's more important, though, is the knowledge that the lovely fox woman likes to teach! Good teachers are intelligent, patient, kind, and all in all you think they're the best kind of people to give this world even a moment of their time. You didn't think that a few minutes ago, but if that wonderful lady's a teacher then it must be true!
"So, what about her hobbies? Does she like pranks?" You shake your head. "She's probably too mature for pranks. Hanafuda? Reversi? That thing those foreign people play?"
"Chess?" Chen crosses her arms and smiles proudly, her tails moving wildly behind her as she beams at you. "She's a master of all games, and some day I will be too!"
"Yeah yeah, that's great." You wave your hand dismissively, causing Chen to shrink back a little. "What about her name? It must be something like a goddess's name or something, right?"
Chen runs a finger up-and-down her cheek for a moment, doing her absolute best to maintain a smile. For some reason she doesn't seem too excited to share this information with you.
"Her name's, uh, Ran. Yakumo Ran."
You clench your fists and pump one in the air! Ran's a beautiful name for a beautiful woman who you plan to marry one beautiful day! Everything is beautiful.
"Ahaha, you're real excited to know about her, huh?"
You nod once more, for once totally earnest in your emotions.
"Well, uh." Chen coughs into her hand and perks up, propping her leg up on a box as she speaks to you. "Very well! If you wish to know more about the great Yakumo Ran and hope to some day be her husband, you'll have to study under me just as I study under her!"
[ ] Agree. [ ] Refuse.
I'm starting to feel better, so I think I should be returning to lengthier updates soon. Thank you for pardoning my mess.
Chen stops in place and stares at you, an unsure smile saying everything you need to know about her current mental state. You can read this silly girl like a book, and you love it.
"Really? Just a yes, that easily?"
"Sure, why not?" You shrug your shoulders and move closer to her, ultimately getting down on your knees as you perform a grandiose bow. "I'm in your care, master Chen."
That one word you peppered in there seems to get a real reaction out of her. Merely hearing the word master said before her name makes her eyes light up as the hairs on her tail stand on end, making her look incredibly poofy. She's quick to take a hold of her tails and pet them back down, however, and in no time she's returned them to their usual slick state. She breaths in and out a few times before puffing her chest out proudly.
"Very well! I, your lovely and kind master Chen will take pity upon you, oh poor and lovesick Yonosuke!"
"My name's not Yonosuke."
"You need a name so I'm sticking with it!"
She holds a hand up as she says that, smirking as she looks down at you with only one eye open. She's really enjoying this, and you guess you're kind of glad for her. You did bring this on yourself, you guess.
"So, um." She's quick to drop her teacher pose as she begins looking around the room, her hands moving shakily as she digs through various boxes and piles of various items. "That said, uh, there's a procedure that has to be done!"
"What kind of procedure?"
"Well, you see..." She trails off as sweat forms on her brow. She doesn't look too sure of herself. "Uh, it's a ceremony! Me and my master did it, so as your teacher I'll do the same for you!"
She doesn't seem to find what she's looking for, so she instead grabs blankets. Lots and lots of blankets. Along with the sheets she grabs a large amount of cords washcloths, and she then runs off to another building to search for more supplies. You aren't sure, but it looks like she might be planning for you to stay the night rather than do some kind of training or ceremony. At least, you can't think of any ceremonies that use heaps and heaps of blankets and washcloths. Whatever ceremony that would use those must be very messy, though it does intrigue you.
Chen continues to zip around the premises, going from abandoned shack to abandoned shack as she tries to either find more ceremony supplies or blankets for you to sleep in. You aren't entirely sure what she's doing anymore. You do notice the stray cats that've reappeared in the area, and how they're still trying to act like you can't see them. Something about such clumsy, dishonest animals really baffles and slightly irritates you.
[ ] Chase the stray cats away. [ ] Try to help Chen find what she's looking for. [ ] Ask Chen if she has any snacks.
Welp, enough about dumb stray cats. You can ignore them for the time being, though you can't ignore dumb cat girls forever. Chen's still darting around from building to building desperately, trying her best to gather what seems like random crap together. Is she preparing to move or something? You thought she was wanting to do a ceremony, but with all the strange things she's gathered together you're really starting to have your doubts.
Maybe it's best to just ask her. You slowly approach her as she digs through a pile of small fake cats and dangerous looking boxes, ready to do your best to help your little friend and teacher. Before you can say a word she's turned around, a crazed look in her eyes as she holds a box with a circular grid pattern in front of herself.
"Ah, perfect!" She shoves the box into your hands and points towards the main house, which you suppose you'll call her base of operations. "Your training starts now! Take this back there, then go find me some black cords with metal bits on the ends. Oh, and while you're at it I'll need more boxes like that. Also, needles."
Your skin crawls at the mere mention of needles. Something about them and how they tear into skin frightens you, even if you regenerate quicker than humans can. You silently heed her orders and return to the main house with the dumb box, setting it on the strange box from earlier. You aren't entirely sure where to find what she asked for, but you have an idea who might.
The annoying stray cats from earlier are still watching you intently, their huge eyes sparkling with curiosity. You were content to just ignore the dumb things, but if they're her friends then they might be able to lend you a hand here. Or, well, a paw. Whatever they can lend, you want it.
[ ] Enlist help from the following cats: (Max 3) -[ ] A happy tabby who's busy licking its taint. -[ ] A cream colored cat that's trying to wear a human hat. -[ ] A zebra pattern feline who's busy chasing its tail. -[ ] A poofy white cat whose head and limbs look way too small for its tremendous body. -[ ] A cat with a squashed face that's plopped down in a box. -[ ] Another cat in a box, this one's gray. -[ ] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...? -[ ] Some asshole cat that won't stop pointing its butt at you.
Was a little busy today, so I had to cut things short. On the bright side, you get to choose a party of cats to herd! It's a terrible idea and an impossible chore, but have at it?
[X] Enlist help from the following cats: (Max 3) -[ ] A zebra pattern feline who's busy chasing its tail. -[ ] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...? -[ ] Some asshole cat that won't stop pointing its butt at you.
[x] Enlist help from the following cats: (Max 3) -[x] A cream colored cat that's trying to wear a human hat. -[x] A zebra pattern feline who's busy chasing its tail. -[x] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...?
[X] Enlist help from the following cats: (Max 3) -[X] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...? -[X] Another cat in a box, this one's gray. -[X] A cream colored cat that's trying to wear a human hat.
[x] Enlist help from the following cats: -[x] A cream colored cat that's trying to wear a human hat. -[x] A zebra pattern feline who's busy chasing its tail. -[x] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...?
[x] Enlist help from the following cats: (Max 3) -[x] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...? -[x] Another cat in a box, this one's gray. -[x] A cream colored cat that's trying to wear a human hat.
[x] Enlist help from the following cats: (Max 3) -[x] A twin tailed cat with ribbons on its ears...? -[x] Another cat in a box, this one's gray. -[x] A cream colored cat that's trying to wear a human hat.
You spy three go-getters among the swarm of dumb cats trying to hide in the trees and bushes. One's found a comfy box to lounge in, another's attempting to make a human hat stay on its head, and the last of the three is a smug looking black cat with a forked tail. That last one seems especially useful to you, considering it could potentially be a cat spirit.
You make eye contact with each one in turn, then motion for them to come over. They all turn up their noses at you and look the other way, so you decide to get to your knees and rub your fingers together while making clicking sounds with your tongue. They instantly perk up and, albeit slowly, make their way over to you.
"Alright." You eye your new cadets with a little doubt, but you're hoping they turn out to be useful in spite of their natural assholish inclinations. "So, your boss is now my teacher and she needs some help finding some ceremonial supplies. Are any of you able to help?"
"She's no boss of mine." The twintailed cat speaks up, surprisingly. Is it a surprise? You feel kind of taken back by it, but for some reason you feel like it's expected for her to speak. Weird. "That's just a silly kid who wastes time pretending to be a mayor over some cats."
"Oh, uh, well then." The fork tailed cat's a go-getter, you think, but she also sounds kinda mean. Best to keep an eye on this one. "Can you at least do me a favor? She said she needed some black cords and weird boxes like the one I brought over here. Any idea where those're at?"
The twintailed cat looks at you blankly. You can't tell if she's trying to convey some emotion to you, but she's doing a phenomenal job of making a really stupid cat face. You'd congratulate her on her efforts, but she'd probably get pissed off. Being a smart aleck isn't easy.
The hat wearing cat steps up, its cream coat shining in the sunlight.
"Mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew!!!"
Wait, that doesn't make sense. It makes sense to you, but to an outside observer they might want to actually hear what this non-Japanese speaking cat might have to say. As a favor to any mind readers or thought-based lifeforms that may be peering into your mind, you decide to translate the silly animal's words in your head.
"Fishing later wanna join! Chen put cables in house over there! Get it for you if you fish me! Bye!"
With that the simple creature takes off, a gleam in its eyes as it nearly flies to another house nearby. The final cat is a little less helpful than these other two, as it's decided to pull its box over to the house and go back to resting inside of it rather than help you out. The cat who's actually capable of speech is still looking at you with the same dumb look it had before. You figure it must be pissed off, considering it's too intelligent to just be mindlessly watching you like some other jerks in the distance.
"Can I help you?"
"I can help you, you dumb fox." The cat sits down and puffs out its chest. "That girl's not gonna help you. She just wants status, so she's gonna make you a shikigami."
Shikigami... If you remember correctly, those are assistants employed by priests and other such weird people. The main ones you've seen were little paper dolls, though you know a lot of things can become a shikigami with the right conditions. With that knowledge in mind, you aren't really sure why it'd matter if Chen made you into one.
"Why's that matter? Something bad about being a shikigami?"
The cat narrows its eyes, and this time you can tell that it's really pissed. Its mouth hangs slightly open when it's not speaking as its tails flail behind it.
"It means something very bad. You'll be a servant to some stupid half-baked nekomata, and she'll probably drag you around to show off how she dominated a more powerful youkai than her. If ya know what's good for you, you'd back out of this place and look for help elsewhere."
Being used by someone else for the sake of fame and recognition... What a monster! If what this silly twin tailed cat says is true, then you really may not want to go along with Chen's training after all. At the same time, it seems like this cat has some kind of issue with Chen. With that in mind, she may just be lying to you to make you push your only hope of romancing that lovely Ran woman away. What a monster.
The mewling hatted cat returns from its run, dragging large black cords in its mouth as it approaches. If you were a jumpy human then you'd probably think it was carrying snakes, but instead it's all the supplies Chen was looking for. It moves the supplies into the small house and drops them off, turning to look at you proudly as it adjusts its hat with one paw. Well done, cat in the hat, well done.
[ ] Warn Chen about the rebellious twin tailed cat. [ ] Ask the twin tailed cat more about Chen and her master. [ ] Send the diligent cats off to gather more supplies.
The silly hatted cat speaks up before you have a chance to do or say anything. Its tail moves curiously as it watches you, its proud demeanor still intact. You admire its passion, but you aren't about to go look for a fish to feed this thing when you haven't even finished talking to the suspicious twin tailed cat.
"I'll get you one later. Just take it easy for now, okay?"
"Mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew mew!!!" "Not taking it easy! Hungry now! Hunt now teach you how!"
With that said it takes off into the woods, its tail raised high and its hat still trying to slip off. You figure it must be a younger cat with all that moxie it has, though it could just as easily be an older cat who hasn't lost its determination. You're no pro at inspecting cats, so you honestly have no idea. If it weren't for its floppy hat you might just mix it up with one of the other cats that roams the area.
Back to the matter at hand. The fork tailed cat still sits before you, though it's taken a break from staring at you. It's now busy cleaning itself, taking extra care to wipe off the bows by its ears while occasionally shooting a glance your way.
"So, uh. Whaddya know about Chen and her master, anyway? Do they usually go around trying to recruit strong youkai as their assistants?"
"Nothing like that." The dark cat stops grooming itself as it continues talking, smiling at you the way cats perpetually do. "I already explained that brat, but her master probably doesn't know a lower ranking youkai like you even exists. She's too busy doing her master's work."
So many masters. Chen wants you to be your master, and by doing so will try to get you together with her master. On top of that, her master has a master that orders her around or something? You wonder just how far the master chain goes, and for a second you imagine being the servant of a servant of many servants of a god. The idea does appeal to you, somewhat. Anything close to divinity is amazing, though your beautiful Ran is pretty far up there with her nine tails. Maybe some day you'd be willing to serve a god, but for now you'd rather just marry one. Wait, where was this train of thought going?
"Her master sends her all over, or so I hear. Talking to important people, observing important locations, maintaining the status quo." The black cat begins grooming its hind legs as it talks. Thankfully it covers its shame with its tail. "She's a real busybody, always getting in peoples' business. I'd steer clear of her if I were you.
You can't help but laugh at that. Clearly she's just an important person watching over other important people and doing some kind of important business! She's not only beautiful, but also vital to the world you live in. The whole package, amazing.
"No can do, blackie kitty." You sit on the ground and look at your conversational partner. She puts her ears back as you speak. "I'm gonna marry that lady some day, so I'll be steering as close to her as I possibly can."
"You're a real idiot. Good luck."
As soon as she's said that she turns and arcs her back, staring daggers at a fast approaching figure. The figure turns out to be Chen, who's quick to tackle the fork tailed cat and kick her up into a tree.
"Get outta here, you butt!" Chen gets to her feet as she yells at the cat, her tails huge and poofy behind her. "I told you before you aren't welcome in my village! Get lost!"
The black cat hisses at Chen as it darts off, still using a tail to cover its private regions. You aren't sure why you're trying to look at a cat's anus, but you appreciate its efforts to hide that place from your view.
Chen brushes off her shoulder while letting out a sigh. Her eyes are focused on the black cat retreating into the distance, but after a minute her attention shifts to you. She doesn't really look angry or anything, but she does look a little sad as she faces you.
"Hey, uh. What was that about?" She glances around as she speaks, only occasionally daring to look you in the eyes. You really don't get this girl. "That girl's kinda gossipy, y'know. Did she say anything about me?"
[ ] Ask Chen why she wants to make you her shikigami. [ ] Ask Chen if she actually believes you have a chance with Ran. [ ] Pretend you heard nothing of any importance, but avoid becoming a shikigami. [ ] Pretend you heard nothing of any importance, but allow yourself to become a shikigami.
"She said you wanna make me your servant and parade me around like some kinda trophy. Why would you wanna do that?"
Chen smiles. Not the kind of smile where you're happy to see someone, or even the kind of smile where you're pretending to enjoy someone's company. This smile is all too familiar with you, from years of failed pranks that helped to shape you into the amazing man you are today. It's a smile you've felt on your own face many times before, which brings you pain just seeing it on display on someone else's face.
It's the smile of someone being called out on their bullshit.
"Um, she said I wanted to do that?" Her lips move in an almost artificial way as beads of sweat form on her brow. "Why would I do something like that? Tricking humans is one thing, but I'd never try to fool a fox spirit, ri-"
"Listen." You cut her off mid sentence and lead her over to the house she seems to occupy, which is where the two of you ultimately have a seat. "I understand wanting to be powerful, but I'm not the kinda guy to go along with lies and power through the bullshit. I'd like it a lot better if you were just honest with me."
Her forced smile fades while her ears droop, and all you're left with is the image of a sad, remorseful cat girl.
"I don't know, it just seemed like a good idea to me."
You wait for her to continue, much to her disdain. She glances away from you and off into the sky a few times while trying to avoid the conversation, but your unrelenting stare is enough to wear her down.
"I just know powerful youkai have shikigami, and I thought maybe it'd be a way for us to help each other out. Y'know?"
You analyze her face with all the cold, calculating power an amazing fox spirit like yourself can manage. Her eyes are pleading, her lip is quivering, and the small grin she sports seems appropriate for someone who's admitting defeat. She doesn't seem old enough to be that great a trickster, and if she is then such an amazing act would honestly impress you. You'd have to question why she wouldn't put that kind of effort into making you her shikigami, though.
"Alright, I believe you." Her ears perk up slightly as you say those words, but you're quick to give her a new reason to be sad. "I'm not gonna become your shikigami, though."
This time it's your turn to see those urging eyes. The look she gives you begs for you to continue speaking, and you can't help but savor the honesty she's wearing on her face. It may not be that often you see such a sight, after all.
"At least, not until you prove yourself as a master. If your training helps me win over your master, then I'd be fine becoming your shikigami."
"Oh." She seems to deflate once again, smiling sadly as she looks at her hands. "I guess that's fair, yeah. Trading your services for mine, right?"
You nod. She seems to understand your proposed deal, but she doesn't look very happy about it.
"Well, um." She perks up a little as she offers you a short bow. "I look forward to working with you, fox youkai."
You return her bow.
Yet again you find yourself in a moment of extended silence. Chen makes herself busy by looking at the strays that litter the forest around you, probably counting them as some sort of thing to focus on. You feel kind of bad taking control of this deal the way you have, though you can't help but think her reaction's odd for a simple failure to make a shikigami. It's not that big a deal in your mind, and if it were you you'd just move on to the next gullible youkai you could force to be your servant.
Her distant gaze is really starting to bother you, and your thoughts start to focus on it rather than the shikigami situation. The day's been growing longer and longer, and by now the moon's barley visible in the sky. There's a fair bit of sunlight left to work with, though you figure you can stay up through the moonlight as well if need be.
[ ] Suggest pranking some lesser youkai or humans to cheer Chen up. [ ] Suggest that you begin your training right now, at least so she can have something else to focus on. [ ] Suggest she herd the stray cats to take her mind off things.
That unconcerned stare of hers really is bothering you, as much as you hate to admit. You may have only met her today, but this silly brat's actually been growing on you. Not one to like seeing a girl down in the dumps, you come up with a quick solution for her apparent melancholy.
"Anyway, just sitting around here's boring." You rise to your feet as you speak. "What say we go mess with some dumb youkai, or maybe a wandering human?"
Her ears rise a little at your suggestion, but her overall demanor doesn't change. With her eyes averted she starts to speak, her voice nearly betraying her as she starts to speak excitedly before switching to a more slow and deliberate manner of speech.
Okay, you made up the bit about how she was speaking. You'd like to think she'd be super excited to go prank some unknowing shmuck, but she honestly doesn't seem very enthused. Her ears are still at attention, but you're left feeling unsure about whether you have her attention or if she just hears something interesting straight ahead of her.
Chen gets up and follows you out of the little house. The two of you venture into the woods once again, and you can't help but wonder just how many times today you may wind up returning Chen to her home. You're afraid this may become a recurring thing for the two of you.
The woods are as confusing as they are boring. You're far more interested in any signs of a potential pranking victim than you are in any irrelevant trees or bushes, though you ultimately feel concerned over your need to ignore the scenery. Are you actually really interested in the scenery but refuse to admit it? It is a mystery.
In any case, the woods are actually very boring. You come across the occasional snapped twig or smell of alcohol, but you don't really feel like you're getting anywhere by chasing the lingering smell. It's all over the place, as if someone had been walking around just spilling sake on plants as they went by. That, or the person you might smell is extremely intoxicated. Personally, you'd like to believe someone wouldn't waste good booze by spilling it all over some plants.
The smell gets stronger and stronger as you walk, and it's not long before Chen grabs your shoulder to hold you back.
"Hey." She whispers, getting closer to you. Her ears are twitching and her eyes are focused. Good, she's getting into it. "See that?"
It takes you a moment to realize just what it is you're supposed to be looking at. You were far too busy trying to look for someone walking around or flying along in a drunken daze. Where you should've been looking is the ground, where an intoxicated shrine maiden scoots along the ground lazily. Dirt covers part of her face and uniform, gathering in larger amounts as she continues flying on the ground. In fact, you aren't even sure if that qualifies as flying. Is it some kind of magically powered sliding? You aren't sure, but the potential answer fascinates you.
Reimu continues to scoot along the ground, apparently cut off from the world in her drunken stupor. You recall her mentioning someone named Marisa she was supposed to meet, though with her current state you're more inclined to believe that's the name of some bar or somebody who just supplies her with sake. The stench of binge drinking is powerful, though you eventually realize that such a condition makes for perfect pranking material. You glance towards Chen, whose excited eyes seem to suggest the same thing.
[ ] Turn her around and follow her back to where she came from. [ ] Suggest Chen switch clothes with her and then leave her in the "cat village". [ ] Have mercy on Reimu and take her home. -[ ] And then put her inside her donation box. -[ ] And then put her and the contents of her shrine on the roof. -[ ] No, really, give her a break. [ ] Leave Reimu alone and go find someone else to mess with. [ ] Something else silly and even more entertaining than your previous ideas. (Write-in)
Thoughts of putting her in her donation box enter your mind, and you can't help but grin at the idea of such a silly prank. Just imagining her making up in that box, confused and maybe with a few coins or bills resting on top of her... it's bliss. Something about a successful prank and a victim who's confused rather than angry just brings you so much joy. However...
The scene before you makes you want to just cut her a break, as much as you'd hate to admit it. You've lived through your fair share of drunken stupors, and the main thing that's stuck with you is just how irritated you were when you woke up and realized someone decided to mess with you in your weakened state. There was one time when a kind older youkai put you to bed with a cup of water within a few feet of you, and as you remember the painful morning that followed you can't help but wonder what that older youkai was thinking.
You know what you're thinking right now, though, and that's that you wanna be like that kind older youkai. You already pranked this girl today anyway, so it'd be bad form to kick her while she's down. That's what you tell yourself, at least. Gotta have some kind of excuse as to why you're being such a dumb softie.
"Nah, this won't do." You pat Chen on the shoulder as you survey your potential target. "We already got her once today, and she looks like she could use our help more than anything."
"But-" Chen starts, but she's quick to cut herself off. As she glances to her left you can tell what kind of thoughts and feelings are going through her head. They're probably the same ones you just had, or at least you figure they are. Chen's a smart enough girl, so it wouldn't be that surprising if she was only a minute behind a brilliant mind such as yours.
"Ugh, okay." She pouts as she moves towards the shrine maiden, seemingly not at all entertained by what has to be done. "I'm carrying her head, though. You can get her by her feet."
"Hmm? No, no need." You follow Chen and get low to the ground, scooping Reimu up by her shoulders and legs. With a swift motion you lift her up into a bridal carry. "Alright, let's go."
Chen sports a dumb look on her face as you walk, it being some strange mix of staring daggers and something else you don't recognize. Such a look tells you that you still have a lot to learn about this world.
It isn't until after half an hour or so that you give up, deciding to go ahead and ask her the question.
"Okay, I give. What's the weird look for?"
"Oh, nothing." Chen narrows her eyes as she speaks. "Just wondering why you did that for her and not for me is all."
Hmm, why did you decide to carry Reimu in such a way? If you're being honest then you'd probably say she seems like a maiden who must be carried gracefully, even if she is incredibly drunk while day light's still out. Chen would probably hate that answer though, so you decide to keep things classy.
"If she decides to puke while I'm carrying her, it'll land in front of me instead of on me."
Chen's response is to lightly grab Reimu's head and turn her towards you.
"Hey, cut it out! That's not funny!"
You shrug to get Reimu's head to roll back the other way, but Chen is quick to return her to her previous position. The two of you continue like this for a while, and you really start to enjoy the game despite saying it wasn't funny. It isn't until Reimu actually throws up that you realize how wrong playing a game like that with an actual sick person is. Thankfully she was facing the other way, and you're even more thankful that Chen was able to hop out of the way of the disgusting mess.
"Holy shi-" Chen's eyes meet yours as she cuts herself off, her cheeks blushing slightly. "Uh, I mean wow. She really had a lot stored up."
Nope no thank you no siree not gonna smell it not gonna think about it just keep moving and don't look back
Your thoughts begin to calm down as the two of you get some distance from the shrine maiden's mess. You decided to just leave it as is, since it'll probably be in nobody's way out in the middle of nowhere. That's what you thought, but shortly after the incident you find yourself on the path in front of the shrine. You walk up to the familiar location and take a look around, seeing that it's still as empty as it had been before. You push the shrine's doors open with your feet and carry Reimu over to a cushion. With some effort you set her down, taking care to not get any of the mess on her mouth on your lovely hakama.
Chen's quick to assist with a rag she found, using it to dab at Reimu's mouth and clean away the remaining sick. You decide it'd be best for you to take a load off as you sit on a free cushion. One of your arms comes to rest on the side of Reimu's kotatsu while the other stands straight, that hand resting against the floor. Maybe you can finally have a proper break and get something nice to eat, or perhaps get a nice nap in. You might even be able to-
"Oh!" Chen claps her hands, a twinkle in her eyes. "I just thought of a good challenge for your training!"
"Mm?" You look up, actually somewhat interested. "Whazzat?"
"You can prove your merit by taking care of our poor, sick shrine maiden!"
[ ] No. [ ] Hell no. [ ] There's no way in hell that's happening. [ ] You'd sooner clean a cow pasture. [ ] Or maybe sell yourself into slavery for that crazy bat lady by the lake. [ ] Being eaten by the dragon god would be better than that. [ ] There's just no way. [ ] Okay, fine.
No. You aren't about to take care of some sick shrine maiden you just met today just because the student of the woman you've been after wants you to "prove yourself". That's ridiculous.
There's no way in hell that'll even happen! To think a noble fox spirit like yourself would be tasked with caring for some dumb human is insulting, even if that dumb human is really pretty. There's no way you could lower yourself to that level. Reassuring her that she's going to be okay, petting her hair when she feels sick... The mere thought of doing such things with a human girl excitdisgusts you.
Chen stares at you intently as you think all this. She seems pretty set on making you take on this task, but you're afraid you'll have to let her down this one time. It's always a shame to disappoint the lesser youkai that look up to you, but-
"It's no problem, right?" Chen smiles smugly as she speaks. "A noble fox spirit should have no problem taking pity on lesser beings, wouldn't you say?"
You make a motion that suggests you're about to reply, but in the end you do nothing. She has a point, and it's one you were hoping she wouldn't say out loud. When it's out in the open like that it makes it all the harder to tell her no. In spite of that, however, you must remain vigilant. There's no way in hell this is happening. Hell no. Hell no!
"It's the sort of thing Ran might do, too." Chen's grin grows ever more smug as she speaks, damn her. "The Hakurei bloodline's important to Gensokyo, so she'd wanna make sure their last member doesn't drown in her own vomit."
"Okay, fine!" You toss your arms up as you admit defeat. "I'll do it."
"Yahoo!" Chen claps her hands together and smiles. "Well then, I'll leave you to it!"
She gets up and moves to leave, but you're quick to grab her by the ankle. She looks back at you, her ears down but no sign of anger or annoyance on her face.
"You're not leaving me just like that, are you?"
She moves her leg towards you and then quickly pulls it back to her, successfully breaking free of your grip. With a wink she's off, soaring through the air and most likely on her way back to that village of cats. You're left thinking about just how cheeky your new master is, and about how bad the shrine maiden's breath is. Even from five feet away you can still smell its powerful, bile-like aroma.
[ ] Rinse her mouth out. [ ] Don't rinse her mouth out.
[ ] Let her sleep. [ ] Wake her up. [ ] See if she has any good booze.
Sorry for the short update. Had a rough day at work, but I'll try to make tomorrow's update better to make up for it.
Might as well do something to help her out. You get up from your spot and look around for a bowl, and after a few minutes of riffling through Reimu's drawers you manage to find one. With the bowl in hand you take off for what you figure is the storage shed out back. With some effort you manage to push the door open, releasing some small bugs from it onto the world.
The interior of the shed seems fairly well maintained, though you'd never wanna live in it. Various tools that must see some use at the shrine are there, including what appears to be an ornate hoe. You aren't sure why a shrine would need something silly like that, but you're not about to challenge their practices. What's more important is that Reimu has some weird clear containers in here, and they're filled with the water you were searching for. You decide to just grab one of the containers and take it with you, although you had originally planned to just fill the bowl out here and then return to Reimu. The container has a handle on it, though, so you see no reason to not take it along.
You make your way back to the shrine, finding Reimu in the same spot but rolled over onto her face. You sit down beside her and, as gently as you can manage, flip her back to a proper laying position. She's still out cold, but at least she's not lazily floating away from the shrine or something else terrible like that.
With little effort you get the cap off of the strange clear container. You pour some water into the bowl you found and move to pour it into Reimu's mouth, but you hesitate. A brilliant observation hits you out of nowhere, and you can't help but find yourself being impressed at your own incredible forethought.
If you just pour it into her mouth she'll choke and die, right?
You can't be having any of that. The list of things wrong with you killing this particular girl is too long to list, but a few simple reasons include disappointing Chen, disappointing Ran, and taking the life of a lovely young maiden.
Did you say lovely young maiden? No, you meant a pretty young human girl. A cute human shrine maiden! An attractive... Forget it. For some reason you're unable to avoid thinking this silly human girl is pretty, even when she's in such a state. Something really must be wrong with you, considering how a girl like her is far below your level of divinity and, as a result, not at all worthy of your affection.
You try your best to clear those thoughts from your head as you tilt her head forward a bit. With one hand holding her cheeks and the other holding the bowl, you press the lip of the bowl against her lips and slowly let the water fill her mouth. With a swift motion you set the bowl down and lightly pinch her lips, making sure as little water as possible escapes from her mouth as you do so. You then massage her cheeks, doing your best to simulate the motions of someone swirling water in their mouth without being said person. It's kind of hard, but a genius like you is able to figure it out quickly enough.
Feeling confident in your water swirling abilities you pull her to the shrine's door, leaning her out of the building so the dirtied water falls from her mouth to the soil below. No sense getting the bowl filthy, especially since you'll need to do this at least one more time.
After two more rounds of this routine you come to a stop. Her breath doesn't smell nearly as bad as it had before, and you're confident that you didn't let any water go sliding down her wind pipe. You make a mental note to mention this whole ordeal to Chen, if for no other reason than because she might mention it to Ran at some point. No good deed goes unpunished, but if nobody else even knows the good deed happened then how will anybody important care?
You return Reimu to her previous position reclining on the floor of the shrine, once again using one of the leg pillows as a place to rest her head. You figure you might as well get a blanket or something over her, so with that in mind you return to riffling through her possessions.
It's then that you happen upon something wonderful. Okay, maybe not wonderful but definitely nice in a stressful situation such as this. You carefully remove the bottle of sake you found from its place between some sheets and pop it open, figuring she owes you a sip of this if nothing else.
You retrieve a cup from where you found the bowl earlier and pour yourself a little of her sake. A sweet aroma fills your nostrils, and after taking your first sip you realize just how sweet this concoction really is. It's not so sweet that it's obnoxious, but it's still enough to catch you off guard. Must be some kind of dessert beverage, you figure. You pour another cup and drink it as well. The drink's giving you a nice, warm feeling after only two small helpings, and you start to find yourself more interested in it than whatever you were doing before.
[ ] Go to town on that sake. [ ] Go to town on that sake. [ ] Go to town on that sake. [ ] Go to hell. [ ] Try taking it easy.
...That's no good. You set the cup down and try to clear your mind, doing your absolute best to focus on the task at hand. What's important is making sure Reimu makes a full recovery, not getting shitfaced on her booze. Even if it's great, you should really hold yourself back.
You quickly return the bottle to where you found it, doing your best to hide it deep inside the sheets so it'll be harder to find. While digging around you find some proper pillows, and after searching some more find everything you'd need to assemble a futon for her. You aren't too thrilled about having to do even more work, but if it's for the sake of your love life you'll tolerate it. That's what you tell yourself, at least, as you remove the shikibuton and kakebuton from their hiding place.
You struggle with the set for a while, trying your hardest to find somewhere in the small shrine you can set it up. The building's smaller than you thought, and you begin to wonder how anybody could stand to live in a place like this. This girl must be very cheap or very poor if she's content to continue living in these conditions.
Growing frustrated with the task, you decide to just move the kotatsu from the center of the room to one corner. It frees up a good bit of space, making it more than easy enough to set Reimu's futon up. You move to grab her and move her to the futon, but then realize something important. If you're here taking care of her you'll probably need to set up something for yourself, won't you?
With that in mind you return to where you found the parts of her futon, determined to find what you need to assemble your own comfortable spot to sleep. You're eventually able to find what you need, and after repeating your earlier actions manage to get a comfy futon set up for yourself. You're tempted to get in it now, but you figure you should wait and make sure Reimu's all settled in before you do so. You return to your earlier task of moving her to her futon, this time going through with it and tucking her into the thing. As an added precaution you place a large bowl between her and your futon, in the hopes that she'll see it if she needs to puke and avoid doing so on you.
Now that you have all that settled you decide to turn your attention to the outdoors. The sun's finally vanishing beneath the horizon, though a few final rays are poking over the treeline to keep the sky well lit. This phase between sunlight and moonlight never fails to put you at ease, as it does right now. Something about seeing the day go away and the night begin just makes you feel at one with the world.
Your internal musings are cut short as the rustling of leaves catches your attention. Somewhere near the path leading to the shrine is a bush, and that bush has something moving through it. Your ears straighten up to full attention as you focus on that spot, trying your best to get a read of what kind of creature might be trying to ruin your training.
A short orange haired girl erupts from the underbrush, a trail of saliva glistening as it escapes her mouth. The bright red hue of her nose combined with her half-open eyes is more than enough to tell you what kind of beast you're tangling with.
It's a filthy drunkard.
"Reiiimuuu! Let's plaaay!"
The little hindrance shouts that as she dashes towards the shrine, both of her arms held out to her sides as she runs. Is she trying to be cute? You aren't sure if that's her goal, but she's failing spectacularly. You've never seen anything less cute in your life, and you've lived a pretty full life as is.
She lifts one arm to wipe away her slobber, chuckling loudly as she continues her advance. Your body's frozen into place as you watch, your mind racing as you try to think of something you can do. This kid looks like a bad influence, and on top of that she'd just make your job harder if she wakes Reimu up. Your heart beats a mile a minute as time seems to slow, a brilliant idea dawning on you as the weird horned girl draws near.
[ ] Offer to play with her instead. [ ] Try to fight her. [ ] Retrieve the sake and tell her to fetch.
With no time to spare you move to the back of the shrine and retrieve the bottle of sake. You pull your arm back and chuck it as far as you can, desperate for any way to keep from failing this simple task.
"Ah." The girl stops as the sake flies overhead. You're incredibly strong, so it flies far overhead and will surely fly just as far as it possibly can. "Is that..?"
She falls silent as the sake continues to sail across the sky. It glows pink in the fading light of the sun, making its perilous journey through the open air even more brilliant than it had been before. You're tempted to salute the bottle as it hurtles towards its untimely demise. Your job isn't easy, but such a nice bottle of booze deserves a better fate than being soaked up by dirt.
The orange haired girl seems to share your feelings for this sake. At least, that's what you'd assume by the sad and desperate look in her eyes. She shakes slightly while looking between you and the bottle, her fists rapidly clenching and unclenching as she begins to sweat. Without any warning she crouches down and leaps at an angle, zipping through the sky and towards the unfortunate bottle of sake.
You think you can hear her screaming "I'll save you" as she collides with the bottle, embracing it and turning to land on her back. She then plummets into the forest below. There's a distant snapping of branches, a loud thud, and then nothing.
A moment passes you by in silence.
Honestly, you didn't think that'd work so well. You've met a lot of alcoholics in your lifetime, but never any that were so committed to the drink that they'd risk life and limb to protect a bottle of it. You're at once impressed and disgusted by her behavior.
After those moments spent in a daze you snap back to reality. She may have fallen a long ways to catch that bottle, but a youkai capable of such a feat wouldn't die or fall unconscious so easily. With the grace of a galloping gazelle you return to the shrine and swiftly close its doors, making sure to not make any noise despite your swift movements. You then turn to face the path that leads up to the shrine, now fully ready for whatever that goofy youkai might have ready for you.
She shuffles up the path with the sake in her arms, a look of relief now on her face. She huffs as she gets nearer to the shrine and turns her attention to you.
"Hello." She cradles the bottle in her arms, and you're surprised to see she hasn't taken a drop of it. "My name is Ibuki Suika, and yours?"
"Uh, I have no name."
Her sudden change in demeanor's shocking enough to almost have made you say that fake name you told your boss. You aren't about to let yourself be beaten by such a mundane technique, however! You're dedicated to having no name now, and you'll make sure everyone knows it. No matter how suddenly they might change personalities.
"Well, Mister-Nameless-Fox, can you tell me why you did that?"
[ ] You were protecting Reimu. [ ] You were protecting yourself. [ ] You like to mess with people.
Not good. You aren't sure how to handle an erratic enemy like this, and as such you're even less sure if you can get away with a lie here. This whole situation is odd to begin with, and overall you're less concerned with how you can handle this strange girl and more concerned with when you might actually get a proper break from all this work. All of this weighs heavily on you as you weigh your options, and somewhere along the line it all weighs too much and you give.
"I was, uh, protecting Reimu." Your hands work themselves through the air, grasping and wringing at nothing. They then point towards this Suika girl as you make your point. "From you."
She stares blankly at you. You consider returning the favor, but you don't wanna upset someone who could potentially kick your ass. Better to gauge their strength first and then pile on the snark.
"You don't know who I am?" Suika grins slyly as she looks you over. "Do ya?"
You have heard of a rambunctious and powerful oni who terrorizes the shrine and surrounding area regularly, though you'd rather she just think you know nothing. Easier to trick someone when they think you're an idiot, right?
"Reimu and I go a little ways back." She shrugs her shoulders as she smiles, probably recalling some fond memories. "It's only been some years, but it's been great all the same."
"Yeah." She pats a hand against her chest as she turns her attention to you. "If something's wrong with Reimu, you shoulda just told me!"
You might have if she'd seemed more reasonable at the time. This face of this Suika girl is a lot more comfortable to speak to than the girl who was charging at the shrine earlier. Then again, you did have kind of a knee jerk reaction, huh. Maybe this is her usual behavior, and that idiot routine is just an act?
She walks past you and up to the shrine. Her stride doesn't break as she pushes the door open, and it isn't halted by Reimu's futon either. She merely walks beside it and comes to a stop by Reimu's side. You run up to watch what she might do, seeing her draw closer and closer to your latest friend. You're a little afraid something bad may happen, but you're also confident that this Suika person must be-
"Ahhh!" Suika falls to the ground and hugs Reimu around her shoulders, rolling slightly as she kicks her legs. "My little light weight is so cute! Out like a light, snug as a bug!"
...You still aren't sure about her personality. Maybe she really is an idiot.
[ ] Ask her about her history with Reimu. [ ] Ask her about her identity. [ ] Ask her if she could stop that. [ ] Ask her out.
Now that November's over and I'm away from home, I'll wait a few days until I'm back home to continue. Once I'm home I'll try to update all but one or two days a week. Thanks for sticking with me through this, and please stick with me until the end if you've enjoyed this past month of updates.
Just posting to apologize for the delay and lack of communication. Unfortunately I'll have to put this and my other story onto sporadic update schedules for a while, since I have a good bit more hours at work now on top of needing to devote time to things like expensive dental work and planning for a cross-country move. Hopefully I can get back to updating these stories at a better pace in the future, but for now there's no promises.